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Best Starter Credit Cards for No Credit

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that pay us a commission. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

If you have no credit history, you've probably found that there are few credit cards you can qualify for. Starter credit cards are a type of credit card you can open with no credit. To help you get on the path to an excellent credit score, we'll cover what to look for in credit cards to build credit, how to open one, and how credit cards work.

Our experts analyzed several card offers to bring you a short list of our picks for the best starter credit cards. Check out our list below.

  • A leading student credit card with a rewards program that goes toe-to-toe with some of the top rewards cards we've come across. Read Full Review

    • Rotating bonus categories
    • Great sign-up bonus offer
    • No annual fee
    • Credit score monitoring
    • No fixed bonus categories
    • No credit score required to apply.*
    • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
    • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
    • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.24% - 22.24% applies.
    • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
    • Get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
    • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

Great for: Secured card with rewards

  • This card is a great place to start when building your credit history. It offers perks rarely found in secured cards, including cash back, no annual fee, and Discover's innovative sign-up bonus. Read Full Review

    • Cash back rewards
    • Great sign-up bonus offer
    • No annual fee
    • Can graduate to an unsecured card
    • Minimum deposit amount
    • No credit score required to apply.*
    • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
    • Using your secured credit card helps build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, prepaid and debit cards can’t do that.
    • Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. That means a $200 deposit for a $200 credit line. Or a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit, and the security deposit equals your credit limit.
    • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.*
    • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
    • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • People with no or limited credit histories will be hard pressed to beat it. The rewards program and lack of fees are clear standouts in the category. Read Full Review

    • No credit history required
    • Competitive cash back rewards
    • No fees
    • Fixed payment due date
    • No 0% intro APR offer
    • No fees whatsoever. No late fee, foreign transaction fee, annual fee, or any-other-kind-of-fee, fee.
    • Variable APRs range from 13.24% - 27.24%
    • Up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments.
    • 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away
    • 2% - 10% cash back at select merchants
    • $300 - $10,000 credit limits
    • No credit score? No problem. If eligible, we'll create your Cash Score instead.
    • See if you're pre-approved within minutes without impacting your credit score.
    • Build credit alongside hundreds of thousands of Petal card members.
    • Petal reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
    • No deposits required
    • Card issued by WebBank, Member FDIC

Great for: Low security deposit

  • Comes with a low initial security deposit and no annual fee, making it a top pick if you want to open a secured card account without breaking the bank. Read Full Review

    • No annual fee
    • Low minimum deposit amount
    • Can graduate to an unsecured card
    • No minimum credit score required
    • No rewards
    • No free credit score monitoring
    • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
    • Building your credit? Using the Capital One Platinum Secured card responsibly could help
    • Put down a refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line
    • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
    • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
    • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
    • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone
    • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking to access your account from your desktop or smartphone, with our mobile app

Great for: No credit check

  • A good option for new to credit applicants. The fact that there's no credit check could justify the annual fee for some cardholders Read Full Review

    • No credit check
    • Flexible credit limit
    • Reports payments to all three credit bureaus
    • Annual fee
    • No graduation to an unsecured card
    • No rewards
    • Minimum deposit amount
    • No credit check is great for building credit
    • $35 annual fee
    • $200 minimum security deposit

Great for: High potential credit limit

  • With a large credit line range for a secured card, this is a great choice. It also comes with rental car insurance and free access to your credit score.

    • Big potential credit limit
    • No annual fee
    • Free credit score
    • High APR
    • Credit limit ranges from $300-$5,000 based on deposit.
    • The deposit is put in an FDIC-insured savings account that earns interest and won't be touched as long as your account remains open and in good standing.
    • Car rental insurance available at no additional cost if you charge the car rental on your card and decline rental company's collision damage waiver option.
    • Free TransUnion® Credit Score.
    • You are not responsible for unauthorized transactions if your U.S. Bank Secured Visa Card is ever lost or stolen.

What to look for in a starter credit card

These are the features to look for in starter credit cards.

  • No excessive fees. Beginner credit cards to build credit shouldn't be expensive, but some credit card companies charge all kinds of fees. Ideally, your starter card won't have any unavoidable annual or monthly fees. The card issuer also shouldn't charge you for standard services such as making purchases or paying your bill online.
  • Reports payments to all three credit bureaus. The main credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each one collects information for a credit report, used to calculate your credit score. That means we all have separate credit reports and scores with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Since your credit score with each bureau is important, you need to build credit with all of them. For that, you need a credit card that reports your on-time payments to all three.
  • Credit score monitoring. The best starter credit cards offer free credit score monitoring. With this service, you can review one of your credit scores monthly to see whether it's going up. Credit monitoring tools also usually provide tips on what you can do to increase your credit score.

What is a starter credit card?

A starter credit card is one that's available to people with limited or no credit history. This type of credit card is designed for those who are building credit for the first time.

There are a couple of common starter credit card types:

  • Secured credit cards: A secured card requires a security deposit to open. The deposit is usually equal to the starting credit limit. Since the card issuer has a deposit, it can be more lenient about approving applicants with no credit history.
  • Student credit cards: A student credit card is aimed at college students. Card issuers tend to be flexible about approvals for student cards, since young adults typically don't have much in their credit files.

Another way to get a starter credit card is with a card issuer that lets you link your bank account during the application process. Petal is one example of a credit card company with this option. Even if you have no credit, you can link your bank account when you apply for the card. The card issuer uses your payment history from your bank to evaluate your creditworthiness.

Who needs a starter credit card?

You'll need a starter credit card if you don't have much or any information in your credit file. Since you don't have much borrowing history, card issuers likely won't approve you for anything except starter credit cards.

Here are some common examples of situations calling for a starter credit card:

  • You're a young adult
  • You haven't had a credit card or loan before
  • You've avoided credit, and primarily paid for expenses with cash or a debit card
  • You've immigrated to the United States
  • You used to have credit accounts, but you haven't used them in years

If you wonder why it's important to get a starter credit card, there are a couple of good reasons. A credit card is a secure payment method, because it's not tied to your bank account and you can get a replacement card if yours is lost or stolen. When you use a credit card and follow good habits, such as paying on time, it can raise your credit score. This can help you qualify for better loan rates and credit cards with more benefits, including cash rewards or travel rewards.

Ready to get a card? See The Ascent's list of the best credit cards for young adults.

What do I need to open a starter credit card?

The only requirement to open starter credit cards is consistent income. That is what the card issuer looks at to confirm you can pay your credit card bill, and to determine an appropriate credit limit on your card.

Keep in mind that your reported income can include more than just what you make from a job. If you're at least 21 years old, you can report any income you reasonably expect to access. Potential examples you could use when applying for credit cards to build credit include:

  • A partner's income, if you've combined finances
  • Distributions from a trust fund
  • An allowance
  • Scholarships and grants

If you're under 21, you can use income from work, allowances, scholarships, and grants.

To open a secured credit card, you need enough money to pay the security deposit. Most secured credit cards to build credit require a deposit of at least $200. However, there are some with smaller deposit requirements.

How can I get a credit card with no credit?

If it's your first time getting a credit card, here's how to open one with no credit.

  1. Check out starter credit cards to build credit. Look for those that fit your situation. If you're in college, student credit cards are a popular choice. If you can afford a deposit, secured credit cards are worth a look.
  2. Decide which of these credit cards to build credit you like most, and click the "Apply Now" option on the card provider's website.
  3. Fill out the application form.
  4. Submit the application and wait for a response.

When you submit a credit card application, you may get an answer immediately. Sometimes, the card issuer needs more time to review your application. In that case, you usually get a response in the mail. You can also call the card issuer after a few days.

If your application is approved, you receive your new credit card in the mail within seven to 10 business days. If your application is denied, the card issuer mails you a letter explaining why. You can call to ask that the decision get a second look. Card issuers sometimes reconsider denials.

Your other option is to shop around for other starter credit cards for no credit history. You may want to look at the easiest credit card to get if you're having trouble getting approved.

How can a credit card help me build credit fast?

A credit card can help you build credit fast if you follow a few credit habits:

  • Pay by the due date so you have a perfect payment history.
  • Stay at or below 20% of your credit limit for a low credit utilization ratio.
  • Keep your credit card open to add to your length of credit history.

That's all it takes to get a good credit score. If you stick to those habits, your credit score should increase quickly.

To understand why these habits work, let's look at the factors that have the biggest impact on your credit score.

Payment history

Your credit score is basically a rating of how likely you are to repay debt. So it makes sense that nothing affects your credit score more than your payment history. If your credit report includes years of on-time payments, odds are that you'll have a very high credit score. Any late payments, on the other hand, can drop your score quite a bit, even into the bad credit range.

With a starter card, it's easy to build a good payment history. Pay on or before the due date and the card issuer reports that you paid on time to the credit bureaus. As your record of on-time payments grows, your credit score gets better and better.

Credit utilization ratio

Another big part of your credit score is your credit utilization ratio, or how much of your credit you use. You could also look at it as how close you are to maxing out your credit cards. The farther away from that you are, the better it is for your credit.

To calculate your credit utilization, divide your credit card balances (what you owe) by your credit limits (the maximum amount you can charge on your credit cards). For example, if you have one starter credit card with a limit of $1,000 and a $100 balance, then your current credit utilization is 10%.

Your credit utilization has a positive impact on your credit when you keep balances low. Very high balances, on the other hand, can lead to bad credit. A good rule of thumb is not going above 20% credit utilization. On a card with a $1,000 credit limit, that would mean not exceeding a balance of $200.

Length of credit history

Age is only a number, but the age of your credit accounts is a key factor in your credit score. Specifically, credit-scoring formulas look at how long you've used credit and the average age of your credit accounts.

The only thing you need to do here is to get a credit card and keep it open for the long haul. Once you have your first credit card, that starts the clock on your credit history. By keeping it open, you continue building a longer account age.

Learn more: The Complete Guide to Understanding Your Credit Score

How to make the most of your starter credit card

Once you've found the best starter credit card for building credit, follow these tips to maximize its benefits.

  • Stick to a budget. Don't spend more than you can afford. You don't want expensive credit card debt.
  • Pay your bill on time -- and in full -- every month. By paying on time, you build your payment history and raise your credit score. And by paying in full, you avoid credit card interest charges. Use our interest rate calculator to see what the interest payment would be if you carry a balance.
  • Never let your credit card balance exceed 20% of your credit limit. If your card has a $1,000 credit limit, never exceed a balance of $200. This keeps your credit utilization low and benefits your credit score.
  • Check your credit score every month. If your credit card doesn't show you your score, there are several free ways to get your credit score. Your score should steadily rise as you use your card and pay on time.
  • Wait until you have a good credit score (670 or higher) before applying for any new credit cards. Credit card applications can drop your credit score a small amount. It's better to focus on building credit and wait until you can qualify for the top credit cards to apply for a new one.

Your first-time credit card for no credit history is essential in starting your credit file. If you use it with an eye toward score improvement, you should see your credit score rise dramatically over time.

Want to know who the top credit card issuers are? See The Ascent's list of credit card companies.

LEARN MORE: How much credit card debt is too much?

The Picks
Card Rating Great For
Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Students

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Secured card with rewards

Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Cash back rewards

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Low security deposit

Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

No credit check

U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card
Graphic of U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

High potential credit limit

FAQs

  • You can get your first credit card when you're 18. When you're younger, it's possible to use a credit card as an authorized user on another person's account, because many credit card issuers don't have minimum age requirements for authorized users. But to open your own credit card account, you must be at least 18.

  • The best starter credit card is the Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card. It charges no fees, earns cash back, and doesn't require a security deposit or credit history to open. You can connect your bank account during the application process, and Petal uses that information to evaluate your application.

  • The best credit card for beginners is the Discover it® Secured Credit Card. With a refundable security deposit, it offers cash back, a welcome bonus offer, and charges no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Discover is one of the top credit card companies for beginners, as it has educational resources and excellent customer service.

  • Yes, you can apply for a credit card with no income, but the card issuer will likely deny your application. Federal law requires that credit card companies only approve an application if they're confident someone can make their monthly card payments. You may, however, qualify with alternate forms of income. If you're 21 or older, you can include household income, Social Security, retirement fund distributions, trust fund distributions, scholarships, and grants. If you're under 21, you can include allowances, scholarships, and grants.

  • You can get secured credit cards with no credit, and student credit cards if you're in college. In addition, there are unsecured credit cards for everyone, not just students, that you can get using your banking history. Credit cards from the issuer Petal are one example.

  • Before using a starter credit card, you should know that the best way to use it is by paying the bill in full every month. Only pay for purchases you can afford, and always pay the entire balance by the due date. You'll build credit, and you won't be charged any credit card interest.

  • The best credit card for students with no credit history is the Discover it® Student Cash Back. It offers cash back, free FICO® Score tracking, identity alerts, and no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Discover also has highly rated customer service, so it's a great card issuer for students who are starting out with credit.

  • To get a credit card for the first time, check out starter credit cards and pick one you like. Fill out an application for the card, submit it, and wait for a response.

    If you're not approved, you can ask the card issuer to reconsider. Alternatively, you can simply choose a new card to apply for.

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