FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS:BEST STARTER CARDS FOR NO CREDIT
Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.
» SECURED CREDIT CARDS
Secured credit cards can be a good option for those with no credit who want a starter card from a major issuer. These cards require an upfront refundable deposit, usually equal to the card's limit. That cash collateral is returned to you if the card is upgraded to an unsecured account or closed in good standing.
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Our pick for: Secured card — low deposit
The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card requires a security deposit, as do all secured credit cards. But while most cards require you to put down a deposit equal to your credit line, this one allows some qualifying applicants to get a $200 credit line with a deposit starting at $49. Further, you can be automatically considered for a higher credit line with no additional deposit in as little as six months. Read our review.
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Our pick for: Secured card — rewards and upgrading
Like other secured credit cards for people building or rebuilding credit,the Discover it® Secured Credit Card requires a cash security deposit. Unlike most others,it offers rewards. But what really makes it stand out from the competition is its upgrade possibilities. The issuer has a process in place for automatically reviewing accounts for possible transition to an unsecured card. Read our review.
» STUDENT CREDIT CARDS
Student credit cards are ideal for working college students. Unlike secured cards, they don't require upfront deposits. If you're under 21, however, you have to have an independent income to qualify.
Discover it® Student Chrome
Our pick for: Student card — simplicity and value
Simplicity makes the Discover it® Student Chrome a standout for students searching for their first credit card. You'll earn bonus cash back at restaurants and gas stations with no activation required and no rotating categories to keep track of. Read our review.
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Our pick for: Student card — bonus category cash-back rewards
The Discover it® Student Cash Back gives students the same excellent rewards as the regular Discover it® Cash Back — notably, bonus cash back in rotating categories that you must activate. Activating and tracking categories might be too much of a hassle for some students brand new to credit cards, but if you're up for a little work, the rewards can be handsome. Read our review.
» NO-DEPOSIT STARTER CARDS
It's possible to qualify for these cards without a U.S. credit history if you meet other criteria.
Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
Our pick for: No-deposit starter card — no fees
The issuer of the Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card doesn’t only rely on credit scores to determine eligibility. Instead, it assesses your creditworthiness based on your income, expenses, savings and debts. You can earn a decent rate of up to 1.5% cash back, depending on your on-time payments. And there's no annual fee, late fees or foreign transaction fees. Read our review.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our pick for: No-deposit starter card — foreign credit histories
(Through a partnership between American Express and the international credit-reporting startup Nova Credit, immigrants and expats in the U.S. can instantly translate credit reports from certain countries to U.S.-equivalent credit reports when applying for AmEx consumer cards. This feature is integrated into AmEx's online applications. Currently, it can access credit histories from bureaus located in the following countries: Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea, the Philippines, Spain and Switzerland.)
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express pays elevated rewards at U.S. supermarkets, at U.S. gas stations and on U.S. online retail purchases. The rewards might not be as rich as on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, but this card doesn't charge an annual fee either. New cardholders get a decent welcome offer and an introductory 0% APR period.Read our review.
» BUSINESS CREDIT CARD
Our pick for: Startups
Unlike most cards designed for entrepreneurs, the Brex Card doesn't require the cardholder to personally guarantee the debt on the card. Instead, Brex determines creditworthiness by evaluating a company's cash balance, spending patterns and investors. It's a good option when a business owner has a thin credit file but is well capitalized. The card earns rewards, too. Learn more and apply.
• • •
By Melissa Lambarena, NerdWallet
What do you need to get a credit card without credit?
You don't need a credit history to get a starter card. In some cases, you won't need a Social Security number. But generally, you'll need:
A U.S. mailing address.
A checking or savings account.
Depending on your age, you might have to meet stricter income requirements to qualify:
If you’re under 21: To qualify for a credit card, you'll need to show that you can make payments on the account independently or get a co-signer, someone 21 or older who assumes the responsibility of your debt if you can’t pay the bill.
If you’re over 21: You’re still required to report your income if you’re over 21, but you have the option to list any income to which you have “reasonable expectation of access.”
Other requirements can vary depending on the type of starter card. Some examples:
Secured cards for no credit. These require a cash deposit as collateral to reduce the risk to the issuer, which may present an obstacle for some applicants. The amount deposited usually determines your credit limit. With a good payment history, you eventually get your deposit back when you close the account or upgrade to a regular credit card.
Student cards for no credit. These may require you to be an enrolled college student. You might have to provide information like the name of your school, your major and your expected graduation year.
No-deposit starter cards for no credit. Applications for these cards may require government-issued documents, bank account information, employment verification requirements and other details. That's because they assess creditworthiness in alternative ways, such as looking at employment, income, spending, savings or your credit history from a different country.
Small-business cards for no credit. At least one issuer offers small-business cards without taking personal credit history into account, but to qualify, you'll have to have plenty of cash in the bank.
» MORE: NerdWallet’s guide to your first credit card
How can a credit card help me build credit fast?
A credit card can help you build credit when you have none.
As you’re making payments on your credit card, that history is being recorded in your credit report, which compiles the information used to calculate your credit scores.
As long as you make on-time payments and stay well below your credit limit, you can work your way up to a good credit score of 690 or higher. Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO credit score; the amount of available credit used will account for 30% of it. Those are the two most important factors, but there are others.
How long you keep the account open also impacts your credit. Once you work your way up to good credit, it's helpful to keep the starter credit card open or maintain the original line of credit by upgrading to a regular credit card with the same issuer. This way, you preserve the length of your credit history, which accounts for 15% of your credit score. Closing your account could have negative consequences.
» MORE: Using a credit card to build your credit
What to look for in a starter credit card
When you’re new to credit, you generally can't qualify for the best credit card offers. Among starter cards, ongoing interest rates are often steep and credit limits are low.
Don’t waste time looking for a credit card without a credit limit because issuers are required by federal law to determine your ability to pay. As a result, they offer a credit limit within your means. You also don’t need to look for credit cards that don’t run a credit check. These cards typically target those with bad credit, and they often come with an annual fee. There are plenty of starter cards that spare you that cost.
In some cases, you can be choosy. Here are a few things to look for in a starter credit card:
No annual fee. A starter credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee makes it easier to preserve the length of your credit history and your credit score because you can keep it open for a long time at no cost.
A path to a better credit card with the same issuer. Look for this option during your initial search. Once you establish a good credit history, you could upgrade to a better credit card with the same issuer and keep your original line of credit. This way, you're not stuck with the lower credit limits and lower rewards rates typically found on starter cards.
A report to all three credit bureaus. The ideal starter credit should report payments to all three credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. These companies record your payment history, which again is a key factor in your credit scores. If your card reports to all three bureaus, then all your possible bases will be covered when a lender pulls your credit report. The lender will have all of the information it needs to make a decision.
Here are some features that are less important but could still prove valuable:
Travel-friendly features. If travel is in your future, consider getting a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees — a percentage assessed on every international purchase, typically between 1% and 3% of the amount charged. You can also choose a credit card that belongs to a Visa or Mastercard network, which has broad international merchant acceptance.
Rewards. On a starter card, these aren't a top priority, but many cards offer them. If you're deciding among multiple rewards cards, consider your spending habits and how well they match up with the bonus categories.
» MORE: What really matters for your first credit card
Making the most of your starter credit card
With a starter card, your goal should be to hit or exceed the 690 credit score target necessary to establish good credit. Here's what you can do to work toward that:
Pay on time and in full every month to avoid interest (or at least pay more than the minimum).
Aim to use less than 30% of your available credit limit at all times. The lower your balance, the better.
Keep the account open and active.
Check your statement for mistakes.
Monitor your credit score through your issuer’s app.
Get your free annual credit report.
You can track your credit score for free through NerdWallet, certain banks and other third-party apps.
To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.
Last updated on July 27, 2023
NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best credit cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen as among the "best" in multiple categories. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.
The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is an all-around excellent choice for beginners, allowing you to build credit and earn cash back with a $0 annual fee card. As a secured card, you'll have to provide a refundable security deposit of at least $200 that will determine your credit line.Which credit card is best for me as a beginner? ›
The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is an all-around excellent choice for beginners, allowing you to build credit and earn cash back with a $0 annual fee card. As a secured card, you'll have to provide a refundable security deposit of at least $200 that will determine your credit line.How to get a credit card fast with no credit? ›
Many banks and credit unions offer secured credit cards. This can be a great option to build or rebuild credit. Here's how they work: You deposit an amount of money, sometimes known as a security deposit, and the issuer holds it as collateral.How to build credit 2023? ›
- Plan to Resume Paying Federal Student Loans. ...
- Set Up Automatic Bill Payments. ...
- Pay Down Balances. ...
- Handle Debt in Collections. ...
- Get a Credit-Builder Loan. ...
- Seek Out a Secured Credit Card. ...
- Join an Account as an Authorized User. ...
- Dispute Credit Report Inaccuracies.
- Visa cards begin with a 4 and have 13 or 16 digits.
- Mastercard cards begin with a 5 and has 16 digits.
- American Express cards begin with a 3, followed by a 4 or a 7 has 15 digits.
- Discover cards begin with a 6 and have 16 digits.
- The Discover it Cashback Card. This is what I would recommend for a first credit card for a complete beginner. ...
- Chase Freedom Flex or the Citi Custom Cash. All right, I'm giving you a choice that you probably didn't see coming. ...
- Your First American Express. ...
- Chase Sapphire Preferred or Citi Premier. ...
- The Capital One Venture X.
There isn't a magic number of how many credit cards you should have. Two cards could be considered too many for someone who doesn't want to manage two separate payments. Keep in mind that signing up for numerous cards within a short time period is not generally a good idea.