6 Best Credit Cards When You Have No Credit

6 Best Credit Cards When You Have No Credit

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After 20 hours of research evaluating 65 products, we picked Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card as our top choice.

It can be overwhelming to apply for your first credit card. Responsible credit use is difficult for most, including those that have been using them for a long time. According to NerdWallet, the average household in 2016 has $16,883 in credit card debt, with U.S. households owing a total debt of $784 billion.

Applying for your first credit card will set the tone for credit card use over your entire life. For best results, choose a credit card that rewards good behavior, and forgives first-time instances of bad behavior while you get use to the idea of using a credit card.

Here’s the deal:

The best first credit card will help you to build your credit score, which is important when you want to apply for a mortgage, an apartment, or even car financing.

How to Get a Credit Card with No Credit

Established credit card users have tons of options when it comes to cash back credit cards, travel rewards credit cards, and more. But for those just starting to build credit, the options are a lot more limited. You'll want to pay attention specifically to starter credit cards if you can classify yourself as such:

  • College students, young adults, immigrants, and anyone else with “thin files” regarding responsible purchasing.
  • Those that have been avoiding credit cards their whole life because they're afraid of debt. Similarly, those that want a basic credit card to help build up their credit so that they can take out a mortgage or car loan.
  • Those trying to rebuild bad credit history, who may only qualify for a secured credit card at this point. A secured credit card is like a normal credit card, but it requires a (refundable) security deposit before being approved and receiving your card.

Responsible Credit Card Use When Opening a Starter Credit Card Account

If you're opening a credit card for the very first time, it's important to think about responsible credit card use. A failure to follow these important credit card money mantras will hurt your ability to build a great credit score:

  • A credit card is NOT free money. A credit card is like a bank loan and should be paid back in a timely manner to build up your credit score.
  • Get a starter credit card that has little to no annual fees and a small APR (annual percentage rate) so that if you accidentally miss a payment, it won't crush you. Usually, starter credit cards have high APRs (20-30%) and no frills or rewards. That said, if you're good about paying off your balance each month, you can lower your APR and eventually apply for a credit card that offers better rewards.
  • Try to pay in full every month. Only paying the minimum is how credit card debt starts.
  • Don't buy anything you don't need or you can't afford, based on your budget.
  • Resist the temptation of new credit card offers, at least until you've built up a great credit score and want to trade up from your starter credit cards.

Here's the Bottom Line:

There are 200+ choices in the market today, so it can be confusing to choose the perfect one for your situation. Luckily, we've already done the research for you with regards to top cards and their major pros and cons.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated October 11, 2019 but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

6 Best Credit Cards When You Have No Credit

  • 6. Capital One Secured Credit Card
  • 5. Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
  • 4. Deserve Edu Mastercard
  • 3. Deserve Classic Mastercard
  • 2. Discover it® for Students
  • 1. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card

Best Secured Credit Card With No Annual Fee

Capital One Secured Credit Card

Best Secured Credit Card With No Annual Fee: Capital One Secured Credit Card
Get from J.jopik
701 Clicks
86 % Editor Score
80 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • No annual fee
  • High approval odds
  • Good for rebuiding credit

  • Excellent for repairing or building credit.
  • Clear usage terms help you avoid unpleasant surprises when your statement arrives.
  • Max $1,000 limit
  • Requires security deposit
  • No rewards

Application Process: Apply online and pay the required security deposit - either $49, $99, or $200. This is a refundable deposit based on your credit history.

Rewards: No rewards - this is just a basic credit card designed to help you repair or establish credit.

Bonus offers: There are no bonus offers, but cardholders have the chance to increase their credit line after 5 consecutive on-time payments.

Annual fee: None.

Details:Capital One Secured Credit Card »

Best Starter Card for College Students

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Best Starter Card for College Students: Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Get from G.gertiy
332 Clicks
84 % Editor Score
82 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Automatic credit line increase after you pay on time for the first 5 billing cycles
  • Cash back on qualifying purchases
  • Widely accepted around the world

  • Helps establish and build credit for students who might not qualify for other cards
  • Offers bonus rewards for on-time payments
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • The APR is high
  • The card offers access to a non-FICO credit score

Application Process:  Apply online and get a response within 60 seconds.

Rewards:  Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your rewards rate to 1.25%.

Bonus Offers: None

Annual Fee: None.

Details:Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® »

Best Credit Card for International Students

Deserve Edu Mastercard

Best Credit Card for International Students: Deserve Edu Mastercard
Get from Selfscore
193 Clicks
Variable APR
20.24%
Cash Advance APR
n/a
Rewards Rate
1%
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
n/a
Bonus Offers
Get up to $49 in Amazon Prime Student subscription fees credited back to your account.
82 % Editor Score
86 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • International students don't need a Social Security number to apply
  • No annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a flat rate of 1% cash back on all purchases, plus get an Amazon Prime Student subscription offer

  • The card charges a relatively high APR
  • You need a U.S. bank account, which can be tough if you have no Social Security number
  • Its rewards don't stack up against some other student credit cards

 

Expert Ratings

Application Process: Apply online and get a response within 60 seconds. A Social Security number isn't required, but you will need:

  • Proof of a U.S. bank account balance
  • Passport ID and Student Visa
  • I-20 form

Rewards: A flat rate of 1% cash back on all purchases.

Bonus Offers: Use your Deserve Edu card to sign up for an Amazon Prime Student subscription and get reimbursed up to a lifetime total of $49.

Annual Fee: None.

Details:Deserve Edu Mastercard »

Best Unsecured Card for No Credit

Deserve Classic Mastercard

Best Unsecured Card for No Credit: Deserve Classic Mastercard
Get from
300 Clicks
86 % Editor Score
89 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Offers an unsecured credit line 
  • Doesn't require a credit history
  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Offers a credit limit of up to $1,500
  • Provides cellphone insurance
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus
  • Charges an annual fee
  • Has a high interest rate
  • Isn't an option for bad credit

Application Process: Apply online, and get a decision within 60 seconds or less.

Rewards: None.

Bonus Offers: None.

APR: 24.74% variable.

Annual Fee: $39.

Details:Deserve Classic Mastercard »

Best First Time Credit Card for Students

Discover it® for Students

Best First Time Credit Card for Students: Discover it® for Students
Get from Discover
355 Clicks
Variable APR
14.49% - 23.49%
Cash Advance APR
26.49%
Rewards Rate
5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in categories that rotate; 1% cash back everywhere else.
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
0% on purchases for six months and 10.99% on balance transfers for six months.
Bonus Offers
Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. Earn $20 for each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to five years
90 % Editor Score
80 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Earn 5% cash back everyday spending categories that change every three months
  • Get a $20 statement credit every year your GPA is 3.0 or higher, plus Discover will double all the cash back you earn in your first year
  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

  • You need to activate the bonus categories each quarter to qualify for the 5% rewards rate
  • The card charges a high APR
  • Discover isn't widely accepted overseas
Expert Ratings

Application Process: Apply online and get a response in 60 seconds.

Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on rotating categories such as Amazon.com, transportation, restaurants and more, for up to $1,500 spending per quarter with 1% cash back on all other categories.

Bonus Offers: Discover will match all the cash back you earn in your first year dollar for dollar. You'll also get $20 cash back each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for the next five years.

Annual Fee: None.

Details:Discover it® for Students »

Best for Flat-Rate Cash Back

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card

Best for Flat-Rate Cash Back: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card
Get from G.glopm
304 Clicks
Variable APR
24.99%
Cash Advance APR
24.99%
Rewards Rate
1.50%
Annual Fee
$39
Intro APR
n/a
Bonus Offers
n/a
82 % Editor Score
93 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Unlimited flat 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases
  • Easily obtainable bonus of $150 when you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening
  • Value Penguin calls it one of the best cashback cards for low spenders

Travelers will appreciate that there are no foreign transaction fees associated with this credit card. Everyone will appreciate that you don’t have to be purposeful to collect your rewards, as the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card offers a flat, unlimited 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases.

If you’re new to the world of credit cards, this card might be your perfect match. But if you’re a little more of an experienced user, you can certainly find higher percent cash back credit cards for a small annual fee that will likely be more than justified. A related example? The Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card. Additionally, you may be interested in using one of the best Capital One credit cards for balance transfers... until you find out that it comes with a 3% balance transfer fee.

Expert Ratings

Application Process: Apply online just as you would with the other best Capital One credit cards on this list.

Annual Fee: Absolutely no annual fees! Definitely a perk of this credit card.

Rewards and Redemption Options: It’s very simple: earn an unlimited flat rate of 1.5% cash back, which does not expire. You can redeem this cash back as a statement credit or cheque.

Bonus Offers: Just about anyone using this credit card will earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening.

Details:Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card »

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Article Staff

Maddy Osman creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website, www.The-Blogsmith.com and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman.

Editor Jenna Holtz
Researcher Ronnie Langston
Art Director Cherry Barbacena

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