7  Best Starter Credit Cards

7 Best Starter Credit Cards

20
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Researched
85
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Evaluated

After 20 hours of research evaluating 85 products, we picked Discover it® Secured Card as our top choice.

Finding the perfect starter credit card isn’t easy. Finding the best starter credit card is even more challenging.

You typically have fewer options than someone with an established credit history, so it’s easy to get snowballed with hefty interest rates and sidetracked by confusing points programs. It’s also tempting to go crazy and apply for more credit cards than you actually need.

Put that stack of credit card applications away. We’re here to help. Our list of the best starter credit cards will make your decision a lot easier.

But first, we've got to tell you something: NerdWallet warns that first-time credit card users may have to start with a secured credit card. This is often true, but it’s not always the case for everyone. Capital One and Credit One are known for giving credit card newbies a chance.

If you’re a student who has college loans or a car note - and you actually pay on time - you may have a decent credit score. That means you have a shot at getting the Discover It for Students or the Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students.

But how do you know which card you should get? We've got info about interest rates, fees, rewards programs, and benefits to help you make an informed choice. Here’s to building your credit history!

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 24, 2018 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.

Why trust us: Faveable has spent thousands of hours researching, interviewing experts, and testing products to come up with carefully selected lists trusted by millions of consumers since 2013.

7 Best Starter Credit Cards

  • 7. Discover it® for Students
  • 6. Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card
  • 5. Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
  • 4. Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
  • 3. Capital One Secured Credit Card
  • 2. Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
  • 1. Discover it® Secured Card

Best First Time Credit Card for Students

Discover it® for Students

Best First Time Credit Card for Students: Discover it® for Students
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
82 % User Score
270 Clicks

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

Details

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 Cash Back Credit Card for Bad Credit

Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Bad Credit: Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card
Variable APR
17.49% - 25.49%
Cash Advance APR
19.40% - 25.49%
Rewards Rate
1% cash back on eligible purchases.
Annual Fee
$0 - $99
Intro APR
n/a
Bonus Offers
n/a
30 % Editor Score
85 % User Score
497 Clicks

Why People Love it

  • Easy approval process
  • Bankruptcy-friendly card
  • Doesn't require a security deposit

  • Handy prequalification tool helps you figure out if you'll get approved -- without a hard inquiry
  • Some cardholders qualify for 1% cash back on eligible purchases
  • You might not have an annual fee
  • There's no guarantee you'll get rewards — it's based on your creditworthiness
  • You may have to pay an annual fee
  • Not all purchases generate rewards

Details

Application Process: Get pre-qualified online then apply. Approval is typically instant.

Rewards: You may or may not get approved to earn rewards. If you do, you'll earn 1% cash back on eligible gas and groceries plus mobile phone, internet, cable, and satellite TV services.

Bonus Offers: None.

Annual Fee: Annual fees range from $0 to $99.

Details:Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card »

Best Rewards Student Credit Card From a Bank

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Best Rewards Student Credit Card From a Bank: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
Variable APR
14.99% - 24.99%
Cash Advance APR
17.99% to 26.99%
Rewards Rate
Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for first 12 billing cycles
Bonus Offers
Online $150 cash rewards bonus after making at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.
88 % Editor Score
87 % User Score
246 Clicks

Why People Love it

  • Redeem rewards directly to your Bank of America checking or savings account
  • Earn bonus rewards on everyday purchases
  • No annual fee

  • Earn up to 3% cash back on certain purchases
  • Get free access to your FICO score as you build credit
  • Get a big sign-up bonus compared with other student credit cards
  • It may be tough to get with limited or poor credit; although, you can apply with a cosigner
  • Bonus rewards are capped

Details

Application Process: Apply online or visit your local Bank of America branch. Some applicants receive an instant decision online.

Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.

Bonus Offers: Online $150 cash rewards bonus after making at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.

Annual Fee: None.

Details:Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students »

Best Unsecured for Bad Credit

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Best Unsecured for Bad Credit: Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
Variable APR
19.99% - 28.99%
Cash Advance APR
28.99%
Rewards Rate
n/a
Annual Fee
n/a
Intro APR
n/a
Bonus Offers
n/a
76 % Editor Score
82 % User Score
423 Clicks

Why People Love it

  • Credit limit can increase after 5 months of on-time payments
  • Pick your monthly due date
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees

  • Helps you build credit without distractions
  • Can qualify with average credit
  • Card offers no rewards or any other major benefits
  • High APR

Details

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

Rewards: None.

Bonus Offers: None.

Annual Fee: None.

Details:Capital One® Platinum Credit 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
86 % Editor Score
80 % User Score
609 Clicks

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

Details

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®
84 % Editor Score
86 % User Score
259 Clicks

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

Details

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 Secured Credit Card if You Want Bonus Offers

Discover it® Secured Card

Best Secured Credit Card if You Want Bonus Offers: Discover it® Secured Card
Variable APR
24.49%
Cash Advance APR
26.49%
Rewards Rate
Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
10.99% on balance transfers for 6 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.
96 % Editor Score
95 % User Score
356 Clicks

Why People Love it

  • Offers cash-back rewards, plus a bonus the first yaer
  • Refundable security deposit, potentially before you close your account
  • No annual fee

 

  • Get up to 2% cash back on everyday spending
  • You can get your deposit back as soon as eight months after you open the account
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Requires a security deposit to open an account
  • Discover is widely accepted overseas

Details

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

Rewards: The card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases

Bonus Offers: Discover matches the cash-back rewards you accumulate during your first year, with no limits.  

Annual Fee: None.

Details:Discover it® Secured Card »

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Article Staff

Missy Nolan is a single mom who is too sleep-deprived to come up with a clever bio at the moment. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and loves staying home with her 3 kids. Well, most of the time. Missy rocks at parenting, baking, cooking, saving cute outfits she'll never wear on Pinterest, and sipping her beloved secret-menu Starbucks Pink Drink while strolling through Target.

She's your go-to girl for advice or feedback on any of the things listed above, as well as tips on healthy living, bargain hunting, marketing, and finances. Connect with Missy here or at MakeItWithMissy.com, a food blog that features healthy recipes and grocery deals.

You can also find Missy on Legit Lender, Health.com, The Nest, Catalogs.com, and OneSpace.

Editor Jenna Holtz
Researcher Ronnie Langston
Art Director Cherry Barbacena

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7 Best Starter Credit Cards

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