The 9 Best Starter Credit Cards for Little or No Credit of November 2022
Best for Simple Cash Back
Capital One QuickSilverOne
- 1.5% cash back
- Credit line boosts
Best for No Fees
Petal 2 Visa Credit Card
- No fees
- High credit limit
Best for Overall Student Card
Discover it Student Cash Back
- No fees
- Bonus categories
Best for Overall Secured Card
Discover it Secured Card
- No fees
- Cashback match
Whether you’re someone looking to start building your credit or someone with poor credit looking to begin again, a starter credit card is probably a good choice for you.
For the most part, starter credit cards can be broken into three main categories: secured credit cards, unsecured starter credit cards, and student credit cards.
Each of these has different requirements and benefits. However, no matter the category, a good starter credit card is one that is easy to qualify for, has low annual fees, reports to all three credit bureaus, and sometimes even lets you upgrade to a better card.
Ultimately which card will work for you depends on your needs and credit history, but we’ve gathered all the best starter credit cards from each category to get your started.
As you look, keep in mind that the purpose of this card is to establish a good credit history, so that you can ultimately move on to bigger and better credit cards in the future.
The Best Starter Credit Cards
- Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for Simple Cash Back
- Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express: Best for Non-U.S. Credit Histories
- Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card: Best for No Fees
- Tomo Credit Card: Best for Focused Credit Growth
- Discover it Student CashBack Credit Card: Best for Overall Student Card
- Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students: Best for International Students
- Discover it Secured Credit Card: Best Overall Secured Credit Card
- Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best for Flexible Deposit
- U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Secured Card: Best for Dining Rewards
Capital One QuickSilverOne
- 1.5% cash back on everyday purchases
- Higher credit line possible in 6 months
While the Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards credit card isn’t truly a “starter” card, it does accept fair credit scores. This allows many newer credit users to qualify, which is why we keep it on our best starter credit cards list.
With this card, you get 1.5% back on everything you spend and 5% back on rental cars and hotels booked through Capital One Travel. Besides cashing in points through Capital One Travel, you can redeem your rewards at any time for cash or a statement credit, or you could even apply it to cover a recent purchase.
It’s worth noting that the APR on this card is pretty steep, so avoid carrying a balance. On the other hand, Capital One does have you covered if you plan on traveling internationally with no foreign transaction fees.
Overall, this card is a no fuss way to start building your credit while getting rewards. It reports to all three credit bureaus, and in as little as 6 months, you can be automatically considered for a higher credit line.
Basically, if you qualify, this is a solid choice to start your credit card journey.
Blue Cash Everyday Card
- $100 welcome bonus with eligible purchases
- No annual fee
A card that requires a good credit score might look misplaced on a best starter credit card list, but the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is a special case, and you’ll see why immediately.
Unlike most US credit card issuers, American Express’ partnership with Nova Credit allows them to take into account credit scores from foreign countries when evaluating a customer’s credit worthiness. However, this isn’t available to all foreign credit scores. Currently, Nova vouches for credit from Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, The United Kingdom, Brazil, The Dominican Republic, Kenya, and Nigeria.
Once qualified, the Blue Cash Everyday Card is a great credit card. You’ll get 3% cash back on US grocery stores, 3% on US online retail, and 3% on gas. Each of these categories has a $6,000 cap on purchases eligible for rewards each year. After that, you’ll receive 1% per dollar like you do for all other purchases.
Plus, as an introductory offer, you also get 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers and $0 Plan It fees for their Buy Now, Pay Later plan.
While this card is a great choice for foreigners living in the United States, it’s not a good choice for traveling outside of the US. American Express credit cards are not as widely accepted internationally as some other credit card issuers, and they do charge foreign transaction fees.
Still, if you’re new to the United States and from one of the lucky countries on Nova’s list, the Blue Cash Everyday credit card is a great credit card to start with.
Petal 2 Visa Credit Card
- No fees
- Potentially high credit limit
The Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa credit card means what they say when they promise no fees. There is no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no late payment fee, and no returned payment fee–a lack of fees almost unheard of for starter cards.
You can even qualify for this card if you have a limited credit history. Petal will take into account things like income and savings to establish your creditworthiness–no credit score required. Plus, as an unsecured card, you don’t need a security deposit to qualify.
However, because this is marketed specifically as a starter credit card, the Petal 2 credit card does not offer cash advances or balance transfers. If that’s what you’re looking for, keep moving.
Besides reporting to the three main credit bureaus, Petal actually built its rewards system as a way to reward responsible credit habits. At first, you’ll get 1% cash back on all purchases, and as you make payments on time, they’ll upgrade you to up to 1.5% cash back.
It’s annoying to have to jump through hoops, but not all of the starter credit cards even offer rewards, so we’ll take it.
Finally, the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” credit card has a relatively high credit limit for cards in this category, with limits beginning at$500 and ranging up to $10,000.
Unfortunately, there is no option to upgrade to a traditional card and the APR is pretty high, so while this might be a good starter card, it will always only be a starter card.
Tomo Credit Card
- No credit check
- 1% cash back
The Tomo Credit Card has no required credit score. In fact, they don’t even require a credit check. Instead, Tomo creates individual assessments based on your financial history. This allows people with bad credit to qualify.
Tomo advertises this card as having no APR and no fees. While this is true, it’s because it functions a little differently than most traditional credit cards.
To use the Tomo Credit Card, you must link a bank account directly to your credit card. Then at set intervals, Tomo will pull money from your bank account to pay your card off in full. You can choose this autopay to happen as frequently as every 7 days. This keeps your credit utilization low, meaning your credit score will improve more quickly.
This quick turn around will benefit your credit score, but might not benefit your bank account. Anything you buy on this card, you’ll have to pay in full quickly. It’s a great way to earn credit, but not why we traditionally use credit cards.
We do like that the Tomo credit card offers 1% cashback for purchases made on this card and doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. Plus, Tomo offers credit limits of as much as $10,000, which is really high for a starter card.
Basically, if your goal is to build credit quickly and you have poor credit, the Tomo Credit Card might be a good choice for you.
Discover it Student Cash Back Card
- No annual fee
- Rotating bonus categories
Figuring out the Discover it Student Cash Back Credit Card can be a little complicated for first-time credit card users, but once you understand it, it’s pretty awesome.
First, Discover offers 5% back on specific categories that change each quarter. The rotating categories are:
- January through March: 5% back on grocery stores (excluding Walmart, Target, and warehouse stores) and fitness clubs or gym memberships
- April through June: 5% on gas stations and Target
- July through September: 5% on restaurants and Paypal
- October through December: 5% on Amazon.com and digital wallet purchases
Then, at the end of the first year, you’ll get Discover’s Unlimited Cashback Match where you get a dollar-for-dollar match of your rewards from that year. That means if you earned $50 in rewards that year, you’ll get $50 additional dollars at the end of the year automatically!
We also like the low APR introductory offer. You get 0% APR for the first 6 months and 10.99% for balance transfers. Of course, we think you should avoid accruing any interest at all, but it’s still nice to know you have a low APR just in case.
As with all Discover cards, your history using the Discover it Student Cashback Credit Card will be reported to all three main credit bureaus to help you build your credit. Not to mention the fact that this card also comes with great customer service, the fun ability to customize the physical appearance of your card and no foreign transaction fees.
When you do graduate, Discover will transition this student credit card to a traditional credit card. You’ll get the same rotating rewards but with a higher credit limit.
Discover it Secured Credit Card
- No annual fee
- Cash back match
The Discover it Secured Credit card tops our list of secured credit cards because it’s a secured credit card that doesn’t act like one. That makes it the great choice for someone with absolutely no credit history to start building a credit score. Sure, you have to pay the $200 minimum refundable deposit, but after that, Discover actually gives you a chance to earn rewards on your spending — something pretty uncommon in secured credit cards.
You’ll get 2% back at gas stations and restaurants up to $1,000 each quarter and 1% on all other purchases. Then, at the end of the year, you’ll get a dollar-for-dollar match of those rewards thanks to Discover’s Cashback Match. This means that at the end of the first year your reward earnings will automatically double.
As noted, this card requires a refundable security deposit starting at $200. This minimum deposit is a little higher than some other secured credit cards, but you might not need that deposit long. If you use the card responsibly, you can be eligible to upgrade to an unsecured card in as little as 7 months.
The APR is high, but it does, of course, report to all three main credit bureaus, so if used responsibly, this is a good choice for starter credit cards
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
- No annual fee
- Flexible deposit
For most secured credit cards, the refundable security deposit directly matches the card user’s credit limit. However, with the Capital One Platinum Secured credit card, you can actually be approved for a higher credit limit than the deposit you put down. For example, if you put down $49, you can get a $200 credit limit. Looking for a larger limit? Put down $99 or $200 and get a credit limit up to $1,000.
This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, but it also doesn’t have any rewards and the APR is pretty high at 28.49%. This isn’t a problem if you don’t carry a balance, but it could add up quickly if you make a mistake.
Capital One does, of course, report to the three credit bureaus and even offers automatic credit line reviews. Basically, if you can use this card responsibly, your credit limit can go up in as little as 6 months and eventually make you eligible to upgrade to a new unsecured card.
U.S. Bank Altitude Go Secured Visa Card
- No annual fee
- Rewards dining
The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Secured Visa Card is a good option for foodies looking to build credit and enjoy rewards at the same time.
The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Secured Visa Card offers 4x points on dining, takeout, and restaurant delivery, 2x points on grocery stores, gas stations, and streaming services, and 1x points on all other services. Reward points are scarce enough with secured cards, but these really are some of the best on the market.
It is worth noting that you need 2,500 points before you can redeem them as cash or a statement credit. However, you can use them in smaller amounts to purchase merchandise and gift cards on the U.S. Bank rewards website.
So if the upside is the rewards, the downside is the large minimum deposit. The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Secured card requires a refundable security deposit between $300 to $5,000. Many other cards have much lower minimums like $49, so the idea of having to hand over $300 is difficult to stomach.
With these high deposits, however, come high credit limits. It’s hard to think of someone who would have $5,000 to hand over for a deposit, but if they do, they’ll have a $5,000 credit limit– high for a secured card.
Right now, you also get $15 for an annual streaming service (after 11 months of paying for that streaming service on the card.) It’s kind of a random perk, but we’ll always take free Netflix.
Finally, U.S. Bank does report to all three credit bureaus and allows card members to upgrade their card to an unsecured credit card after they’ve proven their credit worthiness.
Types of Starter Credit Card
There are three types of starter credit cards: secured cards, student cards, and unsecured starter cards. Each category has its own eligibility requirements, perks and deficits.
Secured Credit Card
Secured credit cards require a security deposit in order to obtain a credit line. This deposit acts as collateral that protects the card issuer in the case of missed payments or late payment fees.
Often this deposit amount matches your credit limit. Because of this, the credit line is often pretty small — around $200 to $500.
Secured credit cards are good options for people with bad or limited credit history because they rarely require a specific credit score and can help you build credit. They do however often have high interest rates and payment fees, so make sure to pay everything on time.
The end goal of a secured card is moving on to a traditional credit card. Some secured card issuers allow you to upgrade your card once you’ve proven your creditworthiness. We especially like these cards because they help you maintain your open credit history.
When you close your secured credit card account, you will receive your full deposit back–assuming you didn’t lose any money on late payments or fees.
Student Credit Card
Student credit cards are cards offered exclusively to enrolled U.S. college students.
To apply, you have to give information like your school, major, and graduation year. You also have to prove that you have an independent income. Normally this income doesn’t have to be much, it just has to be yours.
The APR on student credit cards is often high, and credit limits are normally low. However, these cards do come with lower credit and income requirements than traditional cards, making them a great option for students when used responsibly.
Unsecured Starter Credit Card
Unsecured starter credit cards (also called alternative credit cards) take more into account than just your credit score.
Besides your credit history, they’ll consider your employment, income, savings, expenses, and more. This normally allows more people to qualify for an open credit line.
It does come with a bigger risk for the card issuers so these cards normally have higher interest rates, increased fees, and lower credit limits.
What to Look for in a Starter Credit Card?
Picking the best starter credit card for you can be difficult, so here are a few things that we think you should look for: reports to three credit bureaus, low costs, low APR, possibility for higher credit limit and other rewards and perks.
Reports to All three Credit bureaus
This first one is a little obvious, but only because it’s so important. Not all starter credit options report to all three credit bureaus and since the goal of a starter credit card is to build up your credit history, it’s an important box to check.
The next point to compare is how much this line of credit is going to cost you. Most starter cards have an annual fee — though a few of our favorites don’t — and other fees like foreign transaction fees. Starter cards are also notorious for having high penalty fees, so understanding the fee structure before you sign up can save you a lot in the long run.
The APR of a credit card is only important if you choose to carry a balance. We recommend that you pay off your balance each month so that you don’t have to pay interest.
Starter credit cards often have high APRs because you’re considered more of a risk to card issuers. Some cards also offer different types of APRs for different types of transactions like balance transfers (moving debt to this card), cash advances (withdrawing cash at the ATM), or penalty APRs.
Understanding these APRs upfront and picking the best one for your spending habits can help you keep track of your finances before it’s too late.
Upgrades to a Better Credit Line with Same Issuer
Since the goal of a starter credit card is to move on to bigger and better things, it’s nice if your current credit card issuer can upgrade. Normally this comes after you’ve proven that you’re responsible using your current card.
Upgrading with the same provider is a nice perk because it allows you to maintain your open line of credit–one of the metrics used to calculate your FICO credit score.
Rewards and Perks
For the most part, we think you should ignore the rewards on a starter credit card. The point of the card isn’t to build your rewards but your credit so focus on the above stuff first.
That being said, it’s a nice bonus if you can get it. Some credit cards will reward you when you buy things in specific categories, or some just reward you on every purchase. Depending on your spending habits, these rewards can add up.
Again, this should be your last consideration, but it is a fun one.
How to get a Credit Card with No Credit
Nowadays, getting a credit card can be as simple as applying online from the comfort of your couch. Having no credit means you’ll probably get a card with high interest rates or even a security deposit, but applying is still pretty straightforward.
Once you’ve found the card you’d like, you simply need to apply. You can normally apply online or if it’s through a local bank, you can also head to the brick-and-mortar location.
It’s worth remembering that applying for a credit card often involves a hard credit pull which can affect your credit score. Lots of credit card issuers now offer users the chance to prequalify for the card. Prequalifying means you know whether or not you’ll be approved without a hard credit pull. If your credit is low or non-existent, this is a good option to understand your choices without affecting your credit score.
In most cases to actually apply, you’ll then need to provide your social security number, US mailing address, and proof of an open checking or savings account. Other requirements depend on card type. For example, for a student card, you’ll need proof of enrollment in a US college or university, your expected graduation year, and proof of income of some kind. On the other hand, a secured card will require you to provide your cash deposit upfront and a unsecured starter card might ask for information on your employment and/or housing payments.
Once you apply, you should hear whether you’ve been approved quickly–sometimes in a few minutes! Then if approved, you’ll receive the card in the mail and be good to go earn a new credit score.
Alternatives to a Credit Card
If you feel like a credit card just isn’t for you, there are a couple of other options out there.
A debit card is a pretty normal alternative to a credit card. A debit card works by taking money from your actual checking account. It’s nice because you don’t run the risk of racking up debt since you can only spend the money in your account.
Debit accounts don’t have the same fraud protection as many credit cards, so there is a risk there. They also do not report to any credit bureaus, so it’s not an option to help you build credit.
A prepaid card is just what it sounds like: it’s a card preloaded with money. You’re limited to the money that you have put on the card. On the plus side, prepaid cards limit overspending and are better protection than just carrying around cash, but they also often have large fees and require you to plan ahead for your expenses. These cards do not report to the three main credit bureaus and will not help you build your credit score.
A charge card is a lot like a credit card except you have to pay it off in full every month. Normally charge cards don’t have a credit limit. This sounds awesome, but at the end of the month, you’re on the hook for everything you’ve purchased, so it can be dangerous.
A charge card does report to the credit bureaus, so it will help you build credit. However, they often have heavy fees if you miss a payment. Plus, they require excellent credit, so they won’t be an option for everyone.
A personal loan might be another option if you don’t want or can’t get a credit card. Interest rates for personal loans are often lower than starter credit cards, and you have a fixed payment schedule.
The downside of personal loans is the lack of flexibility–you normally have to take a lump sum of money out at one time. This works well if you need money for a home improvement project like painting your home but less well for everyday purchases.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Starter Credit Cards
People looking to establish credit by applying for a credit card likely have a lot of questions about the best ones on the market. We’ve rounded up the answer to the most commonly asked questions to help in the search.
Yes, it is possible to get a credit card with no credit. You will, however, be limited in your options.
A secured credit card that has a required security deposit might be a good option to start. Or, if you’re a student, you can try for a student credit card.
You should be able to get a card; however, be warned that you’ll have high APRs and low credit limits, so make sure to use the card responsibly.
Getting a credit card is a great first step to start building credit. Your FICO credit score is calculated based on your amounts owed, payment history, length of credit history, and your credit mix. You don’t have any of these without having an open line of credit.
Once you have a card, it’s important to use it responsibly. Here are some ways to make sure you’re using your card responsibly and building your credit:
- Pay on time
- Aim to use less than 30% of your available credit
- Keep you credit line open for a decent length of time
- Monitor your credit card.
If you follow these steps, you should see your credit grow. Looking for more information? Check out our 9 Smart Moves that will Raise Your Credit Score.
Opening a credit card is pretty simple in the online age. You can go to your local bank or apply online. You simply fill out an application with stuff like your social security number, mailing address, and proof of income. From there, the credit card issuer will do a credit check and see if you’re eligible for their card. Normally, this process has a quick turn around and you can be approved or denied quickly.
A beginner credit card or starter credit card is a card that allows people with no or limited credit history to qualify. The card might require a security deposit, or they might evaluate your creditworthiness from something besides your credit score. No matter which type of card you choose, starter cards normally have high interest rates and low credit limits.
Contributor Whitney Hansen covers banking, credit cards and investing for The Penny Hoarder. She also writes on other personal finance topics.