Best Credit Cards for People with No Credit of March 2021

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Moving from zero to “excellent” on the credit score scale can feel like an uphill battle. 

To build credit, you often have to access and use credit through financial products like loans and credit cards. But that’s much easier when you already have a solid credit history. And unless someone is willing to make you an authorized user on their credit card account or co-sign your loan, doing it on your own can be even more challenging.

But there are credit cards specifically designed to help you begin building your credit with little or no credit history. These starter credit cards report your payment to the credit bureaus, which can increase your score over time, and may even offer tools to help you build lasting credit habits or rewards on your everyday spending.

Here are NextAdvisor’s picks for the best starter credit cards for people with no credit:

Before You Start

Opening a credit card is a big responsibility. Before you apply, make sure you’re prepared to pay your statement balance in full and on time each month to avoid taking on high-interest debt, and practice good credit habits that can help you build and maintain a great credit score throughout your lifetime.

Best Credit Cards for No Credit History

Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Good for Building Credit
Capital One Platinum Credit Card
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Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Good for Rewards
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
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Citi® Secured Mastercard®
Good Secured Credit Card for Building Credit
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
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Bank of America® Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card
Good Secured Credit Card with Rewards
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card
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Petal 2
Good for No Credit History
Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card
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Discover it® Student Cash Back
Good for Students
Discover it® Student Cash Back
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Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Good for Building Credit

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

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  • Intro bonus: No current offer
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 26.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score: (No Credit History)

Overview

Capital One Platinum is a straightforward credit-building card. It charges no annual fee and carries a variable 26.99% APR. You won’t earn any rewards, but Capital One does offer automatic credit line reviews after six months of timely payments, and access to your credit score and credit monitoring tools through CreditWise. 

You’ll also pay no foreign transaction fees, have $0 liability fraud coverage, and get additional travel and purchase protections as Platinum Mastercard benefits.

Why we chose this card

Despite its lack of rewards, this card can offer great value for building credit. If you pay your statement balance on time, you can automatically get considered for a credit limit increase after just six months. Not only will timely payments help build your payment history, but a higher credit limit can reduce your credit utilization ratio, or the amount of credit you use compared to your overall available credit. Both of these are important factors in your credit score. Combined with credit monitoring tools through CreditWise from Capital One, that makes this card a solid credit-building option. 

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Good for Rewards

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

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Rewards rate:

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.

  • Intro bonus: No current offer
  • Annual fee: $39
  • Regular APR: 26.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score: (No Credit History)

Overview

Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase for a $39 annual fee. You can redeem rewards for cash, statement credits, gift cards, or to cover recent charges and cash back doesn’t expire as long as your account is open. 

You’ll also get automatically considered for a credit line increase after six months of timely payments, and you can access your credit score and credit monitoring tools through Capital One’s CreditWise program. Other QuicksilverOne benefits include $0 liability fraud protection and no foreign transaction fees, and the card carries a variable 26.99% APR.

Why we chose this card

We like the simplicity of flat cash back rewards, and Capital One QuickSilverOne is no exception. This is one of the few cards available to people with limited credit histories that also earns rewards on your spending. The regular Quicksilver card from Capital One offers the same flat cash back rewards (plus a welcome bonus) for no annual fee, but requires good credit for approval. 

To offset the $39 annual fee, you’ll need to spend just $2,600 annually, or $217 per month; any spending over that amount goes straight back into your pocket, so you can use this card to maximize every purchase while boosting your credit score over time.

Citi® Secured Mastercard®
Good Secured Credit Card for Building Credit

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

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  • Intro bonus: No current offer
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 22.49% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score: (No Credit History)

Overview

Secured credit cards make good starter credit card options for people with no credit history. With Citi Secured Mastercard, you can begin building a history of good credit habits to increase your credit score with regular reporting to the credit bureaus.

There’s no annual fee, but you will need to put down a security deposit upon approval. You can choose any amount between $200 and $2,500, and this will act as your credit limit. Citi allows you to choose your bill due date and access your credit score through your online account. There’s a standard variable APR of 22.49%, but late payments may incur a penalty APR up to 29.99%. 

Why we chose this card

Citi Secured Mastercard doesn’t offer many rewards or benefits, but it’s a helpful tool for building credit from zero. Maximize this card’s value by using it to establish good habits you can carry over when you upgrade to an unsecured card. Treat this card like a debit card: Only charge what you have the cash to pay off and make your payments on time each month. 

You should also be aware of how the deposit you choose can affect your credit score. Credit utilization ratio, or the amount of credit you use compared to your available credit, is one of the most important factors in your credit score. Experts recommend keeping your ratio below 30% (and ideally below 10%). If you put just $200 down, you’ll only have $60 to spend before you go over that ratio. The higher the deposit you’re able to put down, the more flexibility you’ll have when using your card.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card
Good Secured Credit Card with Rewards

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card

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Rewards rate:

3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Intro bonus: No current offer
  • Annual fee: None
  • Regular APR: 23.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit score: (No Credit History)

Overview

The secured version of Bank of America’s Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a similar rewards structure to the standard card: you’ll earn 3% cash back on your choice category (between gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, or home improvement/furnishings), 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% back on everything else. The 3% and 2% rewards rates apply to your first $2,500 in combined quarterly purchases in those categories, then drops to 1%. 

Upon approval, you’ll submit a refundable security deposit of at least $300 (and up to $4,900). This deposit, among other factors, is used to determine your maximum credit limit, and your account is periodically reviewed by Bank of America to determine whether you’re eligible to have your deposit returned. You can also access your credit score and credit monitoring tools through your online account.

This card has no annual fee, but does carry a 23.99% variable APR (with a penalty APR up to 29.99% if you pay late).

Why we chose this card

This card is a great cash back credit card on its own, and an especially good option among secured credit cards, which typically offer few rewards options. Not only can you build your solid payment history with Bank of America’s regular reporting to the credit bureaus, but you can save on purchases in everyday categories while doing so.

Plus, this card offers extra incentive for practicing good credit habits with periodic account reviews. If you keep your account in good standing and pay in full and on time, you can get your security deposit back. Bank of America specifies that not everyone will qualify for a refunded deposit, and the decision is based on “responsible credit management across all of your credit cards and loans, including Bank of America and others.”

Petal 2
Good for No Credit History

Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card

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Rewards rate:

Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments. 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away.

  • Intro bonus: No current offer
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 12.99% – 26.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score: (No Credit History)

Overview

The Petal 2 Visa card offers 1% cash back on eligible purchases, but after you make 12 on-time monthly payments, you’ll get 1.5% cash back. You can also use Petal Offers to earn between 2% and 10% cash back at select merchants.

Beyond card rewards, the Petal app offers helpful financial tools for cardholders, including options to track your credit score and spending and create a budget. And the card also promises no fees ever — that means no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no late or returned payment fees, no penalty APR, and more. However, revolving balances will take on a variable 12.99%-26.99% APR.

Why we chose this card

This card is a good option for people new to credit, because it can help you build and maintain responsible credit habits. Not only can you increase your score with standard reporting to the credit bureaus, but you’ll also have access to financial tools and get rewarded for your good habits with increased rewards.

But what really makes this card (which is issued by WebBank) stand out is its approach to application approvals. If you truly have no history on your credit report to give the bank an idea of your creditworthiness, you can allow access to your bank account. By doing so, your approval is based on not only your credit history, but other financial information like your income and bill payment history. If you’re not interested in a secured credit card, but you’re unlikely to get approved for a standard card based on credit alone, this can be a useful alternative.

Discover it® Student Cash Back
Good for Students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Rewards rate:

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. Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • Intro bonus: Cashback Match™
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 12.99% – 21.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit score: (No Credit History)

Overview

With Discover it Student Cash Back, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories upon activation (then 1%), plus 1% on every other purchase. These are the categories for 2021:

  • January through March: Grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS
  • April through June: Gas stations, wholesale clubs, and select streaming services
  • July through September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October through December: Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com

At the end of your first year, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned, essentially doubling your first-year value. If you earn $150 throughout the year, for example, that’ll turn into $300 total cash back. And for up to five years, you can receive an annual $20 statement credit each year you maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

In addition to rewards, you’ll get a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first six months (12.99% – 21.99% variable APR thereafter), and can opt into email and text account alerts. You can also request a credit line increase online and, after graduation, update your income and personal information to increase your chances of eligibility. This card charges no annual fee and any balance you carry incurs a variable 12.99%-21.99% APR.

Why we chose this card

We like this card for students looking to build credit because it offers the best of both worlds when it comes to starter cards. 

You’ll get access to your own card and line of credit, which you’ll be responsible for paying off regularly. This helps build your credit score as you develop good credit habits, like paying your balances in full each month, making timely payments, and keeping your credit utilization low. 

But it’s also a great way to save money on everyday purchases. If you max out the 5% categories each quarter upon activation (on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1%), you can earn $300 back each year — and get $600 the first year with Cashback Match. Just be careful not to fall into the habit of making purchases you can’t afford to pay off each month or buying things just to earn rewards. Use this card like a debit card for the items you purchase regularly while you practice responsible credit use.

Best Credit Cards for People With No Credit History Summary

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Good for: Building Credit

Get automatically considered for a credit line increase after six months of timely payments, plus access to CreditWise credit monitoring tools. This card charges no annual fee. 

Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards Credit Card

Good for: Rewards

Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, in addition to automatic credit line reviews after six months of on-time payments and access to Capital One’s credit monitoring tools. You’ll pay a $39 annual fee for the QuicksilverOne Rewards card.

Citi Secured Mastercard

Good for: Secured Credit Card for Building Credit

Upon approval, you can submit a security deposit between $200 and $2,500, which will act as your credit limit, and choose your own monthly due date. Use this card to make purchases and pay them off each month to begin building your credit history and improve your credit score. There’s no annual fee for Citi Secured Mastercard.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card

Good for: Secured Credit Card for Rewards

Earn 3% back in a category of your choice and 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on combined $2,500 in purchases each quarter, then 1%), plus 1% on all other purchases. To open your account, you’ll need to submit a security deposit between $300 and $4,900. Bank of America periodically reviews your account to determine whether you qualify to have your refund returned. This card has no annual fee. 

Petal 2 Visa Credit Card

Good for: No Credit History

Earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases and up to 1.5% cash back after 12 on-time monthly payments. In addition to your credit report, factors like income and bill payment history (using your bank account information) may be used to determine your approval.

Discover it Student Cash Back

Good for: Students

Earn 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories upon activation (on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, then 1%) and 1% cash back on everything else. At the end of your first year, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned, and you’ll get a $20 statement credit each year you maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA (up to 5 years). Discover it Student Cash Back charges no annual fee.

CardAPRRewardsAnnual Fee
Capital One Platinum Credit Card26.99% VariableN/A$0
Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards Credit Card26.99% Variable1.5% cash back on every purchase$39
Citi Secured Mastercard22.49% VariableN/A$0
Bank of America Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card23.99% Variable• 3% cash back in choice category (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings)
• 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then 1%)
• 1% cash back on all other purchases
$0
Petal 2 Visa Credit Card12.99%-26.99% Variable1% cash back on all eligible purchases, and up to 1.5% cash back after establishing a positive payment history$0
Discover it Student Cash Back12.99%-21.99% Variable• 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories upon activation, then 1%.
• 1% cash back on all other purchases
$0

How to Get a Credit Card Without Credit

While some credit cards (especially those with long-lasting intro offers or premium perks and rewards) do require excellent credit for approval, there are plenty of starter credit card options designed to help you build and maintain good credit. Here are some ways you can get a credit card with no credit:

Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards require an upfront deposit upon approval, which typically acts as your credit limit. The deposit makes these cards more accessible for people with little credit history or bad credit, because the deposit secures the credit the bank lends you, like a form of collateral. These cards usually don’t offer great rewards, but can be a helpful stepping stone to more valuable card options. Depending on your issuer, you may even be able to upgrade to an unsecured card in the future without having to close your account.

Student Credit Cards

Student cards are a great credit-building option for students looking to get ahead before graduation. Not only can you establish a positive payment history by using your card responsibly in school, but these cards often offer rewards and benefits geared toward students and everyday spending. When you graduate, you may choose to continue using your student card or request an upgrade to a standard credit card from your issuer.

Authorized User

You can build credit as an authorized user on a trusted friend or family member’s credit card account if you can’t get approved for your own. For example, parents may designate their children as authorized users on a card reserved for emergencies or another agreed-upon use, like fueling up at the gas station. 

As an authorized user, you may have your own card, but responsibility for payment (and resulting effects on your credit) ultimately falls on the account owner. Before agreeing to be an authorized user, ensure the account owner is a responsible cardholder with a history of timely payments, or future negative payment history could reflect badly on your credit score.

How Can a Credit Card Help You Build Credit?

Because your credit score is determined based on information in your credit report, building credit depends on reporting information to the credit bureaus that will appear on your report.

Credit card issuers report your payments to each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TranUnion) regularly. Over time — and with responsible credit use — you’ll establish a positive payment history on your credit report, which accounts for 35% of your overall credit score determination, according to FICO.

Credit cards also play into other credit scoring factors, including credit utilization (30%), age of accounts (15%) and credit mix (10%). 

Experts recommend maintaining a credit utilization ratio (the amount of credit you use in comparison to your overall available credit) under 30%. Keep your regular spending under 30% of your card’s overall credit limit to increase your score over time. 

Opening a credit card and keeping it in good standing will also contribute to your age of accounts. The best credit scores benefit from long account ages, so the sooner you open an account, the longer history you can establish over time.


Credit cards play into credit mix as a form of revolving credit. Installment loans like auto or student loans are also reported to the bureaus and appear on your report, but introducing a credit card into your credit mix can help prove to future lenders your ability to manage different types of debt.

These factors, in addition to overall responsible credit use (avoid carrying a debt balance, make payments on time and in full each month, etc.) will improve your credit score.  

Why Establishing a Credit History Matters

Establishing a credit history is an important aspect of your finances that can have implications throughout your lifetime.

Lenders use your credit score, which is a reflection of your credit history, to determine your creditworthiness when you apply for financing for everything from a rewards credit card to a new car and even your dream home. Your credit score not only influences whether you’re approved or denied, but also the terms and interest.

Credit doesn’t just apply to loan eligibility, though. Insurance providers, prospective employers, and future landlords may also check your credit history to help determine your overall responsibility and trustworthiness.

What to Look for in a Starter Credit Card

You should use a starter credit card as a tool to help you establish a credit history and build your credit score. Here are a few details to consider before applying for your first credit card:

  • Annual Fee: An annual fee doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker, but you should make sure you can recoup the cost of a credit card’s annual fee with your regular spending, whether through rewards or other benefits. For starter cards especially, there are plenty of great options available that charge no annual fee.
  • Interest Rate: Responsible credit usage means you should pay your balance off in full and on time each month, so you don’t take on any high-interest charges. But it’s still important to know the rate your card charges on unpaid balances, and how much that could end up costing you over time.
  • Credit Limit: Your credit limit is the maximum amount you can charge to your credit card. If you open a secured card, your limit will likely be the amount you put down as a deposit, while unsecured cards will assign a credit limit upon approval. This limit not only affects the amount you may spend using your card, but can also impact your credit score. If you’re assigned a small credit limit, it may be more difficult to maintain a good credit utilization ratio and increase your score.
  • Fees: Beyond the annual fee, there are other fees you might take on with a new credit card, including late payment fees, foreign transaction fees, penalty APR, balance transfer fees, returned payment fees, and more. Be aware of what these fees charge as well as how you can avoid them.
  • Rewards: While building good credit should be your primary goal with a starter credit card, you can also use it to add value to your regular spending through rewards. Look for a card with a simple rewards structure (like cash back) that will reward your most frequent spending. For many people, this includes everyday spending categories like groceries, gas, and dining.
  • Upgrades: A secured credit card, student card, or basic credit-building card can be incredibly useful for establishing credit, but once you have a great credit score, you may want to upgrade to a card that better suits your spending habits. Some issuers offer the option to upgrade to another card after a certain amount of time or period of good standing, which can be an easy way to upgrade without another hard credit check or new account opening. 

Making the Most of Your Starter Credit Card

Make the most of your starter credit card by using it to establish a foundation of good credit habits.

Only charge purchases to your card you know you can pay off when your statement balance is due — in other words, use your card like a debit card. And when it is time to pay, submit your full statement balance on time to avoid taking on debt and late fees. Over time, as your card issuer reports these habits to the credit bureaus, your positive payment history will grow and increase your score over time.

You should also keep an eye on your credit utilization while you’re building your credit score. Keep your monthly balance below 30% (and even more ideally, around 10%) of your overall credit limit to increase your credit score.

As you use your starter card to build your score, you can also make the most of any rewards and benefits it has to offer. 

Look into how rewards categories align with your regular spending to maximize your purchases — and then make sure to pay those charges off before you accrue interest, since carrying a balance will quickly wipe out any rewards you earn.

Take advantage of other added benefits your issuer may offer too, like credit monitoring tools, travel protections, account alerts, and more.

Methodology

EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

To determine the best credit cards for people with no credit history, we focus on the cards currently available from major issuers that are accessible for applicants with little or no credit history and offer tools to help establish and maintain good credit. Card details we consider include annual fee, APR, rewards and benefits (including those tied to healthy credit habits), fees, credit reporting, and more.

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