Best Credit Cards to Build Credit

Apr 18, 2022

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Credit cards can be an effective tool to build credit whether you’re starting out or seeking a second chance, but they aren't always easy to get. Options may be limited depending on a card issuer's credit history requirements.

If you don’t know where your credit history stands, it’s possible to get your credit score and credit report for free. Then, you can use the information to apply for credit cards in your credit score range and improve your odds of approval.

As you’re weighing your options, here are a few cards to consider that report to all three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). These bureaus record the information used to calculate your credit scores. By having your payments recorded by all three companies, future lenders can get a full picture of your credit regardless of which bureau they use to review your credit report.

Top credit cards for building credit

Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card

Petal 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card
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Our pick for: No security deposit

Card details

Rewards: Up to 10% cash back when you use the card to make purchases with select merchants.

Welcome bonus: None.

Annual fee: $0.

Security deposit: None.

APR: The ongoing APR is 20.24%-29.74% Variable APR.

Why we like it

The Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card, issued by WebBank, is a solid choice for those with less-than-perfect credit. Petal’s algorithm can look beyond credit scores by analyzing bank information to see how you manage income, savings and spending. Unlike secured credit cards, this card doesn’t require a security deposit. The credit limit can range between $300 and $5,000, depending on eligibility. That’s a potentially high amount for a starter card if you can qualify. Cardholders may also see some value from the card's rewards when they shop with specific merchants.

Drawbacks

Petal does not allow you to change your payment due date, so you'll have to find a way to make payments if it doesn't align with your payday.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card
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Our pick for: A path to upgrade to a regular credit card

Card details

Rewards:

  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.

  • All other purchases earn 1%.

Welcome bonus: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Annual fee: $0.

Security deposit: A minimum of $200. This amount determines your credit limit. Deposits can be as high as $2,500.

APR: 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 23.24% Variable APR.

Why we like it

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is one of the few secured card options that offers rewards. For no credit or bad credit alike, it's an excellent credit-building tool. It requires a minimum of $200 as a security deposit, but the rewards earned may eventually make up the cost while you’re waiting to get it back. The deposit is returned if you maintain a good credit history and close your account to get a regular card with a different issuer or use Discover's path to upgrade to one of its regular cards. If you stick with Discover, the wait may not be too long. The issuer starts reviewing your account at seven months to see if you can qualify for a regular Discover credit card.

Drawbacks

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card has a steep security deposit of $200, which is typical among secured credit cards, but some options for building credit may accept a lower amount or avoid a deposit requirement. This card also requires a U.S. bank account to fund the security deposit, so you'll need to open one before applying. If you can't qualify for a bank account, consider a card like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
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Our pick for: Credit-building features

Card details

Rewards: None.

Welcome bonus: None.

Annual fee: $0.

Security deposit: Get a $200 credit line with an initial deposit of $49, $99 or $200, for those who qualify. You can deposit more money before your account opens to increase your credit limit up to a maximum of $1,000.

APR: The ongoing APR is 26.99% Variable APR.

Why we like it

Most secured cards usually require an upfront deposit of several hundred dollars. The amount deposited typically determines your credit limit, but the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card may be an exception. It may allow you to potentially qualify for a credit limit of $200 with a deposit of $49, $99 or $200, depending on eligibility. It’s possible to also pay the deposit in $20 increments within 35 days of being approved. Terms apply. The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card can further bump up your credit since the issuer automatically considers you for a higher credit limit without requiring an additional deposit. A higher credit limit can improve your credit by lowering your credit utilization ratio, a key factor that impacts credit scores.

Drawbacks

You'll need a bank account to be able to fund the security deposit for this card. Consider opening a bank account or getting a card like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card to eliminate that roadblock on the path to credit. This card doesn't earn rewards, which isn't uncommon for secured credit cards, but some cards do offer them.

Discover it® Student chrome

Discover it® Student chrome
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Our pick for: Student-friendly features

Card details

Rewards:

  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter.

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Welcome bonus: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Annual fee: $0.

Security deposit: None.

APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24%-22.24% Variable APR.

Why we like it

The Discover it® Student chrome packs a lot of value for students and less obstacles. It’s rare to find a student credit card that offers a generous sign-up bonus, introductory offer and rewards. There’s no FICO history or security deposit to qualify for this card, barriers that sometimes prevent students from building credit. Discover also waives the first late fee which can be helpful when students are learning to get acquainted with managing a first credit card.

Drawbacks

The Discover it® Student chrome offers decent rewards, but students may be able to squeeze more value from the Discover it® Student Cash Back. It earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter in activated categories that change every three months and 1% on everything else. For students with plans to travel abroad, a Discover card may not be an ideal travel companion since merchant acceptance in other countries can be limited.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students
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Our pick for: Friendly features for international students

Card details

Rewards: Unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases.

Welcome bonus: None.

Annual fee: $0.

Security deposit: None.

APR: The ongoing APR is 19.49% Variable.

Why we like it

International students who can’t qualify for other credit cards because they lack a Social Security number or a credit history may have a better chance with the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students. Deserve uses its own underwriting process to evaluate applications based on alternative data like a U.S. bank account, among other factors. You’ll have to link your bank account to allow Deserve to verify your address and ability to pay. The card offers a decent rewards rate of 1% which is in line with what some other student credit cards offer. Cardholders also get up to $69 in statement credit for a 12-month Amazon Prime Student subscription after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles.

Drawbacks

Students with a Social Security number can potentially qualify for more valuable student credit cards with better rewards.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

American Express Blue Cash Everyday Credit Card
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Our pick for: Eligibility with credit from another country

Card details

Rewards:

  • 3% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 spent per year (then 1%).

  • 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

  • Terms apply.

Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms Apply.

Annual fee: $0.

Security deposit: None.

APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.74%-24.74% Variable APR.

Why we like it

For some newcomers to the U.S. it may be possible to get the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express if they have good credit in an eligible country. AmEx’s partnership with Nova Credit makes it possible to translate credit reports from eligible countries like Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Kenya and Nigeria. By confirming that you have a credit history in another country in the application for this card, you may potentially have a chance to qualify for this card and its rewards and introductory offers that aren't typically found on starter cards. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

The card is not an ideal payment method for international travel. It charges a 2.7% fee on every purchase made abroad and international acceptance of the card may be limited, depending on the destination. American Express has more limited merchant acceptance compared with Visa or Mastercard.

Tomo Credit Card
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Tomo Credit Card

Our pick for: No interest charges

Card details

Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases.

Welcome bonus: N/A

Annual fee: $0.

Security deposit: None.

APR: N/A.

Why we like it

The Tomo Credit Card eliminates many hurdles on the path to establishing credit. It doesn’t have a minimum security deposit requirement, there is no credit check, no annual fee and you may qualify without a Social Security number. The company’s proprietary technology can weigh many data points, including income (or income potential) and account balances. To provide this information, you’ll have to link at least one eligible bank account through a third-party service.

If you desire a safety net as you're getting started with credit, this card is a less risky option that won't land you in debt. You can't carry a balance from one month to the next, so interest charges don't apply. You start off with a seven-day automatic payment schedule in which a payment is automatically deducted from your bank account to cover your weekly balance.

Drawbacks

The Tomo Credit Card doesn't fully prepare you for the responsibilities of managing a real credit card that charges interest or fees. It also doesn't offer a path to upgrade to a regular credit card once you're ready to graduate to more valuable options.

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