BEST CREDIT CARDSBEST CREDIT CARDSBEST STARTER CREDIT CARDS FOR NO CREDIT OF MARCH 2024
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Best Starter Credit Cards for No Credit of March 2024

Updated: Feb 29, 2024
Paul Soucy
Written by
Lead Assigning Editor
Caitlin Mims
Reviewed by
Content Management Specialist
Kenley Young
Edited by
Fact Checked
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Paul Soucy
Written by
Lead Assigning Editor
Caitlin Mims
Reviewed by
Content Management Specialist
Kenley Young
Edited by
Fact Checked
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
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NerdWallet's Best Starter Credit Cards for No Credit of March 2024

Best Starter Credit Cards for No Credit From Our Partners

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Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Our pick for

No-deposit starter card: Solid rewards on everything

Our pick for

Student cards: Simplicity and value

Student credit cards are ideal for working college students. Unlike secured cards, they don't require upfront deposits. If you're under 21, however, you have to have an independent income to qualify.
Our pick for

Student cards: Bonus category cash-back rewards

Our pick for

No-deposit starter card: Foreign credit histories

Through a partnership between American Express and the international credit-reporting startup Nova Credit, immigrants and expats in the U.S. can instantly translate credit reports from certain countries to U.S.-equivalent credit reports when applying for AmEx consumer cards. This feature is integrated into AmEx's online applications. Currently, it can access credit histories from bureaus located in the following countries: Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea, the Philippines, Spain and Switzerland.
Our pick for

Secured cards: Rewards and upgrading

Secured credit cards can be a good option for those with no credit who want a starter card from a major issuer. These cards require an upfront refundable deposit, usually equal to the card's limit. That cash collateral is returned to you if the card is upgraded to an unsecured account or closed in good standing.
Our pick for

Secured cards: Low deposit

Our pick for

Small-business card: Startups

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST STARTER CARDS FOR NO CREDIT

Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

» SECURED CREDIT CARDS

Secured credit cards can be a good option for those with no credit who want a starter card from a major issuer. These cards require an upfront refundable deposit, usually equal to the card's limit. That cash collateral is returned to you if the card is upgraded to an unsecured account or closed in good standing.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Our pick for: Secured card — low deposit

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card requires a security deposit, as do all secured credit cards. But while most cards require you to put down a deposit equal to your credit line, this one allows some qualifying applicants to get a $200 credit line with a deposit starting at $49. Further, you can be automatically considered for a higher credit line with no additional deposit in as little as six months (see rates and fees). Read our review.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Our pick for: Secured card — rewards and upgrading

Like other secured credit cards for people building or rebuilding credit, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card requires a cash security deposit. Unlike most others, it offers rewards. But what really makes it stand out from the competition is its upgrade possibilities. The issuer has a process in place for automatically reviewing accounts for possible transition to an unsecured card. Read our review. 

» STUDENT CREDIT CARDS

Student credit cards are ideal for working college students. Unlike secured cards, they don't require upfront deposits. If you're under 21, however, you have to have an independent income to qualify.

Discover it® Student Chrome

Our pick for: Student card — simplicity and value

Simplicity makes the Discover it® Student Chrome a standout for students searching for their first credit card. You'll earn bonus cash back at restaurants and gas stations with no activation required and no rotating categories to keep track of. Read our review.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Our pick for: Student card — bonus category cash-back rewards

The Discover it® Student Cash Back gives students the same excellent rewards as the regular Discover it® Cash Back — notably, bonus cash back in rotating categories that you must activate. Activating and tracking categories might be too much of a hassle for some students brand new to credit cards, but if you're up for a little work, the rewards can be handsome. Read our review.

» NO-DEPOSIT STARTER CARDS

It's possible to qualify for these cards without a U.S. credit history if you meet other criteria.

Chase Freedom Rise℠

Our pick for: No-deposit starter card — solid rewards on everything

The Chase Freedom Rise℠ is a good option for credit newbies for all the right reasons. It's an unsecured credit card, so there's no security deposit needed, nor do you need a credit history to be approved. The annual fee is $0, it earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase, and because it's in the Chase Freedom family of cards, you may eventually have a variety of upgrade options. Read our review.

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Our pick for: No-deposit starter card — no fees

The issuer of the Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card doesn’t only rely on credit scores to determine eligibility. Instead, it assesses your creditworthiness based on your income, expenses, savings and debts. You can earn a decent rate of up to 1.5% cash back, depending on your on-time payments. And there's no annual fee, late fees or foreign transaction fees. (The card is issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.) Read our review.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Our pick for: No-deposit starter card — foreign credit histories

(Through a partnership between American Express and the international credit-reporting startup Nova Credit, immigrants and expats in the U.S. can instantly translate credit reports from certain countries to U.S.-equivalent credit reports when applying for AmEx consumer cards. This feature is integrated into AmEx's online applications. Currently, it can access credit histories from bureaus located in the following countries: Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea, the Philippines, Spain and Switzerland.)

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express pays elevated rewards at U.S. supermarkets, at U.S. gas stations and on U.S. online retail purchases. The rewards might not be as rich as on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, but this card doesn't charge an annual fee either. New cardholders get a decent welcome offer and an introductory 0% APR period. Read our review.

» BUSINESS CREDIT CARD

Our pick for: Startups

Unlike most cards designed for entrepreneurs, the Brex Card doesn't require the cardholder to personally guarantee the debt on the card. Instead, Brex determines creditworthiness by evaluating a company's cash balance, spending patterns and investors. It's a good option when a business owner has a thin credit file but is well capitalized. The card earns rewards, too. Learn more and apply.

• • •

OTHER RESOURCES

By Melissa Lambarena, NerdWallet

What do you need to get a credit card without credit?

You don't need a credit history to get a starter card. In some cases, you won't need a Social Security number. But generally, you'll need:

  • A U.S. mailing address.

  • Income.

  • A checking or savings account.

Depending on your age, you might have to meet stricter income requirements to qualify:

If you’re under 21: To qualify for a credit card, you'll need to show that you can make payments on the account independently or get a co-signer, someone 21 or older who assumes the responsibility of your debt if you can’t pay the bill.

If you’re over 21: You’re still required to report your income if you’re over 21, but you have the option to list any income to which you have “reasonable expectation of access.”

Other requirements can vary depending on the type of starter card. Some examples:

  • Secured cards for no credit. These require a cash deposit as collateral to reduce the risk to the issuer, which may present an obstacle for some applicants. The amount deposited usually determines your credit limit. With a good payment history, you eventually get your deposit back when you close the account or upgrade to a regular credit card.

  • Student cards for no credit. These may require you to be an enrolled college student. You might have to provide information like the name of your school, your major and your expected graduation year.

  • No-deposit starter cards for no credit. Applications for these cards may require government-issued documents, bank account information, employment verification requirements and other details. That's because they assess creditworthiness in alternative ways, such as looking at employment, income, spending, savings or your credit history from a different country.

  • Small-business cards for no credit. At least one issuer offers small-business cards without taking personal credit history into account, but to qualify, you'll have to have plenty of cash in the bank.

How can a credit card help me build credit fast?

A credit card can help you build credit when you have none.

As you’re making payments on your credit card, that history is being recorded in your credit report, which compiles the information used to calculate your credit scores.

As long as you make on-time payments and stay well below your credit limit, you can work your way up to a good credit score of 690 or higher. Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO credit score; the amount of available credit used will account for 30% of it. Those are the two most important factors, but there are others.

How long you keep the account open also impacts your credit. Once you work your way up to good credit, it's helpful to keep the starter credit card open or maintain the original line of credit by upgrading to a regular credit card with the same issuer. This way, you preserve the length of your credit history, which accounts for 15% of your credit score. Closing your account could have negative consequences.

What to look for in a starter credit card

When you’re new to credit, you generally can't qualify for the best credit card offers. Among starter cards, ongoing interest rates are often steep and credit limits are low.

Don’t waste time looking for a credit card without a credit limit because issuers are required by federal law to determine your ability to pay. As a result, they offer a credit limit within your means. You also don’t need to look for credit cards that don’t run a credit check. These cards typically target those with bad credit, and they often come with an annual fee. There are plenty of starter cards that spare you that cost.

In some cases, you can be choosy. Here are a few things to look for in a starter credit card:

No annual fee. A starter credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee makes it easier to preserve the length of your credit history and your credit score because you can keep it open for a long time at no cost.

A path to a better credit card with the same issuer. Look for this option during your initial search. Once you establish a good credit history, you could upgrade to a better credit card with the same issuer and keep your original line of credit. This way, you're not stuck with the lower credit limits and lower rewards rates typically found on starter cards.

A report to all three credit bureaus. The ideal starter credit should report payments to all three credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. These companies record your payment history, which again is a key factor in your credit scores. If your card reports to all three bureaus, then all your possible bases will be covered when a lender pulls your credit report. The lender will have all of the information it needs to make a decision.

Here are some features that are less important but could still prove valuable:

Travel-friendly features. If travel is in your future, consider getting a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees — a percentage assessed on every international purchase, typically between 1% and 3% of the amount charged. You can also choose a credit card that belongs to a Visa or Mastercard network, which has broad international merchant acceptance.

Rewards. On a starter card, these aren't a top priority, but many cards offer them. If you're deciding among multiple rewards cards, consider your spending habits and how well they match up with the bonus categories.

Making the most of your starter credit card

With a starter card, your goal should be to hit or exceed the 690 credit score target necessary to establish good credit. Here's what you can do to work toward that:

  • Pay on time and in full every month to avoid interest (or at least pay more than the minimum).

  • Aim to use less than 30% of your available credit limit at all times. The lower your balance, the better.

  • Keep the account open and active.

  • Check your statement for mistakes.

  • Monitor your credit score through your issuer’s app.

  • Get your free annual credit report.

You can track your credit score for free through NerdWallet, certain banks and other third-party apps.

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.

Last updated on February 29, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best credit cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen as among the "best" in multiple categories. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.

Frequently asked questions

One of the easiest ways to build credit with no credit history is with a credit card. You can get a credit card without credit, but your options are mostly limited to alternative credit cards and secured credit cards. Credit cards outside of these options typically require good credit (FICO scores of 690 or higher), and some will accept only excellent credit (720 or higher). Understand that “no credit” doesn’t mean that you have “good credit.” And “no credit” is not worse than “bad credit,” though, you may experience similar obstacles in getting a credit card application approved. No credit means that you don’t have a credit score at the moment. You’re “credit invisible” for the time being until a lender approves you for credit and gives you the chance to prove you can manage credit responsibly.

You cannot get a credit card without a credit limit. Federal law prohibits credit card issuers from offering credit cards without a credit limit. They have to evaluate your ability to pay and offer credit accordingly. Otherwise, it would be like someone writing you a blank check. Credit limits are speed bumps that force you to slow down when you might be spending more than you can afford. Credit limits are determined by your issuer, and they take into account factors like your credit scores, payment history, income, credit utilization and large expenses.

No credit check credit cards are hard to come by, but there are some out there, like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card. These cards are better suited for applicants with bad credit who don’t want to further ding their credit score with a “hard inquiry” on their credit report. The drawback to these credit cards is that they generally charge annual fees. There’s no point in paying an annual fee for a credit card if you have no credit because there are plenty of other starter cards for no credit that don’t charge it. (Many credit cards offer a preapproval process that doesn’t involve an hard pull, though once you officially apply, your credit report will be pulled.)

It’s not necessarily bad to get denied a credit card due to insufficient credit history. It just means you have some work to do to establish a credit history. One option that can help you: secured credit cards for no credit. These cards typically require that you put down a security deposit of several hundred dollars, though some options are cheaper or more flexible than others. If that’s not in your budget, you might consider becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card or getting a co-signer. When those options aren’t available, you can still build credit if you can’t get a credit card by having your rent payments or other bills reported to credit bureaus. If you’ve been denied a credit card, you’ll want to wait about six months until your next application.

The fastest and easiest way to build credit when you have none is with a credit card. A credit card issuer reports your payments to the credit bureaus about once in the ballpark of a month or longer, depending on the issuer. Once you activate your card and start using it, you’ll be on the path to building credit. By practicing healthy habits, you can have a positive impact on your credit score over time.

About the author

Portrait of author

Paul Soucy

Paul has been the lead editor for NerdWallet's credit cards team since 2015 and for the travel rewards team since 2023. Previously, he worked at USA Today and the Des Moines Register, then built a freelance writing and editing business focused on personal finance topics. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA. Read more
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