BEST OF

Best Unsecured Cards for Short Credit Histories of May 2021

NerdWalletApril 16, 2021
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Most credit cards are "unsecured," meaning you don't have to put up any collateral in order to use them to borrow money for purchases. People with good or excellent credit don't have much trouble qualifying for unsecured cards. Those with short credit histories can have a harder time finding an unsecured card that will approve them without charging exorbitant fees. Even so, when it comes to getting approved for an unsecured credit card, a short credit history is better than none.

If you're starting with no credit history at all, though, getting a secured credit card — a card that requires a refundable security deposit — is still your best bet. After six months to a year of on-time payments and responsible credit use, you might be able to qualify for a better offer.

These cards stand out as the best unsecured cards for people with short histories and fair or average credit profiles (FICO scores of 630-689).

NerdWallet's Best Unsecured Cards for Short Credit Histories of May 2021

Best Unsecured Cards for Short Credit Histories From Our Partners

Our pick for

Cash-back rewards

Capital One QuicksilverOne Credit Card

on Capital One's website

4.4

NerdWallet rating 

on Capital One's website

Annual Fee

$39

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. When you're relatively new to credit, that kind of rewards rate is hard to find. You can also be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months.

Pros

  • You'll get a solid flat rewards rate on all purchases, and you can redeem your rewards in any amount. If you tend to forget about your rewards, you can even set up auto-redemption, where cash back is automatically applied as a statement credit when it reaches a certain threshold. This card travels well, too, because there's no foreign transaction fee.

Cons

  • There's an annual fee of $39. That means you'd have to put at least $2,600 on this card each year to break even on rewards. This card offers no sign-up bonus and has a 26.99% Variable APR. That makes carrying a balance expensive.

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

Our pick for

Boosting your credit limit

Capital One Platinum Credit Card Credit Card

on Capital One's website

4.4

NerdWallet rating 

on Capital One's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

For anyone who wants a no-fuss way to build their credit history and eventually increase their credit limit, the $0-annual-fee Capital One Platinum Credit Card keeps it simple.

Pros

  • As with the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, you can be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months. But unlike that card, this one doesn't cost you anything to keep in your wallet (assuming you don't carry a balance). There are also no foreign transaction fees.

Cons

  • There's no sign-up bonus, and the card earns no rewards. There's also no introductory 0% APR period for purchases or balance transfers. Use this card to build credit, then move on up.

  • Pay no annual fee
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this

Our pick for

Minimizing impact on credit score

AvantCard Credit Card

on Avant's website

3.6

NerdWallet rating 

on Avant's website

Annual Fee

$39

Regular APR

25.99% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

The AvantCard Credit Card is an option for applicants with a thin credit file who don't want to risk hurting their credit scores by applying for multiple cards in search of approval. That's because you first complete a pre-qualification process that doesn't need a hard credit pull. That will give you an idea of your likelihood of being accepted for the card, and the terms you'd be eligible for, without the ding to your credit. If you'd like to proceed from there, you can complete the application process with a hard credit pull.

Pros

  • Avant's underwriting model takes into account other factors beyond applicants' credit histories, like income and other debt obligations. This can make it easier to qualify for the card without a long credit history. Also, the card doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee and reports to the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — which helps you build your credit history.

Cons

  • There's no sign-up bonus, no rewards program and no 0% intro APR, but there is a $39 annual fee.

  • No deposit required
  • Reports to all three major credit bureaus
  • No penalty APR
  • No hidden fees
  • We may periodically review your account for credit line increases
  • Fast and easy application process
  • Cash Advance Fee: 3%, Min: $10
  • Disclosure: If you are charged interest, the charge will be no less than $1.00
  • Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST UNSECURED CARDS FOR SHORT CREDIT HISTORY

Click the card name to read our review. Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

Our pick for: Cash-back rewards

This card for people with fair or "average" credit pays the same cash-back rate as the regular Quicksilver card, which targets people with excellent credit. The key difference is that this version charges an annual fee while the regular one does not. Read our review.

Our pick for: Boosting your credit limit

You don't get rewards with the Capital One Platinum Credit Card, or a sign-up bonus or a 0% period. But if you've got fair credit and you need a card you can use to build credit without paying an annual fee, it's definitely worth a look. Read our review.

Our pick for: New immigrants

It's not easy to establish credit as an immigrant in the U.S., even if you had a good credit history in your home country. The Deserve® Pro Mastercard uses an underwriting process that also takes employment and income into consideration. There's a rewards program, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Minimizing impact on credit score

The AvantCard Credit Card is an option for applicants with a thin credit file who don't want to risk hurting their credit scores by applying for multiple cards in search of approval. You first go through a pre-qualification process that doesn't require a hard credit check. That will give you an idea of your likelihood of being accepted. If you'd like to proceed from there, you can complete the application process with a full credit check. Read our review.

Last updated on April 16, 2021

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best 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 in multiple categories.