The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Monday, December 6, 2021

21 Best Credit-Building Credit Cards for 2021

Best Credit Building Credit Cards

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: November 8, 2019
Advertiser Disclosure

Identifying the best credit-building credit cards can be challenging with so many options available these days. Keep reading for our take on some of the best credit cards that can help you work your way to a healthy credit score.

In today’s world, having good credit is a bit like having a decent internet connection: while you can technically get by without it, it definitely makes many things a whole lot easier.

Of course, building good credit takes a bit more work than phoning up the cable company and asking for a bandwidth upgrade. Merely establishing enough credit to get a credit score requires six months, and reaching the top credit tiers can take years.

But — you have to start somewhere. For many consumers, the easiest first step is to open a credit card account; when used responsibly, one or two credit cards can both establish your credit profile and help you build respectable credit scores.

Secured | No/Limited Credit | Fair Credit | Bad Credit | Rewards | Student | Business

Best Secured Credit Cards to Build Credit

An option available to nearly any credit type — including those with bad credit or without any credit at all — secured credit cards require a deposit to open and maintain. That deposit acts as collateral for the account, keeping the issuer’s risk low.

In many cases, that lower risk benefits both the issuer and the cardholder, as it allows for lower interest rates and fees. Some of our top-rated secured credit cards even come with purchase rewards that can help you save money while you build credit.

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual or hidden fees, and you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Building your credit? Using a card like this responsibly could help
  • Put down a refundable $200 security deposit to get a $200 initial credit line
  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Building your credit? Using the Capital One Platinum Secured card responsibly could help
  • Put down a refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line
  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Capital Bank'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.2/5.0
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.39% (variable)
$35
Poor

The deposit you make to open a secured credit card is just that: a deposit. It’s not a fee, which means you can get your deposit back simply by closing your account (provided it’s in good standing — i.e., you don’t have an outstanding balance). Of course, some secured cards do have annual fees, which are not refundable.

Your secured credit card may also be eligible to be automatically upgraded to an unsecured credit card when your credit profile improves. If your card is upgraded to an unsecured credit card, your full deposit will be refunded to you.

Best Credit-Building Cards for No/Limited Credit

Contrary to the common saying, “no news is good news,” having no credit profile, or a very limited one, is not good news to credit card issuers. Without a way to gauge your credit risk, they tend to assume the (almost) worst.

While finding a credit card without a credit score is likely easier than finding one with a poor credit score, your method will be similar: look for cards designed for your situation. A number of issuers offer entry-level unsecured cards designed for people who need to establish and build credit.

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Whether you're at a 4-year university, community college or other higher education institution, this card might be an option for you
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), with 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Whether you're at a 4-year university, community college or other higher education institution, this card might be an option for you
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited

Once you’ve obtained your first card, be sure you’re building your credit the right way. The most important thing to do is to always make at least the minimum required payment before your due date each billing cycle.

Late payments that are made within 30 days of your due date won’t be reported to the credit bureaus, but they will usually come with pricey late fees. Payments more than 30-days late are considered delinquent and will be reported to the bureaus. Delinquent payments can knock dozens of points off of your credit scores.

Best Credit-Building Cards for Fair Credit

Although more than 1 in 10 consumers believe that you start out with a perfect credit score, that’s simply not the case. Perfect credit scores are certainly possible, but it can take years to build up enough positive payment history and credit profile length to reach that auspicious height.

Most consumers who are just starting out will have fair credit before they have good credit — but that’s OK. Fair credit opens up a few more doors than no credit at all, and you can easily use fair-credit card options to boost your score higher up the FICO food chain.

Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • With the Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card, you earn up to a 3% cash back reward
  • Make contactless payments through Mobile Wallet
  • Periodic Credit Increase Reviews
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Equifax†
  • † Your credit score will be available in your online account 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required) The free VantageScore 3.0 credit score provided by Equifax is for educational purposes only and may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% Variable
As low as $85
Fair
Aspire® Cash Back Reward Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • With the Aspire® Mastercard® Credit Card, you earn a 3% cash back reward on Gas, Groceries and Utility Payments
  • Earn a 1% cash back reward on all other purchases
  • Up to $1,000 credit limit subject to credit approval
  • Pre-qualify without affecting your credit score
  • No deposits or program fee
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Equifax†
  • † Your credit score will be available in your online account 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required) The free VantageScore 3.0 credit score provided by Equifax is for educational purposes only and may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% Variable
As low as $85
Fair

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

As your credit profile grows, you’ll want to pay attention to more than just your payment history (though that’s still 35% of your FICO Score). Those with the best credit scores also do well in the other factors that are considered in credit score calculations.

For example, you’ll want to keep an eye on your balances, as using a lot of your available credit can lower your credit score. And you should be careful to avoid opening too many new accounts, since hard inquiries and new accounts can impact your new credit and account age factors.

Best Credit-Building Cards for Bad Credit

Whether you made one mistake early in your credit journey, or have made several through the years, it doesn’t take much to wind up with a bad credit score.

On the bright side, there are plenty of credit card options available for bad credit — they’re just not always ideal. Unsecured credit cards for bad credit will tend to have higher rates and fees, while secured credit cards will require upfront deposits.

PREMIER Bankcard® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • You don’t need good credit to apply – here's your chance to improve your score.
  • We help people with bad credit, every day.
  • Just complete the short application and find out in 60 seconds if you’re approved.
  • You can build or rebuild your credit: apply for a PREMIER Bankcard credit card, keep your balance low, and pay all your monthly bills on time. We’ll help you get back on track.*
  • Don’t let a low FICO score stop you from applying – we approve applications others may not.
  • *Build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuer Website
See Issuer Website
Fair/Poor
PREMIER Bankcard® Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Don’t let a low FICO score stop you from applying – we approve applications others may not.
  • You don’t need good credit to apply – here's your chance to improve your score.
  • Just complete the short application and find out in 60 seconds if you’re approved.
  • When you need assistance our award-winning US-based customer service agents are there to help.
  • FICO scores are used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any PREMIER Bankcard® product.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuer Website
See Issuer Website
Fair/Poor
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.1/5.0
  • Up to $1,000 credit limit doubles up to $2,000! (Simply make your first 6 monthly minimum payments on time)
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From Experian* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Initial Credit Limit of $300 – $1,000* (subject to available credit)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
N/A
24.99% – 29.99% (Variable)
See website for Details
Bad, Poor Credit

The best method for rebuilding a bad credit score will depend mostly on what’s dragging down your credit score in the first place. For instance, if high balances and maxed-out credit cards are at fault, then paying down your debts is the best way to boost your score.

At the same time, if late payments or defaulted credit accounts have done the damage, then your best option is likely to work on building a positive payment history and giving the negative items time to season; the older items become, the less impact they tend to have on your scores.

Best Rewards Credit Cards to Build Credit

As a country with more credit cards than people, it’s easy to see that Americans love their credit cards. And credit card issuers love cardholders, so much so that the market is positively flooded with options for just about every credit type.

That abundance of options means that competition is fierce, which definitely works in consumers’ favor. For instance, even credit-building credit cards are competing for attention, which means you can find a number of options for earning solid purchase rewards while you build credit.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Secured Credit Card Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★
3.7

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • Using your secured credit card helps build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, prepaid and debit cards can’t do that.
  • Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.*
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
22.99% Variable APR
$0
New/Rebuilding

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card offers bonus rewards up to the maximum quarterly spend and unlimited rewards on all other purchases, all with no annual fee.

15. SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards

The SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards has a lot going for it as a credit-building card, not the least of which is that it provides cash back on every purchase, plus bonus cash back on gas and grocery purchases.

SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards

  • Earn 2% cash back on up to $6,000 in combined gas and grocery purchases each year
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Pay a $32 annual fee

Another great feature of the SunTrust Secured Credit Card is that it’s upgradable, which means SunTrust will automatically upgrade the account to an unsecured credit card when the cardholder has shown significant credit improvement.

One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to rewards credit cards is that rewards should never be a reason to spend more than you can afford to repay right away. Interest fees on carried balances will typically outweigh any potential rewards, making it a losing proposition.

You should also determine if paying an annual fee for a rewards card (versus a card with no annual fee but no rewards) is worth the extra cost. If you won’t actually earn enough rewards to offset the annual fee, you may want to reconsider your card choice.

Best Student Credit Cards to Build Credit

Given that you need to be at least 18-years-old to get a credit card — or 21-years-old if you don’t have a cosigner or independent income — few students will have particularly robust credit histories (or any at all).

Enter: the student credit card. Typically requiring proof of enrollment to qualify, student credit cards generally have flexible credit requirements, low fees, and even student-centered perks all designed to help students build good credit while in college.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • 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.
  • 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. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. *Exclusions Apply
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • 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.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

Student credit cards can be a great training ground for young adults for a variety of reasons, including the generally low fees. But the secondary benefits typically offered can also help provide a smoother learning experience.

For instance, most student credit cards won’t increase your APR if you make a late payment, and some cards will even waive your first late payment fee. Some options may also offer bonus rewards or incentives for positive credit behaviors, like a boost to your rewards rate for on-time payments.

Best Business Credit Cards to Build Credit

If building up a good consumer credit score sounds like a lot of work, it can pale in comparison to building business credit. You’ll need at least three business trade lines to even qualify for some business credit scores, let alone to reach a boast-worthy number.

Business credit cards are often a simple way to add to your business credit-building strategy. As with consumer credit cards, however, business cards will have specific credit requirements. Those looking to establish and build business credit should choose business credit cards with flexible credit requirements.

19. Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

This card is currently not available.

Business Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business is an unsecured business credit card typically available to applicants with fair credit or better.

20. BBVA Secured Visa® Business Credit Card

The BBVA Secured Visa® Business Credit Card is available in select states and requires a minimum deposit of $500 to establish a credit line. You can increase your deposit — and, thus, your total credit line — at any time (in $100 increments).

BBVA Secured Visa® Business Credit Card

  • Earn bonus points in categories you select, including office supplies, utilities, and travel
  • Earn 1X point per $1 on all other purchases
  • Pay no annual fee the first year, then $40

The card also earns purchase rewards, waives the first year’s annual fee, and offers individual employee cards at no additional cost.

21. Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

The Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card provides a business credit line of up to $25,000, equal to the amount of your initial deposit, and up to 10 employee cards.

Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

  • Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase made with your card, redeemable as a statement credit or check
  • Access credit lines from $500 to $25,000
  • Pay $25 annual fee

Once you’ve grown your business credit profile and demonstrated positive payment behaviors, Wells Fargo may automatically upgrade your secured card to an unsecured credit card and refund your deposit.

Building business credit requires many of the same positive credit behaviors as building consumer credit, including always, always, always paying your debt on time and as agreed. Business credit scoring agencies also look at your outstanding balances, credit utilization, and the number of trade experiences.

More than your financial history is up for grabs in business credit scoring, however. Experian, for instance, also looks at your company’s public records and business demographics (age, size, etc.) when calculating your business credit score.

(The information related to Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card has been collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.)

Use Your New Card Responsibly to Build Credit

Over the last few decades, America’s economic and social landscapes have shifted dramatically. Analog is out, and we now have digital — well, digital everything. And it’s all five times as expensive.

So, while you could once get by without things like high-speed internet and a solid credit score, today’s world doesn’t make it so easy. Modern Americans usually need loans to get new cars and houses — and WiFi to get everything else.

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