21 Best Credit-Building Credit Cards for 2018

21 Best Credit-Building Credit Cards for 2018

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: September 13, 2018
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

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

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Discover it® Secured Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It’s a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit from $200-$2500 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% for 6 months
24.99% Variable
$0
Please refer to issuer's website
First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card Review

at First Progress'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

2.3/5.0
  • Fund your new MasterCard® secured credit card with your tax refund today!
  • Receive Your Card More Quickly with New Expedited Processing Option
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Good for Car Rental, Hotels; Anywhere Credit Cards are Accepted!
  • Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 - $2,000 Submitted with Application
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
20.24% (Variable)
$29
Bad Credit

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

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • 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% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Fair
Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • 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.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • 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% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Fair

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 whoa re 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.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

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
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • 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
24.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability
  • Qualified applicants will receive a card with a competitive APR and no annual fee along with 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, terms apply
  • View updates to your Experian credit score with free online access, terms apply
  • Make paying your bill easier with the ability to choose your payment due date, terms apply
  • Access your account on-the-go with the Credit One Bank mobile app
  • Never miss an account update with customizable text and email alerts
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 25.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Fair

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.

Fingerhut Credit Account Review

at Fingerhut'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands
  • Take advantage of low monthly payments if you apply and are accepted for a Fingerhut Credit Account issued by WebBank, who determines eligibility and qualifications for the terms of credit
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuers Website
$0
Poor Credit

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Total Visa® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.5/5.0
  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine VISA card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • If approved, simply pay a Processing Fee to open your account and access your available credit
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Terms
See Terms
Fair, Bad 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
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • 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
24.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Secured 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.
  • It’s a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit from $200-$2500 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% for 6 months
24.99% Variable
$0
Please refer to issuer's website

The Discover it® Secured 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

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • 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% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Fair
Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • 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.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • 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% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Fair

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

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
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

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.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Enjoy no annual fee
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Build business credit with responsible use
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy business benefits including Year-End Summaries, employee cards at no extra cost and experienced small business customer service
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.74% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

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.