27 Best Credit Cards for No Credit in 2018

27 Best Credit Cards for No Credit in 2018

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: October 22, 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.

Although we prefer it to be common sense, enough folks try to enter restaurants and other businesses without proper coverage that the “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs are a common sight on the doors of modern retail establishments.

But what if “No Credit” were to join the list of things that can get you barred from a business? In a day and age where everyone from your lender to your landlord is checking your credit reports, it’s not as hard of a stretch as you might think.

Thankfully, building credit is easier than ever, with dozens of solid starter credit cards on the market to help you get established. Many of the best cards for applicants with no or limited credit will even offer rewards, and many come without any annual fees.

While our favorite cards for no credit cover a range of needs, they’re hardly the only options available. See our expanded list of top cards for building your credit history.

Overall | Unsecured | Secured | No Annual Fee
Rewards | Cosigner | Student | Business | Retail

Best Overall Cards for Limited or No Credit

As with many other things in today’s world, credit cards have become a somewhat niche product, with the extensive options allowing consumers to select just the right card for their individual needs.

The downside to that ability for selectivity is that it’s hard to select any one — or three — cards that stand out as the best of the best for every consumer. Our top overall cards for no/limited credit do share some similar features, however, including very flexible credit requirements.

  • 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
26.46% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

This card does exactly what it is designed to do, which is to help cardholders establish and build credit. It has no rewards or fancy features, but nor does it have an annual fee or down payment requirement.

Discover it® Secured Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL 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

This is nearly ideal for consumers with no or limited credit, as it combines cash back rewards with flexible credit requirements and no annual fee. The only real downside is that this is a secured card, so a deposit is required to open the account.

BEST OVERALL 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
26.46% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited

If you’re looking to start building your credit and you want to earn rewards — but you don’t want to make a deposit — this card is a good option. The annual fee isn’t ideal for keeping the card over the long term, but you may be able to upgrade to the fee-free Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card when your credit improves.

Best Unsecured Cards for Limited or No Credit

Although plenty of issuers have credit cards intended to help consumers establish and build credit, most of those options require a little quid pro quo — in the form of a security deposit.

Happily, not every issuer requires you to provide collateral for credit. These cards are solid start options for applicants with no or limited credit that won’t require a deposit to open or maintain.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
3.8

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
26.46% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

While not having to make a deposit helps this card’s appeal, perhaps the best thing about it is the lack of an annual fee. Using a card with no annual fee to establish your credit means your first card can stay open indefinitely, helping improve your credit history length and average account age.

BEST OVERALL 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
26.46% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited

This card may be the best pick if you have your heart set on starting your credit journey with cash back rewards, offering an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Of course, you’ll want to crunch the numbers to be sure you’ll earn enough in rewards to make the annual fee worthwhile.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

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

If you’re a college student looking to establish credit, then this is a great option. You’ll not only earn competitive cash back rewards, but you’ll also pay no annual fee. Plus, cardholders have the ability to earn Good Grade Rewards — an annual $20 statement credit — for maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA.

Best Secured Cards for Limited or No Credit

Without a credit history, credit card issuers don’t have a way to tell if you’re likely to pay your bills. Secured credit cards take away that worry by putting your money where their credit is, giving issuers a way to recoup their losses should you be unable to repay your balance.

Unlike the high fees charged by many subprime credit cards, the security deposit for a secured card is completely refundable, so long as your account remains in good standing. Some secured cards even offer automatic upgrades to an unsecured product once your credit grows.

Discover it® Secured Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL 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

This card ticks all of the boxes for a good secured credit card, including offering purchase rewards and charging no annual fee. It has a fair $200 minimum deposit, and your credit line will be equal to 100% of your deposit. Discover will also periodically review your account to see if you qualify for an automatic upgrade to an unsecured card.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

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
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

A bit unusual for a secured credit card, the minimum required deposit for this card will vary based on your credit profile; the minimum starting credit line for any approved applicant is $200. Making the first five monthly payments on time can lead to a larger credit limit without an additional deposit.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Capital Bank'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★
2.3

OVERALL RATING

2.3/5.0
  • 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
19.14% (variable)
$35
No credit check

If you’re at all worried about not being approved for a secured credit card, this option may be for you. This card has no credit requirements and doesn’t require a credit check to apply. You’ll need to make a $200 minimum deposit to open and maintain the account, and your credit line will be equal to your deposit.

Best Cards for Limited or No Credit with No Annual Fee

One of the most common misconceptions about building credit is that it has to be expensive. Sure, plenty of credit cards have high annual fees — especially top-tier rewards cards and pricey subprime cards — but you don’t have to fork over a high fee to build credit.

Plenty of credit cards on the market today can be had without an annual fee, even if you’re just starting out. Those consumers willing to put down a deposit may even find a no-fee card that offers purchase rewards, to boot.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
3.8

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
26.46% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

This card is a bit of a rarity among cards from major banks, as the typical unsecured credit card intended for consumers with no or limited credit will either be restricted to students or will come with a big annual fee. You won’t earn rewards, but nor will you need to make a deposit or pay an annual fee.

Discover it® Secured Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL 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

If you want an annual-fee-free credit card that earns rewards, and you have no or limited credit history, then a secured credit card is often your best bet. You’ll get unlimited cash back on every purchase, plus 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in gas and restaurant purchases each quarter.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

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
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

Consumers who are worried about being approved for unsecured credit cards without an annual fee can try this option. Users can’t earn purchase rewards with this card, but they may qualify for an upgrade to an unsecured card with responsible card use.

Best Cards for Limited or No Credit with Purchase Rewards

Although your local credit union may offer more options, if you want to earn rewards from a big-bank starter card, be prepared to pay for it, either through annual fees or a security deposit.

Don’t let purchase rewards tempt you from the path of responsible credit card use, however. Never charge more than you can pay off simply to earn credit card rewards; interest fees will almost always cost more than you can earn in rewards.

BEST OVERALL 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
26.46% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited

This card is a good pick for consumers whose spending falls into many categories, as it provides the same unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase, with no bonus categories to track or activate. You’ll need to spend at least $2,600 a year on your card to break even on the annual fee, however.

Discover it® Secured Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL 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

This card not only comes with unlimited 1% cash back rewards on your net credit card purchases, but you’ll also double the cash back on up to $1,000 in restaurant and gas station purchases each quarter. Plus, enjoy Discover’s unique Cash Back Match signup bonus that matches all the cash back you earn in your first year, automatically.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

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

Although this card is for students, its rewards can still compete in the general consumer credit card space. Cardholders can earn unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase, plus 5% cash back on purchases made in quarterly rotating bonus categories. Bonus cash back can be earned on up to $1,500 in eligible bonus category purchases each activated quarter.

Best Cards for Limited or No Credit that Allow Cosigners

Although the internet is full of stories of people being approved for credit cards despite not meeting the typical requirements, “apply and hope” is not a good credit-building strategy.

One of the only ways to improve your chances of being approved for a card that generally requires at least good credit is to use a cosigner who has a high credit score and solid history. Only a handful of major issuers accept cosigners, however, so your options may be a little limited.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
  • Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Google Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 15.99%-26.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
15.99%-26.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

This no-annual-fee card is a good choice for purchases that don’t fit neatly into common bonus categories, as it offers 1.5% cash back on all net new purchases. New cardholders can also enjoy 1.8% cash back on qualified mobile wallet purchases for the first year.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
14.49%-26.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

Most cards with this many triple-point bonus categories would charge you a fee for the privilege, but here’s an option for 3X points on dining and travel, including delivery and gas. Users can also earn triple points on select streaming services and unlimited 1X point per dollar on all other purchases.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 Billing Cycles
0% Intro APR for 12 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
15.24% to 25.24% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

This rewards card is a good choice for everyday use, offering unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases, plus 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% cash back at gas stations. Bonus rewards are limited to the first $2,500 in combined category purchasers each year, but the card has no annual fee.

Best Student Cards for Limited or No Credit

College can be a great time to think about establishing your credit, and student credit cards are a big part of why. Issuers know that you’re likely to hold onto your first credit cards for years, so they’ll work to make sure your first card sports their logo.

As you’d expect of a card designed for young people, student cards have broad credit requirements and won’t discount you for lack of credit history. The best student cards also charge no annual fee and offer decent purchase rewards so you can earn while you learn.

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

With this card, cardholders can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in bonus category purchases each activated quarter. Categories rotate quarterly and include a number of useful buys like grocery purchases and Amazon.com. This card even comes with an intro APR offer for interest-free new purchases.

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

Built with everyday savings in mind, this student credit card offers 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in restaurant and gas purchases each quarter, no activation required, plus unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. Like all Discover cards, it also comes with the issuer’s famous Cash Back Match.

21. Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students has a strong one-two punch with double ThankYou® points on both dining and entertainment purchases, making it perfect for a night out on the town.

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

  • Earn 2X ThankYou® points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment purchases
  • Earn unlimited 1X point per $1 on all other purchases
  • Pay no annual fee

Not only does this student credit card offer useful purchase rewards, but it also comes with a small signup bonus with an easy-to-obtain spending requirement, as well as an intro APR offer good for 0% interest on new purchases.

Best Business Cards for Limited or No Credit

Although your business can establish and build its own credit, your personal credit will be what lenders look at until your company’s credit history can stand on its own.

If both you and your business are a little limited on credit history, then your options will be equally limited. Your best bet may be a secured business credit card that can help your business build history (and a consumer card so you can build your history, too).

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

This is an ideal starter business credit card, offering flexible credit requirements, no annual fee, and unlimited cash back on every purchase. You’ll also receive employee cards at no extra cost, as well as quarterly and yearly itemized spending reports.

23. Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

The Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card offers unlimited cash back rewards on every purchase and up to 10 free employee cards. The minimum deposit amount is $500, though you can deposit up to $25,000.

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

Your credit limit will depend on the size of your deposit. Wells Fargo will periodically review your credit card account and credit history for improvement. Some cardholders may be automatically upgraded to an unsecured credit card at the bank’s discretion.

24. BBVA Secured Visa® Business Credit Card

The BBVA Secured Visa® Business Credit Card requires a minimum deposit of at least $500 to open and maintain, but there’s no annual fee the first year. Plus, earn unlimited rewards on every purchase.

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’s credit limit will equal 90% of the deposit amount. There is no charge for additional employee cards, and each cardholder can earn purchase rewards. This card is only available to applicants in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, California, and New Mexico.

Best Store Cards for Limited or No Credit

Thanks to generally lower limits and closed-loop restrictions on where you can use them, store credit cards can be a good place to start when you have no or limited credit. They’re typically fairly easy to qualify for and rarely charge annual fees.

At the same time, many store cards can only be used to make purchases and earn rewards with the specific brand. And they tend to have fairly high APRs. But, when used responsibly, store cards for brands you shop frequently can be a valuable addition to your wallet.

25. Target REDcard

The Target REDcard isn’t your typical rewards card; instead of earning points or cash back, cardholders get a 5% discount on all eligible items, right at the register or checkout screen.

Target REDcard

  • Get 5% off your total purchase at checkout for eligible in-store or online Target purchases
  • Receive exclusive deals & discounts
  • Pay no annual fee

Cardholders can access a number of additional card perks, including exclusive coupons and deals, plus free two-day shipping for purchases made on Target.com. Also, enjoy an extra 30 days to return Target or Target.com purchases with extended returns.

26. Amazon.com Store Card

The Amazon.com Store Card is best for cardholders who are also Amazon Prime members, as members earn 5% on Amazon.com purchases made with their card.

Amazon.com Store Card

  • Receive special financing on eligible Amazon.com orders of $149 or more made with your card
  • Amazon Prime members also get 5% cash back on Amazon purchases
  • Pay no annual card fee (Prime fee may apply)

All cardholders can access the card’s special financing on purchases of $149 or more, but keep in mind that the card uses deferred interest. So, if you fail to repay any amount of your promotional balance, you’ll be charged interest on the entire amount.

27. Old Navy Credit Card

The Old Navy Credit Card gives users 5X points per dollar on Old Navy and Gap Inc.-branded purchases made with their card. Since 500 points earn a $5 certificate, this results in a 5% return on card purchases.

Old Navy Credit Card

  • Earn 5X points per dollar on purchases at Old Navy and other Gap Inc.-brand purchases
  • Reach Navyist status by earning 5,000 points
  • Pay no annual fee

This card — and the certificates you earn from its rewards — can only be used at Old Navy and other Gap Inc. brands. Rewards are capped at $250 per billing cycle, and rewards earned beyond the monthly cap will be rolled over into the next billing cycle.

How Do You Establish a Credit History?

Although it may have once been the case, few modern lenders are willing to offer up thousands of dollars worth of credit simply because you asked nicely. Furthermore, more and more parties — including potential landlords and employers — are now relying on your credit report to gauge your financial responsibility.

As a result, establishing and building a positive credit history has become more important than ever before. On the bright side, building credit has also become easier than ever, especially in the era of the online application.

Essentially, all you need to establish a credit history is to open a credit account that reports to the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This can generally be any type of credit account or trade line, including:

  • Unsecured credit cards
  • Secured credit cards
  • Retail accounts
  • Auto loans
  • Mortgage loans
  • Home equity credit lines
  • Student loans
  • Personal loans

Financial accounts that aren’t associated with credit, such as checking, savings, or debit card accounts, won’t help you establish credit. Similarly, you can’t use a prepaid card — even one with a major network logo — to establish or build credit.

In most cases, simply being an authorized user, cosigner, or co-applicant will result in the account being reported to the credit bureaus under your name. This can be helpful for getting a credit head start, as many credit card issuers have no minimum age to become an authorized user.

While the majority of credit accounts will report to the major credit bureaus and help you establish credit, some common bills aren’t technically credit accounts. This includes most rental agreements and utilities accounts, as well as some types of in-store financing.

That being said, this may be changing in the somewhat-near future; it’s becoming increasingly common for creditors to look toward alternative reporting data to help gauge the credit risk of consumers who otherwise have no or thin credit files.

Types of Accounts That Don't Typically Build Credit

In fact, the problem is as much about encouraging lenders to use the data as it is about getting the data in the first place. The latest FICO Score 9 includes reported rental history, for instance, but only a small fraction of landlords report rental history to the bureaus.

Once you have opened a credit account that reports to the credit bureaus, each bureau will establish a credit report in your name, giving you a total of three main credit reports.

Although you only need one or two months of payment history to establish a credit report, however, it takes at least six months of history for you to become eligible for a credit score, as most scoring models rely on data over time to calculate your scores.

How Do You Build Credit?

As important as it is to establish your credit history, you can’t simply stop there — now it’s time to build your credit history and boost your credit scores.

Contrary to what we may like to believe, no one starts out with perfect credit. In fact, you technically start out with bad credit, as your initial credit score will likely be in the 500 to 600 FICO Score range.

FICO Score Factors

This makes it important to not just establish your credit, but to work on building it — the right way.

While there are dozens of various credit scoring models in use, the hallmarks of a healthy credit history remain the same regardless of the specific way it’s calculated.

In general, high credit scores are indicative or good credit, and low credit scores indicate bad credit.

The best way to keep track of your credit-building progress is to periodically check your credit scores and reports.

At the very least, be sure to check all three credit reports annually for mistakes or reporting errors. You can get one free copy of each report annual through AnnualCreditReport.com.

As an easy industry standard, many experts rely on the five mains coring factors laid out by FICO, the most commonly used credit scoring agency. You can use these factors to evaluate your credit health and to inform your credit-building goals.

1. Payment History (35%)

The primary concern of any creditor is whether you’ll repay what you borrow. As a result, the most important factor in your credit score calculations — worth 35% of your score — will be your payment history.

As such a significant part of your credit score, hurting your payment history can cause a lot of damage to your credit score. Even a single delinquent payment can cause you to lose dozens of credit score points, so be sure to always pay on time.

Keep in mind that not every late payment will mean an automatic drop in your credit score. Being late by a few days or a couple of weeks can get you a late fee, but usually only accounts that are 30 days past due can be reported as delinquent.

Maintaining a positive payment history is fairly easy so long as you are careful to not take on more debt than you can reasonably repay. If, at any point, you feel you may fall behind or miss a payment, contact your creditor immediately to work out a repayment plan.

2. Amounts Owed (30%)

Another aspect of determining whether you’ll repay a given debt is to look at your existing debts. The amounts owed factor considers how much debt you owe in total, as well as the individual debt-to-value (DTV) ratios for each type of debt.

For example, if you have a mortgage, an auto loan, and two credit cards, scoring models will look at the total amount of debt across all of your accounts. However, the models will also factor in that you’ve repaid a quarter of your mortgage and half of the auto loan.

Additionally, your revolving credit lines — e.g., credit cards — are evaluated in terms of the utilization rate, or how much credit you’re using versus how much you have available. This will apply to all of your revolving accounts together, as well as the individual utilization rates, as in the example in the chart below.

Chart of Example Utilization Rate

A high utilization rate (i.e., credit cards that have balance close to their limits) can negatively impact your credit scores, as is taken as a sign that you may be having financial problems that prevent you from paying down your balances.

3. Credit History Length (15%)

As far as most lenders are concerned, the longer you’ve responsibly managed credit, the more likely you are to continue to do so in the future. So, credit history length is worth a fairly large 15% of your credit score.

Since only time can add length to your credit history, the only thing you can really do to impact this factor is to establish credit early and avoid closing old accounts.

4. New Accounts (10%)

In the eyes of most creditors, consumers who open several new credit accounts in too short a time are less likely to repay their debts. This makes your new accounts an important consideration when evaluating your credit risk.

This factor looks at both the number of new accounts, as well as hard credit inquiries, which are added to your reports each time a potential lender runs a credit check in response to an application for credit. The soft credit inquiries that result from a credit check that is part of a background or employer screening, or from checking your own credit, won’t hurt your score.

5. Credit Mix (10%)

The last main factor of credit scoring is the types of credit you have, or your credit mix. Creditors like to see that you have experience responsibly handling various types of debt, including both installment and revolving credit lines.

How Do You Use a Credit Card?

Although not always thought of as a loan, credit cards represent a line of credit extended to you by the issuing bank. Each time you use a credit card to make a purchase, the funds for that purchase are, essentially, lent to you by the bank, with the expectation that you’ll repay the funds by the due date.

The physical credit card you carry — or, more precisely, the card number and associated account data — is what tells the merchant where to send the bill. To use your credit card to make a purchase, you’ll need to provide the merchant with the necessary information, though the method will vary based on how you make your purchase.

Graphic of How to Use a Credit Card

For most in-store purchases, merchants use a dedicated credit card machine to read your card. Older machines that rely solely on increasingly outdated magnetic stripe technology require that you slide the card through the machine, which reads your account data from the stripe.

More recently, the EMV chip has become the new standard. These small microchips are embedded in your credit card and help prevent card fraud by encrypting your account data. To use a chip credit card, simply insert the card — typically chip end first — into the machine and wait for authorization.

These days, most smaller transactions won’t require any sort of verification; you simply swipe or insert, and go. However, some merchants and larger transactions may require verification; in the US, verification is generally done through a signature, though other countries use four-digit PIN codes.

Other purchase types may use different forms of verification. For example, gas purchases made at the pump usually require you to enter your ZIP code, while online purchases may ask for your CVV number (the three-digit number — four digits for Amex — on the front of your card or near the signature box on the back).

Photo of Credit Card CVV Locations

Your credit card’s CVV (Card Verification Value) number is used as a security measure for online purchases. The number is typically three or four digits and its location will vary by card.

Each purchase you make with your credit card will be posted to your credit card account statement, along with information such as the location of the purchase and the merchant name. Transactions are grouped by date, known as the statement period or billing cycle, which is typically around four weeks long.

At the end of each statement period, you’ll be issued a transaction statement that summarizes all of the transactions you made that cycle. It will also indicate your total balance, when your bill is due, the minimum payment you must make, and the interest you will be charged if you fail to repay the full balance before the due date.

Most credit cards offer a new purchase grace period, during which time you won’t be charged interest if your balance is paid in full. The grace period typically extends from the end of your statement period to the due date of the bill for that statement.

Of course, while most transactions you make with your credit card will be new purchases, there are other transaction types. For example, a balance transfer is when you move a balance from one card to another card; balance transfers don’t qualify for a grace period and start accruing interest immediately.

Another common type of credit card transaction is a cash advance, which is when you use your credit card at an ATM or bank window to withdraw cash. Cash advances don’t qualify for the grace period, either, and they also tend to come with fees and higher APRs.

It’s important to know which types of transactions count as balance transfers and cash advances, as it may not always be clear. Some cash-equivalent transactions, such as buying lottery tickets or money orders with your credit card, actually count as cash advances, which can get expensive.

How Do You Pay a Credit Card Bill?

While it can sometimes feel like free money while we’re swiping away without a care, credit card purchases are most definitely not free. Not only are you expected to repay the funds you borrowed, but not doing so within the grace period will mean paying interest fees on top of your purchases.

In general, you’ll need to make monthly payments on your credit cards, meeting at least the minimum payment required each month. Ideally, of course, you want to pay off your entire balance each statement cycle to avoid interest fees.

Screenshot of Amex Mobile App

Most credit card issuers offer convenient mobile apps that can be used to track purchases and pay your bill.

Most credit card bills can be paid by check through the mail or with a direct transfer from your bank account. Some credit cards may allow in-store or in-branch payments, but you should check with your issuer to be sure.

These days, the simplest way to pay your credit card is to link a checking or savings account to your online credit card account. Then, you can pay your credit card straight from your account through your desktop browser or the bank’s mobile application.

Many online banking platforms allow you to set up automatic payments, which will pay your bill each month and help ensure you never miss a due date.

If you prefer a more manual approach, you can schedule credit card payments for specific dates so you know just when the bill will be paid.

Note that you can’t pay one credit card bill with another credit card, at least not directly. The closest you can generally get is to perform a balance transfer, which moves your balance from one credit card to another card. Balance transfers can be good tools, but they tend to come with pricey fees.

Get Your Credit Off the Ground with the Right Card

Depending on where you’re trying to go, lacking proper accouterments — such as shoes or a shirt — can cause you to be turned away at the door. Similarly, while lacking a credit history won’t typically get the bank’s door closed in your face, it will often cause the metaphorical door to be closed on getting a loan.

What’s more, building credit is becoming increasingly less optional. Using cash for every purchase was once a matter of course, but today’s world just doesn’t operate that way. Whether you need a home loan to purchase a house or a credit card to make secure online purchases, building credit is a virtual necessity these days.