The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers.
Review Breakdown: Cards for No Credit
Finding the right credit card can be tricky, especially for those with limited options due to their lack of credit history. Below is a summary table of the top credit cards for people with no credit history, including students and other first-time applicants who have limited or no experience with credit.
Here are 2020's best credit cards for people with no credit:
Opening your first credit card and using it wisely can be a great way to establish and build credit. However, when you have little to no credit history to begin with, it can be challenging to find a lender who is willing to take a chance on you.
Challenging, however, doesn’t mean impossible. You can typically find credit cards you can qualify for with limited credit history, or even no credit history at all. You simply need to know where to look and how to prepare in advance.
1. Why is Your Credit History Important?
Your credit history is important because of the influence it can have on so many different areas of your life. A good credit history has the potential to open doors and save you a ton of money. A poor credit history, or no credit history at all, can often have the opposite effect.
If you’re wondering just how much your credit history matters, here’s a look at some of the ways earning good credit can benefit you.
You may have an easier time landing a job or a promotion if your employer checks your credit history. Note: Employers can only potentially check your credit reports, never your scores.
A good credit history will lead to good credit scores.
Good credit scores may make it easier to qualify for loans, credit cards, and other types of financing.
You can save money when you have good credit scores by securing financing with better terms and at cheaper prices. This is a big deal because it could add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars in savings every single month.
A good credit history and good scores may help you save money on your insurance premiums.
You may pay lower deposits, or no deposits at all, on newly opened utility accounts and other services when you have good credit.
Good credit can make it easier to purchase or lease a home or an apartment.
Lenders care about your credit history and credit scores because this information helps them to assess the risk of doing business with you. If your credit reports and scores indicate you’ve properly managed credit accounts in the past, future lenders will be more likely to do business with you and to offer you affordable rates and terms.
2. Can You Qualify for a Credit Card with No Credit History?
Yes, it may be possible to qualify for a credit card with no credit history. Some credit card issuers even develop and market products that are designed for consumers who need to build or even rebuild their credit history.
Of course, with no credit or limited credit, you’re highly unlikely to qualify for the most attractive credit card offers on the market. That being said, you can use your first credit card account to help you start building credit. If you manage your new account or accounts properly, you will establish credit and be able to leverage it for the future, and eventually, you may be in the position to qualify for more coveted credit card offers, like the ones named after precious metals.
As a credit newbie, you will be better off searching for credit card offers designed for your specific situation. Don’t look for the “excellent credit required” credit card options, as you’ll likely be turned down if you apply for such offers. Rather, look for “no credit required” or “limited credit required” credit card offers, depending on which definition fits you the best.
Secured credit cards can often be a great option when you have no credit history or a limited credit history. Because you are required to make a deposit with the issuing bank when opening a secured card, the account represents a much lower risk to the lender. As a result, the issuer is more willing to take a chance on doing business with you, even if you are still a credit unknown.
Your deposit is fully refundable, and it will be returned to you when you close your credit card account in good standing. Defaulting on your account will result in your account being closed and your deposit being used to pay your outstanding balance. If you owe more than your deposit can cover, you will be required to pay the difference.
It is a mistake to assume that you have no credit history without first checking your three credit reports. You’d be surprised what can end up on your credit reports without your knowledge. Federal law allows you to claim a free copy of all three of your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian once every 12 months. To exercise this right, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
3. How Much Credit History Do You Need to Have a Credit Score?
Believe it or not, everyone does not have a credit score. When it comes to credit scores, your reports must first be eligible or qualified before you can receive one.
How do you become eligible to receive a credit score? What are the minimum requirements? The answers to these questions depend on which credit scoring model a lender is using to generate your credit score. Each credit scoring model has its own set of rules.
To be eligible for a FICO credit score, your credit report must meet the following minimum requirements:
Your credit report must contain at least one undisputed account (not including third-party collections or public records) that has been open for six months or longer AND
Your credit report must contain at least one undisputed account that has been updated within the past six months AND
Your credit report cannot have any indication that you are deceased
VantageScore has different minimum criteria for credit scores that are easier to satisfy. To be eligible for a valid VantageScore credit score, your credit report must meet the following minimum criteria:
Your credit report must have at least one qualified tradeline (aka account) AND
Your credit report cannot have any indication that you are deceased
You can satisfy the minimum scoring criteria of both scoring systems with a single account or with multiple accounts. For example, if you have an American Express account that is five years old, was updated last month, and you’re not dead, your credit report will qualify for FICO and VantageScore credit scores.
4. How Can a Credit Card Help You Establish and Build Credit?
When you qualify for a credit card, the card issuer will typically send your account information to the three major credit reporting agencies each month. This update will contain information like your statement balance, your payment status, and your credit limit. Once the credit bureaus receive this information, the account will be added to your credit reports.
Your credit card account can help you establish and build credit because it has a direct influence over several of the factors that determine your credit scores. For example, a credit card can potentially have a positive impact on the following:
The Payment History category of your credit reports, which is worth 35% of your credit score points. Make your payments on time every month and your credit scores will be well on their way to 850.
The Amounts Owed category of your credit reports, which is worth 30% of your credit score points. Maintain low credit card balances or pay them down before your statement is issued. This will help you to maintain as low of a utilization ratio as possible, which is an important component in your credit scores.
The Age of Credit category of your credit reports, which is worth about 15% of your credit score points. As your credit card account ages, the overall average age of accounts on your credit reports will increase. This will help your credit scores improve over time, albeit little by little.
Sometimes what’s good for your credit scores can also be bad for your credit scores. While opening and properly managing a credit card can certainly help in the long run, it can also lower your scores in the short term.
When you apply for a new credit card, the card issuer will pull at least one of your credit reports, which will result in a credit inquiry being posted to that credit report. Credit inquiries can lower your credit scores, albeit only slightly and for no longer than 12 months. It’s certainly not a reason to avoid applying for a card, but you should at least be cognizant of this scoring issue.
5. What Should You Look for in Your First Credit Card?
If you have no established credit history, the first thing you should look for in your first credit card is an offer designed for people in your situation. You don’t want to fill out an application for a credit card that requires excellent or even good credit scores to qualify. They are out of your reach at this point. Rather, you should search for cards marketed to people with no credit or limited credit.
Believe it or not, the interest rate on your credit card probably shouldn’t be the most important feature you consider. If you manage your accounts wisely, you’ll be paying off your balance in full every month so you won’t accrue interest fees. Focus on the other aspects of the account that may make it easier for you to qualify. These factors may include the following:
Annual Fees: Most people prefer to avoid credit cards with annual fees, unless you’re receiving valuable rewards or cash back opportunities that offset the expense. Of course, you may find that an annual fee is hard to avoid due to your lack of a credit history. If this is the case, you can still shop around for the lowest annual fees being offered by card issuers.
Initial Fee Requirements: You will likely want to avoid any cards which require initial fees, such as application fees, if possible. These cards are often referred to as fee-harvester cards. There are better options out there, so keep looking.
Upfront Security Deposit Requirements Upfront deposits are to be expected when you’re opening a secured credit card account. This isn’t a bad requirement if it helps you qualify for an account. Even with a security deposit requirement, secured credit cards can still be a good option if you’re having trouble qualifying for unsecured credit cards due to a thin credit file. Just make sure the card issuer reports the account to all three of the credit bureaus or you’re wasting your time.
Rewards or Cash Back: Many starter credit cards, such as those you may be able to qualify for when you have no credit history or limited credit, do not offer rewards or cash back opportunities. If you can find a card that is easy to qualify for, will help you build credit, and gives you some sort of rewards or cash back offering, consider those rewards icing on the cake.
Credit Limit: When it comes to the credit limit ranges offered by card issuers, the higher the better. Higher credit limits help keep your balance to credit limit ratios lower. When this ratio is lower your credit scores are likely to be higher.
Credit Reporting: Will the credit card you’re considering report information about your account to all three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian? If not, move on to the next option. This is a deal-breaker if it doesn’t happen. Non-reporting is akin to the tree falling in the woods metaphor.
Make sure you know — before you start shopping for a card — which features are deal-breakers, and which you can live with (or without).
6. What is the Minimum Age to Qualify for a Credit Card?
Before the Federal law passed in 2009 known as the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act), young adults could apply for and open credit card accounts as soon as they were old enough to legally sign a contract at 18 years of age.
After the CARD Act, however, young people must be 21 to open their own credit card account — with a few exceptions:
You can open a credit card before you are 21 if you have a job or can demonstrate an ability to pay your debts.
You can open a credit card before you are 21 if you have a cosigner.
If you meet either of the above criteria and you or your cosigner have the credit and income necessary to qualify for a new credit card account, you don’t have to wait until your 21st birthday to open an account.
7. What is a Cosigner & Who Needs One?
A cosigner is someone who agrees to pay your debt if you default on a credit obligation. In the case of a credit card account, a cosigner is usually a friend or family member who agrees to add their name to your credit card application if you have difficulty qualifying for a credit card account on your own.
However, before you rush to ask your loved one for a favor, consider the following. Cosigning can be risky for your friend or family member. When you ask someone to cosign, he or she will be equally liable for the debt on the credit card account. Additionally, the account itself will most likely be added to your cosigner’s credit reports as well as your credit reports.
If you ever make a late payment on the account, you could damage not only your personal credit scores, but your cosigner’s credit scores as well. To add even more risk to the equation, it’s possible to damage your cosigner’s credit scores unintentionally.
If your credit reports ever show that you’re utilizing a large percentage of your available credit limit, you could hurt both your scores and your cosigner’s scores even if your payments on the account remain on time.
Here’s the bottom line. If you ask a loved one to cosign for you, you’re asking them to put the health of their own credit into your hands.
8. Do You Need a Bank Account to Apply for a Credit Card?
Although it is possible to open a credit card account without an active bank account, it probably won’t be easy. In fact, if you have no credit or limited credit, qualifying for a credit card without a deposit account can be even more challenging.
Most credit card issuers that offer accounts to individuals without well-established credit histories will require you to have an active checking account. This requirement can help to reduce the lender’s risk by allowing a way to confirm your monthly income or liquid assets. Additionally, if you are opening a secured credit card or if your unsecured credit card requires upfront fees, a checking account may be required to pay these.
Every credit card issuer has its own approval requirements. If you’re concerned that you could be turned down due to the lack of a checking account, check each card issuer’s specific requirements before you apply for any new accounts.
9. Can You Get a Credit Card without a Social Security Number?
It may surprise you to learn that there is no legal requirement for a lender to collect your Social Security number as part of a credit card application. That being said, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a credit card application that doesn’t ask for this information.
The Social Security number requirement can make it challenging for resident aliens, foreign nationals, or other non-U.S. citizens living in the United States to qualify for a credit card account. Thankfully, there are some card issuers who may be willing to accept alternative documentation if you don’t have a valid Social Security number.
Even if you don’t have a Social Security number you may be able to qualify for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. Some card issuers will allow you to apply for a credit card with an ITIN, a foreign passport, or other government-issued ID in lieu of a Social Security number.
WARNING: Do not be tempted to misrepresent your Social Security number with a different nine-digit number. That is fraud. If you don’t have a Social Security number, leave that field of your application blank.
10. Can You Earn Credit Card Rewards with No Credit History?
The most attractive credit card reward offers are typically reserved for consumers who have already earned excellent credit scores. That doesn’t mean no credit equals no rewards. Some card issuers may have credit card offers that feature rewards or cash back options even if you have no credit or a limited credit file. You’ll just have to look harder.
The key is to shop and compare offers to see what is currently available. If you want a credit card that can help you establish positive credit history and earn rewards simultaneously, make sure to be on the lookout for the features that matter most to you when you do your research.
Be realistic and selective in your efforts. You should avoid applying for credit card accounts that require approval criteria that you simply cannot satisfy. If you’ve already checked your credit reports and confirmed that they are completely blank or you know your credit scores are low, there’s no reason to apply for an account that requires excellent credit. You’ll just be wasting your time and adding a score-damaging inquiry to your credit report for no good reason.
11. Are there Credit Cards for Businesses with No or Limited Credit History?
Just like there are credit card offers designed for consumers with limited or no credit history, you may also find credit card offers for businesses that are in the same predicament. In general, you shouldn’t expect the rates, fees, or rewards on these credit cards to be as attractive as the offers that may be available to businesses with well-established credit profiles.
Also keep in mind that when you apply for a business credit card, it’s common for both your personal credit reports and business credit reports to be considered by the lender as part of the application. If you don’t think you can meet a lender’s qualification requirements for an unsecured business credit card that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. You may still be able to qualify for a secured credit card for your business even if the business owner or the business itself has little to no previously established credit history.
The business card issuer may ask the company owner to personally guarantee the debt associated with the business card. This is not unusual, so don’t take it personally if this is asked of you. Just be aware that any default on the business card will likely fall back on you personally.
12. Can Prepaid or Debit Cards Build Credit History?
Despite popular myth, prepaid credit cards, prepaid debit cards, and traditional debit cards won’t help you build a credit history with Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian.
Why not? All three of those popular plastic alternatives to credit cards are never reported to the credit bureaus because they are not an extension of credit.
Prepaid cards are like gift cards and have no credit-building value. You load funds onto the card and use them until your card balance is exhausted. They’re like a plastic version of cash, nothing more. If you wish to use the card again, you’ll have to load the account with more funds. They may look like a traditional credit card on the outside, but that is where the similarities end.
Debit cards are tied to your checking account. They are essentially a plastic version of a paper check. When you use your debit card, the funds are taken directly from your checking account balance. It’s not an extension of credit from a bank. It’s simply using your own money in a more convenient way. Like prepaid cards, debit cards offer no credit-building value.
13. What Are Retail Store Credit Cards and Who Should Get One?
Retail store credit cards work similarly to traditional credit cards. You apply for an account and, if you are approved, you will be issued a card with a preset spending limit. When you make charges to the card, you have to repay them by the due date.
Yet, while retail store credit cards are similar to traditional credit cards, there are a few key differences you should understand:
The interest rates on retail store credit cards are often notoriously high — even if you have great credit scores. Their rates are normally above the 25% range.
The credit limits typically issued on retail store credit cards are notoriously low.
While the interest rate on your retail store credit card doesn’t matter if you always pay your balance in full, the low credit limits typically associated with these accounts can be problematic. Remember, credit scoring models pay attention to the percentage of your credit limit you are using as reflected on your credit reports. This is the infamous revolving utilization ratio.
When your revolving utilization ratio climbs, your credit score will likely fall. Because retail store cards are often issued with low credit limits, it can be easy to use a large percentage of your available credit. If you charge $250 on an account with a $500 limit, for example, your account will have a utilization ratio of 50%, which is not good for your credit scores.
That being said, retail store cards are generally easier to qualify for because their terms are more like subprime card terms. If you need to add something positive to your credit reports and you don’t plan on carrying a balance, a retail store card isn’t the worst option.
14. What is the Difference Between Unsecured and Secured Credit Cards?
Unsecured credit cards and secured credit cards are almost entirely identical, except for one major difference. Secured credit cards require you to make an upfront deposit with the issuing bank. Unsecured credit cards, on the other hand, do not require a deposit.
After your initial deposit (or lack thereof), unsecured and secured credit cards behave the same. If you make a charge on either type of account, you must pay it back or at least make a minimum payment by the due date that is found on your statement. If you fail to pay your bill on time, you could be faced with penalty fees, credit damage, account closure, and other negative consequences such as collection lawsuits.
Both unsecured and secured credit cards can be used to help you build or rebuild your credit history. Either type of account will likely appear on your three credit reports, provided the lender chooses to report them to the credit bureaus.
15. How Many Credit Cards Should You Have at One Time?
Everyone has an answer to the “how many” question. The truth is, there is no right or wrong number of credit cards you should have. Yes, you could potentially damage your credit scores and your wallet by applying for, opening, and using too many credit card accounts at the same time. However, if you spread out your credit card applications over time, it is possible to open numerous credit card accounts and still maintain great credit scores.
Credit scoring models aren’t so concerned with the number of credit card accounts you have open but more so on how you manage them. Do you always pay your accounts on time? Do you have large balances? Do you have small balances on a large number of credit card accounts?
These are all variables that can impact your credit scores, positively or negatively. As for usability, having more credit cards of different brands is certainly better than it is problematic.
There was a time where certain credit card brands were not universally accepted. Those days are long gone. However, there are still merchants here and there that will only accept certain types of credit cards.
So, to the extent you have at least one of every type of card, you know you’ll never run into a usability issue because you can always pull out a different card for your purchases.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .
About the Author
John Ulzheimer Credit Expert
John Ulzheimer is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, and identity theft. The author of four books on the subject, Ulzheimer has been featured thousands of times in media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, NBC Nightly News, New York Times, CNBC, and countless others.
With 27 years of credit related professional experience, including with both Equifax and FICO, Ulzheimer is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.
He has been an expert witness in over 325 credit related lawsuits and has been qualified to testify in both federal and state courts on the topic of consumer credit. In his hometown of Atlanta, Ulzheimer is a frequent guest lecturer at the University of Georgia and Emory University's School of Law.
Share the Knowledge!
Our finance experts work hard to show you the best credit cards. Want to show your appreciation? Share this page!
Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. See the credit card issuer's website for specific terms and conditions of each card.