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If you don't have any credit yet, it might seem hard to take that first step towards building a credit history. How can you be approved for a credit card if you don't have any credit reports to check? There are actually quite a few options for you, covering both secured cards and unsecured cards.
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No or low fees: You may need to pay an annual fee if you’re just starting to build your credit profile, but not in every case. Avoid predatory cards with exorbitant setup or monthly fees.
Reports to all three major credit bureaus: To build a credit history your card activity needs to be reported to the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All the cards mentioned on this page will report activity in this way.
Easy to use: Establishing a credit history doesn’t need to cause headaches. The best credit cards for no credit won’t cause problems when charging to the card, making payments, or checking account information.
Reliable customer service: Many issuers that offer cards for people with no credit tend to have poor customer support. Save yourself a lot of trouble by sticking with the major credit card issuers as much as possible.
Rewards: Credit cards for no credit don’t usually offer rewards, but there are a few that do. Rewards aren’t important for establishing a credit history, but if you can qualify for a rewards card, it’s a nice bonus.
Other perks: Most cards for no credit only come with some basic shopping and travel protections. But in some cases you’ll find some more valuable benefits being offered.
Is a Credit Card for No Credit Right for You?
If your goal is to establish a positive credit history, credit cards can help you get there. Even starting from nothing, there are some credit card offers that can help get your foot in the door.
Although you won’t qualify for the most valuable and interesting cards, you aren’t stuck with the absolute worst cards either. Having no credit can actually be better than having poor credit when it comes to applying for your first credit card.
You don’t have a history of negative activity weighing you down, which could automatically disqualify you from some card offers. (If you do have a negative credit history, check out some credit cards designed for bad credit.)
It’s important to always use credit cards responsibly, and this is even more crucial when you’re trying to build good credit. This is actually pretty simple; the main challenge is making consistent, on-time payments (preferably of your full statement balance) month after month.
If you can handle these three conditions, you can use a credit card (or cards) to help establish an excellent credit history.
2% cash back (on up to $1,000 spent per quarter, then 1%) at:
1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
Cashback Match: Double all cash back earned in the first year; awarded at the end of the first year
You’ll need to make a minimum security deposit of $200, with a maximum of $2,500.
Discover will review your credit card account every eight months. If these automatic reviews show evidence of responsible card use, on this and other accounts, Discover may return your security deposit and allow you to keep using the card.
There isn’t an option to upgrade the Discover it Secured to an unsecured card. Instead, cardholders need to just apply for a different Discover card as usual.
This rewards credit card is designed for average or limited credit. But you may have a chance of being approved with no credit history, especially if you have a decent income and solid employment history.
Access a higher credit line: You may be automatically considered for a higher credit line after six months.
CreditWise credit monitoring: Monitor your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report, online or through the mobile app.
Shopping and travel protections: Travel Accident Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, and more
Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% (Variable)
No foreign transaction fee
Annual fee: $0
Pay no annual fee
Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you’re all set
Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee – and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this
Even if you have no established credit history at all, with no credit scores, you still have a chance at approval because Petal will take a look at your “full financial picture.” This means you’ll have to link your bank account to Petal, so it can see how you handle your money. If you do have some established credit, Petal will check it with a hard inquiry, and in this case you may not have to link your bank account.
You won’t find any fees here, apart from potential interest fees. No annual fee, foreign transaction fee, late payment fee, etc. And you can avoid interest fees, too, by always paying your statement balance in full.
There’s even a solid cash back rewards program, where you can earn more by making on-time payments. Overall, it’s an excellent and inexpensive option for improving your credit scores.
No credit check means OpenSky won’t look at your credit reports when you apply, giving you an opportunity even if you’re dealing with terrible credit. And that means no hard credit inquiry, which is a good thing for your credit.
This is a secured card, and it requires a deposit of $200 to $3,000 to get started. Your credit line will be equal to the amount you deposit. You won’t need a bank account to fund the deposit, a rare find among secured cards.
There’s an annual fee, but it’s a modest price to pay for the ability to build up your credit scores.
This card, like others of its ilk, has a reputation for slow payment processing and subpar customer support. If you have limited or no credit, without any big problems on your reports, you probably won’t have to go down this road.
If you don’t have a bank account to make your security deposit, you won’t be able to apply for most secured cards.
But the Citi® Secured Mastercard® (Review) allows you to pay the deposit by other methods; you’ll need to visit a Citibank location in person to do this. If you do have a bank account, you can simply use the online application as you normally would.
A security deposit of $200 to $2,500 is required. Your credit limit will be equal to the deposit.
After using the card for some time, Citi may review your card account and credit to see if you qualify for an upgrade. We heard from a reader who was offered an upgrade to the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card (Review) in less than a year.
For no annual fee you’ll get solid rewards, with an above-average 1.5X points for non-category purchases. And if you can plan your travel through the Bank of America Travel Center you’ll earn double that, which translates to a 3% cash back equivalent.
The Deserve Edu Mastercard (Review) is rather unique. There are two features that make it more accessible for international students than the average card:
You don’t need an SSN to apply.
Deserve will check more than the usual factors to determine your creditworthiness, like education, financial health, future employability, and earning potential. (But Deserve will need to connect to your bank account.)
So if you haven’t started building up your credit in the U.S. yet, or you have a thin credit profile, you’ll still have a decent shot at approval with the Deserve Edu.
To qualify, international students will need their student visa, passport ID, school document (e.g. I-20 or DS 2019), and proof of a U.S. bank account balance.
1% cash back on all purchases
One year of Amazon Prime Student for spending $500 in the first 3 billing cycles
Relocating to the U.S. comes with a set of challenges, one of which is the problem of how to start building up your credit. How do you get approved for credit cards and other financial products if you don’t yet have an established credit history?
The Jasper Mastercard® (Review) was designed to fill that gap for professional immigrants, lowering the traditional barriers to entry. You don’t need a credit history to get approved, and you don’t need an SSN to apply, although you will need to get one and provide it to Jasper within 60 days of card activation (if you’ve been living in the U.S. for at least a year, you’ll need to undergo a credit check and provide an SSN to apply).
You can also apply for this card before you even land in the U.S. — you can submit an application up to 60 days in advance, or check to see if you’re prequalified if your move date is further away.
While the Jasper card was originally created to help immigrants, anyone in the U.S. with limited or no credit can use it to help improve his or her credit scores.
Self is a company that provides credit builder loans, a special type of loan where the sole purpose is to help you improve your credit scores. It’s like a reverse loan — first you make all your loan payments, showing a responsible payment record, then you get the funds.
Credit limit based on Self Credit Builder Account savings
$25 annual fee
Issued by Lead Bank
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you get a credit card with no (or limited) credit?
There are actually quite a few credit cards available to those with limited credit or no credit history whatsoever.
Secured credit cards are among the best options. You have to provide a refundable security deposit up front, which can be a serious obstacle, but that’s expected since the lender’s taking a significant risk by lending to someone with minimal credit history. Secured cards usually still involve a credit check, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be approved.
Those are just a few examples. When choosing a card, browse carefully and look for a card that makes sense with your current situation. Some cards designed for no credit are known for obnoxious fees and poor customer service, so you’ll want to know what you’re getting yourself into before you apply.
What’s the best credit card for people with limited or no credit?
The answer depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re OK with paying a refundable security deposit, consider the Discover it® Secured (Review), which grants you 2% back on your first $1,000 spent quarterly at restaurants and gas stations and 1% on everything else. It’s rare for a secured card to be so rewarding, and because it’s a secured card, it should be quite easy to get.
If easy approval is important to you, check out the Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Card (Review). Your credit can be used during the approval process, but if you haven’t built any, don’t worry — you’ll likely be asked to connect your bank account so the issuer can make a decision based on your financial situation.
Deserve Edu Mastercard (Review): An unsecured card available to international students. The issuer uses factors ranging from your financial health to your education to determine whether you qualify, and instead of using a Social Security number (SSN), you can provide your student visa, passport ID, school document (e.g. I-20 or DS 2019), and proof of a U.S. bank account balance when you apply.
Are there any credit cards for limited/no credit that don’t require a deposit?
Yes, there are. But if you’re not providing a deposit, you’ll typically have to meet some other requirements instead. Our top picks include:
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One (Review): As with most student cards, you may be able to get this card even with little to no credit, and you don’t actually have to be a student to apply. This card’s meager reward rate isn’t huge, but for an unsecured card that’s available with no deposit, this is about as good as it gets.
Capital One Platinum Credit Card (Review): This relatively featureless unsecured card is designed for individuals with limited credit, but there’s a chance you may be approved even with no credit.
Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Card (Review): Petal explores your “full financial picture” to determine whether applicants qualify. If you’ve built some credit, you’ll have to deal with a hard inquiry, but if not, you can still apply. You might be asked to connect your bank account during the application process, so the issuer can get a better idea of your money habits.
Are there any instant approval credit cards for people with no credit?
Most traditional cards will provide a decision moments after you apply. So, by definition, most credit cards designed for applicants with limited or no credit qualify as “instant approval credit cards.”
If it’s guaranteed approval credit cards you’re looking for, you’ll have to be careful. These kinds of cards are out there, but they’re often associated with high fees, confusing terms, poor benefits, and frustrating customer support.
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