The best credit card for starting out can vary from person to person, but they all give you the chance to build positive credit habits like paying your bill on time. If you’re looking for starter credit cards and not sure which ones are best, the cards we’ve profiled in this guide are a good place to start.
As a side note, those who want a more personalized recommendation should try out Bankrate’s CardMatch tool.
Best starter credit cards
Best secured credit card: Discover it® Secured
Best for flat-rate cash back: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for credit building with responsible use: Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Best for students: Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Best for no credit check: OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Discover it® Secured
Rewards: Earn 2 percent back on gas stations and at restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined spending each quarter (then 1 percent) and 1 percent back on other purchases
Welcome bonus: Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year of card ownership
Annual fee: $0
The Discover it® Secured is a secured credit card, which means you will have to put down a refundable deposit that acts as your card’s credit limit. While putting down a cash deposit may seem less than ideal, secured credit cards are hands-down the easiest credit cards to get approved for. As a result, secured cards give you the chance to build credit over time when you may not be able to get approved for a better card. Also, note that you’ll get your initial deposit back when you close or upgrade your account in good standing.
This card doesn’t have an annual fee, and you’ll earn 2 percent back on up to $1,000 in combined gas stations and restaurants spending each quarter (then 1 percent) and 1 percent back on other purchases. Discover will even match all the cash back rewards you earn in your first year.
Why Discover it Secured is the best secured card for beginners
Where some secured credit cards charge annual fees and other hidden fees, the Discover it Secured is free of fees you typically cannot avoid. You won’t even have to pay a late fee on your first late payment, and you get a FICO score for free on your statement each month. You also get the chance to earn rewards (including a minimum of 1 percent back on everything you buy), and you can get started with a deposit as low as $200.
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Rewards: Earn an unlimited 1.5 percent back for each dollar you spend
Welcome bonus: None
Annual fee: $39
The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is available to consumers with “fair” credit, which typically means any FICO score between 580 and 669. This could make it the best credit card for starting out if your credit history is minimal and your score is in this range. Not only do you get the chance to earn rewards, but you can build credit history over time as your credit movements are reported to all three credit bureaus.
This card does charge a $39 annual fee, but you’ll also get a surprising number of benefits, including no foreign transaction fees, 24-hour travel assistance services, secondary auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance and extended warranties.
Why Capital One QuicksilverOne is the best starter card for flat-rate cash back
Once you sign up, you’ll earn a flat 1.5 percent back for each dollar you spend. There are no limits to the rewards you can earn, and you can redeem your cash back for a check in the mail, statement credits or gift cards.
Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Welcome bonus: None
Annual fee: $0
The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is not a rewards credit card, so you cannot use it to earn cash back. This card focuses on helping you build credit instead, and it’s available to consumers who have a “fair” credit score that is lower than average.
We like the fact that this card is easy to qualify for, and the lack of rewards may not even be a major downside. If your goal is learning positive credit habits, and you’re worried earning rewards might cause you to overspend, for example, this card is worth considering.
This starter credit card is also unsecured, so you don’t have to put down a cash deposit as collateral.
Why Capital One Platinum the best starter card for building credit through responsible use
Capital One states they will automatically consider you for a higher credit limit in as little as six months, which can be useful for keeping your credit utilization low and boosting your credit score even further. With that being said, you should steer clear of carrying a balance on this card since you’ll pay a high variable rate of 26.99 percent APR.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Rewards: Earn an unlimited 1 percent back on all your purchases, and see your rewards increase to 1.25 percent back when you pay your bill on time
Welcome bonus: None
Annual fee: $0
The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One lets you earn a minimum of 1 percent back for each dollar you spend, although your rewards will tick up to 1.25 percent if you pay your bill on time each month. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, yet you can also qualify for $5 per month (up to $60 per year) in statement credits toward select streaming subscriptions when you pay your bill on time.
While your credit limit might start off on the low end, Capital One promises to see if you’re eligible for a credit line increase after the first six months. Cardholders also get perks like travel accident insurance, secondary auto rental coverage, 24-hour travel assistance services, extended warranties and no foreign transaction fees.
Why Journey Student Rewards is the best starter card for students
This Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is available to credit newcomers and college students with fair credit, so it’s easy for someone to qualify if their credit score isn’t in the best shape quite yet. This card is a good option for students who want to build credit slowly while earning rewards, and that’s especially true since there’s no annual fee.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Welcome bonus: None
Annual fee: $35
The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is another secured credit card, meaning you have to put down a cash deposit to get started. However, your credit movements will be reported to the three credit bureaus, so this card gives you the chance to prove your creditworthiness as you responsibly use credit and pay your bill on time.
However, you should be warned that this card does carry an annual fee of $35, which is a hard sell since it doesn’t offer rewards.
Why OpenSky Secured Visa is the best starter card for no credit check
The main draw of this card is the fact that, unlike others on this list, the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card does not require a credit check at all. That makes it a good starter card option for someone without any credit history, or even with a recent bankruptcy. Since this card reports your payments to the three credit bureaus, you can use it to build credit no matter where your credit stands right now.
How to choose the right starter credit card for you
The best credit card for starting out varies from person to person, and you may even find you like certain types of credit cards more than others. As you compare starter credit cards, here are some steps you should take right away.
Check your credit score
Before you apply for a starter credit card, it can help to know where you stand in terms of your credit. We suggest taking the time to check your credit score online. That way, you can know if your credit score is at least in the “fair” range, which can help you gauge if you need to apply for a secured credit card or not. You may also find your credit score is better than you thought, but you’ll never know unless you check.
Decide on rewards
If you’re interested in starter credit cards that offer rewards, spend some time comparing rewards programs and the redemption options available to you. Some starter credit cards with rewards only let you redeem for statement credits, yet many of the best rewards credit cards let you redeem points for gift cards, travel, merchandise and more.
Compare cardholder benefits
Also, check for cardholder perks like travel insurance, purchase protection against damage or theft and extended warranties. Many starter credit cards also come with valuable credit-building tools that can be useful when you’re first starting out. For example, some cards let you see your credit score for free each month and others have credit-tracking tools that help you monitor your progress over time.
Look at costs and fees
As you compare starter credit cards, you should also keep an eye out for annual fees and other fees you might be charged to maintain your account. Ideally, you’ll wind up with a credit card with no annual fee and no hidden fees.
The bottom line
Choosing your first credit card can feel overwhelming, which is why we took the time to highlight the top options in this guide. Make sure to compare the cards on our list with other credit cards for no credit history before you decide. Once you sign up for the right credit card and get started, you can be on your way to excellent credit in no time.