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The 6 best starter credit cards for no credit: Beginner credit cards

What's the best starter credit card for those with no credit? The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is ZDNet's top choice for building your FICO score. There are lots of credit-building options out there to choose from, so we've done all the hard research for you. We factored such characteristics including card types, fees, credit reporting, and rewards, and came up with our short list of top starter credit cards.
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Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on

Your credit score is key to many things, like getting approved for a loan or great insurance rates. Even a credit card typically requires credit, so what do you do when there's no credit to show? We all have to start somewhere, and a starter credit card for no credit could be the very solution you need. Some cards even offer rewards and benefits. Just remember that it's vital to spend responsibly at first if you want to build credit.

If you're starting out looking for your first credit card, the best starter cards will have high approval rates, no annual fees, and report payments to the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.  

Whether it's your first time credit card or you're simply trying to rebuild credit, these are the best starter credit cards.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR26.99% (Variable)
Recommended CreditLimited, Bad
Reward Rates N/A
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details

At a glance

To open your Capital One Platinum Secured card, there are three choices for your minimum security deposit: $49, $99, or $200. This deposit may be refundable, depending on payment history. You will need to link your Capital One account to an authorized bank account in order to receive your card. 

With periodic account review, you can raise your line of credit in as little as six months. The initial $200 credit line can even be expanded up to $1,000 with additional payments. Capital One also allows you to transfer your balance to your Capital One card if you have a higher balance elsewhere. 

Once approved (with no need for a credit check), you have the option to add an authorized user to your account with per-user expense tracking. There are also personalized reminders with 24/7 customer service if you need support. 

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR20.24% Variable
Recommended CreditLimited/No Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Rewards & Redemption Details

At a glance

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students credit card has some of the best rewards for students with no credit. There is 1% cashback on all purchases, plus extra perks like one free year of Amazon Prime. You can earn cell phone protection of up to $600 when you pay your phone bill with your Deserve card. You can also receive a $10 statement credit when you pay three months of Lemonade insurance coverage with your card.

If you're looking for balance transfers or cash advances, you are out of luck. Neither service is available with the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students card. With no social security number required, however, international students may also apply and take advantage of these perks. 

Card Highlights
Intro BonusIntro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
APR23.74% Variable
Recommended CreditNew/Rebuilding Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

At a glance

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card does not skimp on benefits. 

There is 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, with a maximum of up to $1,000 in combined purchases. You receive unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases, and with Discover's wide acceptance, you can enjoy 99% nationwide acceptance with your card. There is also unlimited dollar-for-dollar matching for all cashback you earn in your first year of having the account, deposited into your account after 12 months. Even better, your cashback never expires. You can redeem rewards for cash at any time, or you can use them instantly at Amazon.com or with PayPal.

Discover has security benefits, too, with Dark Web tracking of your social security number. If you lose your card, there is a $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee with free overnight card replacement. To help you improve your credit score, there is credit reporting to all three major credit bureaus, so you can raise your credit score that much faster.

To get started, check to see if you pre-approved without affecting your credit. There is a minimum refundable security deposit of $200, but you may be eligible to receive your initial deposit back after an eight-month review.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusIntro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
APR13.74% - 22.74% Variable
Recommended CreditFair/New to Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% for 6 months
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

At a glance

With this card, students receive bonus cashback rewards, like 5% cash back at specific, rotating retailers each quarter (up to $1,500, activation required, then 1%). Popular retailers include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and Amazon. For purchases at gas stations and restaurants, there is a full 2% cashback bonus on your first $1,000 in combined purchases at each calendar quarter. All other purchases earn unlimited 1% cash back. For your introductory bonus, you get unlimited dollar-for-dollar matching on cashback you earn in your first year of having the card. 

There are also periodic account reviews to assess your account standing and payment history. If favorable, you could have the option to upgrade to an unsecured credit card.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR17.64% (variable)
Recommended CreditNo credit check
Reward Rates N/A
Annual Fee$35
Intro Purchase APRN/A

At a glance

The line of credit for your OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card depends on your initial deposit. There is a minimum initial deposit of $200, but if you have more money to put down, you can enjoy a healthy credit limit of up to $3,000. Deposits are insured by the FDIC. You also get to enjoy the additional benefits of having a Visa credit card with acceptance at most worldwide retailers and built-in fraud protection. There is no introductory purchase APR, but regular purchases incur a variable 17.39% APR. 

No credit check is needed to apply, so your credit score is unaffected. OpenSky also reports payments to the three major bureaus with reports to help improve your credit score over time.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR13.74% - 27.74% (Variable)
Recommended CreditLimited/Fair/Good/Excellent
Reward Rates
  • Up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments.
  • 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Rewards & Redemption Details

At a glance

The Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card offers a minimum of 2% cash back, but you can earn up to 10% cash back when you make purchases at certain retailers. There is also an unrestricted 1% cash back on all purchases that begins immediately. However, your rewards rate can increase up to 1.5% when you establish a history of on-time payments.

The Petal 2 Visa Credit Card is geared more toward big spenders with a minimum credit limit of $500 that may be too much for those on a more restricted budget.

Petal provides a payments calculator with the ability to set a budget and view expense tracking to better understand your spending. You can also track your payments, so you can potentially reduce the amount of interest you pay with your future payments.

What's the best starter credit card for no credit?

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit card is the best for growing credit. Having a good FICO score is key to many things like getting approved for loans or finding great insurance rates. 

If you want advice on how to build your credit score quickly, we compiled the top 6 ways to build business credit.

How did we choose these cards?

Many banks and financial institutions offer credit cards, but few are suitable for someone with little or no credit. To find the best cards for no credit, we considered these factors:

  • Type of user: There are some cards specifically designed for those with new credit, while other cards may carry special perks for specific types of users, such as college students.

  • Type of credit card: There are both secured and unsecured credit cards available, with secured credit cards requiring a deposit upfront that is often refundable.

  • Fees: There are many different fees that can quickly cost more money, so be sure to check for different charges like annual fees, transaction fees, late penalties, and returned payment fees.

  • Credit reporting: It is important that a credit card issuer reports your payments to the main credit bureaus -  Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - to help build your credit over time.

  • Rewards: Many cards offer additional cashback or bonus rewards when you use your credit card for everyday purchases.

Can I get a credit card with no credit?


All credit cards have different requirements to qualify, but many credit cards may have eligibility requirements that preclude those with limited or no credit. If you have no established history of credit, many issuers of no-credit credit cards typically offer special terms, like requiring a credit card or an upfront deposit.  

What is the best credit card for new credit?

If you are just establishing credit, there are many options. However, the best credit card for new credit depends on your specific needs and financial goals, with several cards offering different incentives and requirements that may make one card better suited to you than others. 

What is the difference between a secured and an unsecured credit card?


An unsecured credit card is the more traditional form of a credit card, but it typically requires better credit. A secured credit card is often a better fit for those with bad credit or no credit, but you can pay an upfront deposit to use as an initial line of credit.

Are there alternative cards worth considering?

In our analysis of the best starter credit cards for no credit, we surveyed many different credit cards. These are some other starter credit cards that may be worth your consideration:

  • Petal 1 Visa Credit Card: Recommended for new credit, cashback

  • Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students: Recommended for students, new credit

  • Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express: Recommended for no deposit, international credit history

  • Citi® Double Cash Card: Recommended for starter rewards


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