With no credit history, it's hard to qualify for a credit card. But that doesn’t mean you have no options. You can get a student credit card or a secured credit card — even with no credit history.

One of the most frustrating adventures for young people, particularly when coming out of school, is getting that first credit card. With no credit history, the deck is clearly stacked against you. But that doesn’t mean you’re without options. You can get a student credit card or a secured credit card, even with no credit history.

And if those cards aren’t available for whatever reason, there are some strategies you can use to build sufficient credit and get your first credit card.

Overview of the best credit cards for beginners

  • Capital One Platinum: Best for those with fair credit
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: Best for cash back
  • Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards: Best for students with limited credit
  • Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards: Best for students looking to earn rewards
  • OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card: Best for those with no credit history
  • Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best for those looking for an easy-to-use card

Unsecured cards

Unsecured cards don’t have the same limitations that student and secured cards do. They don’t have deposit requirements and they’re not only for students. In other words, it’s just a normal credit card, but the perks won’t be as substantial as premium cards that require good to excellent credit.

But, there are some unsecured beginner credit cards that do offer low-tier rewards. That way you can start building credit fairly quickly, all while pocketing some extra cash.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

Finding an unsecured credit card with average credit can be difficult, but the Capital One Platinum Credit Card is happy to have your business. You won’t find many perks to owning this credit card, but it’s a great first card for young people looking to build a strong credit history and there’s no annual fee.

Read review
Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • Only average / fair / limited credit is required for approval

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees

  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking from your desktop or smartphone, with Capital One's 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
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
29.74% (Variable)
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , N/A
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , N/A

Apply Now >>

You can apply for the Capital One Platinum Credit Card with a fair credit score, so it’s an easier first card to qualify for. It has no annual fee, and a 29.74% (Variable) APR.

If you’re a traveler with less than stellar credit, this card may be a perfect fit for you since it has no foreign transaction fees. And while this card doesn’t come with any perks, Capital One will automatically review your credit line after six months.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Proceed Card info has been collected by MoneyUnder30 to help consumers better compare cards. The financial institution did not provide or approve card details

In A Nutshell

The Chase Freedom FlexSM offers an enticing $200 sign-up bonus after spending $500 in the first three months.  Plus cash back rewards on travel, dining, drugstore and every day purchases with rewards that never expire. All for no annual fee!

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Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • Awesome $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter, plus earn 1% on all other purchases.

  • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 19.24% – 27.99%.

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 19.24% - 27.99%.
  • No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom FlexSM card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health - Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 27.99% Variable
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months , 15 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months , 15 months

Apply Now >>

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ comes in strong for those just starting out with travel rewards. You can earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Your APR will be 19.24% - 27.99% Variable, but there’s no annual fee.

Where the Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card really stands out is in its cash back. You’ll earn 5% cash back on purchases in designated bonus categories (with a limit of $1,500 per quarter each time you activate), unlimited 3% cash back on dining and drug store purchases, and unlimited 1% cash back on every dollar spent in all other categories.

Student credit cards

There are credit cards available specifically for students. They have lower credit limits, but relaxed credit guidelines. They recognize a student’s limited financial experience and capacity. Banks will offer these cards as a way of getting the jumpstart on establishing a business relationship after graduation.

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now On the Capital One US Secure Website

In A Nutshell

Students will love the simplicity of this cash back credit card from Capital One. Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day, and your rewards won’t expire for the life of the account. Plus there’s no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or other hidden fees to worry about.

Read review
Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
  • Build your credit with responsible card use
  • Whether you're at a 4-year university, community college or other higher education institution, this card might be an option for you
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , N/A
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , N/A

Apply Now >>

The Capital One QuickSilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases. It’s a simple rewards structure, but still a good one, especially for a starter credit card, and you’ll be automatically considered for a higher credit line in six months.

This card has an APR of 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable) but no annual fee and a welcome bonus of $50 when you spend $100 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. You’ll also have no foreign transaction fees, Complimentary Concierge Service, and other travel benefits — making it ideal for students planning a study abroad or spring break trip.

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

Students will love earning an unlimited 3% cash back on popular everyday purchases and 1% cash back on all other purchases, all with no annual fee. Plus, student cardholders will also earn 8% cash back on entertainment purchases when booked through the Capital One Entertainment Portal.

Read review
Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months

  • 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)

  • 8% cash back on entertainment when booked through the Capital One Entertainment Portal

  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), with 1% on all other purchases
  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
  • Earn 8% cash back on entertainment purchases when you book through the Capital One Entertainment portal
  • Build your credit with responsible card use
  • Whether you're at a 4-year university, community college or other higher education institution, this card might be an option for you
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , N/A
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , N/A

Apply Now >>

The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is ideal for students who spend the most on dining and entertainment — as most students do.

Cardholders get unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores, plus 1% on all other purchases. Plus, get a whopping 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases. Not too shabby for a card with no annual fee.

The APR is 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable) but, like the Quicksilver, the SavorOne Student Cash Rewards also comes with no annual fee, a welcome bonus of $50 cash rewards after spending $100 in the first three months of account opening, plus no foreign transaction fees, and Master RoadAssist® Service® with 24-hour dispatch help for towing, fuel delivery, and more.

Secured credit cards

You can get a credit card secured by a savings account (the credit line usually matches the amount in your savings account). You’re charged interest on your purchases, and you must make monthly payments. But your payment history will be reported to the credit bureaus, enabling you to build your credit. In the meantime, you’ll have access to a fully usable credit card.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is a secured credit card that doesn’t require a credit check to apply. Whether you have poor credit or no credit at all, OpenSky is an opportunity to improve your credit history.

Read review
Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • No credit check needed to get approved for this card.

  • Choose your own security deposit between $200 – $3,000 and that becomes your credit line.

  • On-time payments will be reported to all three credit bureaus, so you can start building credit responsibly.

  • The annual fee is just $35, and OpenSky® does not charge any application, servicing, or processing fees.

  • No credit check to apply and find out instantly if you are approved.
  • OpenSky gives everyone an opportunity to improve their credit with an 85% average approval rate for the past 5 years
  • You could be eligible for the OpenSky Gold Unsecured Card after as few as 6 months
  • Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus monthly, unlike a prepaid or debit card
  • View your FICO® Score through your OpenSky account, an easy way to stay on top of your credit
  • Nearly half of OpenSky cardholders who make on-time payments improve their FICO score 30+ points in the first 3 months
  • Your refundable* deposit, as low as $200, becomes your OpenSky Visa credit limit
  • Easy application, apply in less than 5 minutes right from your mobile device
  • Offer flexible payment due dates which allow you to choose any available due date that fits your payment schedule
  • *View the cardholder agreement
Annual Fee
$35
Regular APR
21.64% (variable)
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A ,
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A ,

Apply Now >>

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is a way for people just starting their credit journey to begin building a credit history. OpenSky reports to all three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), so your credit card activity will begin to pay off quickly. And for an added bonus: when you apply for the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card, they won’t pull your credit score at all and you can instantly see if you’re approved! 

OpenSky also lets you choose your own credit line. Pick an amount between $200 and $3,000 to be your security deposit; that amount will also be your credit limit. Plus, when you’re ready to close the account, you can get the entire amount refunded to you. Or, if you want to keep the card, you’ll have the chance to increase your limit after six months. 

To help you learn to use credit responsibly, OpenSky operates a Facebook community where you can find community, education, and support.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

If you are worried that you will not get approved for a conventional credit card or have been rejected in the past, the Capital One Platinum Secured is an excellent option. It’s rare to find one that doesn’t charge an annual fee and Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review
Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • Put down a refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line.

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months with no additional deposit needed.

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Building your credit? Using the Capital One Platinum Secured card responsibly could help
  • Put down a refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line
  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking to access your account from your desktop or smartphone, with Capital One's mobile app
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
29.74% (Variable)
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , N/A
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , N/A

Apply Now >>

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card comes with $0 annual fee, and a 29.74% (Variable) APR purchase rate. You’ll be required to make a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, which may be refundable.

You’ll get an initial credit line of $200, which will be increased any time you deposit more money. You can automatically be considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months.

When looking for a secured credit card, don’t overlook local banks and credit unions.

For example, DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card is offered with a reasonable APR and no annual fee. DCU also doesn’t charge fees or higher rates for cash advances and balance transfers. You’ll have the benefit of free auto rental collision damage waiver. The card works with Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay.

Summary of the best credit cards for beginners

Credit cardAPRRewardsAnnual fee
Capital One Platinum29.74% (Variable)None$0
Chase Freedom Flex℠19.24% - 27.99% Variable5% cash back on eligible purchases in rotating categories, 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases$0
Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)1.5% cash back on all purchases$0
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)3% cash back on dining, entertainment, streaming services, at grocery stores, plus 1% on all other purchases$0
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card21.64% (variable)None$35
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card29.74% (Variable)None$0

Other strategies to build credit so you can get your first credit card

If you’re not a college student, or you don’t have savings available to make a collateral deposit to get a secured credit card, there are other ways you may be able to build your credit to the point where you will be eligible for your first credit card.

Cosigned loans

This usually involves a car loan or some other type of installment loan. If you don’t have a credit history, you can often get a loan approved if it is cosigned by someone with a high credit score. You’ll make the monthly payments, and the pay history will be reported to the credit bureaus. It might take a year or more of on-time payments before you have a credit score sufficient to get a credit card.

Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card

This will usually be a parent. You’ll have to be added as a fully authorized user, which means they’ll ask for your Social Security number. As long as the monthly payments are made on time by you or the primary user, it will help to build your credit rating.

Credit builder loans

These work like secured credit cards, but you don’t have to have money in a savings account or for a security deposit.

This is how it works: you take out a credit builder loan for $1,000. The money is immediately deposited into a savings account in your name, but acts as collateral for the loan. Monthly payments are deducted from the savings account. As the months passed, and payments are made, you begin to build a credit history and credit score, even though you never actually make a direct payment.

The bottom line

Getting started with a credit card is a catch-22. You need a card to build your credit history, but it can be hard to be approved for a card without having that history to show upfront. But it’s not all hopeless. Thankfully, there are quite a few secured cards, student cards, and beginner-friendly unsecured cards to help you out.

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About the author

Total Articles: 145
Since 2009, Kevin Mercadante has been sharing his journey from a washed-up mortgage loan officer emerging from the Financial Meltdown as a contract/self-employed “slash worker” – accountant/blogger/freelance web content writer – on Out of Your Rut.com. He offers career strategies, from dealing with under-employment to transitioning into self-employment, and provides “Alt-retirement strategies” for the vast majority who won’t retire to the beach as millionaires. He also frequently discusses the big-picture trends that are putting the squeeze on the bottom 90%, offering work-arounds and expense cutting tips to help readers carve out more money to save in their budgets – a.k.a., breaking the “savings barrier” and transitioning from debtor to saver. He’s a regular contributor/staff writer for as many as a dozen financial blogs and websites, including Money Under 30, Investor Junkie and The Dough Roller.