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This article was last updated Oct 01, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
Most credit cards require some sort of credit history to qualify, but there are some cards designed especially for people with no credit. Most options will be secured cards, which work differently than traditional cards. They require you to put a security deposit — typically $200 — on the card up front and then that becomes your line of credit. You make payments on charges over the course of a year or so and they report those payments to credit bureaus, helping you build up credit. So long as you make all your payments in full and your account is in good standing, your deposit can be returned if you are transitioned to an unsecured card or you close your account.
A secured card is a great way to build credit and is most often a better option compared to unsecured cards for no credit that are characterized by numerous fees and tricky terms. The secured cards listed in this guide all have decent terms and may even offer perks like rewards or low interest rates. Use your secured card properly so you can achieve fair, good, or excellent credit.
Consider an alternative, the Petal Visa® Credit Card, if you don’t want to put down a security deposit and can live without rewards.
Not sure what your credit score is? LendingTree, our parent company, offers your free credit score through My LendingTree, which also includes the ability to check what factors affect your score and find ways to boost it.
In this guide, we recommend credit cards for people with no or limited credit histories. The cards mentioned below can help you build credit when used responsibly so you can be on your way to a card with better features. The cards were selected based on their minimal fees, accessibility, low entry points or low interest rate.
After the card recommendations, we explain the five factors making up your credit score and how you can take actions that help you build credit.
The best credit cards for no credit include:
- Best overall credit card for no credit: Discover it® Secured
- Best for no credit with a low deposit: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
- Best for no credit with no credit check: OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
- Best for no credit if you’re military: Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card
Best overall credit card for no credit: Discover it® Secured
2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.
Credit line will equal your security deposit of $200 or more*
No annual fee, no late fee on your first late payment. No penalty APR*
- No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
- It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
- Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
- Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
- 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
- INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
- Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Discover it® Secured
What we like: The Discover it® Secured is consistently our top pick for a secured card with minimal fees and standout perks. Save money with a $0 annual fee, a foreign transaction fee of none, no penalty APR and no fee on your first late payment.
You can benefit from a cashback program where you earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. It’s hard to find a secured card with rewards, so this is a great way to earn rewards while building credit. Plus, for new cardmembers Discover will automatically match ALL the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
This card requires a typical $200 security deposit, but you can receive it back if you pay your balance in full and close your account or if Discover upgrades you to an unsecured card. Discover also takes the guesswork out of wondering when you’re ready for an unsecured card. Starting at eight months from account opening, Discover will review your account to see if your deposit can be returned while you still benefit from using your card.
What to watch out for: This card is a well-rounded offer and doesn’t have any real drawbacks. If we had to pick something to beware of, it would be the 24.74% variable APR. However, that’s standard for cards designed for new/rebuilding to credit. Pay each bill on time and in full, and this won’t be an issue.
Best for no credit with a low deposit: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
Build Credit When Used Responsibly
$49, $99, or $200
- No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
- Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
- You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
- Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
- Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
- It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
See additional details for Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
What we like: The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® provides the potential for a lower security deposit with minimum requirements of $49, $99, or $200. If you don’t have available the $200 most secured cards require, the chance to receive a lower deposit is helpful.
This card also has a $0 annual fee and can help you build credit when used responsibly. You won’t earn rewards from your purchases, but that shouldn’t really be your focus anyway. There is the ability to receive a higher credit limit by making your first five monthly payments on time — without needing to make an additional deposit. This can provide you with expanded buying power, especially if you received an initial $200 credit limit.
What to watch out for: There are no major setbacks of this card, but you should beware of the 26.49% (variable) APR. This will mainly be an issue if you carry a balance month to month — but if you pay on time and in full every month, it shouldn’t affect you.
Best for no credit with no credit check:
Free Credit Bureau Reporting
$200 - $3,000 Credit Line*
- Build Your Credit fast with our monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus.
- Choose your credit line as low as $200 up to $3000, secured by a fully-refundable* security deposit.
- Security deposit needs to be submitted before the credit card can be issued.
- No credit check necessary and no checking account required; apply in less than 5 minutes.
- Extra credit when you need it, increase your credit line up to $5000.
- Access to online financial education.
- *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card.
See additional details for OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
What we like: People with no/limited credit can benefit from the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card which does not perform a credit check during the application process. If you think your lack of credit is preventing you from opening a credit card, this can be a relief. Just note that OpenSky® will still require other financial information like annual income and monthly housing payment during the application process. This card doesn’t have any noteworthy perks beyond no credit check.
What to watch out for: This card comes with a $35 annual fee, unlike the other secured cards mentioned in this guide. While $35 isn’t high compared to some other cards with annual fees, it isn’t necessary to pay an annual fee since there are alternatives with no annual fee. Plus, the annual fee reduces your initial available credit limit — if you’re approved for a $200 credit limit, your initial available credit limit will be $165.
Best for no credit if you’re military: Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card
What we like: This card lets you earn 1 point for every $1 of net purchase. Annual fee? None. Foreign transaction fee: none. The regular purchase APR is 18.00% (variable), which isn’t bad for a secured card. It requires a $200 minimum deposit, which is a typical amount, in your Navy Federal Savings account.
What to watch out for: The Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card is issued by a credit union, so you have to meet eligibility requirements and join the credit union to be able to apply for the card. Navy Federal Credit Union serves military members and veterans from all branches of the armed forces, as well as their immediate family members. Department of Defense civilian personnel are also eligible.
The information related to the Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.
How to build credit
If you’re new to credit, it’s important to start practicing responsible credit behavior right away so you can achieve a good or excellent credit score. The better your credit score, the more credit products you can qualify for and the better the terms you’ll receive. To understand how to build credit, you first need to familiarize yourself with the five key factors comprising your FICO® Score:
- Payment history (35%): Whether you pay on time or not.
- Amounts owed (aka utilization) (30%): How much credit you use compared with your total credit limit across all accounts.
- Length of credit history (15%): Average length of time your credit accounts have been open.
- New credit (10%): How often you open new accounts and have credit inquiries.
- Credit mix (10%): The variety of credit products you have — credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.
There are several steps you can take to build credit that correspond with the five key credit factors:
- Pay on time and in full each month. Payment history is the most important factor of your credit score and therefore it’s key to always pay your bill by the due date. It’s also a good idea to pay it in full so you avoid carrying a balance month to month and racking up interest charges.
- Maintain a low utilization rate. The second most important factor of your credit score is utilization. This is the amount of credit you use divided by the total amount of credit you have. For example, if you have a credit limit of $200 on one card and a $1,800 credit limit on another card, your total amount of credit is $2,000. And if you use spend a total of $500 across both cards, your utilization would be 25% ($500 / $2,000). That’s a good rate as we recommend keeping a utilization below 30%.
- Don’t open too many credit products in a short time period. The average length of time your credit accounts have been opened is a factor of your credit score, and so is the number of new accounts you’ve inquired about or opened. Each time you apply and open a credit product, an inquiry is performed which temporarily lowers your credit score. And, if you end up opening several accounts within a short period of time, your length of credit history will decrease. For example, if you have a credit card that’s 7 years old and you open a new card today, the average length of your credit decreases to 3.5 years. Then, if you open a personal loan tomorrow, it’ll drop to a little over 2 years.