Home » Top Picks » Best Unsecured Cards for Limited Credit Histories – December 2020

Best Unsecured Cards for Limited Credit Histories – December 2020

Best Unsecured Cards for Limited Credit Histories – December 2020

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Nov 30, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Whether you have no credit history, limited credit history or bad credit history, you may struggle to get approved for a credit card. However, know that there are some unsecured cards designed specifically for people with limited credit histories.

There are two types of credit cards — unsecured and secured. Unsecured credit cards involve an issuer granting you a line of credit from which you borrow and repay. Secured cards function the same as unsecured cards, but require you to put down a security deposit that serves as your credit line. This security deposit acts as protection for the credit card issuer in case you don’t pay back what you charge to the card.

If you don’t have money to put down for a security deposit, there are still options. We’ve rounded up six unsecured cards based on our research of cards available through CompareCards, as well as top cards offered by major issuers, that are designed to help you build or rebuild your credit, as well as some of the best secured cards, if you don’t think you’ll be able to qualify for an unsecured card.

Compare the best unsecured cards for bad and limited credit

 Best forCredit neededAnnual feeRegular purchase APR
Capital One Platinum Credit CardConsumers looking to build credit with an unsecured card with no annual fee.Average/Fair/Limited$026.99% (variable)
AvantCard Credit CardConsumers with bad credit who want an unsecured card.Fair/Limited/Bad/Poor$3925.99% variable
Petal 2 Credit CardConsumers with no credit looking for an unsecured card.Limited/Average/Good$0variable aprs between 12.99- 26.99
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit CardConsumers with a limited credit history who want to earn cash back.Fair/Limited$3926.99% (variable)
Discover it® Student Cash BackCollege students looking to build credit and who want to earn cash back.Fair/Limited$012.99% - 21.99% variable
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for StudentsInternational students who need a U.S. credit card.Good/Fair/Limited$018.74% variable

Best unsecured card with no annual fee: Capital One Platinum Credit Card

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

  • Pay no annual fee

  • 26.99% (Variable)

Highlights
  • 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

See additional details for Capital One Platinum Credit Card

More Info

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is aimed at applicants with average/fair/limited credit and charges a $0 annual fee. Though it doesn’t offer rewards, this card does give you an opportunity to build credit without having to pay a security deposit or annual fee. And after demonstrating good credit behavior, you can request a product change to another Capital One card that offers cash back or miles.

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card also comes with the following benefits:

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver. This benefit may provide secondary coverage when you rent a vehicle using this car and decline the rental company’s coverage.
  • Travel accident insurance. This benefit may insure you, your spouse and your unmarried dependent children against accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech or hearing during your trip on a licensed common carrier.
  • 24-hour travel assistance services. Get help with travel requirement information, recommendations for doctors and referrals for legal services.
  • Extended warranty. When you purchase an item entirely on this card, the extended warranty benefit may double the manufacturer’s warranty, up to an additional 12 months.

Read our review of the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

Best unsecured card for bad credit: AvantCard Credit Card

  • Fast and easy application process

  • No deposit required and no penalty APR

  • 25.99% Variable

Highlights
  • Fast and easy application process
  • No deposit required
  • No hidden fees
  • No penalty APR
  • Report to all three major credit bureaus
  • Zero fraud liability for unauthorized charges
  • Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC
  • Disclosure: If you are charged interest, the charge will be no less than $1.00

See additional details for AvantCard Credit Card

More Info

If you’re looking for an unsecured credit card to rebuild your credit, the AvantCard Credit Card is designed for applicants with fair/limited/bad/poor credit and charges a $39 annual fee. You can also check online if you prequalify. If approved, you’ll be issued a credit limit between $300 and $1,000. Unlike some other unsecured cards for bad credit, this card doesn’t hit you with expensive fees and opaque terms.

This card reports the account and payment activity to the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — on a monthly basis. So, if you’re practicing responsible credit behavior, the AvantCard Credit Card can help you improve your credit score.

Be aware that if you’re a resident of Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin, you won’t be able to apply for the AvantCard Credit Card.

Read our review of the AvantCard Credit Card.

Best unsecured card for no credit: Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

  • Earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away, and 2% to 10% cash back from select merchants

  • Those with thin to no credit file can be accepted based on Cash Flow underwriting alone. Petal reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.

  • No late fee, foreign transaction fee, or annual fee.

Highlights
  • No fees whatsoever. No late fee, international fee, annual fee, or any-other-kind-of-fee, fee.
  • Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments
  • 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away
  • 2% - 10% cash back from select merchants
  • $500-$10,000 credit limits
  • Variable APRs 12.99%-26.99%
  • Build credit alongside tens of thousands of Petal Card members
  • Cash flow technology may help applicants without credit history get approved
  • Petal's mobile app makes it easy to manage your money, track your spending, and automate payments
  • See if you're pre-approved within minutes without impacting your credit score
  • Petal reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • No deposits required
  • Card issued by WebBank, Member FDIC

See additional details for Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

More Info

This card is designed for consumers looking for an unsecured credit card for no credit history. If you have a credit score, it will be taken into consideration when you apply, but Petal will consider you even if you’re brand new to credit. The company asks you to link your bank account when you apply, which is how it will evaluate your financial situation.

Read: Best Credit Cards for Beginners

Cardholders can earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away, and 2% to 10% cash back from select merchants. And there are no fees with this card. The annual fee is $0, the foreign transaction fee is none and there’s no late payment fee. Still, you should pay on time. Even if you aren’t charged a late fee, paying late will hurt your credit score.

The Petal 2 Credit Card’s credit limit can range from $500 to $10,000.

Read our review of the Petal 2 Credit Card.

Best unsecured card for cash back: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day

  • No rotating categories, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and no limit to how much you can earn

  • 26.99% (Variable)

Highlights
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

See additional details for Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

More Info

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Card is our top pick for applicants who have fair/limited credit and want an unsecured credit card that earns cash back.

Cardholders earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. There’s a $39 annual fee, but if you spend at least $2,600 a year on the card, you can recoup the fee. The card also comes with the following benefits:

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver. This benefit may provide secondary coverage when you rent a vehicle using this car and decline the rental company’s coverage.
  • Travel accident insurance. This benefit may insure you, your spouse and your unmarried dependent children against accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech or hearing during your trip on a licensed common carrier.
  • 24-hour travel assistance services. Get assistance, such as travel requirement information, recommendations for doctors and referrals for legal services.
  • Extended warranty. When you purchase an item entirely on this card, the extended warranty benefit may double the manufacturer’s warranty, up to an additional 12 months.

Read our review of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Card.

Best unsecured card for students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

  • 0% intro for 6 Months*

  • 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically

  • 12.99% - 21.99% Variable*

Highlights
  • INTRO 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.
  • 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. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Student Cash Back

More Info

If you’re a college student looking to get your first card, the Discover it® Student Cash Back is our top choice. Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Plus, for new cardmembers, 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. There’s also a Good Grade Reward — a statement credit you can earn every school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to five years.

Read our review of the Discover it® Student Cash Back.

Best unsecured card for international students: Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

  • 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases

  • Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after your first purchase with your new Deserve EDU Mastercard (Lifetime Value of $59).

  • Build a positive credit history with responsible use

Highlights
  • Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after your first purchase with your new Deserve EDU Mastercard (Lifetime Value of $59).
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard. Once approved, you'll automatically start earning cash back on all purchases.
  • Feel secure with cell phone protection up to $600.
  • No deposit required. No annual fees.
  • No international transaction fees on purchases abroad so you can travel with confidence.
  • No Social Security Number required for international students to apply.
  • Refer A Friend Program: Refer anyone to Deserve using your personal referral code. Upon approval, card activation and use, you'll receive $30 and so will your referral. Referral bonuses are unlimited!
  • Manage and track your spending, set automatic payments and securely freeze your card all through one easy to use app.
  • See if you prequalify with no impact to your credit score in minutes.
  • Deserve Mastercards are issued by Celtic Bank, Member FDIC.
  • Enjoy Mastercard Platinum Benefits intended to make your life easier like Mastercard ID Theft Prevention™ and Master Rental®.

See additional details for Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

More Info

This card is designed with international students studying in the U.S. in mind. It doesn’t require a Social Security number for international students to apply, however, it won’t help you build a credit history until you include an SSN. Cardholders can earn 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases.

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students also comes with the following benefits:

  • Reimbursement for one year of Amazon Prime Student. Get reimbursed $59 for the annual plan or $6.49 per month for the monthly plan, up to a lifetime total of $59. Note that the total of $59 won’t cover a whole year if you choose the monthly billing option.
  • Cellphone protection. There’s a $50 deductible and a $600 maximum per claim.
  • Collision damage waiver. This benefit may provide coverage for physical damage and theft when you rent a vehicle with your card and decline the rental company’s coverage.

Read our review of the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students.

Best secured cards for limited and bad credit

The unsecured cards we included offer a wide selection of ways to build your credit. However, you should be wary of unsecured cards for bad credit that come with expensive fees and/or confusing terms. For example, unsecured cards, such as those from Credit One, First Premier, Horizon Card Services and Total Visa can end up being expensive to carry as they charge numerous fees.

If you have poor credit and think you might struggle to get approved for an unsecured credit card with good terms, you should look into a secured card. Here are a few to consider:

Discover it® Secured

  • 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically

  • 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*

Highlights
  • 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.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO 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.
  • 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

More Info

The Discover it® Secured offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. For new cardmembers, 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. The annual fee is $0. The deposit ranges from $200 to $2,500.

After eight months, Discover will begin monthly reviews of your account to see if you qualify for a refund of your security deposit. Be aware that Discover looks at your behavior across all your credit products to determine if you’re eligible for this.

Read our review of the Discover it® Secured.

Secured Mastercard® from Capital One

  • Build Credit When Used Responsibly

  • $49, $99, or $200

  • 26.99% (Variable)

Highlights
  • No annual fee
  • Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app

See additional details for Secured Mastercard® from Capital One

More Info

Most secured cards have a set minimum deposit amount. But the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One offers a minimum deposit of $49, $99 or $200, all of which provide a starting credit limit of $200. Capital One decides which minimum deposit you qualify for after you apply.

You can deposit up to a maximum of $1,000. This card’s annual fee is $0.

Read our review of the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

  • 17.39% (variable)

  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.

  • $200 - $3,000 Credit Line*

Highlights
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • *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

More Info

If you want to avoid a hard pull of your credit, which can temporarily further damage your credit score, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card does not require a credit check — though you will have to enter financial information, such as your income and monthly housing payment. It charges a $35 annual fee.

This card’s minimum deposit is $200. You can deposit up to $3,000.

Read our review of the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card.

How to build credit with your credit card

Whether you apply for a secured or an unsecured card, it’s important to use it responsibly so you can build a positive credit history. It’s key to avoid risky behavior, such as maxing out your credit limit and missing payments, both of which will hurt your credit score and allow debt to pile up.

Here’s how you can build a great credit score:

  • Pay on time and in full each month. Paying on time is the most important thing you can do for a good credit score. And by paying in full by the statement due date, you can avoid interest charges.
  • Keep your card account active. You want your usage and payment activity reported to the credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You must use your card for that to happen. A good way to do this is to put a recurring charge, such as a Netflix or Spotify subscription on your card, then set up autopay so your bill is always paid in full and on time.
  • Don’t overspend. Maxing out your credit card will hurt your credit score. It’s best to use less than 30% of your available credit. For example, with a $300 credit limit, don’t use more than $90 of it each billing cycle. This also helps prevent taking on a lot of credit card debt.

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