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This offer is no longer available on our site: Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
Hear from our editors: Best easier-approval credit cards of September 2020
Updated August 19, 2020
This offer is no longer available on our site: Discover it® Secured.
This date indicates our editors’ last comprehensive review and may not reflect recent changes in individual terms.
Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. Availability of products, features and discounts may vary by state or territory. Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about our team.
Written by: Ben Luthi
When your credit history needs some work, getting a decent credit card isn’t easy.
But just because you’re building or rebuilding credit, it doesn’t mean you have to settle for a bad card with steep fees. Here are some standout alternatives.
- Best for rewards: Discover it® Secured
- Best for college students: Deserve® EDU Mastercard
- Best for limited credit: Platinum Mastercard® from Capital One®
- Best for bad credit: Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®
- Best for no credit: Petal Visa Credit Card
Here’s why: This card offers rewards on every purchase you make.
The Discover it® Secured credit card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 spent in combined purchases each quarter (then 1% once the quarterly cap is met). Plus you’ll get 1% back on all other purchases. Discover’s Cashback Match feature will match all of the cash back earned at the end of new cardholders’ first year, too.
While the card requires a security deposit of at least $200, Discover may refund your deposit after you’ve had the card for as little as eight months.
The card doesn’t charge an annual fee, and it also doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee. That said, Discover isn’t accepted everywhere, so it’s a good idea to have a backup payment method if you take it abroad.
Read our editorial review of the Discover it® Secured card to find out if it’s right for you.
Here’s why: The Deserve® EDU Mastercard doesn’t require a credit history, or even a Social Security number if you’re an international student.
If you qualify for the card, you’ll get a free year of Amazon Prime Student when you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles using the card — plus 1% cash back on every purchase you make. Plus when you pay your cellphone bill with the card, you’ll get up to $600 in coverage if your phone gets stolen or damaged. You’ll get all that with a $0 annual fee. There’s also no foreign transaction fee, making it a solid choice if you’re planning to study abroad or head back home to another country.
If you’re a college student looking for a credit card, read our full review of the Deserve® EDU Mastercard to learn more.
Here’s why: The Platinum Mastercard® from Capital One® can help you establish a positive credit history, all with a $0 annual fee.
The card doesn’t have a lot of frills — there’s no rewards program or sign-up bonus. But if building credit is your priority, you can look forward to better rewards later.
The card offers the prospect of a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time. As you’re building credit, having a higher credit limit can help your credit utilization rate (your balance divided by your credit limit). The lower the utilization rate, the better.
The card also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. And since it’s a Mastercard, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding merchants that accept it while abroad.
Read our editorial review of the Platinum Mastercard® from Capital One® to decide if it’s right for you.
Here’s why: The Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® is designed for people with challenging credit histories.
But if you’re still not sure where that leaves you, the card’s issuer allows you to get prequalified without a hard credit check. If you qualify, you’re looking at an annual fee of $75 the first year ($99 after that).
While the card doesn’t provide much in the way of perks, it’s a great alternative to secured credit cards because it doesn’t require a deposit.
If your credit history isn’t the greatest, learn more with our full review of the Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®.
Here’s why: The Petal Visa Credit Card eliminates the credit Catch-22: needing a credit history to get approved for credit but not being able to establish a credit history without credit.
If you’ve never used credit before, the card’s issuer makes its decision based on how financially responsible you are, making it a great first credit card.
Specifically, the Petal Visa Credit Card has you connect your bank accounts to see how much you earn, and how you spend and save money. If the issuer determines that you’re a good fit based on how you manage your money, you’ll be approved.
If you do get approved, you can qualify for a credit limit of $500 to $10,000. And you won’t pay any fees with the card whatsoever.
The Petal Visa Credit Card app not only gives you access to your account on the go, but also shows you how much interest you’ll pay on a purchase if you don’t pay your balance in full each month. This can help you manage your finances and build your credit in the process.
While you’re working on building your credit, you can also earn cash back rewards with the Petal Visa Credit Card. The card offers 1% cash back on all purchases as soon as your account opens, and after making 12 on-time payments you can earn up to 1.5% cash back.
Read our editorial review of the Petal Visa Credit Card to get more details.
How we picked these cards
There are plenty of easier-approval credit cards out there, but some of them charge sky-high fees or limit where you can use them. As a result, we focused on credit cards that can help you build credit without raiding your wallet.
More specifically, we looked at cards that charge low or no annual fees, offer rewards without restrictions and have features that make it easier to build your credit history.
How to make the most of easier-approval credit cards
These credit cards are relatively easy to get, but they’re not meant to be held onto for too long. Once you get your card, start using it responsibly to build your credit history. Be sure to make your payments on time every month, and consider paying the balance in full to avoid paying interest.
Also, keep your balance relatively low to maintain a good credit utilization rate. You can do this by using the card sparingly or making multiple payments each month.
Once you have a solid credit history and credit scores, you can apply for an unsecured card.