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These offers are no longer available on our site: Petal Visa Credit Card, Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Hear from our editors: Best starter credit cards of April 2020
Updated Jan. 28, 2020
We update credit card details (e.g., APR, sign-up bonus) as we receive new information from our marketing partners.
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 it’s posted.
Written by: Ben Luthi
If you’re new to credit, your credit card options can be limited. Whether you’re a college student, a young professional or someone else who hasn’t yet had a chance to build credit, these starter credit cards can help you build credit from scratch with little in the way of fuss or fees.
- Best if you’re completely new to credit: Petal Visa Credit Card
- Best for international students: Deserve® Edu Mastercard
- Best for building good credit habits: Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
- Best secured card for beginners: Discover it® Secured Credit Card
- Best for a limited credit history: Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Here’s why: It’s uncommon to find a credit card designed for people without credit scores that doesn’t require you to put down a hefty security deposit. But that’s exactly what you’ll get with the Petal Visa Credit Card .
The credit card issuer decides whether you’re a good fit for the card based on how you manage your finances. The issuer can do this by having you connect your bank accounts, which can show it how you make, save and spend money.
The card also offers the possibility of a high credit limit, with options ranging from $500 to $10,000, based on your finances. Other pluses for this card are the cash back you can earn — a base rate of 1% which can increase when you pay on time — and the fact that there are no fees. (There is a variable APR of 14.49% - 25.49% if you carry a balance, though.)
For more details, read our review of the Petal Visa Credit Card.
Here’s why: It’s an appealing choice for international students, who don’t need a Social Security number to qualify for the Deserve® Edu Mastercard , but any student who’s new to credit (including U.S. citizens) could benefit from this card.
Also, you’re not required to have a credit history. If you do have a credit history, the card issuer will consider it in addition to looking at how you manage your money now as part of determining your future credit potential.
New cardholders will receive a one-year membership to Amazon Prime Student plus 1% cash back on every purchase. The card charges a $0 annual fee. Its foreign transaction fee? None. And depending on your credit, you could qualify for a credit limit of up to $5,000.
If you like what you see so far, read our review of the Deserve® Edu Mastercard to get the full picture.
Here’s why: The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® offers college students a flat rewards rate on all purchases and also provides extra rewards and potentially more access to credit if you consistently make payments on time.
You’ll earn 1% cash back on all the purchases you make plus an extra 0.25% back if you pay your bill on time for that month, for a total of 1.25%. You’ll also have the chance to earn a credit limit increase once you’ve made your first five monthly payments on time.
The card’s annual fee is $0. And its foreign transaction fee? None. This makes it an excellent choice if you’re planning to study or do a gap year abroad. Typical foreign transaction fees are around 3% of every international purchase you make, so this card could potentially save you a lot over time.
Read our review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® to find out more.
Here’s why: If you’re having a hard time getting approved for an unsecured credit card, this one is a solid choice with a low security deposit requirement, a rewards program and the chance to convert your account to an unsecured card.
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. Plus, you’ll get 1% cash back on all other purchases. What’s more, the bank will match all the rewards you earn during your first year with the account.
The minimum security deposit is just $200 and depending on how you use the account and your other credit accounts, you may get your deposit back in as little as eight months.
The card doesn’t charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Keep in mind, though, that Discover isn’t widely accepted internationally. So if you’re heading abroad, have a backup payment method.
Read our review of the Discover it® Secured Card to see if it fits your needs.
Here’s why: Even if you’ve never had a credit card before, you may have already started building credit, whether that’s through an authorized user account or with your student loans. If you’ve got a limited credit history, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers solid value.
The card offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, plus you may be eligible for a higher credit line after you make your first five monthly payments on time. And its foreign transaction fees? None. It makes the card a good choice if you’re planning a trip abroad.
The card’s annual fee is $39, but you can make up for that by spending just $2,600 per year. Also, try to avoid carrying a balance on the card, so you don’t have to pay the 26.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers.
If you’re on the fence, read our review of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card to find out more.
How to make the most of the best credit cards for first-time users
If you want to build your credit, a credit card can be a helpful tool. But these starter cards aren’t as impressive as some of the rewards cards you might qualify for once your credit is in better shape. To get there, it’s important to use your starter credit card responsibly.
What does responsible mean? Make sure you pay your bill on time every month. Set up automatic payments or at least a reminder to ensure you don’t forget. If possible, pay the bill in full to avoid interest charges
Also, keep your balance low relative to the card’s credit limit. Your credit utilization rate, which is the percentage of your limit you’re using at any given time, is an important factor in your credit health, and the lower it is, the better.