5 best easier-approval credit cards to help you build credit

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In a Nutshell

If you have a limited credit history, some negative marks or no credit at all, these easier-approval credit cards might be the ticket to improving your credit. In this article, we pick the best cards in the category for rewards, access for students, fees and more.

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This offer is no longer available on our site: Petal Visa Credit Card

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 Card

Here’s why: This card offers rewards on every purchase you make, plus Discover will double all the cash back you earn during your first year.

The Discover it® Secured 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% back on all other purchases.

What’s more, the card issuer will double all the cash back you earn during the first year, giving you an effective base rewards rate of 2% on qualified purchases during that time. 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 also doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee. That said, Discover isn’t widely accepted internationally, 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.

Best for college students: Deserve® Edu Mastercard

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 do have credit, Deserve will also consider how you manage your money and what you’re projected to earn in deciding whether to give you the card and how high your credit limit could be.

If you qualify for the card, you’ll get a free year of Amazon Prime plus 1% cash back on every purchase you make. You don’t need to be worried about getting stuck with a low credit limit either — the card’s limit can go as high as $5,000.

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.

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Best for limited credit: Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Here’s why: If you’re a credit newbie, the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card 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 Capital One® Platinum Credit Card to decide if it’s right for you.

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Best for bad credit: Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

Here’s why: You have a chance to get approved for the Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® even if you have a bankruptcy listed on your credit reports.

The card 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®.

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Best for no credit: Petal Visa Credit Card

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 while you won’t earn rewards, 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.

Read our editorial review of the Petal Visa Credit Card to get more details.

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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. While some of these features aren’t necessary to establish a positive credit history, they allow you to maintain your dignity while doing so.

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.