The right credit score can save you thousands of dollars. For example, an interest rate that’s 1% lower can save you $70,000 on an average mortgage loan over the average 30-year term. The trick, though, is getting to that right credit score, which starts with building your credit.
If you’re new to credit and don’t have much of a credit history, that can start with the right credit card. And there are credit cards for beginners in this exact situation.
It takes time to build good credit. As a result, it makes sense to start looking for beginner credit cards as soon as you turn 18.
The three major credit bureaus are Experian, Trans Union and Equifax. They track consumer financial information, such as debt, payment history and address history. The bureaus then supply this information to businesses, creditors and lenders in the form of a credit score that tells the business, creditor or lender your creditworthiness. The business, creditor or lender then decides whether or not to do business with you or give you a loan depending on your creditworthiness.
Finding the Best Deal
Different cards work well for different consumers. Starter cards are good credit cards for beginners, but you have to figure out what works for your situation.
It takes a little work to find the best beginner credit cards. First, you must think carefully about your current financial situation. Next, you want to choose the best starter credit card to help you improve your financial standing.
For example, you can reduce your debt by transferring an existing line of credit to a 0% interest credit card. Most low APR cards though require a good or better credit score. A card with a 15- to 18-month interest-free introductory period is a good way to keep your payments low if you carry a balance from month to month, but again require a better credit score.
Most credit cards for people with no credit history or bad, poor or fair credit are going to have standard APRs or even slighter higher ones. But even if you have no credit history or a less than ideal score, it’s not impossible for you to get a credit card. Before you sign an agreement, however, know exactly where you stand.
You can start your research by finding out your credit score. To learn your credit score, there are many free or low-cost online sources that you can use to check your financial standing. You can get your free Experian credit score here on Credit.com. Your score includes a free credit report card that tracks the major items that go into your credit score. Both are updated every two weeks to help you keep an eye on your credit and ensure your score is going up.
Outside of knowing your score and keeping an eye on it, there are a few choices in particular that are the best credit cards for beginners with no credit history yet.
And, the Best Credit Cards for Beginners Are
Here are the Credit.com editorial team’s picks for the best credit cards for beginners in 2019.
- The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards gives beginners card rewards with 1% cash back every month.
- Save on interest with the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers a 0% APR for the first 15 months.
- The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® features no yearly fee and is especially for consumers who have poor credit.
- Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is designed especially for students, and the cash- back rate goes up to 1.25% if you make your monthly payments on time.
Like any of the cards featured here, this card helps you build credit when you use it responsibly. And no annual fee and a standard APR help make that easier.
Card Details +
The annual fee for the Credit OneBank Platinum Visa with Cash Back Rewards can range from . What you pay depends on where your credit stands.
Despite a potential annual fee, this is one of the few credit cards for people with no or low credit that pays rewards. With it, you can earn 1% cash-back rewards on eligible purchases. Your rewards automatically post to your account every month too.
In time, you can qualify for a higher credit limit with this card. And, it comes with $0 fraud liability, so you don’t have to worry about unauthorized charges.
Like many cards available to people with no or lower credit, this one has a somewhat high ongoing APR of . The takeaway here is to pay as much of your balance off each month as possible, so you don’t end up with a high credit card balance that can come with paying interest.
The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is accessible to those with only fair credit. Depending on your credit score, that might put it out of reach. But, if you do qualify, like with the Credit OneBank Platinum Visa with Cash Back Rewards, you can earn rewards. You get 1.5% cashback on all purchases.
The card does come with a rather high ongoing APR of 26.99% (Variable) and an annual fee of $39 . So, if you get this card, avoid carrying a balance from month to month. Because the last thing you want to do is end up with high credit card debt that hurts your credit score when your goal is to build it up. Use it instead to build your credit by earning rewards on purchases you pay off monthly.
With a secured credit card, you get a credit card in exchange for a security deposit that acts as all or some of your credit limit. And with the Capital One Secured Mastercard you get a $200 credit line with a $49, $99 or $200 security deposit. If you make your payments on time for five months, you can ask for a higher credit line with no added deposit needed.
This card—and other secured cards—are all about building your credit. Use it responsibly and you’re your payments and Capital One reports your good use and payments to all three major credit bureaus.
An added per is that this card charges no annual fee.
But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, this card too has a high ongoing APR of 26.99% (Variable) . So, as with many of the cards covered here, avoid carrying a balance from month to month. Use it instead to build your credit.
Here’s yet one more card that lets you earn rewards. On top of that, it rewards you with extra cash-back rewards when you make your payments on time. Normal cash-back rewards are 1%. Make your payments on time and earn 1.25%.
Like the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, this one has a somewhat steep ongoing APR 26.99% (Variable) . So, get your rewards, but reward your credit by not carrying a balance from month to month if possible. If it’s not possible, keep that balance low.
This card also charges no annual fee.
No Credit vs. Bad Credit
No credit isn’t the same as bad credit. You may have either. If you have no credit, changes are you’re younger or new to using credit. You’ve likely never had a credit card or even a loan. Bad credit is having a history of not using credit wisely. Either can make getting credit—including a credit card—harder.
Some cards are marketed specifically at people with bad credit. Some of those are traditional unsecured credit cards. Other are secured cards, like the Capital One Secured Mastercard, covered above that require a security deposit.
A secured card can be great for building credit because credit limits are low, which makes it hard to overspend and get yourself in trouble.
Even an unsecured credit card for those with bad credit though, probably won’t give cardholders much of a credit limit. And any credit card for someone with bad credit is likely to charge a higher interest rate.
On the flip side are cards for people with no credit history. Many of these cards are also secured cards with limited credit lines and often higher interest rates. One exception is the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card. It has an ongoing APR of just 9.99% Variable APR for Purchases . Even so, carrying a balance form month to month can easily turn no credit history into bad credit, so read on as to why it’s critical to charge carefully.
One More Thing!
Whatever you do, whichever credit card you get, keep your eye on the real prize, which is to build your credit. There are five key things that go into your credit score:
- Payment history makes up 35% of your score
- Debt usage makes up 30%
- Credit age makes up 15%
- Account mix make up 10%
- Credit inquiries make up 10%
Protect your payment history by making payments on your new credit card on time each month.
Keep the amount you charge to a maximum of 30% of your credit limit. For instance, if you get the Capital One Secured Mastercard and have a $200 credit limit, never carry a balance of more than $60 on the card. The ideal debt usage is 10%, which would mean no more than $20.
You already have a credit age issue—that’s where no credit history comes in. The only way to improve credit age is to use credit—loans or credit cards.
Account mix is the mix of types of accounts. You want revolving credit—the kind that comes with credit cards. But, you also want installment loans that are for a set amount with a predictable monthly payment.
Credit inquiries, while not a huge factor are critical. You don’t want to go out and apply for multiple cards. Apply for one that you really want and that you’re confident you’ll get approved for. Why? Because each application puts a hard inquiry on your credit, which can ding your score. The only exception is cards that say they won’t check your credit when you apply. If that’s the case, you’re okay.
Happy card hunting.
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