Credit cards provide the opportunity to build credit and earn rewards. Unfortunately, many of the best credit cards require you to have a good credit score to qualify for them. For those who haven't borrowed money before, securing a card with no credit can be a challenge.
The good news is there are a number of credit card offers out there that are available even to people with low credit scores or no credit at all. Here are five great options to consider so you can compare credit cards and find the best one for you.
The best credit cards for no credit for November 2020
- Best for students: Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
- Best for international students: Deserve EDU Mastercard
- Best for no fees and high credit limit: Petal Cash Back Visa Card
- Best for a low security deposit: Secured MasterCard® from Capital One
- Best for frequent travelers: SKYPASS Visa Secured Card
The best credit cards for no credit for November 2020
|Card name||Best for||Why it’s special|
|Journey Student Rewards from Capital One||Students who want to earn rewards and build credit||
|Deserve EDU Mastercard||International students who don't have a Social Security number||
|Petal Cash Back Visa Card||Borrowers in solid financial shape who are looking to avoid fees and secure a high credit limit||
|Capital One Secured MasterCard||Borrowers looking for a secured card with a low security deposit requirement||
|SKYPASS Visa Secured Card||Frequent travelers looking for a secured card that offers rewards||
Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One: Best for students
When looking for the best credit cards for students, the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One should be at the top of your list. Not only does the card offer a rewards rate of up to 1.25% cash back on all purchases, but it also provides a wealth of tools to help you build your credit profile.
Here are some of the best benefits of the Journey Student Rewards card:
- Bonus rewards for on-time payments, with 1% cash back on all purchases and 1.25% cash back each month you make an on-time monthly payment
- Access to CreditWise from Capital One, which provides free access to your credit score as well as information on how to improve credit score numbers over time
- An automatic credit line review, so you're considered for a higher credit line after just six months
- Eno, a virtual assistant that keeps you up to date on your balance and recent transactions, and that allows you to pay by text
These features help you keep tabs on your credit utilization, which is a key component of your credit score. They also allow you to learn more about credit score ranges and methods of building a solid credit history.
This cash rewards credit card also has a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, so it's an affordable option for college students as well as one that offers ample opportunity to build your creditworthiness.
Deserve EDU Mastercard: Best for international students
International students with no Social Security number have very limited options for securing credit, but the Deserve EDU Mastercard is one of them. The great news is, this card isn't just a good choice because it doesn't require a Social Security number; it also offers great features.
Some of the perks of the Deserve EDU Mastercard include:
- A free Amazon Prime Student membership for 12 months after you make your first purchase
- 1% cash back on all purchases
- Cell phone insurance, which provides up to $600 in coverage if you pay your cell phone bill with your card and your phone is stolen or damaged
- A collision damage waiver, so you can decline this type of insurance and save some money when you rent a vehicle
You get all this for a $0 annual fee, and there are no fees for international transactions either. Plus, there are other perks, including a statement credit if you sign up for a Mint Mobile Wireless plan or pay for three months of renters or homeowners insurance purchased from Lemonade using your card.
Petal Cash Back Visa Card: Best for no fees and high credit limit
If you're generally in good financial shape but simply don't have a strong credit history, the Petal Cash Back Visa Card could be perfect for you. The Petal Visa Card is issued by WebBank, Member FDIC, and has no fees at all.
If you have a credit score, Petal will do a credit check. But if you don’t have a credit history, don’t worry — Petal has technology that will analyze your banking history to see how much money you make and how responsible you've been with paying bills. It then uses that data to approve you for a card with a credit limit between $500 and $10,000 (this is well above what many student and secured cards offer).
The Petal Cash Back Visa Card also has other perks, including:
- Absolutely no fees: There's no annual fee, no late fee, and no security deposit required to open the account
- Unlimited 1% cash back on purchases; after 6 on-time payments, earn 1.25% cash back; after 12 on-time payments, earn 1.5% cash back
- Select merchant offers that enable you to score up to 10% back
- Reporting to all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) so you can build credit
- A budget and credit score tracking mobile app, available for both iOS and Android
Capital One Secured MasterCard: Best for a low security deposit
The student cards and the Petal Cash Back Visa Card are available only to a limited number of people — students or those who have a strong banking history. But secured credit cards are available to virtually any borrower. The big difference between secured vs. unsecured debt is lenders take no risks with secured cards because you have to put down collateral in the form of a cash security deposit. That means they’re willing to give you one even if you have no credit.
The Secured MasterCard from Capital One is unique among secured cards because most require you to put down a refundable deposit equal to your credit limit. If you want a $200 credit limit, you need to put down a $200 deposit. But you may not have to do that with this card. The Secured MasterCard from Capital One provides a $200 credit limit, but some borrowers are allowed to put down deposits of only $49 or $99 instead of the full $200.
The Secured MasterCard from Capital One also offers other perks, including:
- Automatic credit line reviews so you'll be considered for a higher credit limit after just six months
- The ability to pick your payment due date so you have more flexibility to fit it into your monthly budget
- $0 annual fee
SKYPASS Visa Secured Card: Best for frequent travelers
The SKYPASS Visa Secured Card is another secured card, which means it should be very easy to qualify for even without credit. However, unlike the other cards on this list, it does charge a $50 annual fee. It comes with perks and rewards that may offset that, but you need to make sure paying the fee is worth the benefits you get.
Some of the perks of the SKYPASS Visa Secured card include:
- Credit limits between $300 and $5,000, depending on how much you deposit
- 5,000 bonus miles after your first purchase on the card and 1,000 SKYPASS bonus miles when you renew your card each year
- Earn 1X miles on all eligible purchases. Miles can be redeemed with Korean Air and with SkyTeam Partners including Delta, AirFrance, KLM, AirEuropa, and more.
- Travel accident insurance totaling $250,000
- Credits toward Morning Calm Club membership, which is a Korean Air loyalty program that entitles you to upgrades, including an additional allowance for checked baggage and priority baggage handling on Korean air, as well as airline lounge access
- Auto rental collision damage waiver, which saves you on car rentals because this insurance could cost as much as $30 per day.
If you'll use the travel insurance or rental car insurance, or can make use of your miles by flying on any of the participating airlines, paying the fee for this secured Visa card may be worth it — especially as few secured cards offer rewards at all.
How we chose these cards
In selecting these cards, we considered who would be most likely to need a card they can qualify for without credit, including students, those without Social Security numbers, and individuals who may have either a limited credit history or bad credit history.
We looked for cards that would be easy for these individuals to qualify for, and that also offered other special features such as a rewards program or cardholder perks such as cell phone insurance or auto rental insurance.
The goal was to find cards that provide the best overall value in terms of cardholder benefits and either low or no fees, or fees justified by the features the card provides.
How to get your first credit card
If you're applying for a credit card for the first time, you can expect the process to take place entirely online (unless you'd prefer to mail in an application). Typically, you will need to provide some basic information when you submit your application for a card.
Some of the information you may be asked to provide when sending in your credit card application includes:
- Your name
- A U.S. mailing address
- Your Social Security number
- Your driver's license number or other approved form identification
- Bank account details (checking account and/or savings account)
Once you've submitted your application, you may get an instant decision, or it may take a few days for the credit card issuer to review your documentation. If you are declined, the credit card company will typically provide you an explanation of the decision by mail.
What is the difference between an unsecured and a secured credit card?
On this list, you'll notice that some of the credit cards are secured and others aren't. If you apply for one of the secured cards, you'll need to put down a refundable security deposit equal to the line of credit given to you (unless you choose the Capital One Secured MasterCard and qualify to make a smaller deposit).
Your deposit is held in escrow by the credit card company, and you'll use the card just like any other by charging on it and paying off your purchases each month. However, the deposit protects the lender because that money is there for them to seize if you fail to pay your bill.
If you pay as promised, eventually you will get back the deposit you made, either when you close the account or if you qualify to have your card converted to an unsecured one after you've demonstrated responsible use of your credit line.
Unsecured cards don't require any type of deposit, which means they present a greater risk for lenders who would have to take legal action to collect from you if you don't pay as promised. Because of the added risk associated with nonpayment, unsecured cards can be harder to qualify for than secured ones. That said, there are some unsecured credit cards for bad credit.
How a credit card can help you improve your credit score
Obtaining either a secured or an unsecured credit card can be very helpful in building credit. Responsible use of a credit card can raise your credit score, especially if you have no credit history at all.
There are several different ways using your credit card can help you improve your credit score, including:
- Develop a positive payment history. This is the most important determining factor in your credit score, as lenders want to see you've been responsible with paying your debt. If you pay your bill on time each month, this will be reported to the three major credit reporting agencies that prepare your credit report. The data on your payment history will then be used (along with other criteria) to assign you a credit score. Unfortunately, if you make late payments, that will also be reported and will hurt your score.
- Keep your credit card balance low. Credit utilization is the second most important factor that determines your credit score. It's the amount of credit you use, versus what's available to you. For example, if you have a $1,000 credit line and charge $300 in it, you'd be using 30% of available credit. So 30% would be your utilization ratio. A lower ratio is better, so aim to keep balances to 30% or less of your available credit. And, contrary to popular belief, you can still build credit even if you pay off your card in full each month.
- Keep your old credit cards open. The length of your credit history is an important factor in your score, and older accounts help you to improve your score by showing a longer track record of good borrowing behavior. So once you open your first card, don't close it if you don't have to.
- Avoid applying for too many cards at once. Each time you apply for credit, you get a hard inquiry on your credit report that stays there for up to two years. Fewer inquiries are better in the eyes of the credit bureaus, so you don't want to apply for lots of cards all at once.
If you can't qualify for a card on your own, see whether a trusted family member with good credit would be willing to name you as an authorized user on one of their cards. Their account would then show up on your credit report and could help you build credit. You'd also have the authority to use the account, but no legal responsibility to pay it back, so it would be especially important to behave responsibly out of respect for the person who is trusting you.
There are many great credit cards available for people without a strong credit history. Because opening up a credit card can help you to build credit, you might consider your options and apply for one if you don't have any debt already and are eager to earn a good credit score. Then, use your card to make purchases and pay them back in full each month. This way the potentially high interest rate on the credit card won’t cost you a penny, and you can build up a payment history to show lenders how reliable you are.