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If your credit score is below 580, or you don’t have any credit, you may find that you’re fairly limited as to what credit cards you’ll be able to get. There are some options out there but it’s more than likely a secured credit card will be your best—if not only—option to begin building or repairing your credit. We’ve compiled the best credit cards for no credit from our partners to help you find the credit card that best suits your circumstances and goals.

In this article

Bankrate’s best credit cards for limited or no credit
Reviews of our 10 favorite cards for limited or no credit
Why you should start building credit
How to start building credit
When you should start building credit
Is no credit worse than bad credit?
How a credit card can help you build credit
Expert takes

Bankrate’s best credit cards for limited or no credit:

Editor’s take: Our 10 favorite credit cards for limited or no credit

Green Dot primor Mastercard Gold Secured Credit Card

Think of this card as a no-credit superhero. It won’t foil your ability to improve your score by tying you down to unnecessary fees or a punishing APR, like other cards of this ilk. Your credit score can soar with responsible use.

Highlights:

  • This card has an ultra-low fixed APR of just 9.99%. A fixed APR means it won’t change, even when the rate on variable APRs does.
  • There’s no minimum credit score required to qualify.
  • This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, a set-up fee or maintenance fees, unlike several other cards aimed at those with little to no credit.

Discover it® Secured

This is Bankrate’s highest rated secured card—and for good reason. This card is one of the only ones designed for those with little to no credit that offers cash-back rewards and at a respectable rate too. The Discover it® Secured earns 2% back on dining and gas up to $1,000 in spending per quarter, and 1% on everything else. Saving money AND building up your credit sounds like a win-win to us.

Highlights:

  • Regular on-time payments (and delinquent ones) will be reported to all three credit bureaus.
  • This card’s credit limit is tied to the amount of the security deposit you put down starting at a $200 up to a maximum credit limit of $2,500.
  • Discover will match dollar-for-dollar all of your rewards at the end of the first year of card ownership.

Capital One Secured Mastercard

The Capital One Secured Mastercard wants to help you achieve solid financial footings. At least, that’s what this piece of plastic implies with its structure. This card lets you pay your initial opening deposit in installments—which could be a real help for anyone on a fixed income. You have 80 days to pay off your opening security deposit, which starts at a minimum of $200.

Highlights:

  • You may be eligible for a higher credit limit after you make five on-time payments in a row.
  • This card comes with Platinum Mastercard benefits, which include travel and auto protections.
  • There’s no annual fee, no set-up fee and no maintenance fee.

First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card

If it’s easy approval you’re seeking, this card doesn’t require a credit check or a minimum credit score to be eligible. If you’re serious about building up your credit profile, the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card reports to all three of the credit reporting agencies so you’ll be rewarded with improved standing with regular on-time payments.

Highlights:

  • The variable 10.24% APR is much lower than that of most secured cards and even lower than many unsecured cards.
  • As long as you put down the equivalent amount of cash, you can get a credit limit ranging from $200 to $2,000.
  • There’s no penalty APR on the card so late payments won’t affect your rate.

The Secured Visa from Merrick Bank

One of the potential frustrations in owning a secured card is that the credit limits can be relatively low compared to their unsecured siblings. However,  The Secured Visa from Merrick Bank bucks the trend and allows those who can put down as much as $3,000 to obtain an equivalent credit limit. Having a higher limit can potentially help improve your score, especially if you keep your spending on the card low to keep your debt-to-available-credit ratio in check.

Highlights:

  • You don’t need to have a bank account to be approved for this card. The initial security deposit can be funded via a money order from the USPS, Western Union or MoneyGram.
  • After the first year, Merrick Bank will review your account to see if you qualify for a credit limit increase without having to deposit additional money.
  • Owners of this card have access to online account management tools.

USAA Secured Card® American Express®

This card can be a real help to anyone in the military who has thin credit. It even allows cadets to apply. For those who qualify, the variable APR range is just 11.65% to 21.65% and the low end rate is far lower than that of many other secured cards. Where this card really shines is in its offer of a 4% APR for up to year for actively deployed members of the U.S. armed forces. USAA also says it will rebate all finance charges accrued for those who serve in a qualified military campaign.

Highlights:

  • Your deposit with this card will be used to open an interest-bearing 2-year CD.
  • This card comes with car insurance protections for qualifying vehicles.
  • Unlike most secured cards, this one comes with extended warranty and price protections.

OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card

The Website for OpenSky’s Secured Visa Credit Card deserves kudos. It’s one of the best-designed and most accessible we’ve seen. On the site, the terms of the card and information about how you can build or improve credit with the card is easy to navigate and written in clear language that anybody should be able to follow.

Highlights:

  • Previous credit history, or lack of won’t be a barrier to obtaining the card. You can qualify by opening making a fully refundable deposit with OpenSky into an FDIC-insured account.
  • Payments will be reported to the three major credit bureaus every month.
  • Late payments won’t affect your APR.

The First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card

When your credit history, or lack of has proven to be a barrier to getting a secured card, the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card will solve that issue for you. There’s no credit check and no minimum credit score requirement.

Highlights:

  • This card report to all three of the credit reporting agencies.
  • If you’re willing to fork over the cash, you can get a credit limit ranging from $200 to $2,000.
  • The annual fee of $29 is lower than that of many other secured cards.

UNITY Visa Secured Credit Card

This is the only secured credit card we’ve seen with a balance transfer offer, a unicorn among secured cards. The UNITY Visa Secured Credit Card has a standard fixed APR of 17.99%, which isn’t bad for a secured card. But, the card also offers a six-month 9.95% APR for balance transfers, a truly unique feature for this type of card.

Highlights:

  • There’s no overlimit fees.
  • The high end of the credit limit range is one of the most generous available on a secured card–$10,000.
  • Although this card has an annual fee, it doesn’t charge account opening or maintenance fees like some of the other cards in this category.

Milestone Gold Mastercard

If you’re wondering if you’ll qualify for an unsecured card, the Milestone Gold Mastercard will let you check to see if you prequalify for one of its six different options without doing a hard credit check. The options you’ll be granted with this card will depend on your creditworthiness and vary greatly. Regardless, if you just can’t stomach the idea of coughing up the cash for a secured card, this could be an option worth considering.

Highlights:

  • This card comes with Mastercard Gold Card benefits which include price protections and extended warranty benefits.
  • Milestone’s Website has numerous credit educational tools including a glossary of terms and links to Federal Trade Commission articles that may be helpful to those seeking to understand credit.
  • The credit limit on this card is $300 so you can’t get yourself into heavy debt with this card.

Why you should start building credit

Your credit score is one of the single most influential factors that will determine your financial standing. If you have no credit history at all, or you’re recovering from a bankruptcy, you should aim to build your credit to help you achieve greater financial success and receive better rates on all of your loans.

When you hear a three-digit number referring to a credit score, that number is likely a FICO score, which stands for the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850. According to Experian, one the three major credit reporting bureaus, 66 percent of Americans have a FICO score of “Good” or better, which means they have a score of 670 or higher. Those with a score of “Very Poor” fall into a score range of 300 to 579. Approximately 16 percent of Americans fall into this range.

Credit card issuers, mortgage lenders, personal loans and auto loans all offer the best rates to those with the highest credit scores. When you get better interest rates, it can save you money.

For example, if you have a credit card and have a balance of $10,000 on it, someone with excellent credit may have an annual percentage rate (APR) of 17%, so over the course of the year, if you leave the balance untouched, that $10,000 will accrue $1,700 in interest. Someone with poor credit on the other hand may only qualify for a card with a higher APR, like 29 percent. That same $10,000 balance over the course of a year with an APR of 29 percent will accrue $2,900 in interest charges—a $1,200 difference just because of a lower credit score.

When it comes to loans that take years to pay off, like student loans and mortgages, the difference between poor credit and good credit can means thousands of dollars over the life of a loan. And, those with poor credit may not even be able to get approved by a lender, making it difficult to make any purchase that you’d like to pay off over time.

How to build credit

For someone who is just starting out, it’s important to know that it takes time build up a strong credit score. A credit card can be a great way to start to build up your credit history if you use it wisely. Even if you’re only eligible for a secured card, if you use the card to make small charges, keep your spending on the card at a minimum and pay your bill on time and in full every month you can begin to improve your score.

One of the factors that can affect your score is your total debt-to-available-credit ratio. In general, it’s best to keep this ratio at 30% or less. If you have a card with a total credit limit of $1,000, aim to spend no more than $300 on the card in a billing cycle. This includes any issuer set-up and maintenance charges that may come with some of the cards designed for those with no credit.

Pay your bills in full and on time every month, keep your debt-to-available-credit ratio low and you’ll eventually get approved for a higher credit limit, which can help improve your score. Maintain good payment behavior and over time your score will continue to improve. Your goal should be to eventually attain excellent credit, so that you qualify for the best rates on all loans.

When you should start building credit

As soon as you open your first bank account, you should consider building your credit profile. It’s possible—and necessary to gain strong financial footing, to build up a credit file even when you don’t have any credit.

If you don’t think you’ll qualify to get a credit card on your own, consider becoming an authorized user on a family member or close friend’s card. Or, have someone co-sign on a card application with you. A secured card may also be a good choice as these cards have far less stringent criteria for approval than unsecured cards.

With regular on-time payments, you can begin to boost your score.

Is no credit worse than bad credit?

Having no credit and having bad credit are two very different things. Someone with no credit is typically someone who is just starting out, either as young adult or new to this country. Having bad credit however, means that you’ve made poor financial chances and are considered risky to lenders. For example, a landlord may look less favorably upon someone who has recently filed for bankruptcy then a recent college grad with no credit who just landed their first job.

In most cases, no credit is somewhat of a clean slate and will likely take you less time to build up a strong credit profile than someone who has to wait until a bankruptcy is discharged or other bad credit issue affecting them.

How a credit card can help you build credit

When you open a line of credit, which is what a credit card is, you create a record with the credit reporting agencies. Just by applying for the card, the issuer will do what’s called a “hard” inquiry, which means it will show up on your credit report with at least one of the three major credit bureaus. Every time you make—or miss, a payment, it will be recorded on your credit report. So, with regular on-time payments to your credit card, you can begin to build a record of responsible payment behavior.

Recap: Expert takes on our top credit cards for limited or no credit

Card Name Bankrate Score Best For
Primor Secured Visa Gold Card 71/100 Low fixed APR
Discover it® Secured 95/100 Cash back
Capital One Secured Mastercard 84/100 Opening deposit options
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card 65/100 No minimum credit score req’d
The Secured Visa from Merrick Bank 72/100 High credit limit potential
USAA Secured Card® American Express® 85/100 Military personnel
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card 68/100 Online library of credit information
First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card 63/100 Low annual fee
UNITY Visa Secured Credit Card 71/100 Balance transfer option
Milestone Gold Mastercard 54/100 Benefits & extras