Fortunately for those who don’t have a credit score, the three-digit number is no longer the end-all, be-all of credit approval it once was.
Recently, more banks have been issuing credit cards to those who don’t have a Wall Street Journal have confirmed that lenders look beyond credit scores when making credit decisions., as long as they can demonstrate their financial health in other ways — providing checking and savings account details, for example. The shift occurred without official acknowledgement from banks, but several recent reports in the
So, even if you don’t have a credit score, it’s now easier to avoid the Catch-22 of needing credit to build credit. And if you don’t have alternative financial information to provide, there are credit cards specifically tailored for those new to the world of credit, or for those who may have gotten off to a bad start in their credit journey.
Below, we’ve rounded up the best cards for anyone without a credit score or positive credit history. And further down, see our frequently asked questions and tips on getting a credit card if you’ve had trouble in the past.
Best overall card for those with no credit
Introductory APR: 12 months of 0% APR on purchases
Standard APR: 14.99% – 23.74%
Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
Welcome bonus: $100 after spending $500 on purchases in first 6 months
Late payment fee: Up to $40
Standout feature: Lower your interest rate by 2% each year, down to 12.99% variable APR; Automatic review for a higher credit limit when you pay on time and spend $500 in first 6 months
The Chase Slate Edge credit card is specifically designed for those who want to improve their credit score. Slate Edge cardholders will be automatically reviewed for a higher credit limit when you pay on time and spend at least $500 in the first 6 months of card ownership.
Since one portion of your credit score is determined by your credit utilization rate — how much credit you have available to you versus how much you owe — a higher limit means it’s easier to maintain a low utilization rate. For example, if you have a balance of $100 and a $500 credit limit, you’re using 20% of your available credit. But if your limit is $1,000 you’re only using 10% of your available credit, which lowers your utilization rate and can boost your score. (Most experts agree that you should aim to use less than 30% of your available credit at any given time — we recommend paying off your bill in full twice a month to keep your utilization rate at 0%).
New users also get 12 months of 0% APR, which can offer a nice runway into the world of credit use since you won’t have to deal with interest for your first year (as long as you make minimum payments each month you have a balance). Just make sure this runway doesn’t allow you to form bad habits.
Finally, since the card is specifically tailored for those looking to build or rebuild their credit, the eligibility requirements should be less stringent than other cards. We’d recommend going into a Chase branch and speaking with a representative before applying, if you’re not sure you’ll be approved.
Best credit card for students with no credit
Introductory APR: Six months of 0% APR on purchases
Standard APR: 12.99% – 21.99%
Penalty APR: None
Rewards: 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants; 1% cash back on all other purchases
Late payment fee: Up to $40 (no fee for first late payment)
Standout feature: No penalty APR or late fee for first late payment
The Discover it® Student Chrome offers a winning combination of cash-back and other rewards opportunities, as well as lenient terms for first-time credit card holders. You won’t get dinged by the credit card company for your first late payment or have to deal with an exorbitant penalty APR. Plus, you can earn 1% to 2% back in rewards each month. Discover does offer another similar student credit card, the Discover It® Student Cash Back credit card, but the rotating bonus categories for earning rewards can make things overcomplicated, especially for first-time cardholders.
For our full review of the Discover it® Student Chrome, check out our coverage of the best student credit cards.
Best credit card for students with no credit (runner up)
Introductory APR: None
Standard APR: 18.74% variable APR
Penalty APR: None
Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases
Late payment fee: Up to $25
Standout feature: Specifically for international students and students without any or who have limited credit history. Includes nice perks designed for students (Prime Student, Priority Pass Membership, cell phone protection)
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students positions itself as an alternative to traditional banks and credit card issuers, and specializes in credit cards for students and first-timers.
The Deserve EDU student credit card checks most of the important boxes — it offers 1% back on all spending, features a relatively low late-payment fee and comes with a flat 18.74% APR (which will vary depending on the prime rate). While it offers a lower student rewards rate than other cards, its relaxed eligibility requirements are well-suited for students with a brief or nonexistent credit history or other potentially disqualifying limitation — like not having a Social Security number, if you’re an international student.
For our full review of the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students, check out our write-up of best student credit cards.
Best secured credit card for those with no credit
Introductory APR: None
Standard APR: 26.99 variable APR
Penalty APR: None
Late payment fee: Up to $40
Standout feature: Refundable deposit and automatic credit line reviews every 6 months
Secured credit cards work differently than other credit cards. They require an upfront security deposit and your “credit limit” is often equal to the amount you deposit. They work almost like a prepaid card — you’re essentially borrowing against yourself and paying yourself back when you make your monthly payment. The difference is, you establish credit as you pay yourself back. It’s an arrangement that’s especially useful as a credit builder account for someone who needs to show they can reliably pay a bill each month.
The Secured Mastercard® from Capital One may give you up to $200 in credit when you deposit between $49 and $99 — making it one of the few secured cards to offer actual credit. (Your particular terms depend on your specific application.) And this card checks all of the boxes: $0 annual fee, modest minimum security deposit of $49 — and the opportunity to get your minimum deposit back after you promptly pay your statement for six months. Also nice: Capital One will preapprove you with a soft credit check, providing a risk-free peek at eligibility before you submit an official application to the credit card company.
For our full review of the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One, check out our write-up of the best secured cards.
Best credit cards for no credit, compared
|Best overall card for those with no credit||Best credit card for students with no credit||Best credit card for students with no credit (runner-up)||Best secured credit card for those with no credit|
|Card name||Chase Slate Edge||Discover it® Student Chrome||Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students||Secured Mastercard® from Capital One|
|Intro APR||12 months of 0% APR on purchases||6 months of 0% APR on purchases||None||None|
|Standard APR||14.99% – 23.74%||16 months of 0% APR on purchases||18.74% variable APR||26.99% variable APR|
|Penalty APR||Up to 29.99%||None||None||None|
|Welcome bonus||$100 after spending $500 on purchases in first 6 months||None||None||None|
|Rewards||None||2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants; 1% cash back on all other purchases||1% cash back on all purchases||None|
|Late payment fee||Up to $40||No penalty APR or late fee for first late payment||Up to $25||Up to $40|
What are my best options for building credit if I don’t have a credit score or history?
The best option is to apply for a card that offers “alternative approval criteria.” Alternative criteria includes things like your checking and savings account histories, a sign of regular income and evidence of paying bills on time. This avenue is easiest if you already have a relationship with the bank, so start with the bank where you have a checking account.
Another option is to “co-sign” for a credit card. Co-signing allows two people to be on one credit card account, and both people are on the hook in terms of credit reputation. It’s up to both parties to ensure payments are made on time and balances are paid off, otherwise both could be subject to credit dings. The upside is both parties can improve their credit score, too.
It’s also possible to be added as an authorized user on another established credit user’s account, but you’ll have less capabilities than if you were to co-sign.
If you don’t have strong alternative approval criteria or a friend who’s willing to co-sign or add you as an authorized user, consider a student or a secured credit card.
What do I do if I don’t have a checking account?
In most cases, you’ll need a checking account and evidence of regular income to be eligible for a credit card. If you don’t have one, check out our article on best checking accounts to find the account that best suits your needs.
What’s the fastest way to build credit?
While most of the credit-building process requires time, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re improving your credit score number as quickly as possible.
- First, pay all of your bills on time. This will boost the on-time payment calculation in your credit score.
- Second, work to keep your credit utilization as low as possible. Do that by paying off your entire balance at least once a month, and twice per month if you can. It will also help to have a higher credit limit, so look for cards that offer credit increases periodically — or call your bank every 5 to 6 months if they don’t, and ask for a credit limit increase.
- Finally, don’t open too many new credit accounts all at once, even if you’re trying to improve your credit mix. Lenders can get skittish if you’ve recently applied for multiple credit accounts, as it shows you could be a riskier borrower.
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