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Best Credit Cards for Beginners of 2021

At Experian, one of our priorities is consumer credit and finance education. This post may contain links and references to one or more of our partners, but we provide an objective view to help you make the best decisions. For more information, see our Editorial Policy.

If you're looking for your first credit card, you could start by trying to get a credit card that's created for people who are new to credit or rebuilding their credit. These cards often don't come with a lot of benefits, but you can use them to establish and build good credit before applying for a different credit card later. Here are four of the best options from our partners.

4 Partner Offers

Our Picks for the Best Credit Cards for Beginners
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

No annual fee

Refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line; terms apply

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

No annual fee
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

$39 annual fee

1.5% cash back on all purchases

The OpenSky<sup>®</sup> Secured Visa<sup>®</sup> Credit Card

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

$35 annual fee

$200 minimum security deposit

Best Secured Card With a Low Deposit Amount: Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Secured credit cards require you to send the card issuer a refundable security deposit when you open your account. Your security deposit will typically determine your credit limit, and there's often a $200 minimum deposit.

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is different from many secured cards because you might qualify for a $200 credit limit with a security deposit starting at $49.

If you want a higher credit limit, you'll need to send a larger security deposit before opening your account. However, Capital One automatically reviews your account and might raise your credit limit after you make six on-time payments. It can also decide to refund your security deposit as a statement credit based on your responsible use.

In addition to potentially saving money on the security deposit, you won't pay foreign transaction fees or an annual fee for the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card. But it also doesn't offer any rewards.

Read full review

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Apply

on Capital One's website

Poor, New to Credit, Rebuilding

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

APR

26.99% (Variable)

Intro APR

N/A

Rewards

None

Annual Fee

$0

Card Details
  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Building your credit? Using the Capital One Platinum Secured card responsibly could help
  • Put down a refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line
  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Monitor your credit with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone and checking your credit does not hurt your credit score

Best No-Frills Unsecured Card for Fair Credit: Capital One Platinum Credit Card

If you'd prefer to start with an unsecured credit card, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card could be a good option. You don't need a security deposit to open your account, and there's no annual fee or foreign transaction fee.

Capital One may approve an initial low credit limit, but you could be eligible for a limit increase in as soon as six months if you've been making your payments on time.

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card doesn't offer any rewards, which may be a downside. But that might not be a big drawback if it's your first credit card and you only plan on using it for emergencies or to build credit.

Read full review

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Apply

on Capital One's website

Fair, New to Credit

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

APR

26.99% (Variable)

Intro APR

N/A

Rewards

None

Annual Fee

$0

Card Details
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this

Best Unsecured Cash Back Card for Fair Credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

For new cardholders who plan on using their first credit card for everyday purchases, a rewards credit card could save you money. The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase. It's also an unsecured credit card and doesn't have a foreign transaction fee.

The flat-rate rewards can be easier to manage than a rewards card that offers different rewards rates depending on where you use your card. However, as with other rewards cards, the high variable interest rate can make carrying a balance expensive.

While you'll earn cash back on purchases, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card does have a $39 annual fee.

Read full review

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply

on Capital One's website

Fair, New to Credit

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

APR

26.99% (Variable)

Intro APR

N/A

Rewards

1.5% cash back on All Purchases

Annual Fee

$39

Card Details
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

Best Secured Credit Card That Doesn't Require a Credit Check: The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card stands out from other cards because it doesn't require a credit check. It can be a good option for someone who is having trouble getting approved for a card due to their lack of credit history. It's also popular among people who have bad credit and are rebuilding.

Additionally, you don't need to have a bank account to get the card—a requirement with many secured credit cards. You can send the refundable security deposit (there's a $200 minimum) by mailing a check or money order, or using a Western Union wire transfer. Once you open an account, your credit card account and payments will be reported to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax).

The primary downsides are the $35 annual fee, lack of rewards and 3% foreign transaction fee. If you don't mind the credit check and have a bank account, a different secured or unsecured card may be a better pick.

Read full review

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Apply

on Capital Bank N.A.'s website

Poor, New to Credit, Rebuilding

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

APR

17.39% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

Rewards

None

Annual Fee

$35

Card Details
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable*** deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page (search "OpenSky Card" in Facebook).
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way
  • ***View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card

Rates and Fees

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?

You have to be at least 18 years old to open a credit card on your own. If you're younger, a parent or other relative may offer to add you as an authorized user on one of their cards. Being an authorized user might help your credit, but the account won't be in your name.

If you're under 21 years old—even if you're a full-time student—the federal Credit CARD Act requires you to have enough independent income or assets to afford the card's minimum payment. (You'll provide your income on the credit card application.) You'll also need enough income or assets to support a higher minimum payment if you want a credit limit increase.

The independent income could be from a part- or full-time job or a regular allowance that a relative sends. However, unless someone cosigns your credit card application (which often isn't an option), you can't include their income.

Once you're 21 or older, you can include another person's income on your application if you have a reasonable expectation that you can access the funds. A common example is a stay-at-home spouse who uses their working partner's income to qualify for a credit card.

What to Know Before Applying for Your First Credit Card

You may want to learn the basics about how credit cards work before applying for your first card. While credit cards can be helpful tools, some people end up carrying a high-interest balance after opening their first card and overspending. Ideally, you should use the card similar to a debit card and only make purchases that you can afford to pay off in full when the bill arrives each month.

If you've taken out a loan before—including student loans—or previously opened a credit card, you might already have a credit report. You can try to check your Experian credit report and a FICO® Score based on the report for free.

If you have good credit, you may qualify for cards that offer more benefits or don't require a security deposit. But if this credit card is your first credit account, you likely won't be scoreable, and you may want to start with one of the credit cards for beginners. In either case, review the card's fees and benefits before applying.

It generally takes about 30 to 60 days for your new credit card to appear in your credit reports. And, it may take up to six months before your account makes you eligible for a FICO® Score. The credit card can continue to affect your credit scores for years to come—even if you close the account.

Paying at least your minimum monthly payment on time can help you build a positive credit history and avoid late payment fees. Ideally, you can also pay the bill in full each month to avoid interest. Only using a small portion of your credit limit can make this easier. And, it will lead to a low credit utilization rate, which can also help your credit scores.

Keep Building Good Credit

Once you've established your first credit card account, look for ways to continue building a good credit history. An excellent score can make it easier to qualify for credit cards and loans with favorable terms. It could even save you thousands of dollars on auto loans and mortgages.

In addition to opening new credit accounts, you could use Experian Boost —a free and easy way to build credit. After signing up, you can connect your online bank accounts and add utility, telecom and popular streaming service payments to your Experian credit report. Your on-time payments can help boost your credit without you having to take on any new payments or debts.