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Best Credit Cards for Beginners

If you don't have much experience with credit, look for a credit card you're most likely to be approved for and one that will help you build your credit history responsibly. Before you apply, consider interest rates and fees. Plan to spend only what you can afford to pay off each month, and establish a good track record of making payments on time.

If you're really new to credit, a secured credit card—which requires a deposit that acts as your credit line—may be the best way to start.

    Best Secured Card With Rewards and an Option to Upgrade

    This Card Is Right for You If:

    You want to earn cash back on your spending and hope to transition to an unsecured line of credit. This is hands-down one of the best secured cards on the market: There's no annual fee, and you earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter) and 1% back on all other purchases. Discover will also automatically match all the cash back new cardmembers earn at the end of their first year with the card. After you've had the card for eight months, Discover will review your account to determine whether it will transition you to an unsecured line of credit (and refund your deposit). Note: You must have a bank account to be eligible for this card.

    Best Secured Card With a Low Deposit Amount

    This Card Is Right for You If:

    You're looking for a card that doesn't require a large deposit to activate. The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® offers an initial $200 credit line after you make a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200. After you make your first five monthly payments on time, you can get access to a higher credit line without submitting an additional deposit.

    Best No-Frills Unsecured Card for Fair Credit

    This Card Is Right for You If:

    You want a no-frills card from a major issuer and have little or fair credit history. You won't pay any annual or foreign transaction fees on this card, but you won't earn any rewards either. Keep in mind that the APR is on the higher side, so it's best if you don't carry a balance. You can also get access to a higher credit line once you make your first five monthly payments on time.

    This is also a good card if you're planning to travel abroad. It charges no foreign transaction fees, so you won't incur extra charges anywhere outside the U.S. If your card is lost or stolen, you'll have access to 24-hour travel assistance services to get an emergency replacement card and a cash advance. It also comes with rental car collision and theft insurance, as well as travel accident insurance.

    Best Unsecured Cash Back Card for Fair Credit

    This Card Is Right for You If:

    You want to earn cash back at a flat rate. With the QuicksilverOne® card, you get 1.5% cash back on every purchase, and there are no limits to how much you can earn. You do have to pay an annual fee, but it's only $39. If you spend at least $2,600 on the card in one year, you'll break even. It's also a good card to take abroad, because Capital One does not charge foreign transaction fees.

    Best Student Card for Fair Credit

    This Card Is Right for You If:

    You're a college student who wants to earn cash back rewards. Discover gives you 5% cash back at different places each quarter, such as gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more. You earn 5% back on purchases in those categories up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. You'll also get unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases automatically—and Discover will match all the cash back rewards you earn in your first year (for new cardmembers only). If you're a good student, it gets even better: You'll get a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or above for up to the next five years. And to top it all off, you can take advantage of an introductory 0% APR on purchases for six months.

    Best Secured Credit Card That Doesn't Require a Credit Check

    This Card Is Right for You If:

    You want to get a credit card that doesn't require a credit check. You'll pay a refundable deposit, starting as low as $200, which will serve as your credit limit. OpenSky reports payment history to all three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax), so you can build credit easily if you manage the card responsibly. The card does come with an annual fee, but it's a modest $39.

    Best Retail Perks Card for Fair Credit

    This Card Is Right for You If:

    You're looking for a card with simple terms and strong retail benefits while you build credit. Benefits include car rental insurance, extended warranty coverage, a price protection policy, and up to $600 in coverage if your cell phone is stolen or damaged.

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