The Best First Credit Cards

Your first credit card can be an exciting step towards planning a secure financial future. Many credit card companies have specific requirements for first-time applicants, but there are plenty of options out there once you know what to look for.

We reviewed dozens of first credit cards, to identify the best of the best, We looked at features such as the APR, annual fee, application requirements, and whether there were any added bonuses, such as cash back or student deals.

Top Pick
Discover it® Secured Credit Card

This card has it all – cash back, no annual fee, and free access to your credit score – all for first time applicants.

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Our Top Pick is  the Discover It® Secured Credit Card. This credit card stood out as a clear winner, thanks to its wide range of features which are all accessible to those of us with no credit history. This includes no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and a generous cash back offer.

The 5 Top-Rated First Credit Cards

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best OverallDiscover it® Secured4.1
Runner UpCapital One® Secured Mastercard®
3.4
Best First Credit Card for Students Dicover it® Student Cash Back3.3
Best First Credit Card with No Annual FeeCiti® Secured Mastercard3.0
Best First Credit Card with Cash BackCapital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card 4.1

*Ratings are from CreditCards.com at the time of publication and can change

Our Top Pick: Discover it Secured Credit Card®

As our top pick out of all the first credit cards we reviewed, we selected the Discover It® Secured Credit Card. As a secured card, you won’t need any credit history, making this an excellent first credit card choice. It’s an excellent choice to help start building credit, and allows you access to your credit score for free, so you can keep an eye on your progress.

This card also allows you to select a deposit to secure your card, ranging from $200 – $2,500. This becomes your credit limit, and after 8 months you can choose to upgrade to an unsecured card if you qualify.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card Key Features: 

  • No annual fee
  • APR 25.24% (variable)
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, 1% on all other purchases

Our Runner Up Pick: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Runner Up
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

With no credit history required, this is excellent secured credit card is our Runner Up.

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As our runner up pick, we selected the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® Because this is a credit card secured with a deposit, you don’t need any credit history. This means it’s a safer option to apply for than an unsecured card.

You can choose your deposit, ranging from $49 – $200. This will give you access to a credit line of $200. After making 5 monthly payments on time, you can request a higher credit line.

Key Features:

  • No annual fee
  • APR 26.99% (variable)
  • No credit history required

Best First Credit Card for Students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best First Credit Card for Students
Discover it® Student Cash Back

An excellent choice for students, this credit card offers up to 5% cash back.

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As the best first credit card for students, we selected the Discover it® Student Cash Back. This card offers a range of excellent options, including 0 APR on purchases, and a reduced rate of 10.99% on balance transfers, both for 6 months. After this, the regular APR is 15.24% – 24.24% (variable).

You can also earn 5% cash back on a range of places, which rotate each quarter. This includes gas stations, restaurants, Amazon purchases, and more. You’ll also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Key Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Free credit score
  • Good grades rewards

Best First Credit Card with No Annual Fee: Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Best First Credit Card with No Annual Fee
Citi® Secured Mastercard®

As well as no annual fee, this secured card allows you to choose your own payment due dates.

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As our pick for the best first credit card with no annual fee, we selected the Citi® Secured Mastercard®. This secured card has a minimum deposit amount of $200, and this amount determines your credit line.

After 18 months using this card and making monthly payments on time, you can apply for an upgrade to an unsecured card. You can choose your own payment due dates, meaning it’s easy to coordinate with your pay check, and other bills.

Citi® Secured Mastercard® Key Features:

  • APR 24.74% (variable)
  • No annual fee
  • Free access to your FICO credit score

Best First Credit Card with Cash Back: Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best First Credit Card with Cash Back
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

This first credit card offers 1.5% cash back on each and every purchase.

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As the best first credit card with cash back, we selected the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. This card offers an excellent cash back of 1.5% on every single purchase. There’s no limit to how much cash back you can earn. After 5 months of making payments on time, you can request access to a higher credit line.

It’s also covered by fraud liability, as well as providing free access to your credit profile with the CreditWise® app.

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card Key Features:

  • $39 annual fee
  • APR 26.96% (variable)
  • Mobile app friendly

Who Should Apply for a First Credit Card

Top Pick
Discover it® Secured Credit Card

This card has it all – cash back, no annual fee, and free access to your credit score – all for first time applicants.

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If you’re a student, or have just graduated and have secured your first job, now is a great time to think about applying for your first credit card. Equally, if you’ve been working for a while and now feel your budget can expand to include the monthly payments needed for a credit card, you might decide to apply for credit.

Working on establishing your credit rating can certainly help in the future – especially when you’re looking to take out a loan, or apply for a mortgage. A first credit card is the perfect way to start building your credit score.

Important Features to Consider

A first credit card should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting the best first credit card for your needs:

  • Secured or unsecured. Many first credit cards are secured, meaning you’ll need a deposit in order to apply. Others are unsecured, without the need for a deposit. These generally have a lower credit line.
  • Extra features. Some first credit cards come with added extras, such as free access to your credit score, or the ability to select your payment date.
  • Annual fee. If your chosen credit card has an annual fee, make sure you factor that into your budget.
  • APR. The Annual Percentage Rate is the interest you’ll pay on your credit card balance. Some card issuers offer an introductory 0 APR offer for a certain amount of time. Make sure you check the APR with the card issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do first credit cards work?

Some first credit cards are known as secured credit cards. These are designed for those of us with no credit rating, and require the applicant to make a deposit to secure the credit line. Sometimes, this deposit is equal to your credit line. Other first credit cards are unsecured, meaning no deposit is required, but your credit line may be lower.

Many first credit cards don’t have an annual fee, but others do. As a general rule, the credit limit on your first card will be a lot lower than credit cards designed for people with a higher credit rating. But, they often give you the option of applying for an increase to your credit line after a certain number of on-time payments. The APR on these cards can vary, so it’s worth selecting one of our Top 5 which have competitive APR.

How can I build my credit if I have no credit?

First of all, make a plan for which credit card companies to apply to. It’s best to only apply for one card at a time. Select a card which is specifically targeted to users with no credit history, rather than taking a risk on a card which isn’t suitable.

Once you’ve made a successful application, make sure you keep up with your monthly repayments, and don’t put more on the card than you can afford to repay.

What is the best starter credit card?

Select a card to suit your specific needs – and remember that the best first credit card for your friend may not be the best one for you. Every credit card in our Top 5 is an excellent choice for your first credit card. Many of these also offer features to help you manage your credit history – such as free access to your credit score. Others offer the ability to choose your payment date, which is useful if you want to tie repayments into when your pay check comes through.

How do I get my first credit card?

Once you’ve selected two or three credit cards that fit your criteria, you can start applying. If one of these is the same bank as your current account is with, you may be able to make an appointment to speak to an adviser in branch.

It’s best to make only one application at a time. Remember that if you’ve selected a secured credit card, you’ll need to have your deposit funds ready to transfer to the credit card issuer.

Other First Credit Cards We Reviewed

Top Pick
Discover it® Secured Credit Card

This card has it all – cash back, no annual fee, and free access to your credit score – all for first time applicants.

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We looked at 20 other first credit cards. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best first credit cards, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.

First Credit Cards for Students

Citi Rewards+ Student Card

Citi Rewards+ Student Card

This card offers an introductory offer of 0 APR for 7 months, but does require a better credit rating than some student cards.

Key Features:

  • No annual fee
  • APR 16.74% – 26.74% (variable)
  • Earn bonus points for cash rewards

Deserve Edu Mastercard for Students

Deserve Edu Mastercard for Students

Offering 1% cash back on all purchases, and Amazon Prime free for one year, this card is a great choice.

Key Features:

  • No credit history required
  • APR 20.99% (variable)
  • No annual fee

Discover it Student Chrome

Discover it Student Chrome

This card gives 2% cash back on purchases at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 per quarter), and 1% cash back on everything else.

Key Features:

  • No credit history required
  • No annual fee
  • APR 15.24% – 24.24% (variable)

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Unlike some of the other student cards, this requires a credit rating of fair to good.

Key Features:

  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • APR 26.96% (variable)
  • No annual fee

State Farm Student Visa

State Farm Student Visa

This entry-level card is pretty basic, but it doesn’t require a credit history and offers a bonus on State Farm insurance premiums.

Key Features:

  • No annual fee
  • APR 17.24% – 25.24% (variable)
  • No penalty interest for late payments

First Credit Card with No Annual Fee

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

This card offers no annual fee, and includes fraud coverage in case of data or card theft.

Key Features:

  • Higher credit line after 5 monthly payments
  • APR 26.96%
  • Online banking

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited

This card gives you free access to your credit score.

Key Features:

  • 3% cash back on first purchases
  • APR 17.24 % – 25.99% (variable)
  • Does require a higher credit rating than some other first credit cards

Fingerhut Credit Account Issued by WebBank

Fingerhut Credit Account Issues by WebBank

While not a true credit card, this card can be used to purchase a range of items through Fingerhut.

Key Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Variable APR (check with issuer)
  • Instant approval

First Latitude Mastercard Secured Credit Card

First Latitude Mastercard Secured Credit Card

While this card doesn’t offer cash back, it’s an excellent choice if you have no or poor credit score.

Key Features:

  • Deposit from $200 – $2,000 to secure this card
  • APR 26.74% (variable)
  • Fast online application

SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card

SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card

In order to be eligible for this card, you’ll first need to create an account with SDFCU.

Key Features:

  • APR 14.24% (variable)
  • No annual fee
  • No credit check required

First Credit Card with Cash Back

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card offers 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases

Key Features:

  • Request an account review after 5 months
  • APR 26.96% (variable)
  • $39 annual fee

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card offers an introductory bonus of $500 when you spend $500 on purchases within your first 3 months.

Key Features:

  • 3% unlimited cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% cash back on everything else
  • APR 16.24% – 26.24% (variable)
  • No annual fee

Citi Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash Card

This card offers 2% cash back on purchases – 1% when you buy, and 1% when you make your payments.

Key Features:

  • No annual fee
  • APR 15.74% – 24.74% (variable)
  • Free credit score

Credit One Bank Unsecured Visa with Cash Back Rewards

Credit One Bank Unsecured Visa with Cash Back Rewards

Get 1% cash back on all eligible transactions, including gas, services, and groceries.

Key Features:

  • Fast application
  • Annual fee varies from $0 – $99
  • APR 20.24% – 26.24% (variable)

Credit One Bank Unsecured Visa with Free Credit Score Tracking

Credit One Bank Unsecured Visa with Free Credit Score Tracking

This card offers 1% cash back on all eligible purchases.

Key Features:

  • Free access to your credit score
  • APR 20.24% – 26.24% (variable)
  • Annual fee from $0 – 99

Other First Credit Cards

DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card

DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card

This credit card has a high approval rating, but you’ll need to join the Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) before applying.

Key Features:

  • Soft credit check only (won’t show on file)
  • APR 13.75% (variable)
  • No annual fee

Indigo Platinum Mastercard

Indigo Platinum Mastercard

An application for this card won’t show on your credit history if you request a pre-qualification check.

Key Features:

  • Online banking
  • APR 24.90% (fixed)
  • Fast approval

Milestone Mastercard

Milestone Mastercard

If you have no credit history and are looking fr an unsecured credit card, this one is a great choice.

Key Features:

  • Online banking
  • APR 24.90% (fixed)
  • Pre-qualification application

Surge Mastercard Credit Card

Surge Mastercard Credit Card

In order to apply for this card, you first need a checking account.

Key Features:

  • APR and annual fees on request
  • Fast application process
  • Credit limit of $550

Total Visa Unsecured Credit Card

Total Visa Unsecured Credit Card

Make sure you have a checking account before applying for this card.

Key Features:

  • APR and annual fee on application
  • Fast approval
  • Reports to 3 major credit bureaus

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Emma Stenhouse