The Best Starter Credit Cards

If you’ve never had a credit card before, applying for a starter credit card is an excellent way to open and build your credit history. Whether you’re a student, new to the country, or looking to rebuild trust after a bad experience with credit, there is a starter credit card to meet your needs.

Finding the best starter credit card for your spending needs means reading reviews, studying product features, and diving into the ins and outs of available options and interest rates. With the right starter credit card, you can build your credit history and improve your credit score.

We reviewed dozens of starter credit cards to identify the best of the best, based on CreditCards.com reviews, how easy they were to apply for and use, cost, and other considerations. We narrowed our search down to 5 of the top-rated starter credit cards people can apply for to ensure a healthy and good start to their credit history.

Top Pick
Discover it® Cash Back

Earn cash back on every day spending with no limit to how much you can earn.

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We’ve identified Discover it® Cash Back as the best starter credit card out there. With the ability to earn cash back on daily spending, and with no limit to how much you can earn, this starter credit card is one that will keep your budget and spending on track. These benefits allow you to make important purchases, while building and improving your credit score over time.

The 5 Top-Rated Starter Credit Cards

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best OverallDiscover it Cash Back 4.8
Runner UpChase Freedom4.5
Best for BudgetDiscover it Secured4.1
Best Starter Credit Card with RewardsCapital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card4.6
Best Starter Credit Card with No Annual FeeCapital One Platinum Credit Card 4.5

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

Our Top Pick: Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back took the top spot on our list of the best starter credit cards, and offers valuable cash back on all daily purchases. There is no limit to how much you can earn, and it provides 5% cash back for rotating categories up to $1,500 each quarter after activation. At the end of the first year, Discover will match the cashback earned automatically for even more value. Rewards never expire, can be redeemed at any amount, and can even be used at Amazon.com checkout.

Those who applied for and reviewed this starter credit card appreciated that it offered no foreign transaction fees, and zero fraud liability for added peace of mind. People said the cash back rewards were quite generous, considering the card has a $0 annual fee.

With an annual fee of $0, the price is certainly right, and the quality customer service associated with the brand, as well as the ease of application and use more than justifies opening an account. It has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on CreditCards.com with more than 26,000 people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people to make the application.

Discover it® Cash Back Key Features: 

  • Introductory balance transfer and purchase APR of 0%
  • Variable APR of 14.24-25.24%
  • Mobile pay ready

Our Runner Up Pick: Chase Freedom®

Runner Up
Chase Freedom®

Bonus category spending means rewards quickly add up.

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The Chase Freedom® took the runner-up spot on our list of the best starter credit cards, and offers cardholders the opportunity to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, with new 5% categories each quarter. All other purchases earn cash back at a rate of 1%, with no limit to how much you can earn. There’s also a $150 bonus offer if you spend $500 in the first 3 months after opening the account. The APR varies from 17.24-25.99%, and there’s no annual fee for this starter credit card.

Those who applied for and reviewed this starter credit card appreciated that it came with many free perks such as travel insurance and lost luggage reimbursement, with no cost to use. Some people said the interest rates on this card were a bit high, but there is a 0% introductory offer that can make establishing credit history worthwhile.

With no annual fee, the price is certainly right for this starter credit card, and the quality customer service associated with the brand, as well as the ease of setup and use more than justifies taking the time to make an application. It has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on CreditCards.com with nearly 15,000 people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people to make the application.

Chase Freedom® Key Features: 

  • Introductory balance transfer and purchase APR of 0% for 15 months
  • Zero fraud liability
  • Mobile pay ready

Best Budget Pick: Discover it® Secured

Best for Budget
Discover it® Secured

A secured credit card with cash back benefits and no annual fee.

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The Discover it® Secured is an excellent choice for those looking for a starter credit card that won’t break the bank. It allows new and seasoned credit users alike to establish their credit line by providing a refundable security deposit from $200-$2,500. It has no annual fee, yet still provides the opportunity to earn cash back, and build credit with responsible use. Automatic account reviews begin at 8 months to transition users to an unsecured line of credit and return their deposit.

Those who hold and reviewed this starter credit card appreciated that they could build history with ease, and found customer service to be excellent. People also enjoyed the perks like zero fraud liability, cash back rewards, and free security alerts.

With an annual fee of $0, the quality service associated with the brand, as well as the ease of setup and use make this card an excellent option for those who want a credit card with no annual fee and are starting out on their credit journey. It has a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars on CreditCards.com with nearly 800 people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people to make an application.

Discover it® Secured Key Features: 

  • US-based customer service
  • Automatic cash back matching at the end of the first year
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, with unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases

Best Starter Credit Card with Rewards: Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Starter Credit Card with Rewards
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

A generous rewards program offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase.

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The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card boasts a generous rewards program which offers 1.5% unlimited cash back on every purchase. There is no annual fee with this card, and it offers an introductory balance transfer and purchase APR of 0% for 15 months. Those who travel will appreciate that there are no foreign transaction fees with this card.

Cardholders who applied for and reviewed this starter credit card appreciated that the Capital One app let them easily track and review their spending, while allowing them to build their credit history and score. People said they liked the benefits of the card, and found it easy to shop online or in person.

At a cost of $0 per year, the benefits are hard to beat, and the quality customer service associated with the brand, as well as the generous rewards program more than justifies that price. It has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on CreditCards.com with more than 6,000 people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people to make the application.

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

  • Complimentary concierge service
  • Cash back doesn’t expire for the life of the account
  • Additional warranty protection at no charge

Best Starter Credit Card with No Annual Fee: Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Best Starter Credit Card with No Annual Fee
Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

No balance transfer fee or annual fee, and 24-7 access to your account.

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The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is an excellent starter credit card for those who don’t want the hassle or expense of paying an annual fee. Users have 24-7 access to their account online and by phone. After making the first five monthly payments on time, cardholders can access an increased credit limit to help continue building their credit history and score. Payments can easily be made by check, online, or at a local branch, all with no fee, and on the date that works best for the account holder.

Those who hold and reviewed this starter credit card appreciated that it can be used in a large number of places, and liked the account benefits it offered, including extended warranties, auto rental coverage, and travel accident insurance.

With no annual fee and a 26.96% variable APR, the quality service associated with the brand, as well as the ease of setup and use, this credit card is a great option for nearly anyone looking to start their credit journey. It has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on CreditCards.com with more than 8,500 people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people to make the application.

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card Key Features: 

  • No annual fee
  • Fraud coverage in case of loss or theft
  • No foreign transaction fees

Who Should Use a Starter Credit Card

A starter credit card is an ideal choice for those who have never had a loan or credit card in their name, and are looking to establish credit history. They are also an excellent choice for someone who has had a loan or credit card for less than three years and wants to show that they are responsible in using credit.

Starter credit cards are designed specifically for those with bad or no credit history, and are fairly easy to get. For this reason, starter credit cards are ideal for students and newcomers looking to build credit history.

Finally, a starter credit card is suitable for someone who has misused credit in the past. By applying for and using a starter credit card, they can show banks and lenders that they are able to use credit in a responsible manner, while building and improving their credit history. Plus, it allows them to be able to purchase items they might not otherwise be able to right away. A starter credit card might not offer the best rewards or interest rates, but is a great option for those who are new to credit.

Top Pick
Discover it® Cash Back

Earn cash back on every day spending with no limit to how much you can earn.

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Important Features to Consider

Not all starter credit cards are created equal. A starter credit card should be easy to apply for and offer a decent credit limit. Here’s what to consider when evaluating the options in search of the best starter credit card for your spending needs:

  • Annual fee. The first thing to consider when searching for the best starter credit card is the annual fee. Cards with annual fees tend to have lower APRs, which make borrowing more affordable. Cards with low or no annual fees often carry higher APRs, but as long as you are making payments in full and on time, they can still be a good option if you don’t want the hassle of annual fees. Starter credit cards vary in price from $0-$100 or more annually, although some cards with cash back can easily pay for themselves depending how much you use them.
  • Credit limit. Another important factor when it comes to choosing the starter credit card is how much credit you can actually get. Some cards offer really low starting limits of $100, while others start at $500 and up. Look for a card that suits your spending needs and habits.
  • Card type. Once you’ve decided if you want a card with or without an annual fee, you’ll need to decide if you want a Visa, MasterCard, Discover card, or AmEx. Not all merchants accept all cards, so if there’s somewhere you plan to use your card regularly, check to ensure you can make purchases without hassle.
  • Introductory APR. Some starter credit cards offer an introductory APR (annual purchase rate) that is much lower than the regular APR. If you have a number of upcoming purchases and want to keep the cost of borrowing low, a card with an introductory APR offer might be a good option. There are some cards that also offer a promotional balance transfer APR, which can make transferring a balance from another card to the new card a smart choice, as long as you can make the payments responsibly.
  • Regular APR. A card’s regular APR will determine how much interest you are charged each month. Cards with lower APRs make borrowing more affordable, but they sometimes come with annual fees. Cards with low or no annual fees often carry higher APRs, but as long as you are making payments in full and on time, they can still be a good option.
  • Bonus features. Many starter credit cards include bonus features that make them more appealing to users, such as cash back, travel points, free spending tracking apps, extended warranties, travel insurance, or fraud protection. Review a card’s additional features to see if there are any that would be applicable to your personal situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a starter credit card and how does it work?

A starter credit card is designed specifically for those with bad or no credit history, and is fairly easy to get approval for. For this reason, starter credit cards are ideal for students and newcomers looking to build credit history. They work by giving you a small credit limit with which you can prove your responsibility when it comes to using credit. By making the minimum payments each month (and ideally paying the balance in full) you can show banks and lenders that you are a trustworthy credit user, and in turn gain access to more credit.

What are the easiest credit cards to get approved for?

The easiest credit cards to get approved for are what’s known as secured credit cards. In order to open an account you must provide a security deposit that is often equal to the amount of credit available. This removes the risk to the lender in case you don’t make your payments.

How can I make sure I get approved for a credit card?

You can make sure you get approved for a credit card by always making sure you pay at least your minimum payment on time, using 30% or less of your available credit, and paying down your debts. This will help you to keep your credit score high, which factors into whether or not you’ll be approved for a credit card. Other factors that influence your chances of approval for a credit card include your monthly income, monthly expenses, and any assets you hold.

How do I build credit fast?

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for building your credit fast — it takes time and patience, as well as consistently paying off your balance. The first step to building your credit score is to open a credit account. Once you’ve opened an account and begun using your new credit card, you will need to make regular payments on time. Pay off as much of your balance as you can each month. Keeping your credit utilization low, ideally below 30%, is another best practice. Avoid applying for multiple cards in a short period of time, and be sure to keep your accounts open so you don’t lose any history you’ve built for yourself. It takes at least 6 months to generate a FICO score, which is why it’s important to remember that building credit is a long game and not a short-term goal.

Other Starter Credit Card We Reviewed

Top Pick
Discover it® Cash Back

Earn cash back on every day spending with no limit to how much you can earn.

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

Starter Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

Milestone® Gold Mastercard®

Milestone® Gold Mastercard®

This starter credit card with no annual fee features a quick and easy pre-qualification option that won’t impact your credit score, and the option to choose a custom card design.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 24.90% fixed
  • Free online account access
  • Fraud protection in case of loss or theft

Cost: From $0 annually

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

This starter credit card with no annual fee features a quick and easy pre-qualification option that won’t impact your credit score, and is suitable for those with previous bankruptcy.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 24.90% fixed
  • Free, mobile-friendly online account access
  • Extended warranty program

Cost: From $0 annually

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

This starter credit card with no annual fee offers all the credit building benefits of a regular card, with a minimum security deposit of $49, $99, or $200.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 26.99% variable
  • Balance transfer fee $0
  • Builds credit when used responsibly

Cost: $0 annually

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

This starter credit card with no annual fee boasts monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus, with the ability to check your FICO score for free once it’s available.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 24.74%* variable
  • Minimum security deposit of $200 is required
  • Flexible payment due dates

Cost: $0 annually

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back

This starter credit card with no annual fee offers 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories, with 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.

Key Features: 

  • Automatic cash back matching at the end of the first year
  • Introductory purchase APR of 0% for 6 months
  • Regular APR 15.24-24.24% variable

Cost: $0 annually

Petal Visa® Credit Card

Petal Visa® Credit Card

This starter credit card with no annual fee offers up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time payments, and 1% cash back on all purchases with no waiting period.

Key Features: 

  • Annual APR 15.24-26.24% variable
  • Credit limit from $500-$10,000
  • Easily track spending through companion mobile app

Cost: $0 annually

Starter Credit Cards with Rewards

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

This starter credit card with rewards offers 3% cashback on gas or a choice of one of five other popular categories, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% on everything else.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 16.24-26.24% variable
  • Includes $0 fraud liability
  • Intro APR of 0% for 12 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers

Cost: $0 annually

Suncrest Bank Real Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card

Suncrest Bank Real Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card

This starter credit card with rewards lets users earn 1.5 points for every eligible net $1 spent, with no cap or limit on the amount of points that can be earned.

Key Features: 

  • 2,500 bonus rewards points awarded after first purchase
  • Intro APR of 0% for 6 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Regular APR 16.24-25.24% variable

Cost: $0 annually

First Hawaiian Bank Priority Rewards Mastercard®

First Hawaiian Bank Priority Rewards Mastercard®

This starter credit card with rewards lets users earn 1 CashPoint for every $1 spent in net qualifying purchases, with the ability to redeem points for gift cards, merchandise, and travel rewards.

Key Features: 

  • No reward limit
  • Regular APR 18.00% variable
  • Foreign transaction fee 3%

Cost: $0 annually

U.S. Bank Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured card

U.S. Bank Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured card

This starter credit card with rewards earns users one H-D™ Genuine Rewards point for every $1 in net purchases, with the option to redeem 2,500 points for a $25 H-D™ Gift Card.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 25.24% variable
  • Zero fraud liability protection
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Cost: $0 annually

Credit One Bank® NASCAR® Visa® Credit Card

Credit One Bank® NASCAR® Visa® Credit Card

This starter credit card with rewards lets qualified applicants receive exclusive benefits such as 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, no annual fee, and a competitive APR.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 20.24-26.24% variable
  • Earn double cash back rewards at the NASCAR.com Superstore
  • Free online access to Experian credit score and credit report summary

Cost: $$0-$99 annually

Low APR Starter Credit Cards

ABOC Platinum Rewards Card

ABOC Platinum Rewards Card

This low APR starter credit card offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, with no upper limit on the points you can accumulate.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 15.15-25.15% variable
  • $150 credit after making $1,200 in purchases within first 90 days
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

Cost: $0 annually

First Hawaiian Bank Heritage Mastercard®

First Hawaiian Bank Heritage Mastercard®

This low APR starter credit card is a good choice for those new to or rebuilding their credit history, and offers a low introductory rate to help save on the cost of borrowing.

Key Features: 

  • Introductory APR 2.99% for 8 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Regular APR 18.00% variable
  • Foreign transaction fee 3%

Cost: $0 annually

First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard® Secured Credit Card

First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard® Secured Credit Card

This low APR starter credit card is simple to apply for online, and requires no credit history or minimum credit score for approval.

Key Features: 

  • Annual APR 14.74% variable
  • 24-7 online account access
  • Zero fraud liability

Cost: $39 annually

Starter Credit Cards for Students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

This starter credit card for students offers 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases, with a maximum credit limit of $5,000.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 20.99% variable
  • Free Amazon Prime Student subscription
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cost: $0 annually

Discover it® Student chrome

Discover it® Student chrome

This starter credit card is an excellent choice for students looking to build credit history, and features an introductory cash back matching bonus on all the cash back earned at the end of the first year.

Key Features: 

  • Balance transfers introductory APR 10.99% for 6 months
  • Introductory purchase APR 0% for 6 months
  • Regular APR 15.24-24.24% Variable

Cost: $0 annual fee

State Farm® Student Visa® Credit Card

State Farm® Student Visa® Credit Card

This starter credit card for students lets users earn 1 State Farm Loyalty Rewards® point for every $2 spent on eligible purchases, and includes several student discounts provided by Visa.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 17.49-25.49% variable
  • Earn 3 points for every $1 spent on insurance premium payments
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

Cost: $0 annually

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

This starter credit card for students allows cardholders to earn 1% cash back on all purchases, with a 0.25% bonus for paying the balance on time each month.

Key Features: 

  • Regular APR 26.96% variable
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you

Cost: $0 annually

Banc of California College Real Rewards World Mastercard®

Banc of California College Real Rewards World Mastercard®

This starter credit card for students offers 1.5 points for every eligible net $1 spent, with no cap or limit on the amount of points that can be earned.

Key Features: 

  • 2,500 bonus rewards points awarded after first purchase
  • Introductory APR of 0% for 6 months on purchases
  • Regular APR 16.24-25.24% variable

Cost: $0 annually

Suncrest Bank College Real Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card

Suncrest Bank College Real Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card

This starter credit card for students offers 1.5 points for every eligible net $1 spent, with no cap or limit on the amount of points that can be earned.

Key Features: 

  • 2,500 bonus rewards points awarded after first purchase
  • Introductory APR of 0% for 6 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Regular APR 16.24-25.24% variable

Cost: $0 annually

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