Maybe you just recently became an adult and are looking to get your first credit card? Or maybe you’ve been an adult for many years but just haven’t used them? If either of these describe you, here’s what you need to know to get a good beginners credit card for yourself!
Where Do You Begin?
First of all, just start out by answering this one question… are you a college student or not?
If you are a student, then the next section is for you. If you are not a student, skip ahead to part two.
Part 1: Beginner options for college students…
If you’re a college student, one of the advantages (or disadvantages depending on how you look at it) is that there are plenty of beginner cards specifically tailored to you. They are a good first credit card since they are made for people with little to no credit history.
Of course all of us have heard horror stories about college students raking up credit card debt. However the truth of the matter is that as long as you spend within your means and pay your bill in full every month and on-time, there won’t be any interest charges or late fees to pay.
On the other hand, if you are the type of person that has no self control and can see yourself spending frivolously with a credit card, then it would be best to avoid them altogether.
Are there benefits and rewards?
Surprisingly, you can get a pretty sweet beginners credit card as a college student. In fact, if you waited until after college to get your first card, you probably wouldn’t be eligible for a regular card with comparable rewards.
For example, both the student and regular version of the Discover More card has 5% cash back. However to qualify for the regular (non-student) version, you would need to first have a great credit history built up (typically a 700+ credit score). Meanwhile the student version is geared towards first-timers in college.
Check out our sponsored section of the top student credit card offers to learn more.
Part 2: For everyone else…
Being a newbie to credit isn’t all that bad. Why? Because card issuers are much more lenient to those that are new to credit, compared to how they treat those with a blemished credit history.
Which cards are you most likely to get approved for?
If you’re brand new or relatively new to using credit, you won’t quite be eligible for some of the mid to upper tier credit cards. For example, the Chase Sapphire and American Express Gold Card you see advertised on TV? Not gonna happen!
However, there are some that you do have a good shot at getting…
- Good entry-level Visa/MasterCards – I recommend you try one of these
- Dept store and retailer cards – Many of these are easy to get approve for. On the downside, they will be of limited use for credit building. To get a good credit score you really should have a couple major bank-issued credit cards.
- Gas station cards – I’m not talking about something like the ExxonMobil MasterCard, but rather the gas-only cards you can get at most stations. Their interest rates will suck and you won’t be able to use them anywhere else. Both drawbacks, but at least they usually have no annual fee.
There are tons of young adults on our forum – some as young as 18 and 19 – that have reported getting approved for these types of credit cards with little to no history. But whether you’re young or old, a strategy I recommend is getting one from each of the above categories (a Visa/MasterCard + store card + gas station card). That way you will have 3 different credit accounts on your report. Granted, 2 of the 3 will be somewhat looked down upon for being retail accounts, but they will still help by bolstering the number of cards you have.
Also it never hurts to check with the bank where your checking or savings account is at. Go in to the branch and ask about their credit cards. Sometimes when applying in-person, the bank employee can help you get approved. However it should be noted that most regional banks offer very bland beginner credit cards… little to no rewards and few benefits. If you’re okay with that, then there’s nothing wrong with going that route.
Here is an entry level card I really like:
If you already have a little credit history (and it’s decent) then this card from Barclays is a smart choice:
Obviously you can get approved for a prepaid card or debit card even with no credit history. Even though they offer the convenience of plastic, they are utterly worthless for building your credit. Not to mention, their benefits and rewards are virtually non-existent. So I wouldn’t recommend using them in lieu of a credit card (but using both are okay).