2017’s Best Credit Building Credit Cards

Q: What are the best cards for building credit for 2017?

fresh start with moneyA: Are you new to credit or trying to rebuild your credit? Whatever the case may be, it’s important to realize this:

When it comes to building credit how you handle your credit card account is much more important than the specific card you carry.

So, before offering recommendations for bad credit credit cards as well as cards designed for those with little or no credit history, here are 5 key tips for managing your account in way that will improve your credit score over time:

Tip #1: Have More Than One Credit Account

Not too long ago, someone posted a question the forum – she had a credit history of 5 years but could still not get approved for a mid-tier credit card. It appears the reason was because she had only been using one card with a low limit during that entire time.

As a long range goal, you want to eventually build up to having several different credit accounts on your file – a few revolving accounts (credit cards) as well as at least one or two installment accounts (loans). This is because your FICO credit score takes into account the types of credit accounts you have as well as the total number. So, if you currently have no credit history you may want to try to get more than one credit card in your first year or so of starting and then try adding several more over time as your score steadily grows (assuming you handle them all responsibly).

Tip #2: Always Pay on Time

Few people realize that a full 35% of your FICO credit score is based on payment history! Credit building cards won’t be helpful if you don’t pay your bill on time. So do yourself a favor and do whatever is necessary to ensure you have that payment in on time each and every month.

To do this you may want to even consider setting up automatic payment using your checking account. But doing that can be risky if you don’t keep close tabs on your current balance (because one month you may have insufficient funds in your checking, so the payment won’t go through). Your credit card due date will be the same each month so it can be helpful to put a reminder in your calendar and even sign up for text reminders online from your issuer. There’s never an excuse to be late with a payment, so don’t be.

Tip #3: Avoid High Credit Utilization

This is one of the most important tips for how to build credit. It also happens to be one of the most common mistakes made!

While it can be convenient to use a credit card to pay for almost everything, not to mention rewarding if you have a cash back or miles credit card, it can cause you to use an excessive percentage of your credit line. Unfortunately, if you use too much of your credit limit, it actually backfires and hurts your FICO score! Why? Because this “credit utilization” is a factor in scoring. Using a high amount of credit = sub-optimal scores! Ideally you should aim to stay below 30% of your limit at all times (on any given card and in total across all your credit lines).

Tip #4: Don’t Carry a Balance

This is another frequent mistake made when using credit cards to build credit. It’s frightening just how many Americans believe that having a balance is better for credit scores.

You do NOT need to keep a balance to build your credit. Now if you do carry a balance (using a small amount of your credit limit) I’m not claiming that will be bad for your credit score, but it’s simply not necessary. Here’s why…

Each month when your cycle closes, the total amount owed is what gets reported – that’s current charges + any balances you are carrying. So carrying a debt will indeed show account activity each month, but simply using your credit card each month for purchases will accomplish the same thing, too. So why keep a balance? Just use your account each month and pay off the purchases in full.

Tip #5: Keep Tabs on Your Credit Report

Don’t forget to regularly keep tabs on your credit report. This is important because even if it looks like it should right now, you never know in the future when something incorrect might appear, either by accident or due to identity theft. Now I’m not saying you have to go pay for one of those monthly credit monitoring services, but you should at least take advantage of the free credit report all Americans are entitled to once per year. Bear in mind this won’t provide your credit score but will show everything in your credit file. You can get a free report each year from each of the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Whew… now that we have all that info out of the way, let’s discuss my recommendations

Credit Building For Bad Credit?

Rebuilding credit is a bit more difficult than building credit for scratch. This is especially true nowadays, after the banks got burned so badly during the Great Recession. Even though the economy has improved since then getting approved for an unsecured credit card can still be challenging. This is why a secured card can be a good alternative – many have guaranteed approval (if you meet their basic residency, age requirements and can put some funds on deposit to secure the credit line) and they look the same on your credit report as an unsecured card would.

Compare secured cards for credit building

Credit Building For Limited or No Credit History?

For college students the easiest ones to get approved for will be student cards. They are typically very accommodating to those with no credit history.

Compare student cards

For all others it will be a little bit trickier to get approved. Often times I see adults that are 25, 30, or older and have never had a credit card. Much to their surprise, when the apply for a basic credit building card they get denied due to insufficient history.

Each person’s financial circumstances are unique, but if you have zero history then I would recommend a good secured card like this. It’s actually better to have no credit history than a bad credit history but it can still be a feeling of alienation when you have no track record. Secured cards can be a great way to build up a solid track record, and since you have skin in the game in the form of a credit deposit the issuer doesn’t really have any risk. That’s why they’re so willing to give people with no a credit history a shot at proving themselves.

If you already have a little credit history (such as a loan) then I would recommend cards for fair credit.

Written or last updated April 2017

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

There is also the Capital One Quicksilver One, that’s a bit easier to get, but has a $39 annual fee. However, you could view it as the greatest “first” credit card ever for two reasons:

1. Instead of viewing it as a rewards card, you can view it as a simple, no annual fee card. That’s because you could easily earn the fee back in rewards, only spending a bit over $200 a month, which is 20% util on a $1000 CL.
2. People report graduation to the no annual fee version quite easy after 6 months or so. So, after some time, your oldest credit line will be a no-hassle, 1.5% global cash back card! Something worth carrying for life!

So, in a way, it’s a secured card with a $39 yearly deposit, which you earn back by utilizing the card.

I’m 22 with little credit history (2 4-year-old, low balance student loan accounts, 100% on time) and low income ($22,000 annually.) They approved me for a $1000 CL, which is over half of my monthly income… pretty generous, I’d say. Better yet, they enrolled me automatically in their “credit steps” program– $500 CLI after 6 months of on-time payments. Couldn’t recommend this company more for a first-timer.

Another card that I got that I don’t see here is the BoA secured card. Not very exciting, but, according to my research, it seems to be the card which graduates into unsecured with the highest frequency. I’ve heard its good to invest with decent accounts early on to improve your account age, and I don’t want that $500 deposit floating in space for eternity!

just a couple months I started to get aggressive on rebuilding my credit. I got the Capital One Secured card and deposited $200. Increased that to $500. After 3 months of paying on time, I applied for the quicksilver card and got a $500 unsecured card. I now have 2 cards reporting to the credit agencies. I have entertainment subs on these cards (which use less than 30% utilization) and autopay them each month. I don’t carry these cards around or use them at all, besides the $15 and $20 dollar subs on them.

James E. Satterthwaite

Sorry guys!!!

Please wipe my first 🙂

Thanks : ^ )

James E. Satterthwaite

Barclay rocks!

Capital One – does not allow conversion from secured to non-secured.

Top Items in building credit:
– length of relationship
– Utilization

Cap1 low limit causes utilization to be high, and without conversion
you are forced to start duration over and take a huge hit to credit.

Not a credit builder!


Liana @ Credit Card Builders

As a financial consultant, I am inclined to somewhat disagree with #3 and #4. You shouldn’t carry a high balance – UNLESS you can make big payments. If you need to use the credit for a quick investment, but can use the ROI to pay the card off again, then by all means do it. Lenders like to see what they call “aggressive payments” if you’re carrying a balance.

Always make more than the minimum payment – and pay it early! You can actually call your lenders and find out when they report to the credit bureaus (it’s usually around your due date). If you pay the account before it reports, the lowest balance will report on your credit, which can help raise your scores.

Lenders like to see you using the credit they give you – but using it responsibly. Gone are the days of make a purchase and then make the minimum payments to show longevity. Now it’s all about fast turnaround – they want to make sure they’re going to get paid. Make a big purchase, make big payments. Do that a couple times, and you’ll see your limits skyrocket.

My credit has been bad for a long time. I’m not writing to blame anyone or make excuses. It seems that everytime I re-build my credit I default on the payments and it’s not to afford myself any luxuries, but to make ends meet. Medical bills and trying to repay debts from divorce have always seem to keep me on this credit roller coaster, and I’ve learned that once you have done your best that’s all that you can do. Once you have made bills you should do your very best to repay them as agreed. But sometimes due to unforeseen problems , your best may not be enough. But try anyway. Leave everything else you’re not able to do to one who knows all and understand all -GOD the Heavenly Father.

I am 42 and have dealt with crook …err credit cards in the past, they are very unforgiving and it is nearly impossible to rebuild. My 2 cents would be skip it if possible and you will find that life is much more stress free. Besides this, how many of us out here actually make anything over bills of living?

Think the banks that got us into that recession need to rethink they’re practices before they put themselves under again.

Have a nice day :o)

Hi. I applied for a CC with Barclayard and recieved that I was denied. I just want to share that how am I to build my credit when my credit was ruined from a nasty divorce of 18 years. I had a Capital One with a max of $1000. and noone is able to tell me when my account closed. I found out that my acct closed when I requested a new card because it was expired. I recieved no email, no mail and no phone call about this. I had this card since 2006 and was on time with my monthly payments nor missed a payment. I have also never owned another credit card in my life. Only a debit card. If you have any suggestions or recommendations, please let me know. Kind Regards, Traci Pearson

I didn’t have credit cards until I was past 30 just out of fear of them, not realizing how it prevented me from having a good credit score. So, I started building my horrendous credit with credit cards from First Premiere ($300) and Credit One Bank ($300). I also got one from Capital One ($200). Barclays, though, denied me as well.

I also got approved for $800 from FingerHut/WebBank which also reports to all three agencies.

It’s a start. Never missed a missed a payment, keep a low utilization of available credit, and never miss a payment. And, I repeat, never miss a payment. My score has steadily been going up.

And I use CreditKarma’s app to track my score. It’s free. As well as Credit Sesame.

Hope this helps.

hi i dont have enough credit and i keep getting denied for credit cards…how can i get approved for a card to build my credit?

I work at a car dealership and need a small amount of money to get my transportation situation taken care of. I have paid off a loan before so just trying to continue building my credit.

I have very bad credit but have 2 jobs. I want a credit card with low interest and possibly no annual fee. Not a prepaid or deposit card. what would be best for me?

Because you have bad credit you will not get approve for what you are asking for. You might get lucky if you
Get approved at all. You should apply for a secured credit card, which you supply the money that makes up your credit limit. After six months to a year you can apply for a unsecured credit card. After good payment history.

I am a student I have poor credit but I have a nice paying job. what card would be right for me.

Try 1st financial bank its a really good bank low interest rates an overall great customer service

If your business is new, or if you haven’t yet established business credit, obtaining tradelines is a great way to begin building your business credit report.

I have no credit, but wish to establish credit, so I have a card in case of emergencies. I am retired, do substitute teaching–and have a good teaching retirement pension as well. I would like to have some help in deciding how to pick and choose the best way to go.

You want the capital one secured credit card! as long as you pay your balance every month, and spend under 25% of your credit limit, you will build credit quickly! Keep in mind, the security deposit is fully refundable when you close out your account, so long as you have no balance on your account when you close!