To choose a credit card for the first time, you should first decide what will you use it for. You should also check your credit score and weigh your current financial situation. This is to assess whether you can make monthly payments on time and in full. If you’re planning on carrying a balance, make sure you understand things such as minimum payments and interest rates.
Above all, be realistic in your expectations. Your first credit card will likely have a low credit limit, a high interest rate, and an annual fee. If your most viable option is a secured card, make sure you know the difference between secured and unsecured credit cards.
Here is how to choose a credit card for the first time:
Decide if you need a credit card. If used responsibly, a credit card is a good way to start building credit. Good credit can set you up for future car loans or mortgages, and land you favorable interest rates.
Check your credit score and take a look at your finances. If you don't have a credit score, focus on cards for limited or no credit. Otherwise, narrow your search to cards that accept your level of credit. And make sure you have enough income to pay the credit card bill, preferably for the full amount. Covering just the minimum payment will end up costing you more in the long run, due to interest.
Consider a secured credit card. A secured card is also an option for establishing credit. They tend to be some of the easiest cards to get as you’ll have to put up a security deposit, which will serve as your credit limit. You’ll get a better rate, and fewer fees than with an unsecured card for bad credit.
Plus, with responsible use, you may be eligible for a credit limit increase. You could also transition to an unsecured card with much better terms in time.
Consider a student credit card, if eligible. Student credit cards are generally open to students with limited or no credit history and often have better terms than their general consumer counterparts.
Compare cards and review their terms and conditions carefully. Compare against several cards. Research a card’s interest rate, or APR. Familiarize yourself with the card’s grace period, and how you can avoid all those interest charges. Know your minimum payment and when it’s due. If a card has any fees (such as annual fees), know that those charges will impact your credit limit.
Also, having too many credit cards too soon may be an invitation to overspend and overextend all of your available credit. That will quickly damage the very credit history you’re trying to establish. Make sure you use your credit card responsibly while avoiding mistakes. This way, you'll build the credit you need for the best credit cards on the market.
To get a credit card for the first time, you should first check if you have any credit history, then compare cards and pick the best offer before applying. In order to be eligible to apply for your first credit card, you must be at least 18 years old and have enough income to afford monthly credit card payments. Below, you can learn more about the process of picking, applying for and getting your first credit card, step by step.… read full answer
How to Get a Credit Card for the First Time
See if you have a credit report and score
You could have more credit history than you think, perhaps from being an authorized user on a family member’s credit card. You can check your latest credit score and credit report for free on WalletHub to see. This will help you determine how good of a credit card you should shoot for.
Determine whether student credit cards are an option
College students can usually get better first credit cards than other people with no credit. Their youth and above-average expected income make them attractive to banks and credit unions. If you’re enrolled in school, check out the best student credit cards.
Compare secured and unsecured starter cards
Secured credit cards have the highest approval odds, but they require you to place a refundable security deposit. The amount of that deposit typically becomes your spending limit. Unsecured cards are harder to get but have no deposit.
Limit your search to cards with the lowest fees
Focus on weeding out cards with expensive non-refundable fees. A no annual fee credit card with no security deposit is best. But a low-fee secured card isn’t bad, either. You can get back your deposit when you close your account.
Choose the best remaining offer for your needs
If several credit cards are tied for the lowest fees and highest approval odds, consider the terms that are next most important to you. If you plan to pay your bill in full every month, that will probably be rewards. If not, you may want to focus on interest rates.
Confirm you have enough income
If you’re at least 21 years old, you can list household income and assets that you have reasonable access to on your credit card application. Applicants who are 18-20 years old can only list independent income and assets, but even having a part-time job should provide enough income to get a credit card for the first time.
Submit your credit card application
Apply online for the fastest decision. You may even be approved instantly if you clearly meet the issuer’s criteria. You should receive your card within 7-10 business days of being approved.
Learning how to get a credit card for the first time is a rite of passage for young adults after turning 18 years old. And it’s a lot easier than you might think. The key is to choose wisely, by focusing on offers for people with limited credit and secured credit cards, which provide nearly guaranteed approval.
Key Things to Know About Choosing Your First Credit Card
High approval odds are among the most important things to look for in your first credit card. The sooner you get approved, the sooner you can begin building your credit standing. Getting rejected for a credit card sets you back, both in terms of time and possible damage to your limited credit.
Low fees are another key feature to seek out when getting a credit card for the first time. Starter credit cards generally don’t offer rewards or interest rates worth paying high annual or monthly fees for. So it’s best to make your first credit card one with a $0 annual fee and always pay your monthly bill in full to avoid interest charges.
Tips for Using Your First Credit Card
It’s really important to remember that learning how to get a credit card for the first time and getting approved are only the beginning. You also need to use that card responsibly, which means spending within your means, paying your bill on time every month, and keeping your credit utilization below 30%.
If you can avoid racking up costly credit card debt and hurting your credit score with missed payments, your first credit card will be a huge asset. It will add positive information to your major credit reports each month. That will gradually improve your credit standing. And better credit will make it easier to rent an apartment, buy or lease a car, find a job, get approved for good loans and lines of credit and save on car insurance premiums, among other things.
You can track your progress for free on WalletHub, the only site with free credit scores and reports that are updated daily. We’ll even tell you exactly what you need to do to improve your credit score at a given time, plus provide personalized credit card recommendations. You can use them to find your first credit card and then graduate from it when the time is right.
There are several ways to raise your credit score in 30 days. Reducing your credit utilization is one of the fastest ways to raise your credit score, and you can do it by paying down debt, spending less, paying your bill more often or asking for a higher spending limit. Disputing negative information on your credit report can help quickly, too. The bottom line is that your credit score can change anytime new information is added to your credit report or old information is removed from it. Creditors typically report updated information about loans and lines of credit at least once a month, so making the right moves for 30 days can definitely produce results for your credit score.… read full answer
But you must understand that true credit building is a multi-year process. You’ll still need to manage your money responsibly moving forward for your credit-score gains to last. And that’s one reason why you should never, ever pay for credit repair. Nonprofit credit counselors can be very helpful, but services that make wild promises and charge fees, especially up front, are best avoided.
Now, with that being said, let’s get back to the business of boosting your credit score by next month. Below, you will find a collection of tips that should help anyone improve their credit score quickly. You can also get personalized advice for how to proceed by checking out your free credit analysis on WalletHub.
7 Ways to Raise Your Credit Score in 30 Days:
Dispute Credit-Report Mistakes. Removing negative information from your credit report is perhaps the best way to generate substantial short-term credit-score improvement. But you can remove such information only if it’s wrong or the result of fraud. So go over your report with a fine-tooth comb, cross-referencing each item with your own financial records. If you find something fishy, investigate it further and, if necessary, file a dispute with the credit bureau.
Make a Big Debt Payment. How much you owe, especially compared to your income, has a big impact on your credit score because it tells lenders how risky it would be to let you borrow more. A credit score measures your risk to lenders, after all. So the more debt you pay off, the more your score should improve.
Reduce Your Credit Card Statement Balance. Credit utilization is calculated by dividing your credit cards’ balances at the end of each billing period by their spending limits. So if you reduce the balance listed on your monthly statement, you also reduce your utilization, which in turn improves your credit score. You can reduce your statement balances by spending less, making larger payments, or paying your bill more frequently. For example, paying a credit card’s bill twice per month – once before your statement is generated and again before the due date – allows you to lower your credit utilization and avoid interest.
Become an Authorized User. If a family member has excellent credit, ask him or her to add you as an authorized user on an existing credit card (preferably an old one with a high credit limit and no negative records). This might take too long to process to benefit you in a month’s time. But it should provide a bump pretty quickly.
Dispute Negative Authorized-User Records. Not many people know this, but if you are or were an authorized user on an account that is dragging down your credit score, you can ask the credit bureau to remove it from your credit report. Authorized users are not responsible for paying the bill, which means they don’t have to suffer the consequences of not doing so. You just have to file a dispute.
Ask for a Higher Credit Limit. More available credit will reduce your overall credit utilization ratio, a key component of your credit score. Be careful, though. Many credit-card issuers will re-check your credit history — causing a hard inquiry and short-term credit-score damage — before approving a higher limit. So make sure to ask about your creditor’s policies first. You should also make sure all your credit limits are expressed accurately on your credit reports. If a listed limit is lower than it should be, ask the issuer to report an updated figure to the credit bureaus. Take note, however, that if you have an “NPSL” credit card, there might not be much you can do about an unusually reported credit limit.
Write a Goodwill Letter. If your credit report bears only a minor blemish — one late payment, perhaps — and the rest of your credit history is solid, you can try asking the issuer for a favor. For example, you could call and make a case for why your slip-up should be forgiven and stricken from the record, so to speak. Or you could send an official “Goodwill Adjustment Letter,” which formalizes the request. This tactic is most successful before a negative record actually makes its way to your credit report. But it’s worth a shot afterward as well.
You can keep track of your credit score’s latest developments by signing up for a free WalletHub account. WalletHub is the first and only website to offer free credit scores and full credit reports that are updated on a daily basis. Additional information about increasing your credit score can be found in our comprehensive Credit Improvement Guide.
WalletHub’s best tips for first-time credit card users are: 1) Get a credit card because it’s the easiest way to build credit; 2) set up automatic monthly payments from a bank account because on-time payments fuel credit score improvement; and 3) try to pay your bill in full every month because it will save you money and keep your spending under control.… read full answer
In other words, it is important to get your first credit card as early as possible and then use it responsibly, by spending within your means and not missing due dates. If you do that, you’ll be able to graduate to a great second credit card sooner.
It all starts with picking the right first credit card, though. Most people looking for their first card have limited or no credit history, unless they’ve been an authorized user on a credit card or have a loan. As a result, cards that accept applicants with “limited credit” or “bad credit” are the most popular starter credit cards.
Below, you can find advice on which card to make your first as well as the steps to take for success with everything after that.
Here are some helpful first credit card tips:
Compare credit card offers thoroughly: Your main options include secured cards, which are the easiest to get and require a security deposit, and cards for limited credit, which tend to give slightly better terms and cater to people who have little/no credit experience. It’s important to find the right card right away so you only have to apply once.
Put your needs first: Start with a no annual fee credit card, if you can, and use other terms as a tiebreaker. Rewards are best if you plan to pay your bill in full every month. First credit cards usually have high interest rates, so it’s best to pay in full.
Never max out your spending limit: You don’t have to use your card to build credit. But if you do, it’s important to not overspend. Try to use less than 30% of your available credit. If you’re tempted to overspend, keep the account open but lock the card away.
Never miss a due date: Payment history is one of the most important portions of your credit score. Late payments will cause a lot of damage. But you can avoid ever paying late by setting up automatic monthly payments with your issuer.
Pay in full to avoid interest. Most first credit cards have very high interest rates. But you will only owe interest if you carry a balance from month to month. So, paying your first card’s bill in full each month is not only great for your credit, but it will also save you money.
Watch your utilization: While it is best to use 30% or less of your credit limit, the reality is that a lot of first credit cards have very low limits. Paying your bill multiple times per month can help keep your end-of-month utilization figure low.
Review your monthly statements: Getting into this routine will help you better understand your spending habits. And it will help you avoid getting overcharged if any of the merchants you bought from made a mistake (or if someone used your card fraudulently).
Stick to a budget: Figure out how much you can afford to spend each month and try keep your charges from exceeding that amount. If you do have to carry a balance between months at some point, make a plan for paying off what you owe as quickly as possible.
When you’re in the market for your first credit card, you probably don’t have a credit score yet. But it’s possible you’ve built a bit of credit history through other means. If that’s the case, you could have far more credit card options available to you. You can check your latest credit score for free on WalletHub. It’s also good to check your credit reports, just to make sure there’s nothing inaccurate or suspicious on them.
Once you get a card and begin using it on a regular basis, it’s even more important to monitor your credit to make sure everything is correct. Knowing your credit score will also help you decide when the time is right to graduate to your second credit card.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.
WalletHub members have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage everyone to do so while respecting our content guidelines. This question was posted by a WalletHub user. Please keep in mind that editorial and user-generated content on this page is not reviewed or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution. In addition, it is not a financial institution’s responsibility to ensure all posts and questions are answered.
Ad Disclosure: Certain offers that appear on this site originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on an offer’s details page using the designation "Sponsored", where applicable. Advertising may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). At WalletHub we try to present a wide array of offers, but our offers do not represent all financial services companies or products.