Learning how to get a credit card for the first time with no credit history is a rite of passage for young adults after turning 18 years old. And it’s a lot easier to accomplish than you might think. The key to getting your first credit card is to choose wisely, by focusing solely on offers for people with limited credit and secured credit cards, which provide nearly guaranteed approval. You also need enough income to afford monthly credit card payments, in addition to your other expenses. The minimum payments on a starter credit card usually are around $15 per month.
If you’re at least 21 years old, you are allowed to list household income and assets to which you have reasonable access on your credit card application. If you’re younger, you can only list independent income and assets. And you can’t get your own credit card account until you’re at least 18 years old. But there is no minimum age for being an authorized user on a credit card, in most cases.
High approval odds are one of the most important things to look for in your first credit card because the sooner you get approved, the sooner you can begin truly building your credit standing. Getting rejected for a credit card sets you back, both in terms of time and by possibly damaging your limited credit.
Low fees are another key feature to seek out when applying for 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 you’re better off saving your money and always paying your monthly credit card bill in full to avoid interest charges.
Those are the two main tenets of finding the best first credit card: consider cards designed for people with limited or no credit, and try to get one with no annual fee. But there are other steps in the process. And to make things as easy as possible for you, we’ll lay them all out below.
Here’s How to Get a Credit Card for the First Time with No Credit:
See if you have a credit report and score. You could have more credit history than you think, perhaps as a result of being an authorized user on a family member’s credit card. This will help you determine how good of a credit card you should shoot for. You can check your latest credit score and credit report for free on WalletHub.
Determine whether student credit cards are an option. College students can usually get better credit cards than other people with no credit. Their youth and above-average expected income make them profitable targets for banks and credit unions. So 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. And the amount of that deposit becomes your spending limit.
Limit your search to the 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, because 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.
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.
Finally, it’s really important to remember that getting approved for a credit card for the first time is really only the beginning. You also need to use that card responsibly, which means spending within your means, paying your bill on time month after 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.