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The Best Credit Cards to Build Credit

Barret WilliamsJanuary 6, 2022

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The Best Credit Cards to Build Credit


Those that are new to credit and even those with a damaged credit history have options to start a new credit voyage. Don't settle for cards that charge high annual fees or start-up costs. Thanks to innovation, financial technology companies have opened the floodgates to provide those without perfect credit reasonable, cost-effective options. 

Whether you're just starting out, or you've made some credit missteps along the way, here are our top picks for credit cards to build credit. 


Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card

5 / 5 Stars

Best Product for Establishing Savings & Credit
- 5 / 5 Stars - Best Product for Establishing Savings & Credit

Start with a credit builder account and establish savings. Then, in as little as 3 months, use your savings to open a secured credit card with no hard credit inquiry.

Apply Now
at Self's Website

  • Combine a credit builder account and secured card to help you build credit and savings at the same time
  • Build $100 or more in savings, plus make at least 3 monthly payments on time to automatically be eligible for the Self Visa Credit Card as long as your account is in good standing.
  • The credit builder account does charge fees.
  • Combined credit builder account and secured card products to help you build credit and save money (minus interest and fees)
  • No credit check. No credit history required.
  • Start with a credit builder account that reports to all 3 credit bureaus. Each on-time monthly payment builds credit history and savings. Choose the plan that works for you.
  • Make at least 3 monthly payments on time, have $100 or more in savings progress in your account, and be in good standing. You’ll automatically be eligible for the Self Visa Credit Card, without a credit check.
  • Your savings progress from your Credit Builder Account acts as your refundable security deposit.
  • The Self Visa Credit Card is accepted at millions of locations in the U.S.
  • Stay on track with credit utilization monitoring, auto pay, account reminders, a mobile app, and dedicated customer support.
  • *Sample product: $48 monthly payment, 12 month term with a $9 admin fee at a 15.65% Annual Percentage Rate. 
  • See Self.inc for terms and pricing information

Self offers a unique product that might be tricky for some to understand. If your main focus is building credit, though, it can provide a suitable option. First, you'll open a credit builder account. This is an installment loan, but rather than getting the funds from your loan, they are placed into a CD. You then make monthly payments to unlock the value of the CD. You'll pay interest on the loan as you make monthly payments. Think of it as a forced way to save.

Then, once you have made at least 3 monthly payments on time AND have at least $100 unlocked in your CD, you'll be eligible for the Self Visa as long as your account is in good standing. There's no hard credit check or security deposit required. The value of your CD serves as collateral, meaning you'll have a starting credit line of $100. 

Read our Self Credit Builder Account Review.



Petal 1 Visa Card

5 / 5 Stars

Best Unsecured Card for Building Credit
- 5 / 5 Stars - Best Unsecured Card for Building Credit

Start building your credit without being weighed down by hidden fees. There is a Petal card for those with damaged credit, or a version with better rewards earnings for those that are new to credit or have established credit. See which version you are prequalified for today.

Apply Now
at Petal's Website (Petal 1 is Issued by WebBank, Member FDIC)

  • APR:  19.99% - 29.49% Variable APR
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Welcome Bonus: None
  • Recommended Credit: Poor - Fair
  • No Annual Fee
  • $300 - $5,000 Credit Limit
  • 2% - 10% cash back at select merchants
  • Petal 1 looks beyond your credit score to create a Cash Score based on your banking history.
  • A Cash Score shows your creditworthiness and can help you qualify for more credit at better rates.

Where other credit cards for bad credit have bogged their customers down with hidden fees and high APRs, Petal, whose cards are issued by WebBank (Member FDIC), has released a card with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. Even better, your good behavior can be rewarded with a higher credit limit in as little as 6 months by paying your bills on time and keeping your credit score within a personalized range. 

Read our Petal 1 Review.



OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

4.9 / 5 Stars

Best Secured Card with No Hard Credit Check
- 4.9 / 5 Stars - Best Secured Card with No Hard Credit Check

Apply without a hard credit pull. This helps safeguard your credit profile against declined applications.

Apply Now
at OpenSky's Website

  • APR: 17.39% variable
  • Annual Fee: $35
  • Welcome Bonus: None
  • Recommended Credit Score: None
  • No credit check necessary to apply. 

  • The security deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your new card. 

  • OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.

  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.

OpenSky provides a path for credit building to those with damaged or no credit.  You'll need to prove an ability to repay your bill, however, the approval process doesn't require that OpenSky look at your credit report. Your line of credit can be secured by a refundable security deposit, with credit lines starting as low as $200.  When you close your account, your security deposit will be returned as long as you close your account in good standing.

Read our OpenSky Secured Credit Card Review



Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card

4.8 / 5 Stars

Best Secured Card with No Minimum Deposit
- 4.8 / 5 Stars - Best Secured Card with No Minimum Deposit

Money added to a Credit Builder will be held in a secured account as collateral for your card, giving you access to a line of credit. There's no upfront deposit required, but you will need to have a Chime Spending account open with an eligible direct deposit in order to qualify.

Apply Now
at Chime's Website

  • APR: None
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Welcome Bonus: None
  • Recommended Credit Score: None
  • No annual fee or interest
  • No credit check to apply
  • No minimum security deposit required - simply deposit funds into a Credit Builder to act as collateral
  • Start building credit for free
  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

After standing by and watch big banks fleece people with high interest rates, annual fees and ongoing charges if they were building credit, a number of fintech startups decided to flip the narrative. One of the best of the bunch is Chime. Chime's products (offered through their banking partners) offer low-cost opportunities to manage your finances, all while building credit. 

Read our Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa Review.



Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

4.8 / 5 Stars

Best Security Deposit
- 4.8 / 5 Stars - Best Security Deposit

Depending on your credit profile, you may be able to secure a $200 line of credit with as little as $49 down as a security deposit. You may also be considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months.

Apply Now
at Capital One's Website

  • APR: 26.99% variable
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Welcome Bonus: None
  • Recommended Credit: Rebuilding
  • No annual fee
  • In as little as 6 months, you could be automatically considered for a higher credit line
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card that reports to all three major credit bureaus

This card isn't fancy, but it's effective at what it does. Recently named a top bank for customer service, Capital One is looking to build a relationship with new customers using the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.  While the card doesn't have an annual fee, you'll want to be sure to pay your balance off in full each month or your interest charges will quickly outpace your payments thanks to the high APR. 

Read our Platinum Secured Credit Card Review.



Quicksilver Rewards for Students

5 / 5 Stars

Best Student Card for Flat-Rate Rewards
- 5 / 5 Stars - Best Student Card for Flat-Rate Rewards

Earning 1.5% back on all purchases is a best-in-class rate for student cards.

Apply Now
at Capital One's Website

  • APR:  26.99% Variable APR
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Welcome Bonus: None
  • Recommended Credit: Fair
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 annual fee
  • Cardholders are automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

It was a tough call between the SavorOne student card and the Quicksilver for top pick. Most spenders are likely to benefit more from a flat 1.5% back on all purchases, but if you spend heavily in the 3% categories offered by SavorOne, that may be a better choice.

Rewards aside, these cards offer almost identical perks. You'll pay no foreign transaction fee and get access to many of the same benefits. Perks include virtual card numbers, travel accident insurance, extended warranties on eligible purchases and $0 fraud liability. 

Read our Quicksilver Rewards for Students Review.




Summary of The Best Credit Cards to Build Credit

Top 6 Best Credit Credit Cards to Build Credit

(Swipe table to see more)
ProductRatingWhy?
Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card
5 / 5
Best Product for Establishing Savings & Credit
Petal 1 Visa Card
5 / 5
Best Unsecured Card for Building Credit
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
4.9 / 5
Best Secured Card with No Hard Credit Check
Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card
4.8 / 5
Best Secured Card with No Minimum Deposit
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
4.8 / 5
Best Security Deposit
Quicksilver Rewards for Students
5 / 5
Best Student Card for Flat-Rate Rewards

How to Choose the Best Credit Credit Cards to Build Credit


If you're looking for your next financial product in order to take your credit to the next level, here are some things you should consider:

  1. Do you have a credit score? If you don't have a credit score, you might have more options than you think. Petal may be a good starting point.
  2. Have you had major bankruptcies or delinquencies recently? If you've recently defaulted on debt, or had payments run more than 90 days late, subjecting yourself to a credit inquiry might not end well. Look for a card that doesn't run a hard credit inquiry for approval. If you have a security deposit, OpenSky is worth a look. If you need some time to save a security deposit, Self or Chime are likely going to be some of your best options.
  3. Are you somewhere in the middle? If you have established some credit and don't have any major credit issues in your past, you may be in one of the better spots. We'd point you to Petal's prequalification process to see if you may be eligible for the Petal 2 card, a respectable first credit card that earns decent rewards and charges reasonable fees. The Quicksilver Secured card may also be worth a look.
  4. Are you a student? There are many great options for students looking to build their credit. If you're looking for options, here's a list of the best student credit cards.

If you're considering a card to build credit, be sure you're ready for the responsibility. If you've made mistakes in the past, be sure you've got a plan, so you don't repeat the same mistakes. Don't rush to get a credit card if you're not ready. There's no shame in using a debit card or a product like Chime's Spending Account until you are ready. 


Methodology


When searching for the best credit cards for building credit, we looked at the following features:

  • Underwriting: Was the product available without a hard credit inquiry, or to those that have had a previous bankruptcy? 
  • Preapproval: Is it possible to check for offers before applying and agreeing to a hard credit inquiry?
  • Fee Structure: Are the fees comparatively low? Cards that charged an application fee or high annual fee were excluded. 
  • Credit Knowledge Center: Helping cardholders learn more about their credit score and how to improve it is a great perk - especially for those looking to build their credit. 


FAQs


What is the best first credit card?

The best first credit card for you depends on your individual needs. You might be best served by a student credit card, a secured card or a starter card with no annual fee.  What's most important is making sure you pick a card with low fees, and if you're planning to carry a balance, a low ongoing interest rate.

What is the best card to build credit with no credit?

If you're starting out building credit for the first time, we recommend using prequalification tools from a few banks that you are interested in. You should focus on cards that have no annual fee, a low interest rate (nothing higher than 18%) and moderate rewards earnings (1.5% on everyday purchases is standard for a first credit card). 



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