The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.
Contrary to some personal finance advisors (ahem, D*ve R*ms*y), credit cards are not the enemy. They’re actually a lifesaver for people looking to build credit score and using one properly should be a personal finance goal. We get asked a lot about credit cards in general, mainly because of the sheer volume of options available. There are cards designed for small businesses, balance transfers, and international travelers. The list goes on and on, but you get the idea.
Oftentimes those cards require a good to excellent credit score (about 680 minimum) to get approved. So, how does a person with a low credit score get approved for a card let alone use it to build credit score? Well, you came to the right place because we’ve got the answers for you—and it’s way simpler than you may think.
Before we dive in, there are three rules that you MUST follow to protect yourself when using credit cards.
Keep your credit utilization below 30%. If you have a $100 credit limit, your balance needs to always be $30 or below.
DON’T use it for emergencies –– that’s what an emergency fund is for, and why it’s best to prioritize building one in a High Yield Savings Account first. Not sure where to start? Read our blog about why you need an HYSA.
Pay your statement IN FULL every. single. month. If you do this, you’ll avoid paying interest. This will help continue to build your credit score, which is the ultimate goal.
OK, now read that again. Write it down. Put it on a sticky note. Do whatever YOU need to do to have it so ingrained in your brain that even Timothée Chalamet himself couldn’t distract you enough that you’d forget.
Got it? Cool. Keep scrolling to learn more about the best credit cards for building credit.
1: Deserve EDU Credit Card
College students, listen up: The Deserve EDU Credit Card is the card to start using in school. A lot of credit card lenders prey on undergrads because they’re usually newbies to the credit card game.
There are numerous reasons why this card tops the list, but here are the highlights: No credit history is required, there’s 1% cash back, and no annual fee. Deserve also offers cell phone protection up to $600, a collision damage waiver, no international transaction fees (!), and 18.74% variable APR.
Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough in and of itself, you’ll get an Amazon Prime sign up bonus after spending $500 in the first three months. It kind of sounds too good to be true, but it’s not (promise).
2: Capital One Platinum Credit Card
LBH, the word “platinum” just sounds cool. There’s absolutely zero shame in being new to personal finance. Whether you’re building your credit or rebuilding your credit, you’re improving your financial health. That is worthy of platinum status.
Capital One’s card is perfect for people with average credit. It has similar perk’s to Deserve’s option (like no annual fee and no international transaction fees). However, it also offers a great incentive to not just use your card, but pay it off. After six months, you’ll automatically be considered for a higher credit line. Remember rule number one about utilization? Of course you do. Higher credit limit = lower utilization if you continue spending the same amount of money.
So, swipe that card with pride.
3: Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card
Petal’s option is extremely clear about its perks: no fees and you’ll recieve cash back. You know exactly what you’re signing up for when you apply. You won’t notice any surprise charges on your bill with this one.
Applying for a credit card usually requires what’s referred to as a hard pull of your credit history. This essentially means the credit card application will show up on your credit report as opposed to a soft pull which is not as extensive and therefore, won’t appear on your credit report.
You’ll want to have a credit score of 630 to have a shot at being approved, but if you’re not, it won’t negatively impact your credit score which is a major bonus.
4: Avant Credit Card
There’s a good chance you’re thinking, “What’s Avant? Never heard of it.” Avant’s credit card option is connected to WebBank, which is a member of the FDIC. It’s completely legit and another solid option for credit building.
Similarly to Petal, a hard pull of your credit history isn’t required. This card does potentially have an annual fee depending on the specificities of your application. Don’t let that deter you from applying because while spending $40/year might seem like a drag, think about it as an investment in your financial freedom. If using this card boosts your credit score 50 points then it might be worth the money.
5: First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card
First Progress’s Platinum Prestige Mastercard is a secured card which sets it apart from the other card options we’ve recommended. This option requires a fully-refundable deposit of $200 to $2,000, which is submitted with the application. Think of this as insurance for the lender since people with lower credit scores are considered higher risks. Once you pay off your balance, your deposit will be returned to you.
6: Sequin Rewards Card
Wait wait wait…a debit card and checking account designed by women, for women, that actually teaches you how to build credit?? That’s right — the Sequin Rewards Card and Checking Account is designed to remove the surprises from banking and actually teach you about how the financial system works, without the negative side of banking (i.e. overdraft fees, monthly minimums, or late fees). Plus, you’ll join a community of financial feminists, alongside many fellow HFK members.
Here’s how it works: when you sign up for a Sequin membership, you unlock Sequin University, which contains live events, “go at your own pace” courses, and tools that help you take control of your credit and financial life (Sequin members have experienced a 20 point credit score increase, in just one week!). You’ll also receive a link to open a Sequin Rewards Visa® Debit Card and Checking Account.
The Sequin Membership does have a monthly fee ($13/mo) or cheaper for ($130/yr), but that is significantly cheaper than what you pay with a traditional bank ($214/yr, 18% more than the average man!). Not to mention, you’ll get access to over $500 in discounts on women’s health and wellness brands you love like Rent the Runway, Parade, and Flex. Team Sequin is constantly adding community-voted features, so check out their website for the latest info and create banking designed for women – for the first time in U.S. history.
If you’ve been looking for transparent banking that’s all about taking control of your financial life and supporting women, the Sequin Rewards Visa® Debit Card may be the perfect card for you.
HerFirst100k.com has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. HerFirst100k.com and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.