If you’re just starting out and need credit, it can be frustrating when no one will give you credit.
How do you get started building a credit history? Or in the case of bad credit, begin rebuilding a positive credit history?
It’s a precarious situation, but there are actually plenty of choices that will help you easily get approved for a new credit card to start building credit, or earn a second chance to improve bad credit.
You may even find that you can qualify for a rewards-earning card!
In this article we’ll cover:
- Why you want to have good credit
- What is the definition of good/bad credit
- Risk-free ways to test the credit waters
- Which credit cards are easiest to get approved for
- A credit card alternative
- You next step credit card options
Let’s take a look at how to get started and review our choices for the easiest credit cards to get approved for. Note that the recommended credit scores listed below are solely provided by Upgraded Points and not credit recommendations from issuers.
Before You Apply for a Credit Card
Know Your Credit Score
If you don’t know your credit score, your first step on the path to good credit will be to determine your starting point and find out your credit score. You don’t have to pay to secure this information.
You can access your credit score without charge by visiting Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. Chase also offers a service to check your score for free called Chase Credit Journey.
Once you’ve determined your score, you’ll know which credit cards you can consider and begin the improvement process if applicable.
See If You’re Pre-qualified or Pre-approved
Many credit card issuers offer pre-qualification or pre-approval options on their websites. This is an opportunity to input your information to see if the issuer has any credit offers available to you.
The best part of pre-qualification or pre-approval is that it does not affect your credit score since no hard inquiry is being done. There is no guarantee you will ultimately get approved, but it does increase your chances.
Find out more about this risk-free option for learning whether you have offers waiting in our guide to pre-qualified or pre-approved credit offers.
Card Match Tool
Want to find out if there are credit card offers waiting for you without having to complete and submit a formal credit card application? These offers can be accessed risk-free through the CardMatch online tool.
The CardMatch tool is easy to use and does not affect your credit score. Just input some minimal information and a list of any available offers will be displayed.
Recommended “Easy-to-Get” Credit Cards
We’ve chosen some of these easy-approval credit cards since they strike a balance between the ability to earn rewards and the ease of qualifying for the card.
Others offer easy access and allow you to build or rebuild your credit history.
Capital One Platinum Credit Card (Credit Score: 580+)
While it is not a rewards-earning credit card, the Capital One Platinum serves the purpose of building or rebuilding credit and has a high chance of initial approval.
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card (Credit Score: 580+)
No need to keep track of special spending categories here — the QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards card earns 1.5% cash-back on every purchase.
The Indigo® Mastercard® (No Credit Check Needed)
We also recommend The Indigo Mastercard as there’s no impact to your credit score and you can get instantly approved for the card.
Best Business Credit Cards for Easy Approval
When it comes to selecting a business credit card with easy access, the additional ability to earn rewards is a big positive.
While most business credit cards require excellent credit to be approved, card issuer Capital One provides access for those with a fair credit score level or better.
Don’t let an annual fee keep you from selecting a particular credit card either — the increased earnings may far offset the cost of an annual fee.
For example, if your business spends $50,000 a year, your net earnings would be $905 on the Spark Cash Card (2% cash-back minus the $95 annual fee).
Spending $50,000 on the Spark Cash Select Card with no annual fee would result in $750 cash-back.
Hot Tip: When looking for a credit card that is easy to qualify for, you’ll find Capital One at the top of the list of issuers offering accessible options with reward-earning potential. Plus, Capital One allows you to see if you’re pre-qualified for their credit cards.
Student Credit Cards
Student credit cards can be easily secured with little or no credit history, making these cards easy to get approved for.
Additionally, none of these student credit cards charges an annual fee.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One (Recommended Credit Score: 580+)
- 1% cash-back on all purchases
- Cash-back is increased to 1.25% when payments are made on time
Chase Freedom Student Card
- 1% unlimited cash-back on all purchases
- Welcome bonus upon meeting minimum spend
- $0 annual fee
Hot Tip: You generally need to be a student to qualify for a student credit card, but the Journey Student Rewards will accept applications from non-students.
Secured Credit Cards
Another option for easy credit card approval is a secured credit card, which will allow you to be approved with no credit history or even bad credit.
Secured credit cards do require a security deposit and generally come with lower credit limits.
- Initial credit line of $200 upon making the minimum required security deposit
- Deposit more money before your account opens to increase your credit line
- Security deposit could be $49, $99, or $200
- Access to a higher credit limit after the first 6 months of on-time payments; no additional deposits needed
- Reports to the 3 leading credit bureaus
- Mastercard benefits
- No annual fee
Because these secured credit cards report to all 3 credit bureaus, you will be building a positive credit history when you manage your card well.
Hot Tip: Secured credit cards can be an excellent alternative for building or rebuilding credit, but there’s more you need to know. Our complete guide to secured credit cards offers tips on what you should look for, how to apply, and our recommendations for the best secured cards.
Store-Branded Credit Cards
Store-branded credit cards are designed to reward the loyalty of frequent retail customers, encourage additional purchases, and of course, generate interest income for the card issuer.
Perhaps you’ve been approached when checking out at your favorite retail store with a comment such as, “Want to save 10% on today’s purchase?”
Or you may be offered a store-branded credit card during checkout when making a purchase online.
Characteristics of store-branded credit cards can include:
- Accessible to customers with fair or better credit scores (some do not even pull your credit score)
- Chances of approval quite high
- Most often come with no annual fee
- Help improve credit because they report to credit bureaus
- Approval can be instant
- Earn merchant rewards/discounts
Check out our guides to store-branded credit cards and learn more about these easy-approval credit cards. Our Comenity Bank store credit card guide and Synchrony Bank store credit card guide tell you everything you need to know.
Bottom Line: Store-branded credit cards provide easy access to credit with certain retailers. Most store credit cards require only fair or better credit scores, and some do not even pull credit scores.
A Credit Card Alternative: The Credit Builder Account
For ease of access to credit and a sure way to affect your credit history positively, you can’t beat establishing an account with Self.
Self, formerly Self Lender, is essentially a secured loan that doesn’t require a hard pull on your credit or any credit history.
Here’s how it works.
- Apply for the loan with no hard credit pull on your credit
- On approval, the loan is deposited into a certificate of deposit for collateral
- You make scheduled monthly payments on the loan
- You receive back the principal you’ve paid into the loan
The loan does charge interest, but there is no security deposit required and no hard inquiry on your credit report.
Bottom Line: A Self account is a great alternative way to start building a positive credit history when you have bad credit or no credit. You can find out more in our in-depth Self guide!
Next Step Rewards-Earning Credit Cards
Let’s look into the near future when you’ve managed your entry-level credit card well, improved your credit score, and are ready for a premium rewards-earning credit card.
These credit cards require a good to excellent credit score.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Our favorite choice for a first-time travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card earns 2X valuable and transferable Ultimate Rewards Points on travel and dining purchases.
When it comes time to use your points for travel, you’ll enjoy 25% more value booking via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
American Express® Gold Card
If you spend a lot at restaurants and grocery stores, the Gold Card will be your go-to card on a daily basis.
The card functions well as a travel rewards card too, earning big on airline tickets and at American Express Travel.
Check out our recommendations for the best first-time credit cards for earning rewards and cash-back.
The Value of Good Credit (and Why You Want It)
Having bad credit affects your life in so many ways. Here are some examples of what you can expect with bad credit:
- Not able to rent an apartment or buy a home
- Difficulty qualifying for certain jobs
- Not able to finance a vehicle
- High-interest rates if you are able to get a loan
- Higher insurance premiums in certain states
- Not able to put utilities in your name or the requirement of a large deposit
- Difficulties securing a cell phone
Good credit changes your life in a positive way.
Not only are you able to do all the important things we just mentioned, but you’ll also have the additional ability to qualify for credit cards that earn valuable rewards.
I get it: sometimes things happen that are out of your control and your credit is affected. Or perhaps you just made a few mistakes; many of us have been there. The important thing to know is that there is a path back to good credit.
And if you’re just starting out, there’s also a path to securing new credit that is totally in your control.
Bottom Line: Bad credit can cost you plenty and present financial boundaries to securing housing, transportation, and communication. There are, however, many options for securing new credit without credit history and improving your credit score regardless of your past history.
Definitions of Good Credit/Bad Credit
There are 3 major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Credit card issuers use 1 or more of these reporting agencies to access your credit score/history and determine if granting credit to you is warranted.
While definitions and calculations vary, credit scores generally range from 300-850.
Experian defines poor (bad) credit as a credit score between 300-579 and a fair credit score as 580-669.
Equifax considers a credit score of 700-749 as good and 750+ as excellent.
Knowing the credit score range you’re in is a critical first step in the process of securing a credit card.
Bottom Line: While you will need an excellent credit score to secure the best premium rewards-earning credit cards, you can still qualify for rewards-earning credit cards with a fair credit score or above.
Managing Your Credit Card Account Well
If you want to have your own place to live, a vehicle to drive, a cell phone, and be able to afford insurance, you’re going to need good credit! Here’s where to start:
Regardless which credit card you secure, follow these tips for managing it well:
- Don’t spend more than you can pay off each statement period
- If you can’t pay off your balance, pay more than the minimum due
- Make extra payments when you have the money
- Make all payments on time
- Check your online account to make sure payments have posted
- Call the credit card company if you have a problem
- Keep the card active with small purchases
- Track your spending with your online account
- Don’t lend your card to others
Bottom Line: Securing a new credit card alone won’t help improve your credit score. You’ll have to manage the card well and over time you will develop a positive credit history and see improvement if you have had bad credit.
There’s always a path to securing new credit or rebuilding your past bad credit history, and it starts by knowing where you currently stand.
Once you’ve discovered your credit score, reviewed your credit report, and selected a credit card that is easy to get approved for, your journey begins.
It’s not easy to improve your credit — you’ll have to manage your new credit well — but the rewards for doing so are life-changing!
The information regarding Capital One Spark Classic for Business, Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business, Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business, Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit, and Chase Freedom Student Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.