13 Best Credit-Building Credit Cards (2018)

13 Best Credit-Building Credit Cards ([current_year])
GUIDE

Advertiser Disclosure

Linsey Knerl
By: Linsey Knerl
Updated: October 26, 2018
BadCredit.org's popular "How-To" series is for those who seek to improve, rebuild or better understand their subprime credit rating.

So maybe you’ve been less-than-awesome with your credit card usage in the past, but, believe it or not, this is a very common situation. In fact, 30% of Americans have bad credit and are trying to re-establish their financial situations. These consumers may find that their options are limited for credit cards and loans, which is counter-intuitive to getting back on track.

Not only that, but a good number of people have no credit, which can be just as bad when trying to get a credit card. No matter your situation, however, responsibly using a credit card to build credit is a method that can bring those credit scores up and help you join the ranks of people considered a good credit risk. Both secured and unsecured cards can play a role in that plan, and we’ve chosen the best options for you to read up on.

Unsecured Cards (5) | Secured Cards (8) | How to Build Credit

Top 5 Unsecured Cards to Help Build Credit

If you’ve struggled with responsible credit use in the past, or are new in establishing a credit history, you may be thinking that an unsecured credit card is out of your reach. Unsecured cards (unlike “secured” cards), do not require you to put down the exact amount of the credit line you need access to as a deposit. You are usually free to access most – if not all – of your credit line right away, without setting all that money aside as security against non-payment.

Bankrate image showing how credit score affects card ratesThe good news is that banks are often able to approve riskier consumers for the coveted unsecured card by requiring that they pay higher annual fees, other fees, application fees, or even annual percentage rates (APR) on borrowed funds. You may have lower initial credit limits, as well.

With time, however, you can use these cards with high interest rates as a tool to re-establish good credit habits and build a history that will earn you the right to apply for cards with better terms and rates later on.

Here are some of the best unsecured credit cards for getting started on your credit-building journey.

  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Not an access card
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
5 Minutes See issuer website Yes 9.0/10

Find out if you qualify for the Fingerhut retail credit card within five minutes of applying. Account holders will receive a line of credit to purchase from the popular home goods retailer right away. There are no application or annual fees for this card — but understand that the Fingerhut card can only be used at Fingerhut stores and its few select partners. (See complete WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account Terms and Conditions.)

  • Checking account required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine VISA card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • If approved, simply pay a processing fee to open your account and access your available credit
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.7

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 Minutes See terms Yes 8.5/10

The Total VISA Credit Card is accepted almost everywhere. You’ll need a checking account and an $89 application fee to get started, but approved consumers will have access to an initial credit limit of $300.

  • Easy pre-qualification process with fast response
  • All credit histories considered
  • Online servicing available 24/7 at no additional cost
  • Unsecured credit card, no security deposit required
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★

4.2

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 Minutes 23.90% Yes 8.0/10

The Indigo Platinum Mastercard is ideal for consumers with poor or no credit looking to establish or rebuild their credit. Annual fees for the card vary from $0 to $99/year, dependent upon your credit profile.

  • See if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score
  • Track your progress with free online access to your Experian credit score, terms apply
  • Looking to rebuild credit? We report to the major credit bureaus monthly
  • Accounts are automatically reviewed for credit line increase opportunities
  • Make paying your bill easier with the ability to choose your payment due date, terms apply
  • Stay in-the-know with customizable account alerts via email and text
  • Receive 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases, terms apply
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★

4.3

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 19.99% - 25.99% Variable Yes 9.0/10

This Credit One Bank Platinum card allows you to apply without leaving a negative mark on your credit history. Qualified applicants will get 1% cash back and a variety of modern card designs to choose from.

  • Applying is quick and easy with a fast decision process
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • 24/7 access to your account information, even on mobile
  • Card designs to fit your personality at no extra charge
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★

4.2

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 23.90% Yes 9.0/10

Featuring a lower interest rate than many other cards on the list, the Milestone Mastercard also gives you a zero-fraud liability protection you can feel safe using. Sign up for text alerts and never miss a payment — the most important step in building good credit with a credit card.

Top 8 Secured Cards to Help Build Credit

Unlike our unsecured credit card picks above, a secured card will not be issued without having some kind of cash deposit available to help reduce the risk of you not paying back the account. These are most common for people with several negative marks, legal actions, or bankruptcies on their credit reports. They are the only way many people are able to get back on track with their credit.

This list features the top secured cards designed to help you rebuild your credit history and score.

  • Credit lines available from $200 to $5,000. Super Low Fixed 9.99% interest rate on purchases - with no penalty rate.
  • No minimum credit score requirements. We invite all credit types to apply. No processing or application fees.
  • Helps strengthen your credit with responsible card use. Reports to three national bureaus.
  • Fast, easy application process. Choose your credit line and open your Personal Savings Deposit Account to secure your line.
  • See additional Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card details
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details
★★★★

4.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 9.99% Yes 9.0/10

Get a credit line of up to $5,000 with a spectacular interest rate of under 10% for qualified cardholders. The Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card also features no minimum credit score requirements.

  • Credit line secured by your fully-refundable deposit of $200-$2,000 submitted with application
  • Good for car rental, hotels; Anywhere credit cards are accepted
  • Monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus to establish credit history
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI
  • Just pay off your balance and receive your deposit back at any time
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★

3.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 20.49% (V) Yes 7.5/10

Pay off this card’s balance and get your deposit back at any time. The First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard is available only in select states.

  • Credit line secured by your fully-refundable deposit of $200-$2,000 submitted with application
  • Good for car rental, hotels; Anywhere credit cards are accepted
  • Monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus to establish credit history.
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI
  • Just pay off your balance and receive your deposit back at any time
  • Click for for official site, terms, and details.
★★★

3.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 10.49% (V) Yes 7.5/10

Know in minutes if you are approved for the First Progress Platinum Prestige card, which features the Mastercard logo and is good wherever Mastercard is accepted. Use it to build your credit with the necessary perk of monthly credit reporting.

9. Discover it® Secured

The Discover it® Secured card comes with no annual fee and a competitive APR while still offering bonus rewards for gas and restaurant purchases. Additionally, approved applicants can enjoy an introductory balance transfer offer providing 10.99% on qualifying transferred balances for six months.

Discover it® Secured Card

  • Earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined gas and grocery purchases each year
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Pay no annual fee

The minimum deposit amount required to open a Discover it® Secured card is $200, and the size of your deposit will determine your credit limit. Your maximum credit limit will be set by Discover based on your income and ability to pay, but will not exceed $2,500.

10. Capital One Secured Mastercard

The Capital One Secured Mastercard is another good no-annual-fee option for building credit. What’s more, this card has a variable minimum down payment that depends on your individual credit risk, meaning well-qualified applicants may only be required to put down $49 for a $200 credit line.

Capital One Secured Mastercard

  • Get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • Reports to all three major credit bureaus
  • Pay no annual fee

Cardholders who make their first five payments on time may be eligible for a credit line increase with no additional deposit. This card is also upgradable; cardholders who show responsible credit use may be automatically upgraded to an unsecured card.

11. Citi® Secured Mastercard®

This card may not have a lot of bells and whistles, but it offers a low minimum deposit requirement and charges no annual fee. Cardholders also get desktop and mobile online banking access to manage their account from anywhere.

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

  • Provide a security deposit of $200 up to $2,500 for a credit line equal to your deposit
  • Enjoy 24/7 online account access
  • Pay no annual fee

While this card’s APR isn’t the lowest around, it does offer a grace period on new purchases that allows users to avoid paying interest when they pay their balance in full each month.

12. U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card

The minimum deposit amount for this card is $300, and the size of your credit line will be equal to the size of the deposit. And while this card has a small annual fee, it allows users to put down a security deposit of up to $5,000 for a fairly high credit line.

U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card

  • Provide a security deposit of $300 up to $5,000 for a credit line equal to your deposit
  • Deposit earns interest in a secured savings account
  • Pay $29 annual fee

The card also has several user benefits that include online banking access, automatic bill pay features, and $0 fraud liability for unauthorized card purchases.

13. USAA Secured Visa® Platinum

This card comes with a decent grace period and a relatively low APR for qualified applicants. The minimum deposit amount is $250, but approved applicants can make a deposit of up to $5,000 for a larger credit line.

USAA Secured Visa® Platinum

  • Provide a security deposit of $250 up to $5,000 for a credit line equal to your deposit
  • Deposit earns interest in a secured CD account
  • Pay $35 annual fee

The security deposit for this card will earn interest over time, meaning you may receive back more than your deposit amount when you close your account in good standing after enough time for interest to accrue. Applicants need to be members of the USAA to qualify for the card.

How to Properly Use a Credit Card to Build Credit

The cards listed above are designed for those with poor or no credit, which makes them a great way to practice responsible credit card use and build a credit history to be proud of. There are a few rules you will want to follow when using them to get the biggest bang for your credit card buck.

  1. Ensure that your usage is reported to the credit bureaus. Reporting to all three agencies is the best situation, and many cards offer these services to TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax as another perk for cardholders. MagnifyMoney.com suggests that you use your card each and every month (even in the smallest amounts) so there is new activity reported on every billing cycle.
  2. Pay your balance in full each month. Even with the usually higher interest rates that these types of cards charge, you should not be concerned. You will be paying everything down to zero every 30 days, according to ReadyForZero.com. If you can’t pay in full, be sure to always pay before the due date, as on-time payments account for 35% of your FICO Score.
  3. Keep your inquiries to a minimum.  Did you know that every time you apply for credit, you are risking an inquiry into your credit report? Over time, this can cause your credit score to fall, so only do this when absolutely necessary. You can also choose to apply for cards that use a “soft” inquiry and won’t ding your history (like many mentioned above).
  4. Check your credit history regularly. With the chance to check your credit report from each of the three major bureaus for free, you’ll always have the opportunity to examine your accounts and make sure things are reported properly. The Budgetnista suggests that you might want to space them out so that you can see your credit picture over the entire year.
  5. Keep your credit utilization low. We recommend keeping your balance below 30% of its available credit limit at all times, especially if you keep a balance from month to month.
Image of calendar

Set up automatic alerts and mark your calendars so you never miss a credit card payment.

Anyone can work to steadily rebuild their credit over time by following these five simple principles and demonstrating good credit behavior.

There’s Not a Fast Fix — Rebuilding Credit Takes Time

It likely took you some time to get into a bad position with your credit, so it only makes sense that repairing it will take some time, too. Be patient with the process, do your research, and know that you are not alone.

If you need a fast fix, say, if you have a large purchase coming up that requires credit approval, many people turn to the help of a credit repair service to get the quickest results possible. Credit repair services can work on your behalf to remove credit report errors and past negative marks to get you back on track before you know it!