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Guides

13 Best Credit-Building Credit Cards (2018)

Linsey Knerl 6/5/18

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 (10) | Secured Cards (3) | How to Build Credit

Top 10 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.

The 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.

4.8 /5.0 Stars
  • Checking account required
  • We may approve those currently building their credit history
  • No security deposit required
  • Application response in 30 seconds
  • Know the score! Quarterly FICO score on your monthly billing statement
  • All credit types welcome to apply
  • Your First PREMIER Bank credit card activity is reported to the Consumer Reporting Agencies each month. Making your payment on time and keeping your balances low relative to the credit limit will result in positive marks on your credit report
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See issuer website
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 6 minutes
Reputation Score 9.5/10

Because the First PREMIER Bank Mastercard reports credit card activity to the credit reporting agencies every month, it’s a simple way to start building credit activity on your history right away. In addition, your account can be considered for a credit limit increase 13 months after your account is opened. (A credit limit increase fee in the amount of 25% of the amount of the credit limit increase applies.)  All offers subject to available credit. Deposit may depend on your credit.

4.8 /5.0 Stars
  • 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
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See issuer website
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 5 Minutes
Reputation Score 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.)

4.6 /5.0 Stars
  • Checking account required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • 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
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See terms
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 9 Minutes
Reputation Score 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.

4.6 /5.0 Stars
  • Reporting monthly to all three major credit reporting agencies
  • You may be eligible for a Credit Line Increase after six months
  • Easy and secure online application
  • Receive your card more quickly with optional Expedited Processing (additional fee applies)
  • Get a result in as little as 60 seconds upon completion of the online application
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See Terms
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 10 Minutes
Reputation Score 8.0/10

Build good credit fast with the First Access Visa Card that reports to all three agencies. An activation and annual fee apply to this card, but you are eligible for an increase in available credit as soon as six months after you are approved. Deposit may depend on your credit.

4.6 /5.0 Stars
  • Checking account required
  • A manageable credit limit can help you stay in control
  • This is a credit card - not a debit or prepaid card
  • No security deposit required
  • Apply today and if approved, pay a Processing Fee and to begin enjoying your available credit (additional fees and charges apply)
  • Make your payments on time each month, and keep your balance low relative to the credit limit, for positive marks on your credit report
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See issuer website
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 9 minutes
Reputation Score 9.5/10

The First PREMIER Bank Gold Card allows you to begin tracking your credit with a free FICO Score, available with your first card statement and provided regularly after that for free. You can use the card anywhere Mastercard is accepted, subject to available credit. The application takes about nine minutes to fill out; responses are generally given in 60 seconds. Deposit may depend on your credit.

4.6 /5.0 Stars
  • Checking account required
  • Monthly reporting to the major Consumer Reporting Agencies
  • No security deposit required
  • We provide a response in 60 seconds or less
  • No security deposit required
  • Apply today, and if approved, pay a Program Fee to access your available credit (additional fees and charges apply)
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See issuer website
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 9 minutes
Reputation Score 9.5/10

The First PREMIER Bank Credit Card may not require a deposit, depending on your credit profile. The credit card account has varying annual fees, depending on your total credit limit (which ranges from $300 – $500). You may qualify for a credit line increase 13 months after the accounts is open (fees apply).

4.2 /5.0 Stars
  • 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.
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate 23.90%
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 8 Minutes
Reputation Score 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.

4.4 /5.0 Stars
  • Must have checking account to qualify
  • A good choice for those with less than perfect credit
  • No security deposit required
  • Credit card responses in 60 seconds or less
  • First PREMIER Bank may approve you when other issuers will not
  • Apply today, and if approved, pay a Processing Fee and you could begin enjoying a manageable credit limit (subject to available credit, additional fees and charges)
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See issuer website
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 9 minutes
Reputation Score 9.0/10

A quick application and a quicker application response make the PREMIER Forward Mastercard a popular card for those trying to rebuild credit. Only you can build a good credit history. Make your payments on time each month and keep your balance low relative to the credit limit for positive marks on your credit report each month. It is universally accepted at locations that use Mastercard services, subject to available credit.

4.3 /5.0 Stars
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability
  • See if you Pre-Qualify in less than 60 seconds
  • Receive 1% cash back on eligible purchases, terms apply
  • Enjoy more buying power with credit line increase opportunities, a fee may apply
  • Choose your monthly payment due date for added convenience, terms apply
  • View updates to your Experian credit score with free online access, terms apply
  • Access your account on-the-go with the Credit One Bank mobile app
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate 17.49% - 25.49% Variable
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 8 Minutes
Reputation Score 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.

4.5 /5.0 Stars
  • 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.
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate 23.90%
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 8 minutes
Reputation Score 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 3 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.

4.0 /5.0 Stars
  • 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 primor® Secured Visa Gold Card details
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate 9.99%
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 8 minutes
Reputation Score 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.

3.0 /5.0 Stars
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 -- $2,000 Submitted with Application
  • Just Pay Off Your Balance and Get Your Deposit Back at Any Time
  • Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
  • Not available in: NY, IA, AR, or WI
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate 19.99% (V)
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 9 minutes
Reputation Score 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.

3.0 /5.0 Stars
  • Credit line secured by your fully-refundable deposit of $200-$2,000 submitted with application.
  • Pay off your balance and get your deposit back any time.
  • Monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus to establish credit history.
  • Not available in: NY, IA, AR, or WI.
  • No credit history or minimum credit score required.
  • See if you are pre-approved in 60 seconds or less.
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate 9.99% (V)
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 8 minutes
Reputation Score 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.

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.

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!

About Linsey Knerl
Linsey is a freelance blogger, author and public speaker with a passion for helping everyday families earn more and live better. She shares her expertise for parents who want to start budget-friendly businesses from home at 1099Mom.com.
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