How to Choose Your First Credit Card

Things to know about getting your first credit card


No matter how old you are—or where you are in life—the day you get your first credit card is often when your credit history is born. And that first card can help you for the rest of your life when used responsibly. 

It can make buying things more convenient and may even reward you with perks like cash back rewards. But the greatest value of your first credit card? With responsible use, you could use it to build strong credit for the future. Although factors vary from person to person—and based on the credit card company—here are a few things you may want to keep in mind.

How to Apply for Your First Credit Card

Applying for a credit card comes down to—you guessed it—the application. Even though applications vary depending on the card issuer, there are a few steps you can take to prepare before applying.

When you’re trying to figure out how to get a credit card for the first time, it could be helpful to take a look at your credit score and history before doing anything else. Once you know where you stand, consider sticking to cards that match your credit level. You may improve your chances of being accepted—and limit hard inquiries that ding your credit.

When it comes to the actual application, be prepared to provide your personal information—things like your Social Security number, employment status and income. Card issuers could use that information—along with your credit history and score—when considering your application

When to Apply for Your First Credit Card

Every situation is different, but if you’re wondering when to apply for your first credit card, here are some questions you can ask yourself: 

  • Do I have a reliable source of income? 
  • Do I have the means to pay off at least the minimum payment every month? 
  • Am I responsible with my spending?

Be sure to fully consider your situation. Just because credit card offers arrive in the mail doesn’t necessarily mean now is the right time to apply. If you decide you’re ready, starting to build credit now could help you achieve other financial goals in the future, like renting an apartment or getting a loan for your first home.

Know What to Expect After Applying for Your First Credit Card

Applying for a first credit card means you might not have much in the way of credit history. That means a bank may be careful about how much it lets you spend and which perks you’re offered. 

While you may not be able to get every cardholder benefit you want with your very first credit card, you may still find cards with low or no annual fees. And, with consistent responsible financial behavior, eventually, you may have a better chance of getting more credit or even lowering your interest rate.

Compare Credit Card Features as a Beginner

When comparing cards and deciding which option is right for your first credit card, think about which features matter most to you. It could be flexibility in your payment options, the peace of mind that comes with fraud coverage, or the convenience of online and mobile access to your account.

Establish Credit for the First Time

A little planning can go a long way. And knowing what to look for as you search for a credit card to help you build credit may make you feel more confident.

And no matter which card you pick, remember how important it is to spend responsibly and pay your bill on time each month. 

Having trouble getting approved for your first card? Consider other steps you can take to help you establish or build credit

Consider Your Credit History

It’s true—a long credit history does help your credit score. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes, “The more experience your credit report shows with paying your loans on time, the more information there is to determine whether you are a good credit recipient.” 

And your first credit card is one way to start building credit and forming responsible habits.

Develop Responsible Credit Habits

If you just received your first credit card, you might be wondering what’s next. Learning about and building good credit habits are important first steps. 

Even though every situation is different, there are simple ways to start your credit journey on the right track. Making sure your bills are paid on time and avoiding a high balance are two good credit card habits to start with. 

Want more tips on using credit for the first time? Learn more about responsible ways to build credit with your first card


We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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