How to Get a Credit Card With No Credit History

Explore your credit card options if you have no credit history yet

So you’ve decided to get a credit card. You’re responsible with your money, and you’re confident you can make the monthly payments. But there’s a problem. You don’t have a credit history. This is like a record of your past financial activity.  

Here’s where it can get tough. You might not be able to get a card without a credit history. But it can be hard to establish a credit history without having a card. Don’t panic, though. It’s possible to get a credit card when you have no credit history. Read on to see how you could do it.

Apply for a Secured Credit Card

Many banks and credit unions offer secured credit cards if you have no credit history. 

Here’s how they work: You deposit an amount of money, sometimes known as a security deposit, that the issuer holds as collateral. For example, the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One has refundable security deposits of $49, $99 or $200 for an initial credit line of $200. If approved, you will get a credit card account with an initial credit limit. And you may be able to increase the credit limit by adding additional funds when you first open the account. 

You can then use the card to make purchases—just like you would with other credit cards. And by using your credit card responsibly, you may be able to start building a credit history. 

Apply for a Student Credit Card

Depending on the issuer and the product, you may not need a long credit history or a high credit score to qualify for a student credit card.

You may be able to help build credit by using a student credit card responsibly. Good credit is important when it’s time to buy a car or lease an apartment. Some student cards may offer lower annual fees and benefits that appeal to students. For example, the Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One charges no annual fee. And it even offers unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase.

A student credit card works just like a traditional credit card. So if you carry a balance on your card, you’ll have to pay interest on your purchases. 

Apply for a Retail Store Credit Card

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a retail store card is another option you might consider if a secured card or a student card isn’t the right option for you.

Just like a traditional credit card, a retail store card could show as a line of credit on your credit report if it’s reported to the credit bureaus. And using the card wisely—like making consistent, on-time payments on the card—could help build credit history. That may improve your chances of being approved for a traditional card in the future.

Keep in mind that you might only be able to use retail store cards in the store or group of stores that issued them. You can learn more by reading the card’s terms and conditions.

Become an Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user means you get a card linked to an existing account that you’re authorized to use. The account could belong to a friend or family member—whoever is willing to add you to their credit card account.

As an authorized user, you’ll get your own card so you can make purchases with the account’s line of credit. But the primary cardholder is ultimately the one who is responsible for the account.

Many issuers report authorized users to the credit bureaus. So if the primary cardholder has good credit and uses their card responsibly, being an authorized user could help you build your own credit history. And being an authorized user can be a great way to learn how to manage a credit card.

There are benefits for the primary cardholder, too. It can be easier to monitor spending when it’s all on the same account. And the primary cardholder could earn rewards for your spending.

Keep in mind that negative information like late or missed payments could affect both the primary cardholder and the authorized user.

Consider Applying With a Co-Signer

If you can’t qualify for a credit card on your own, you could try applying with a co-signer—if the issuer allows that option. 

Having a co-signer gives the card issuer more confidence that any debts can be repaid. A co-signer could also help the applicant get better terms than they might on their own. But being a co-signer is a big responsibility, so make sure your family member or friend understands the risks.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind: 

  • The co-signer will be responsible for paying back your debts if you don’t or can’t.
  • They may be responsible for any late fees or collection costs.
  • Negative information like debts and late payments could become part of their credit history as well as yours.

Just remember: Not all issuers allow you to apply for a credit card with a co-signer. 

Ready to Start Building Credit Today?

Getting a card is just the beginning. Whichever one you end up with, it’s a good idea to use credit responsibly by doing things like keeping your balance low, paying it off each month and never missing a payment.

Using credit responsibly may help you build your credit history. And once you establish a credit history, you might find you have more options the next time you decide to apply for a credit card.

Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular 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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