Credit Cards » Compare Credit Cards » The Best Credit Cards For Building & Rebuilding Credit
Advertiser Disclosure This website is an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This website does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace. This website may use other proprietary factors to impact card offer listings on the website such as consumer selection or the likelihood of the applicant’s credit approval. This allows us to maintain a full-time, editorial staff and work with finance experts you know and trust. The compensation we receive from advertisers does not influence the recommendations or advice our editorial team provides in our articles or otherwise impacts any of the editorial content on The Smart Investor. While we work hard to provide accurate and up to date information that we think you will find relevant, The Smart Investor does not and cannot guarantee that any information provided is complete and makes no representations or warranties in connection thereto, nor to the accuracy or applicability thereof. Learn more about how we review products and read our advertiser disclosure for how we make money. All products are presented without warranty.

The Best Credit Cards For Building & Rebuilding Credit

When making the right steps, credit cards can be a perfect tool to build your credit. Here are the best cards that can help you to achieve it
Author: Andrew O'Malley
Andrew O'Malley

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Andrew O’Malley has a BSc in Economics and Finance. He has worked in the finance industry as a risk analyst and is now pursuing a career in writing. In recent years, he has written for a number of leading publications. He studied Economics and Finance and has been fascinated with the financial markets since his teens.
Interest Rates Last Update: June 3, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Andrew O'Malley
Andrew O'Malley

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Andrew O’Malley has a BSc in Economics and Finance. He has worked in the finance industry as a risk analyst and is now pursuing a career in writing. In recent years, he has written for a number of leading publications. He studied Economics and Finance and has been fascinated with the financial markets since his teens.
Interest Rates Last Update: June 3, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

We earn a commission from our partner links on this page. It doesn't affect the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. Transparency is a core value for us, read our advertiser disclosure and how we make money.

Credit cards are one of the biggest players when it comes to your credit score, which is why it’s crucial that you not only have a credit card, but that you use it.

Of course, using your credit card irresponsibly will result in serious damage to your score, so keeping your use responsible is instrumental. Luckily for you, the whole process only takes a little bit of help, like following these rules.

Best Cards to Rebuild Credit Score

Fortunately, there are companies that offer credit cards that can help you to make it work. Here are The Smart Investor select's picks of best credit cards to rebuild your credit with:

Card
Rewards
Bonus
Annual Fee
Best For

citi secured mastercard review

None
None
$0
Review

avant card

None
None
$59
Review

Milestone® Mastercard®

None
None
$175 the first year; $49 thereafter
Review

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

None
None
$35
Review

First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard® Secured Credit Card

None
None
$29
Review

Indigo card

None
None
$0 – $99
Review

How Credit Card Can Build Your Score 

When you’re applying for any type of credit the businesses that you apply through will use something called your FICO® credit score. In computing your score, a number of different factors are considered, but two of them are more important than the rest.

When it comes down to it, your credit utilization ratio and your payment history are the ones you need to pay the best attention to. Of course, what you get in regards to a credit score is going to be based on how well you know how to use your credit card.

Let’s look at the first part first. Your payment history is based on whether or not you pay your credit card on time, and it accounts for 35% of your total score. But it’s not based on credit cards alone, it’s how you pay any type of credit accounts you have.

Next up, is the credit utilization ratio. This ratio is actually responsible for 30% of your credit score and relates to how much of your credit card balance you’re actually using.

Each month, it looks at how much of a balance you’re carrying over all of your cards compared to the amount of total credit you’ve been offered, also across all of your cards. When you have a lower balance compared to what you have available you get a better result toward your score.

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Reward Details

None

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Poor – Fair

Annual Fee

$0

0% Intro

None

APR

21.24% – 29.24% (Variable)

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is different from other secured credit cards. It is designed for individuals that have no credit or individuals with limited credit. Individuals with bad credit are not eligible to have this card. It's a great plus for you if you qualify because they don’t charge an annual fee, and they report all card activities to all the three main credit bureaus.

The Citi Secured Mastercard offers no rewards. Some of the benefits you can get from using this card include; free FICO score access, account alerts and flexible payment due date. However, there is a high annual percentage, which is one of the disadvantages of using this card.

  • APR: 21.24% – 29.24% (Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards Plan: None
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: None
  • Build Your Credit
  • No Annual Fee
  • Protection
  • No Rewards/Intro 0% APR Periods / Sign Up Bonus
  • High APR
  • Deposit Needed

Avant Credit Card

Reward Details

None

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Limited – Fair

Annual Fee

$59

0% Intro

None

APR

35.99% Variable

The Avant Credit Card is a great place to start for anyone looking to build a credit line or who has limited credit options due to past credit issues.

Despite the fact that the Avant Card has fewer bonus options and perks when compared to other credit cards, it is highly recommended for people looking for a card that can help boost their credit score quickly, especially for those applying for their first credit card. When it comes to building a credit history, the Avant Credit Card provides an alternative option.

While no security deposit is required, Avant card does charge an annual fee. This fee is disclosed to applicants during the pre-qualification process, and while it is typically $59 per year, Avant notes that this can vary depending on market tests.

  • APR: 35.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $59
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: Unknown
  • Rewards Plan: None
  • Sign Up bonus:None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: None
  • No Security Deposit
  • Pre-Qualification Process
  • Reports to Three Credit Bureaus
  • Periodic Account Review
  • No Balance Transfers Permitted
  • Annual Fee
  • Low Credit Limits
  • High APR Rate
  • No Rewards

Milestone® Mastercard®

Reward Details

None

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Limited – Fair

Annual Fee

$175 the first year; $49 thereafter

0% Intro

N/A

APR

35.90%

The Bank of Missouri Milestone Mastercard is designed to help people with less-than-perfect credit who do not have the funds to finance a secured card. The card has a low credit limit of $700, but the high interest rate will have you paying off your balance on a regular basis, which will help you build your credit history. Payments are also reported to all three major credit bureaus.

The card provides the basic benefits of Mastercard, but there is no balance transfer option and the card has a high APR of  35.90% .  The Milestone Gold Mastercard does have an annual fee ranging from $175 the first year; $49 thereafter, which reduces your available credit line. 

  • APR:35.90%
  • Annual fee: $175 the first year; $49 thereafter
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 1% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Rewards Plan: None
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: N/A
  • Reports to All Major Credit Bureaus
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
  • No Security Deposit Required
  • Offers Security Protection
  • No Balance Transfers Permitted
  • Annual Fee Dependent on Your Credit
  • Low Credit Limits
  • No Rewards or Introductory Offers

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Reward Details

None

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Limited – Fair

Annual Fee

$35

0% Intro

None

APR

25.64% (variable)

The No Credit Check feature is probably the most exciting thing about the OpenSky Secured Credit Card. This is perfect for anyone trying to build credit, whether you’re just starting out or trying to rebuild previously damaged credit.

The OpenSky Secured Credit Card operates like the conventional unsecured credit card, except that it doesn’t check your credit. This means a poor credit score will have no impact on your account approval. You are only required to pay a refundable security deposit ($200 – $3,000) when you create an account. This deposit is what determines your credit card limit. So if you deposit $400, your credit card limit is set to $400. And you can begin using it immediately.

This card can be used to make regular purchases wherever Visa is accepted. It offers you fraud protection and the ‘secured’ status of your card is kept confidential. You are even eligible for special Visa discounts. 

  • APR: 25.64% (variable)
  • Annual fee: $35
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards Plan: None
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: None
  • No Credit Check
  • Flexible Credit Limit
  • You Don’t Need A Bank Account
  • Reports To The Three Major Bureaus
  • No Grace Period
  • Annual Fee
  • No Signup Bonus
  • $200 Minimum Deposit

How long will I use the card until my credit score goes up?

This really depends on your circumstances and spending habits. If you’re regularly using the card and making your payments on time, you should start to see your credit score increasing in several months.

According to OpenSky, half of its customers who make payments on time see a FICO score increase of 30 or more points after just three months.

Do the card providers report payments to all credit bureaus?

Yes, OpenSky (Capital Bank) reports your payment activity to all three major credit bureaus; TransUnion, Equifax and Experian which can help to boost your credit score in a matter of months.

What are the top reasons not to get the card?

The top reason not to consider the OpenSky Secured visa is similar. While you can have some flexibility about your credit limit according to the amount you provide as a deposit, it is dollar for dollar. At a base $200 deposit, you’ll only get a $200 limit. There are other secured credit card options that provide a $200 limit with a deposit as low as $49.

What’s the initial credit limit?

The credit limit for an OpenSky Secured Visa credit card is determined by your deposit. You can provide a security deposit of $200 to $3,000 and this will act as your credit limit. So, if you pay a $500 security deposit, you’ll have a $500 limit. However, after six months you may be eligible for a credit limit increase without needing to provide an additional deposit.

What are the card income requirements?

The OpenSky has flexible requirements, so you don’t need to worry about your income to qualify. In the case of OpenSky, you simply need to prove that your income is greater than your typical monthly expenses.

 

First Progress Platinum Secured

First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard® Secured Credit Card

First Progress Platinum Secured

Reward Details

None

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Limited – Fair

Annual Fee

$29

0% Intro

N/A

APR

25.24% Variable

While there are several secured cards available to help you rebuild your credit, the First Progress Platinum Elite has some advantages. You can open an account with a deposit of $200 to $2,000. Your credit limit will be determined by the amount of your deposit. So, if your deposit is $500, you'll have a credit limit of $500.

In addition, the First Progress Platinum Elite reports to all three major credit bureaus. Every monthly payment you make is reported to Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. This makes it easier to build your credit faster.

This is a basic secured card, but you should be aware that there are fees and charges associated with your account. The annual fee for the card is $29 , which is lower than that of comparable secured cards.

  • APR: 25.24% Variable
  • Annual fee: $29
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards Plan: None
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: N/A
  • Easy Application
  • No Credit Check
  • Set Your Own Credit Limit
  • Reports to All Three Credit Bureaus
  • Annual Fee
  • No Upgrade Possibilities
  • No Rewards & Sign up Bonus

Indigo® Mastercard®

Indigo card

Indigo® Mastercard®

Reward Details

None

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Fair – Good

Annual Fee

$0 – $99

0% Intro

None

APR

24.90%

The Indigo® Mastercard® is one of the few credit cards that approve applicants with a bankruptcy record and other less than perfect credit history.  You can prequalify for the Indigo Mastercard without affecting your credit scores. If you are looking for a credit card with no security deposit to help you rebuild your credit, consider Indigo Unsecured Mastercard.

There are no points or cashback rewards with this card. It reports on-time payments to all three of the major credit bureaus so the cardholder can build their credit history. The Indigo card is issued by Celtic Bank, which is better known for its commercial products than its consumer products.  

  • APR: 24.90%
  • Annual fee: $0 – $99
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Unknown
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 1%
  • Rewards Plan: None
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: None
  • Pre-Approval
  • No Annual Fee
  • Extended Warranty Protection
  • Reports To The Three Major Bureaus
  • Travel Protections
  • Low Average Credit Limit
  • No 0% APR Introductory Rate
  • No Signup Bonus
  • No Rewards
  • High APR

What are the card income requirements?

The Indigo card requirements are quite flexible, and there is no specific income required in order to get this card.

Can you get pre approved?

The Indigo Platinum has a pre approval option on the official website. You can enter your basic details and get the results within a few minutes.

What’s the initial credit limit I'll get?

Indigo Platinum has an initial credit limit of $300, but there is no mention of when or if it is possible to get a credit limit increase. This makes this card a fairly basic option and you may need to move on to a different card once you’ve improved your credit score.

Can I add an authorized user?

Indigo allows its Platinum account holders to add an authorized user with no charge. The authorized users will get a card linked to your account but showing their name to make purchases using your credit line.

Does Indigo offers a good digital experience?

Indigo has a decent website with a fairly comprehensive FAQ section, giving a good overall digital experience.

In this chart using Experian data, you can see the average FICO score has increased significantly over the last decade.

 

How Many Cards Do I Need to Build Credit?

So, how many credit cards should you have? Unfortunately, there is no ideal number out there, but having at least one will allow you to build up your credit. 

What the research shows, and credit scores show, is that using your credit card responsibly is more important than how many you have (or don’t have). That means you want to look at your credit utilization and even at the history of payments that you have so you know what your credit score is really going to look like.

Now, even though you don’t need a lot of credit cards, having a few of them could be a good idea because instead of using only one card, and carrying a larger balance, you could have smaller balances on each.

Of course, it’s important to note that your credit utilization isn’t always considered only based on individual cards. If you have a small balance on several cards it can also be counted as the total balance you carry versus the amount available.

Your best bet is going to be keeping balances low at all times and then paying them off completely. Paying the full balance each and every month actually makes sure your payment history continue to look great on your report.

When you do use multiple cards, however, make sure you’re paying close attention to how much you spend and how much you can afford to pay. It can be a problem to spend too much and not pay off those balances.

On top of that, make sure you monitor your due dates to get all your cards paid on time.

Why Low Credit Utilization Ratio Can Help You to Rebuild Credit?

When you look at the credit currently being used and you divide it by how much credit is actually available you get the credit utilization ratio or rate. It means how much you owe divided by how much you’ve been given (your credit limit). What you’ll normally find is that this is a percentage. So, let’s say you have a credit limit of $20,000. Then we say you’ve spent $10,000. You’re ratio is 50%, over all of your credit. You can use the same division to determine your ratio per credit card.

Of course, because your utilization is counted for up to 30% of your credit score, it’s important to look at all the time.

Keeping your utilization down keeps your score higher. That’s because most credit reporting agencies consider lower utilization to be a sign that you know how to keep track of your credit and your debt. That means you get a better score.

This chart created with Experian data shows that those with an average to good credit score have an average credit utilization ratio of the optimum 33%. This ratio drops significantly for those with very good and excellent scores.

At the other end of the scale, the chart shows that those with poor credit scores typically have a very high credit utilization ratio, with an average of 73%. This will be a massive factor in lending decisions for those in this group.

 

What Should I Use My Credit Card For?

Credit cards can be used for a plethora of things. Here are some of them

  • To build credit: If you are new to credit cards or do not have an account of your own, credit cards can be used to build credit scores and history, thus making you eligible for future loans. This can be done by getting authorized use on another person’s card, or a secured credit card.
  • Earn rewards: Credit cards can also be used to earn rewards on purchases. Rewards may take the form of travel, hotel, airline, and cash back cards.
  • Pay down debt: You can use credit cards to pay down debt though this may seem counterintuitive. This is because credit cards are usually used to rack up debt. However, when used strategically — like taking advantage of an introductory 0% APR — a credit card can help you pay off debt.
  • Finance a purchase: Credit cards can also be used to finance purchases though their interest rates are high. A credit card can be used as a stop-gap measure and finance a purchase if you are financially pressed. Also, you could take advantage of a card with an introductory 0% purchase APR to pay off a big purchase interest-free.

Rebuilding Your Credit: Tips and Tricks

Building your credit is a long journey, but if you follow the right steps – it can be quicker and easier. Here are the most important rules to follow in order to build your credit effectively and efficiency:

1. Paying Credit Cards Bills On Time

Do you know how important your payment history actually is? Paying your credit card bills on time, also known as your payment history, is worth about 35% of your credit score. Starting with the initial six month period and going backwards, your history is crucial.

If you’ve got no history at all it’s important to find a way to create some by paying a bill with your card. If you can’t pay that bill off, however, don’t put yourself into debt. Only use this method if you can pay off the card every month so you can get updated information to your report. Plus, you don’t have to worry about interest if you pay off the bill each month.

Change credit card payment options on Chase website
Change credit card payment options on Chase website (Screenshot from Chase app)

2. Don’t Miss Your Payments

Unfortunately, some people tend to fall into a bad habit, paying bills late but you can improve. If you missed a payment six months ago it’s going to count more than if you missed a payment three years ago. Your FICO scores will continue to increase and to improve as you move forward.

The improvements to your FICO score will improve your information overall and as a result – your ability to get better financial conditions.

Your credit score can influence not only your credit card rate, but also your available credit limit. This chart using Experian data shows the average credit card debt by credit score. It shows that those with an average to good credit score have the highest amount of credit card debt.

 

3. Don't Cancel Your Card

It’s important to have a long history of credit use to increase your record and your FICO score. You probably didn’t realize just how important that first card really was but responsible card use is crucial.

If you find yourself opening and closing cards frequently it can cause big problems. Instead, keep a single card as long as you can and use just that card. Your average credit age is an important part of the credit score, giving you about 15% of your FICO score. When you open or close an account it changes your credit history age and that brings down this portion of the score.

4. Don’t Overspend

The higher the balance that you have on your credit card the worse it’s going to look for your FICO score. Keeping your balance down to 30% or less of what your total available is will help you overall, even if you’re not paying it off every month.

Balances that are higher will start to decrease your score. If you want your credit card to help you along the way and improve your score it’s crucial to keep this in mind.

5. Quality Over Quantity

Having more than one credit card isn’t necessary, whether they’re store, general or even gas cards. More and more credit cards will actually make you look worse to credit reports. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for some to refuse the discounts offered with store cards. Even still, you may want to avoid them entirely.

A store card will typically have a high level of interest and since most people tend to not pay off their credit cards every month they know they’re going to get a lot of money out of you.

After all, it’s difficult to avoid spending money when there’s something special going on. When you get a better credit card, you can keep lower interest rates, low limits and even no fees. You can even get bonus points if the card you have that does all these things also gives you some kind of cash back.

How To Build Credit With A Credit Card

6. Don’t Forget Your Payments

Remember how we talked about payment history? Well, it’s crucial that you take advantage of bank reminders if your institution offers them.

Whether it’s emails or texts or anything else, having reminders or, better yet, automatic payments, will make a huge difference. Keeping your payments on time will make a dramatic difference in your credit report. Just make sure you pay more than the minimum.

7. Request a Credit Limit Increase

Okay, so you’re making your payments on time, you’re spending less, you owe less and you’re starting to build your way up. Now it’s time to start thinking about an increase for your credit card. Remember that your credit utilization is about how much you spend versus how much you have available.

By keeping your score down to no more than 30% you’ll be able to improve your score. If you’ve got $10,000 of credit available and you’ve spent $2,000 it means your utilization is at 20%, which is good overall.

But increasing your limit can make your ratio even lower.

This chart created with Experian data, highlights the significant increase in the average credit card limits in the last decade. Credit card limits have consistently increased with an overall increase in the recent 10 years.

 

Is Requesting a Credit Limit Increase Affect Your Credit?

It depend on your credit card company. Capital One and other credit card companies do not conduct hard credit checks. Instead, only soft credit checks are performed to determine your financial situation. As a result, your credit score is unaffected.

However, many businesses conduct hard checks, which have an impact on your credit score. As a result, before contacting your credit card company, you should be certain that you want to request a credit limit increase.

8. Start Secured

What if you have bad credit and you aren’t able to just apply for any old credit card? That’s when you can consider a secured card.

The first thing to think about is how much money you’re willing to deposit into your account in order to get your credit card. With a secured card you have to leave that money alone because it gives the card issuer something to take in case you don’t pay your bill. You likely need to have the money in an account with that card issuer or in an account they can access one way or another. Fortunately, you may be able to get some type of interest from the deposit.

Not paying your bill, however, means that your money will be seized and the bank won’t have a problem doing so. People with bad credit, after all, are expected to continue to do the same again and again.

If you need to rebuild your credit and you can’t get a regular card then look for a secured credit that will get you on the right path.

How to Build Credit With a Secured Credit Card?

Building credit with a secured credit card is all about practicing those three habits.

  • Pay your balance in full: A viable way of building credit is by paying your credit card balances in full. Avoid rolling over debt as this increases your interest rates and lowers your credit score.
  • Use the card wisely: frugal spending is a way to rack up enough points on your credit score. Have a budget and stick to it. Do not initiate purchases that are not necessary.
  • Extend your credit history: Using a secured credit card over time boosts the length of your credit history.
  • Use different types of credit: Adding a secured card to your car loan, mortgage, and a student loan can go a long way to boost your credit scores. By mixing a secured card to an installment loan, this combines to make up 10% of your credit score which boosts your history.
What Is a Secured Card and How Does It Work
(Photo by Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock)

How Long Does It Take To Build Credit? 

Of course, you may be thinking about just how long this is all going to take. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be a super quick process. Your credit history builds over time and it will only continue to go up if you continue to do all of the things we’ve discussed here.

Making your accounts current is the first step, and it can take at least a few months of reporting to get this to reflect. Paying bills on time is the next step, and then making sure you don’t use too much of your balance and do use your cards the way they’re supposed to be used. If you do, you’ll be on your way to better credit.

Can You Build Credit Without a Credit Card?

There are several ways you can build credit without credit cards.

  • Credit Builder Loan: One viable way of building credit is without a credit card is through credit builder loans. After getting approval for a credit builder loan, the money is deposited into a locked savings account. When you make monthly payments on the loan, this is reported to the three major credit bureaus. This builds your payment history and credit profile.
  • Report rent payments to the Credit Bureaus: Though rent payments aren’t normally reported to the credit bureaus, this can be used as an alternative to building your credit report through rent-reporting services. Each time you pay your rent on time and report to a credit bureau, this is deemed as a positive addition to your credit report which over time builds credit score and history.
  • Become an Authorized User: By becoming an authorized user of someone else’s credit card, you can build your credit report and history without owning a credit card. You can be added to another person’s credit account as an authorized user. This is usually a family member, spouse, or close friend. Your card activity will be reported to credit bureaus as you use the card, which ultimately affects your credit score. However, be warned that the primary cardholder would be responsible for paying any debt on the card if you default.

FAQs

The majority of negative credit information stays on your credit report for at least seven years. Furthermore, if you filed for bankruptcy, this information will remain on your Equifax credit report for 7 to 10 years.

The length of time, however, is largely determined by the type of bankruptcy you filed for. Any closed accounts will be paid in your Equifax credit report for up to ten years as agreed. So, consider what you could be doing to help improve your credit history.

If you don't have a credit report and you look for your first card, there are some credit card options that can help you build one. These include student credit cards, which are intended for people with no credit history.

If you need to rebuild your credit, you might want to look into a secured credit card. This does entail depositing funds into a savings account, which will serve as security for your card. Most issuers limit your credit card limit to the amount of your deposit, reducing the credit card company's risk.

If you fail to pay, they can simply deduct the funds from your deposit. The advantage of this is that each monthly payment is reported to the credit bureaus, which helps to improve your credit score.

A good FICO credit score is one that is greater than 670, while a fair credit score is one that is greater than 580. So, if your credit score is Credit Score Ranges Basics

Each creditor will report to a bureau at their own pace, but it will typically be every 30 to 45 days. With each new report, there is a chance that your credit report will be adjusted, resulting in credit score changes.

As a result, because the different bureaus process the reports at different rates, your credit score may fluctuate on a daily or weekly basis. There is no set date for when the changes will take effect.

Typically, your lender will look over your credit history and consider the increased credit limit you request. The lender may obtain a copy of your credit report as part of this process. This is known as a hard query.

Because the credit scoring model considers the time and frequency of your most recent credit application, hard credit inquiries may have an impact on your credit score. However, some credit cards do not conduct hard credit inquiries, ensuring that your credit score remains unaffected.

How We Picked The Best Cards For Building Credit: Methodology

To identify the best cards for building credit, our team conducted extensive research focusing on various issuers, including major banks and financial institutions. We rated these cards based on four key categories tailored for individuals looking to establish or improve their credit:

  • Credit Building Features (40%): We evaluate the card's features specifically designed to help build credit, such as reporting to major credit bureaus, credit limit increases over time, and access to credit education resources. Cards with robust credit-building features and proactive credit management tools score higher in this category.

  • Secured or Starter Card Options (30%): This category assesses the availability and terms of secured or starter credit card options, including minimum deposit requirements, fees, and potential for graduating to an unsecured card. Cards offering accessible secured card options with favorable terms and clear pathways to transition to unsecured cards earn higher scores.

  • Fees & Interest Rates (20%): We examine the card's fee structure and interest rates, including annual fees, foreign transaction fees, late payment fees, and APR ranges. Cards with reasonable fees and competitive interest rates, particularly for individuals with limited credit history, receive higher ratings in this category.

  • Issuer Reputation (10%): We scrutinize each issuer's reputation, considering customer feedback, financial stability, and regulatory standing. Issuers with positive reviews from cardholders and a history of supporting credit-building efforts through responsible lending practices receive higher ratings in this category.

This comprehensive evaluation ensures that the best cards for building credit offer effective credit-building features, accessible options for individuals with limited credit history, reasonable fees, and a positive reputation, empowering individuals to establish and improve their creditworthiness responsibly.

Picture of Andrew O'Malley

Andrew O'Malley

Andrew O’Malley has a BSc in Economics and Finance. He has worked in the finance industry as a risk analyst and is now pursuing a career in writing. In recent years, he has written for a number of leading publications. He studied Economics and Finance and has been fascinated with the financial markets since his teens.
Search
Best Cards Per Category

Offers From Our Partners

Milestone® Mastercard®

Annual Fee:
$175 the first year; $49 thereafter
APR:
35.90%

upgrade cash rewards

Rewards Plan:
1.5% 1.5% cash back on payments
Welcome Bonus:
$200 Earn a $200 bonus after you open & fund a Rewards Checking Plus account & make 3 debit card transactions within 60 days. If you previously opened a checking account through Upgrade or do not do so as part of this process, you are not eligible. Payout made within 60 days of meeting the conditions.
Advertiser Disclosure
The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.

Top Offers From Our Partners

upgrade cash rewards

Rewards Plan:
1.5% 1.5% cash back on payments
Welcome Bonus:
$200 Earn a $200 bonus after you open & fund a Rewards Checking Plus account & make 3 debit card transactions within 60 days. If you previously opened a checking account through Upgrade or do not do so as part of this process, you are not eligible. Payout made within 60 days of meeting the conditions.

Milestone® Mastercard®

Annual Fee:
$175 the first year; $49 thereafter
APR:
35.90%
Advertiser Disclosure
The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.

#1 In credit Cards

Our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter for secret credit card tips, insider advice, and exclusive deals straight to your inbox

Start saving smarter with

Our Credit Card Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter and gain access to expert advice,
insider knowledge, and exclusive offers

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Credit Card Reviews Methodology

In order to determine the best possible credit cards, we look at things like fees, interest rates and rewards. We do this with companies that are associated with us as partners as well as other offerings. From there, we make a decision about what the best card is related to different categories and needs. We focus on interest rate cost & fees, especially the cost of carrying a balance, rewards – cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely usability – cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting. We also consider customer reviews.

We look at cards related to good or excellent credit ratings that will then provide a range of different benefits and improvements for someone who has these scores. We also look at low fees when it comes to those who have lower credit scores.