Best Credit Cards to Build Your Credit History and Score

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UPDATE: The offer for the British Airways card in this post has expired.  But check Hot Deals for the latest offers!

Miles and points can open a world of travel for folks who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it!  But you’ll need good credit to get into this hobby.  Because the fastest way to miles and points is by earning credit card sign-up bonuses.

If you’re new to this country, are a recent graduate, or have never signed-up for a credit card in your name, the lack of payment history can bring down your credit score.  But there are ways you can start showing the banks you know how to handle credit responsibly.

Best Credit Cards To Build Your Credit History And Score

Whether You’re a New Immigrant, Young Adult, or Just Never Had a Credit Card in Your Name, Don’t Let Your Lack of Credit History Lock You Out of Earning Big Tavel With Small Money!

I have tips to help you build your credit history and boost your credit score so you can start traveling!

How to Build a Strong Credit History & Score

Here are the steps to building excellent credit so you can earn miles and points.

1.   Become an Authorized User

You can potentially give your credit a boost by having a friend or family member add you as an authorized user on their account.

Just make sure the primary cardholder is someone who pays their bills on time and won’t max out their line of credit.  Because their entire history on that card will show up on your credit report for as long as you have the card.

Best Credit Cards To Build Your Credit History And Score

A Friend or Family Member Can Help You Establish a Credit History by Adding You as an Authorized User on Their Credit Card

You can also help them meet minimum spending requirements and earn bonus points.  Then once your credit improves, you can get the same card on your own and you’re typically still eligible to earn the sign-up bonus!

2.   Sign-up for a Secured Card

When you open a secured credit card, you put down a deposit.  This is your credit limit.  So the bank isn’t taking a risk and you get the opportunity to show you can pay your bills on time.

Here are some secured cards that will also give you miles or cash back:

Secured CardAnnual FeeMinimum DepositSign-Up BonusOther Perks
Discover It SecuredNone$200None• 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in spending each quarter

• 1% cash back on all other purchases

• All cash back DOUBLED at the end of your 1st year
US Bank AeroMexico Visa Secured$25 waived for the 1st year$3005,000 AeroMexico miles after your 1st purchase• 2 miles per $1 you spend on gas and groceries

• 1 mile per $1 you spend on all other purchases

• One $99 Companion Ticket at sign-up, and again every year

• Complimentary checked bag on certain flights when you present your card at check-in
US Bank Avianca Secured Visa$25 waived for the 1st year$3005,000 Avianca miles after your 1st purchase• 1 LifeMile per $1 you spend

• 15% discount on Avianca excess baggage fees

• $500,000 travel accident insurance
US Bank LAN Secured Visa$25 waived for the 1st year$3005,000 LAN miles after your 1st purchase• 1 LANPASS mile per $1 spent

• 10% discount on LAN purchase (once a year)
US Bank Korean Air Secured Visa$50 $3005,000 Korean Air miles after your 1st purchase• 1 mile per $1 you spend

• 1,000 miles each year you renew the card

• $250,000 in Travel Accident Insurance

Just be sure you pay your bill on-time and in full each month, because paying the high interest rates and fees on these cards negates any value from the miles and cash back.  And you don’t want to wind up in debt!

After a few months, your spending and on-time payments should post to your credit report and you can start applying for other cards.

3.   Apply for Entry Level Credit Cards

Next, you can apply for credit cards targeted to folks without an excellent credit score.

Cards from JCPenney, Walmart, and Sears are at the top of CreditCardForums list of store cards with easy approvals.  And sometimes they come with store discounts or access to exclusive sales.

Note:  Some of these stores offer more than 1 credit card.  The cards that can only be used in-store are more lenient.

Best Credit Cards To Build Your Credit History And Score

I Wouldn’t Sign-up to Earn a Free Pumpkin, but Store Cards Like the Walmart Credit Card Can Give Some Folks the Opportunity to Build a Credit History

Other cards you may qualify for without excellent credit include:

  • Chase SlateYou won’t earn cash back for this card.  But it’s a great way to establish a good relationship with Chase, which has some of my favorite cards!
  • Discover it for Students – 5% cash back on rotating categories like gas stations, restaurants, and home improvement (on up to $1,500 in spending) each quarter and bonuses for good grades.  1% cash back on all other purchases.  Plus, your cash back is doubled at the end of your 1st year
  • Discover it chrome for Students – 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter.  1% cash back on all other purchases.  And your cash back is doubled at the end of your 1st year.

Most of these cards have no annual fee so you never have to cancel.  This is a great way to build a long-term history with the banks.

After ~6 months of using these entry-level cards responsibly, you should be ready to start earning miles and points!

4.   Earn Miles & Points

Cards with big sign-up bonuses require excellent credit.  But with a short credit history, you can still get cards such as:

You can earn miles, points, and cash back with these cards while you continue building a credit history and establishing relationships with the banks.

Best Credit Cards To Build Your Credit History And Score

With Great Credit You Can Earn Miles & Points for First Class Flights, Fancy Hotel Suites, Family Vacations to Disney World, Romantic Getaways to Hawaii, and More!

With an improved credit score and history, you can earn big sign-up bonuses on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase British AirwaysCiti Prestige, or Barclaycard Arrival Plus!

Keep in mind, credit score isn’t the only factor banks consider when evaluating credit card applications.  They also look at income, financial stability, and more when considering your application.

Bottom Line

You’ll need a solid credit score to enjoy all of the benefits of this hobby.

So immigrants, students, and other folks who have little or no credit history or a low score should start by working to build their credit score.

Secured cards like the Discover it Secured can get your foot in the door.  You put a deposit down to cover your credit limit, so the bank doesn’t have to take a risk.

Store cards and entry-level cards like the Capital One QuicksilverOne are good options.

After ~6 months of paying your bills on-time, you should be able to get approved for cards such as the Chase Freedom or Barclaycard Arrival, which don’t require a long credit history.

Then you’ll soon be on your way to Big Travel with Small Money by earning big sign-up bonuses on cards including the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase British Airways, Citi Prestige, or Barclaycard Arrival Plus.

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5 responses to “Best Credit Cards to Build Your Credit History and Score

  1. Hi Darius, A reader on another travel blog posted that if you become an authorized user on someone else’s card, and if that person has a long credit history with that card, this will automatically increase the average length of time of your credit card history. Do you know if this is true? If so, if I have only one card and have only had it for 1 year, and if my dad adds me as an authorized user to a card he’s had for 29 years, will my average credit history actually increase to 15 years?

  2. Please note that the Capital One QuicksilverOne card does in fact have an annual fee ($39).

  3. I did the authorized user route when I first moved to the US. I combined that with a secured credit card and within a few months, I got my own AMEX Premiere Rewards Gold card (targeted)! It was great getting to apply to cards on my own, and not just my partner’s 🙂

  4. hi – what are the bottom line credit scoresvyou need to get the chase freedom and citi cards. Realizing every situation is different, what is the minimum fico score you need to have a good chance to get these cards? thank you.

  5. Can the person be 17 to start or do u have to be 18 years old? My son works fulltime as well as goes to college but he has 5 more months to go before he turns 18.