New to Credit? Here Are the Best First Credit Cards

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New to Credit?  Here Are the Best First Credit Cards

Andrew WNew to Credit?  Here Are the Best First Credit CardsMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Andrew W:   Starting out with credit can be tricky, because some of the best miles and points credit cards are reserved for those with an excellent credit score.  But it IS possible to get a great rewards card even if you are just starting out with limited credit.

We’ve compiled a list of the best first credit cards for a variety of situations.  So whether you have a good credit score but are new to cards, no credit history, a limited credit history, or rebuilding from some blemishes on your credit report, there will be a card for you!

In fact, one of my first credit cards was the Chase Freedom, which I got with only 1 year of credit history.  And to this day it is still one of the top rewards cards in my wallet!

Best First Credit Card
Ready to Apply for Your First Credit Card? You’ve Got Options, Even With a Limited Credit History

It’s important to remember to always pay your credit cards in full and on time.  This will help build a good credit score and make it easier for you to get approved for other types of loans, such as a mortgage or car loan.  And having a good credit score could also get you a lower interest rate, saving you thousands of dollars over the life of that loan!

You can use sites like MyBankrate to check your credit.  Just remember each bank has different approval criteria.  While they do look at more than just your credit score, it is generally a good indicator of your chances of approval.

Best First Credit Card

Best Beginner Credit Cards

1.   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Our Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the #1 card we recommend for anyone starting out the miles and points hobby.  According to reports online and from readers, you’ll have the best chance of approval if your credit score is ~720 or more. 

So if you already have a good credit score (perhaps because you’ve had student loans, car loans, or a mortgage) but are new to credit cards, this is an excellent pick.

The card also comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.  That’s worth $500 in cash back, $625 when you book paid travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, and potentially much more when you transfer your points to airline and hotel partners like Southwest, United Airlines, and Hyatt.

You’ll also get:

  • 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel and dining worldwide
  • 1X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Primary car rental insurance – Covers damage due to theft or collision to your rental car, when you pay for the rental with your card
  • Trip delay reimbursement – Get up to $500 back per ticket when your trip is delayed more than 12 hours
  • NO foreign transaction fees

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, so you can try out the card fee-free for the first ~11 months.

Best First Credit Card
You Can Redeem the Points You Earn From the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for Free Stays at Terrific Hotels!

If you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards from ANY bank in the past 24 months (excluding certain small business cards and Chase business cards), Chase will NOT approve you for many of their best travel rewards credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Note:  There’s an alternate offer for up to 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after meeting tiered spending requirements.  But you’ll have to spend a total of $20,000 on purchases in your first year to unlock the full sign-up bonus.  You can read more about it here.

2.   Capital One Platinum

Link:   Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Link:   Our Review of the Capital One Platinum

The Capital One Platinum credit card has NO sign-up bonus and NO rewards for your spending, so I’d only consider it if you don’t qualify for other rewards-earning cards.

The card is meant for folks who have an average credit profile, which Capital One defines as someone who has:

  • Limited credit history of less than 3 years (including students, people new to the US, and authorized users on someone else’s credit card), OR
  • Defaulted on a loan in the past 5 years

The card includes the following benefits:

  • Access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Extended warranty – additional warranty protection on eligible items purchased with the card
  • Price protection – reimburses you the difference in price on eligible items if you find a lower price for that same item within 60 days
  • 24-hour roadside assistance
  • NO foreign transaction fees
Best First Credit Card
Capital One’s Website Provides General Guidelines About Credit. You Can Use This in Figuring Your Odds of Approval

While the card has no rewards for your spending, it has no annual fee.  And you’ll have the option of later upgrading to an eligible rewards credit card, like the Capital One Quicksilver Card.  According to reports on forums, people have been able to upgrade in as little as 6 months of on-time payments.

3.   Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards

Link:   Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card 

Link:   Our Review of the Capital One QuicksilverOne

If you have a limited credit history of 3 years or less and are looking for a card with cash back rewards, then the Capital One QuicksilverOne may be the card for you!

The card has no sign-up bonus.  And although it does have a $39 annual fee, you will earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.  It’s easy to redeem cash back because you can request a check or statement credit at any time with no minimum redemption amount.

You’ll also get the following benefits:

  • Access a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Price protection – get reimbursed the difference if the price drops on eligible items within 60 days
  • Travel accident insurance – automatic insurance for death or dismemberment when you use the card to purchase your fare
  • Extended warranty – additional warranty protection on eligible items purchased with the card
  • 24/7 roadside assistance

4.   Chase Freedom

Link:   Chase Freedom

Link:   Our Review of the Chase Freedom

Another good option for folks with a limited credit history is the Chase Freedom.

The Chase Freedom has no annual fee and a welcome bonus of $150 (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months.

And you’ll also get:

  • 5% cash back (5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1) on up to $1,500 in combined spending in rotating categories each quarter when you activate the bonus
  • 1% cash back (1X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1) on all other purchases

Keep in mind, the Chase Freedom charges foreign transaction fees, so it’s NOT a good card to use overseas.

Best First Credit Card
Earn 5% Back (5X Chase Ultimate Rewards Points) on up to $1,500 in Combined Spending in Categories That Rotate Each Quarter, Like Grocery Stores

One of my favorite things about this card is that it earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  And because of the flexibility of these points, as your credit card portfolio grows, you can pool these points with another eligible Chase card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred.

Doing so will further increase the value of your points because you could then transfer points directly to Chase travel partners, or redeem them at a higher value through the Chase travel portal for airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more.

Note:   Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards from ANY bank in the past 24 months (excluding certain small business cards and Chase business cards), it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for the Chase Freedom.

The information for the Chase Freedom® has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

5.   Chase Freedom Unlimited

Link:   Chase Freedom Unlimited

Link:   Our Review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited

Folks looking for a simpler cash back card without having to keep track of rotating bonus categories should consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited.  With this card, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

The card also has no annual fee and has a sign-up bonus of $150 (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Additionally, you’ll get:

  • 1.5% cash back (1.5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1) on all purchases with NO limit 

Because the Chase Freedom Unlimited adds foreign transaction fees, it’s not a good choice for international travel.

According to reports online, this card has roughly the same approval criteria as the Chase Freedom.   Readers suggest you could have a good chance of being approved with a credit score of at least ~680.

Keep in mind, if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards from ANY bank in the past 24 months (excluding certain small business cards and Chase business cards), you’re also unlikely to be approved for the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

6.   Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

Link:   Capital One Quicksilver Card 

Link:   Our Review of the Capital One Quicksilver

For those who meet Capital One’s definition of excellent credit, the Capital One Quicksilver card is another good cash back credit card to consider, with a very straightforward earning rate.

You’ll have a decent chance of approval if you have more than 3 years of credit history, no bankruptcies, and haven’t been late more than 60 days on any loan in the past year.

This is another card with no annual fee, with a welcome bonus of $150 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.

The card also offers the following benefits:

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Extended warranty – additional warranty protection on eligible items purchased with the card
  • Secondary rental car insurance which covers damage due to theft or collision to your rental car

And it’s also very easy and convenient to redeem cash back with the Capital One Quicksilver.  You can request it in the form of a check or statement credit, at any time, with no minimums.

7.   Capital One Secured

Link:   Capital One Secured Credit Card

 

If you have no credit history, are rebuilding your credit, or have a credit score below 650 according to many reports in online forums, the Capital One Secured credit card could be a smart first step to take in improving your credit score.

This is a good option if you’re new to the US, a recent graduate or student with little previous credit history, or if you have blemishes on your credit report.

There’s NO sign-up bonus and NO rewards earning.  And you’ll have to make a refundable security deposit of $49, $99, or $200 depending on your creditworthiness.

Best First Credit Card
Students or Recent Graduates With Limited Credit History Might Consider the Capital One Secured Card to Get Started

It’s possible to increase your credit limit by making a larger security deposit, or by making the first 5 months of payments on time.

And there are many reports that after 12 months of on-time payments, you can call and request the card to be changed to an unsecured product to get your security deposit back.  So this is a card that can grow with you as you improve your credit!

There are no foreign transaction fees with the Capital One Secured card.  And it also comes with perks like extended warranty and travel accident insurance.

8.   Capital One Journey Student Rewards

Link:   Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Link:   Our Review of the Capital One Journey

Folks who love to travel but have a limited credit history can benefit from the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One.

This card is designed for those with average credit, and you do NOT need to be a student to qualify for this card.  According to Capital One, this means folks who have a credit history less than 3 years, or who have defaulted on a loan in the past 5 years.

The card has NO sign-up bonus but also has no annual fee.  You can earn up to 1.25% cash back structured as follows:

  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Earn an additional 0.25% cash back for paying your bill on time

And you’ll get the following perks:

  • Access a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel accident insurance – automatic insurance for death or dismemberment when you use the card to purchase your fare
  • Extended warranty – additional warranty protection on eligible items purchased with the card
  • Secondary rental car insurance which covers damage due to theft or collision to your rental car
Best First Credit Card
With No Foreign Transaction Fees, The Capital One Journey Student Card Is a Great Card to Bring With You Overseas!

With the Capital One Journey, you can redeem your cash back whenever you want in the form of a statement credit or check.

Bottom Line

If you’ve already got good credit but are new to credit cards, are just starting out with credit, or have a limited credit history, here are some of the the best first credit cards to consider:

If you have good credit and are new to rewards cards:

Folks who have average credit (credit history of 3 years and under):

And if you have no credit or are rebuilding credit, then these cards may be a good fit for you:

Do you have a favorite card that’s not on this list?  Let us know in the comments below!

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Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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