Best Credit Cards to Build Your Credit History and Score
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
This page includes information about the Discover products that are not currently available on Million Mile Secrets and may be out of date.
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.
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.
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:
[table id=223 /]
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.
Note: Some of these stores offer more than 1 credit card. The cards that can only be used in-store are more lenient.
Other cards you may qualify for without excellent credit include:
- Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card – 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
- Chase Slate – You 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!
- Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard – 2X points at gas stations, grocery stores, and on utilities, 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Discover it® Student Cash Back – 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® Student chrome – 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.
With an improved credit score and history, you can earn big sign-up bonuses on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card, Citi Prestige, or Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard!
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.
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.
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.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardAPPLY NOW
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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! :)