The Best Starter Credit Cards

If you're new to credit cards, recently out of high school, or looking to repair your credit, these credit cards may be ideal for you. *Please note, our recommendations do not guarantee approvals. This was created using data points from previous applicants. Apply at your own discretion. *

Credit card shopping can be stressful. Having to sort through hundreds of different credit cards and not knowing which ones best suit your needs can be discouraging.

However, it’s imperative that you build your credit as lenders will look at your credit report and will determine your worthiness based on your report, therefore it’s important to build your credit as soon as possible. Credit cards are an excellent entryway into building your credit history and proving to lenders that you’re financially responsible. I recommend signing-up for a free credit report service such as Credit Karma, so that you track your credit progress. Credit Karma gives solid insight as to what impacts your credit with clear factors.

Getting approved for your first premium credit card will be difficult, especially if your credit is extremely limited or damaged (default, late payments, etc.). It’s also important to recognize Chase’s 5/24 Rule and be mindful when opening new credit cards. If you do not know what the Chase 5/24 Rule is, I would recommend reading this blog, which will explain what it is, how it works, and how to best strategize for it. It’s best to start planning towards 5/24 now, rather than later, as Chase cards are valuable when considering travel rewards.

In this blog, I will talk about credit cards that are best for building your credit. Eventually, we will also go into starter cards that give standard rewards. 

Capital One Platinum Secured Mastercard

Annual Fee: $0
Sign up bonus: None
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
APR: 26.99% Variable Rate

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The Capital One Platinum Secured Mastercard is an excellent starter card when building your credit. With a secured card, you will need to give the lender a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200 (all of which will be refundable if you make your payments on time). Capital One will hold your security deposit as collateral; in exchange, they will give you a credit line of $200. This is helpful because if you’re only required to deposit $49 or $99, you will still have access to the $200 credit line. If you make your first 5-monthly payments on time, Capital One will automatically increase your credit limit requiring no additional deposit. This is important as this impacts your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the percentage of credit used divided by the total credit available. When credit utilization is high, it will negatively impact your credit score. A lower credit utilization will positively impact your credit score. When building/rebuilding credit, you will want to keep your credit utilization percentage low (~10%).

With this card, don’t expect any rewards. The upgrade options to an unsecured card may be limited but may become as you develop a good relationship with Capital One. We recommend giving Capital One customer service a call at 1-800-227-4825. 


Discover it Secured Credit Card

Annual Fee: $0
Sign up bonus: None
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
APR: 25.24% Variable

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The Discover it Secured Credit Card is fairly similar to the Capital One Platinum Secured, however with this card, you can earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations for up to $1,000 every quarter, which equates to $80 in cash back annually. The Discover it also offers 1% on all other purchases. At the end of the year, Discover will match all the cash back earned for the first year. A secured credit card provides immense flexibility while still rewarding cardholders. One thing to note, Discover it requires a minimum refundable security deposit of $200, with a maximum of $2,500. Your credit line is whatever you deposit, as long as it’s at least $200.


Chase Freedom

Annual Fee: $0
Sign up bonus: $150 after you spend $500 in the first three months
Balance Transfer: 0% interest on balance transfers and a 3% for each transfer.
Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%
APR: 0% Introductory APR for the first 15 months; After that, variable rate of 17.24%–25.99%

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The Chase Freedom is an excellent starter card that you should have in your collection, with cash back and travelers in mind. The Chase Freedom gives 5% cash back on quarterly rotating bonus categories and 1% cash back on all other purchases. When applying for this card, we recommend having a credit score of at least 680, as Chase requires Good ~ Excellent Credit. We do not recommend applying for this card as your first credit card unless you already have a relationship with Chase through a checking account. The minimum credit line that Chase gives for the Freedom is $500. They must approve you for at least $500, minimum.

As shown in the image to the right, Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on quarterly rotating bonus categories. In July through September 2019, Chase is offering 5% cash back on Gas Stations and Select Streaming Services. If you’re looking to optimize cash back, be sure to activate this offer by clicking the “activate” button inside of your Chase Freedom portal.

Chase points are quite valuable, especially when you pair them with a premium card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR). Chase allows you to transfer points earned from the Freedom to another premium credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When you redeem your points, if you have the CSR, you points become worth 50% more when used for travel. Although the Chase Freedom is an excellent cash back card, to maximize your points, we recommend pairing this card with the CSR.
*The CSR is a top-tier credit card, which requires excellent credit. You should only apply for this card once you’ve built a solid credit foundation.*


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Annual Fee: $0
Sign up bonus: At the end of the first year, Discover will match all the cash back earned in the first year.
Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%
APR: 0% Introductory APR for the first 14 months; After that, variable rate of 14.24%–25.24%

The Discover it Credit Card is an excellent option if you’re looking for pure cash back. Similar to the Chase Freedom, the Discover it offers 5% cash back on quarterly rotating bonus categories and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The one major con is that Discover points are not transferable to other Discover cards. Also, Discover does not have a redemption portal, as opposed to Chase, which gives you additional value if redeemed for travel. In terms of approval, you typically want a score ranging from 680 to 720; However, your mileage may vary.

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From July to September 2019, Discover is giving 5% cash back on restaurants and PayPal, on up to $1,500 in purchases. That means, for every quarter, you can earn $75 in cash back, giving you access to a grand total of $300 in cash back every year. That’s awesome.


We hope that you found this blog helpful. If you are interested in any of these cards feel free to check out the link here.If you have any additional questions/feedback, please let us know in the comment section below!