From college students to working-class adults, there are plenty of people with no credit history who want to obtain a credit card for the first time.
However, because credit card issuers use your FICO score to determine your creditworthiness, not having a track record of on-time payments may limit your options or prevent you from qualifying at all.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t begin to make strides with your personal finances and aim for milestones like a higher credit line, lower interest rates, cashback rewards programs, and other perks.
Before you hit the “apply now” button for your first credit card, discover just how much your payment history (or lack thereof) impacts your standing with potential lenders.
You’ll learn how to get a credit card with no credit, as well as how to build credit without one.
Having excellent credit gives you flexibility with your personal finances. On the other hand, a low credit score due to late payments, high credit utilization, or other factors can be seen as a red flag by lenders.
But what if you don’t have a credit score at all?
If you’ve never applied for a credit card, loan, or other financing, none of the three major major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) have a way to evaluate your creditworthiness. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) refers to this as being “credit invisible.”
To meet the minimum credit score requirements with FICO, your credit report must have at least one account that’s at least six months old and one account that’s been reported to the three major credit bureaus in the past six months. Although VantageScore requires you to have at least one account on your credit report, there is no minimum age mandate.
Ultimately, even if your bank and savings account balances are in solid standing, not having a credit score may cause Visa, Mastercard, Capital One, and other credit card issuers to require a security deposit or offer a high intro APR since you have no history of making monthly payments.
Just because you have no credit history doesn’t necessarily mean you’re worse off than a person with bad credit. In fact, lenders may view you as less of a risk than someone who has missed payment due dates, racked up late fees, or applied for too many new credit card accounts.
Why’s that the case?
If financial institutions like Chase and Wells Fargo conduct a credit check and find that you’re not in good standing, they have data that shows you’re a risky borrower.
Translation: You may not pay back the borrowed funds on time–or at all.
Meanwhile, a person with no credit history doesn’t have those derogatory marks working against them. In addition, since you’re starting from scratch, you have several avenues to build a good credit score quickly.
While a high credit score can open the door to larger lines of credit, lower interest charges, and zero foreign transaction fees, you can still get a credit card without a score at all. Obviously, your options won’t be as vast and you may not qualify for the best credit cards available, but remember this is just the beginning of your journey.
If you’ve been solely relying on your bank account and debit card up to this point, here are some of the types of starter credit cards for which you may be eligible:
For those with limited credit history or none at all, this is a popular route. If your credit card application is approved, you must put a refundable security deposit to secure a line of credit. You will receive your money back when you close your account in good standing. Most importantly, after establishing consistent payment history during the first year, you’ll be well on your way to better credit card offers and a higher score!
Typically issued to college students, this type of credit card usually comes with low or no annual fees as a way to appeal to young people. Plus, cardholders may be eligible for rewards programs and other incentives, such as no balance transfer fees.
Commonly referred to as store rewards credit cards, these are offered by specific retailers (especially department stores) to encourage customer loyalty. However, even though you may get approved, you’ll likely have a low credit limit and a higher rate than the regular APR for other cards.
Not nearly as common for those with no credit, you may still be able to get approved for an unsecured credit card, which does not come with a collateral requirement.
In most cases, you will need the following information to get started with a credit card application—many of which can be done on mobile apps or online:
Keep in mind that different credit card issuers have different processes and ways to apply. For example, Petal uses your banking history to create a Cash Score—a proprietary measure based on your income, spending, and savings. Hence, it’s key to keep your checking account balance at a healthy level. This method of determining your creditworthiness is particularly helpful since you have no evidence of completing billing cycles or managing debt.
Additionally, remember that no credit history affects what lenders will offer. There may be a high variable APR, expensive annual fees, or even monthly maintenance fees. Make sure you’re comfortable with committing to all the terms of the credit card option you choose before you make a final decision.
Borrow up to $500, Build Credit History With On Time Payments.
If you want to eventually secure a top rewards credit card like the Capital One Platinum, you need to prove you’re a responsible borrower and continually boost your score. Need to know how to build credit without a credit card?
Let’s take a look at ways to raise that three-digit number that don’t involve swiping, which could include:
Did you know that simply paying your monthly bills can also work wonders for your credit score? Or, you could apply for a Possible Card, which gives you a $400 or $800 credit limit without requiring a credit score.
Don’t assume that no credit history equals zero credit card options. While your long-term goal should be to get your credit score as high as possible, you have to start somewhere.
Applying for a secured credit card is a great first step, and you can continue to work on building positive credit history and improving your personal finances by becoming an authorized user, utilizing a credit-building loan, or reporting monthly payments for utilities and rent.