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Best first credit card

Enter the world of credit cards with the right choice.

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Finder’s credit card experts spent hundreds of hours comparing more than 400 credit cards to serve you the best first credit cards. To make the choice even easier, we selected the top four cards that stood out with features such as no credit check, alternative credit card approval criteria, low fees and rewards.

Petal® 2

Up to 1.5% cashback and no fees

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Petal® 1

Prequalify without impacting your credit

Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card

Jasper Mastercard® logo

1% cashback with no credit required

Jasper Mastercard®

Not yet rated
Deserve® Edu Card logo

1% cashback for college students

Deserve® Edu Card

Not yet rated

How to choose your first credit card

There are two main factors to consider to find the right card for your financial situation:

  • Your credit score. Unless you were an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, chances are you won’t have any credit score to begin with. Students can go right ahead and apply for student cards, which are one of the best credit-building cards. But anyone else would have to go for secured credit cards, cards that don’t check your credit score or cards that take other factors into consideration aside from your credit score, like the Petal cards do.
  • Fees. Starter cards often have either no annual fee or a low annual fee of up to $49. There are some cards that charge up to $299 annually, but these are best avoided. Another type of fees that are often overlooked are foreign transaction fees. Having a card with a $0 foreign transaction fee is a game-changer if you often shop online with foreign merchants or if you travel abroad.
Finder pro tip: Apply for one card at a time. When you apply for a credit card, the card provider checks your credit score. This is known as a hard pull, which knocks a few points off your score. A hard pull isn’t a big deal as it’s easily reversible with good repayment habits. But applying for multiple cards at the same time can have a huge negative impact on your credit score, plus your chances of approval instantly diminish.

At what age can I apply for a credit card?

The minimum age you can apply for a credit card is 18, although you can be added as an authorized user to another credit card account as early as 13 and 15. This is most common credit card choice for teens.

Those who are 18 to 21 can apply for a credit card under 21, but must prove they can independently pay the card bill. Any income would work as proof, such as scholarships and grants or wages, if you have a job.

For those who are 21 or over, federal law doesn’t require proof of the ability to pay the card bill. Typically, credit card providers don’t ask you for this information, but they may do so if they’re unsure if you can repay your card bill.

When should I get a credit card?

Here are a few factors to consider before applying for a credit card. In many cases, they’re more important than your age.

  • Do I make enough money?
    Credit card issuers don’t have specific credit card application income requirements, but they want to make sure you can afford to pay off your debt. This is also one of the main factors determining the amount of the credit line you can get.
  • Do I have a good credit history?
    Do you have unpaid loans or fines, or is your credit history a clean slate? You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus once a year. Before you apply, check these details and decide if your financial history supports you.
  • Do I have a budget?
    In addition to interest costs if you carry a balance, some credit cards charge an annual fee. Consider how much you could afford to pay in account fees so you can decide if it’s worth it at this stage of your life. If you are working with a budget, you might consider a cheaper credit card.
  • Can I control my spending?
    Similar to budgeting for credit card costs, think about how much you’re likely to use the card. Can you stick to costs that you’re able to pay back each month? If you’re unsure but still want to apply, you could also consider a secured card to help keep your spending in check.
  • Do I have the knowledge to make good financial decisions?
    Having solid financial knowledge — such as how to save and how to properly use a credit card — is more important than how old you are. Understanding the mechanics of credit cards will help you be a responsible cardholder.

How to improve your chances of approval when you apply for a credit card

If you’re ready to apply for a new credit card, there are several ways to increase your chances of approval. You can start by comparing credit cards so you can find an option that suits your situation. Then check the eligibility requirements and get all the necessary details and documents together for the application.

Compare credit cards for new credit

All credit cards have different eligibility requirements. Because of that, make sure to compare cards geared toward applicants new to credit.

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
22.49% variable
A no annual fee secured card for people who are new to credit or have limited credit history.
Petal® 1
2% - 10% cash back from select merchants
19.99% to 29.49% variable
A high-limit no-annual-fee credit card that's ideal for rebuilding scores as low as 550. See if you prequalify with no impact to your credit.
Petal® 2
1% cashback, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments, plus 2% - 10% back from select merchants
12.99% to 26.99% variable
Build your credit with rewards and no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score of 600 or higher. See if you prequalify with no impact to your score.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

When used responsibly, credit cards can become a convenient, practical and valuable part of your adult finances. If you play your cards right, they may even help you get approved for a home loan or other financial products in the future. And once you’ve become comfortable handling your credit card, consider scoping out a top-rated secondary card that perfectly complements your first.

If you haven’t found the best credit card for your needs, compare other credit card options until you do.

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