Best first credit cards

If you're looking to take out your first credit card, it can be hard to know what to look for. Here's what you need to do to find the first credit card that's best for you.

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How to find the best card Tips for beginners

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Limited credit history

Tesco Bank Foundation Card image
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.542% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.5% APR (variable).
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What is the best first credit card?

There are lots of different types of credit cards, so finding the card that’s best for you will really depend on what you want out of your card. Do you want the ability to earn reward points or cashback on purchases, or are you just looking for a card to cover everyday purchases? If you’re a student, you may instead want to consider a dedicated student credit card.

If you’ve never had a credit card before, you might find your options are limited, as the best credit cards are reserved for those with good credit ratings. But there are still a number of cards you could get approved for.

Best first rewards credit card

A rewards credit cards gives you the benefits of a normal credit card, as well as making your spending go further in the form of reward points. It’s worth keeping an eye out for rewards cards with generous introductory points offers and no annual fee. This means you can earn points on all your purchases at no extra cost, provided you pay off your balance in full each month.

American Express Rewards Credit Card

American Express Rewards Credit Card

★★★★★

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22.2%

Representative APR

£0

Account fee

5,000 points

Max. intro bonus

1 point

per £1 spent

This is the most accessible American Express reward card, offering a fairly standard reward points scheme that can be used in a large range of stores. You can also benefit from up to 5,000 bonus intro points if you spend £2,000 in the first 3 months.
  • No annual fee
  • Generous intro offer
  • Competitive rate
  • You'll need to spend £2,000 to get full intro points
Availability Available to new customers
Residency UK resident and has a UK bank or building society account.
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.99%
Cash advance fee 3% (min. £3)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.2% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.2% APR (variable).

Best first 0% purchase credit card

If you’re planning to make a big purchase or have an upcoming expense, having more time to pay it off can make a huge difference to your overall finances. With a 0% purchase credit card, you can repay it over time without incurring additional costs.

M&S Bank Shopping Plus Credit Card

M&S Bank Shopping Plus Credit Card

★★★★★

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20 months

0% interest on balance transfers

20 months

0% interest on purchases

21.9%

Representative APR

£0

Account fee

With a generous 0% purchase and balance transfer period, as well as a simple rewards scheme and no annual fee, the M&S Bank Shopping Plus Mastercard is a good option for first-time credit card customers.
  • Extended 0% purchase and balance transfer period
  • Competitive regular purchase rate
  • No annual fee
  • You’ll need to be an M&S devotee to get the most out of this card
Availability Available to new customers
Min. income 6800
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.99%
Cash advance fee 2.99% (min. £3)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).

Best first credit card with no credit history

If you have limited credit history, you’ll likely find that your credit card options are also limited. Credit builder credit cards can help you improve or repair your credit rating so that you’ll be eligible for more premium credit cards in future.

Tesco Bank Foundation Card

Tesco Bank Foundation Card

★★★★★

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27.5%

Representative APR

£0

Account fee

Up to 56 days

Interest-free each billing period

£100

Minimum credit limit

The Tesco Foundations credit card can help you build your credit score while also earning Clubcard points on your spending, without having to pay an annual fee.
  • No annual fee
  • Lets you earn Clubcard points
  • Earn rate isn't the best
  • Rates are on the higher side
Availability Available to new customers
Residency UK residents
Min. income 5000
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.75%
Cash advance fee 3.99% (min. £3)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.542% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.5% APR (variable).

Which type of credit card is best for beginners?

This will really depend on what you want out of a credit card, and how you plan on using it, but credit builder credit cards are often a good first choice for those who don’t have much credit history. Credit builder cards help you build your credit score, which means you could then be eligible for more premium cards, and better rates, in future.

However, as they’re aimed at those with limited credit history, credit builder cards often have higher APRs (annualised percentage rate) than other cards, which means it’s important that you pay off your balance in full each month. If you don’t, you could end up paying a lot in interest payments.

The complete beginner’s guide to credit cards

How to choose the best first-time credit card

  1. Look for cards with no annual or ongoing fees
    If you’re taking out your first credit card, it’s best to try and limit your costs as much as possible. If your card has an annual fee, you’ll need to pay it regardless of how little you use your card. You should also beware of fees for things like foreign usage and late payments.
  2. Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements
    All credit cards will have certain requirements you’ll need to meet. If you apply for a credit card but don’t meet these criteria, your application will be rejected, and having multiple rejections on your credit file can affect your credit rating.
  3. Understand your monthly statement cycle
    While you don’t have to pay off your balance in full each month, you’ll be charged interest on any remaining balance. Make sure you know when you need to clear your balance to avoid losing money to interest.
  4. Check the APR
    The APR is a way to measure the overall cost of a credit card, and includes the interest rate as well as any annual or monthly fees. While you’re unlikely to be offered the most competitive rates if you have limited credit history, it’s still best to look for the cards with the lowest APR when looking for your first credit card.
  5. Keep an eye on your credit score
    Once you’ve taken out a credit card, you should begin building your credit score, as long as you’re paying it off correctly. As your credit rating grows, you’ll become eligible for credit cards with better rates and offers, so it’s important to keep an eye on your credit score and shop around for better cards.

Benefits of getting a credit card

  • Helps you build your credit score
  • Lets you spread the cost of purchases
  • Consumer protection on purchases
  • You can earn rewards

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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