Best first-time credit cards for beginners

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

Promoted for credit building
Barclaycard Forward Credit Card logo
Barclaycard Forward Credit Card
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33.9% APR representative variable
4 ★★★★★
Scheduled rate reductions
Interest-free for 3 months
Text and email alerts
Best for rewards
M&S Bank Credit Card Shopping Plus Offer Mastercard logo
M&S Bank Credit Card Shopping Plus Offer Mastercard
23.9% APR representative variable
4 ★★★★★
Extended 0% purchase and balance transfer period
Competitive regular purchase rate
No annual fee
Best for money-saving perks
Tesco Bank Foundation Card logo
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Tesco Bank Foundation Card
29.9% APR representative variable
4 ★★★★★
Offers a rewards scheme
Access to your credit report and score
Handy text and email alerts

What is the best first credit card?

There are a bunch of different credit cards, so finding the best card for you depends on what benefits you’re seeking. Do you want 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, your options might be slim, as the best credit cards are reserved for those with good credit history. But there are still a number of cards you could get approved for.

Pros and cons of getting a credit card

Pros

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

Cons

  • Temptation to overspend.
  • Missed or late payments can hurt your credit score.
  • Can be hard to get a credit card with no credit history.
  • Additional fees, such as cash advance fees or balance transfer fees, may apply.

Rewards credit card

A rewards credit card 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 watching for rewards cards with a generous introductory offer 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.

Barclaycard Forward Credit Card

Barclaycard Forward Credit Card

Finder score★★★★★

Customer score★★★★★

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0%

Balance transfer fee

33.9%

Representative APR

£0

Account fee

3 months

0% interest on purchases

If you're new to credit cards or aiming to boost your credit score, the Forward card is an excellent option, provided you handle it responsibly. Stick to your credit limit, set up automatic payments to clear your full balance monthly and avoid cash withdrawals.
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on purchases for 3 months
  • Exclusive discounts and pre-sale tickets for selected live events
  • Relatively high standard rate, as expected with a credit building credit card
  • A personalised credit limit that is likely to start low
Availability Available to new customers
Residency UK resident for at least two years
Min. income 3000
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.99%
Cash advance fee 2.99% (min. £2.99)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 33.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 33.9% APR (variable).

O% purchase credit card

If you plan 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 Credit Card Shopping Plus Offer Mastercard

M&S Bank Credit Card Shopping Plus Offer Mastercard

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15 months

0% interest on balance transfers

18 months

0% interest on purchases

23.9%

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
  • Late payment fees apply
  • Foreign usage charges apply if you use this card abroad
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 23.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 23.9% APR (variable).

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 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 the 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 to pay off your balance in full each month. If you don’t, you could end up paying a lot in interest payments.

Tesco Bank Foundation Card

Tesco Bank Foundation Card

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Customer score★★★★★

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29.9%

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 29.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.9% APR (variable).

The complete beginner’s guide to credit cards

How to choose your first credit card

  1. Look for cards with no annual or ongoing fees.
    If you’re taking out a credit card for the first time, 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 transactions and late payments.
  2. Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements.
    All credit cards 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 a new 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.

Bottom line

Whilst there are a number of different credit card types out there, having no credit history may limit your options. If you’re a student, you may have a higher chance of being accepted for a student credit card. If you aren’t a student but have limited credit history, a credit builder credit card might be a better option. However, in both cases, the interest rate is likely higher than a standard credit card.

As with any credit card, ensure you understand the terms and meet the eligibility requirements before applying. Using your credit card responsibly can help you improve your credit rating, increasing your eligibility for alternative credit cards down the line.

Frequently asked questions

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. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.

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