In this article we will be discussing how to get a credit card for the first time, it’s fact sure that 75% of all American adults have at least one card, according to the Federal Reserve Bank.
Americans use their credit cards as a secure and convenient method of payment, but they also enjoy their card’s benefits and cash rewards.
If you don’t know how to get a credit card for the first time we are here to help, it gets a lot easier when you know how to do it yourself.
Here’s what you need to know if you are applying for a credit card for the first time as well as how to apply.
Applying for a Credit Card With No Credit History
Unless you’ve been piggybacking as an authorized cardholder or used a credit builder loan, you probably won’t have much of credit history or credit report with a major credit bureau when you turn 18.
Having no credit can make passing a credit check near impossible sometimes. But thankfully, there are two types of credit cards that you can apply for with no credit history:
- Starter credit card:
Starter cards are designed for people with limited or no credit history and usually, come with a modest line of credit, which could be as little as $100 or less.
For example, many people’s first credit card is a store charge card that can only be used for in-store purchases.
While you might only receive a very small line of credit, it’s enough to start building credit immediately.
Some banks also offer cards for first-time applicants, and several student credit card options are designed for full-time college students with little or no credit history.
- Secured credit card:
The second type of credit card is secured cards, which are available to applicants with no credit history and even those with bad credit or poor credit.
A Secured credit card is different from your typical unsecured credit card, which is what most people think of when they think of a credit card. They also work differently than prepaid cards.
Secured credit cards usually require a minimum refundable security deposit of at least $200, and the size of your deposit becomes your credit limit.
If you’d rather not have to submit a deposit, a starter credit card might be your best option.
- Choosing the right card
Before we discuss how to get a credit card for the first time, let’s first discuss what you need to know when choosing a credit card to make sure you choose the right card.
Once you know you have good credit and can qualify for a credit card, the next step is to find the right one for your needs.
With thousands of banks and credit unions in the United States offering credit cards, finding the right one can be a challenge.
But once you do, you’ll hopefully be able to start building credit and take advantage of cash rewards.
Here are a few ways that could help make it easier for you:
- Start with your current bank
If you already have a checking or savings account, applying for a card with your bank or credit union is a good place to start.
This institution will already have your personal information on file through your bank account.
And because it already has a history of doing business with you, it may be more likely to approve you for a new credit card account.
- Choose between a starter card or a secured card
The next option is to choose between a starter card or a secured card. Just make sure you examine the card’s terms and conditions before applying, so you can find the right fit for you that has a credit limit that suits your needs.
- Check the card’s terms and conditions before applying
Never sign up for a credit card before you check the card’s terms and conditions. Fortunately these days, credit card issuers are required to present the most important rates and fees in an easy-to-read table, rather than burying it in the small print.
- Find a card with the fewest fees
You’ll also want to find a card with the fewest fees possible. Some cards have an annual fee, but many don’t.
Some people choose to pay an annual fee to have a premium card with a more generous reward points program, but those cards aren’t typically offered to people with little or no credit history.
Other fees to consider are late fees, balance transfer fees, and foreign transaction fees. Ultimately, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you apply for anything.
Best Credit Card to Getting
While there is no one first-time credit card that’s best for everyone, here are a few cards with the most competitive offers for first-time applicants:
Capital One Journey Student Rewards: This card is offered to full-time college students and offers great rewards on each qualifying purchase.
This rewards card offers you 1% cashback on all purchases and 1.25% when you make your payments on time. It has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
- Capital One Secured Mastercard: This card requires a minimum security deposit of just $49, but will give you a credit line of $200.
It also requires access to a higher line of credit after making your first five monthly payments on time. There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
- Discover Student Chrome: This card can earn you 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and unlimited 1% cashback on all other purchases.
It also offers you a $20 statement credit each school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to five years.
It has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, and Discover will automatically waive your first late payment fee.
How to Apply For Your First-time Credit Card
know how to pick the best credit card for yourself, let’s now discuss how to get a credit card for the first time, how you can apply and get the best out of it.
If you are applying for a card with the bank or credit union you already have an account with, it may be easiest to apply by calling them or visiting a branch.
Alternatively, you can log in to your account online and apply there. However, the vast majority of credit card applications are made at a bank or credit union’s website.
When you apply, you’ll be asked to submit your name, address, phone number, email, and Social Security Number.
The application may also ask about your employment status. You can still be approved if you don’t have a job, but you will have to show some other form of income.
Just remember to include all eligible forms of income such as:
- Student loans
- Government benefits
- Child support
- Your spouse’s income (if you’ll be using it to pay the bills)
You may also be asked if you have a checking or savings account, and what your monthly rent or mortgage payment is.
Once you’ve submitted your credit card application, the card issuer will check your credit history.
If you have zero credit history, this credit application will create a file with at least one of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Next, one of two things will happen. You may receive a notice of instant approval, or you may be told that you’ll be notified by mail.
If you don’t receive instant approval, you still may be approved by mail from your credit card company.
What To Do if Your Application is Denied
If your application is declined by mail, keep in mind that might not be the bank’s final answer. Try contacting the card issuer to discuss your application and get them to reconsider.
You could just have errors on your application, or need to add additional qualifying sources of income you may have left out.
Even if you aren’t approved, don’t give up. The credit card industry is intensely competitive and many banks and credit unions are eager to build relationships with new customers.
If you were declined a starter card from a credit card company, try applying for a secured card.
Secured cards typically approve applications from nearly all applicants who aren’t in bankruptcy, can prove their identity, and can pay the required deposit.
Self recently launched the Self Visa Credit Card, a secured card that lets you use some of your Credit Builder Account savings progress to secure the card’s limit. This can be a great starter option.
How to Use Your First Credit Card
Now that you know how to get a credit card for the first time, let’s now discuss how to use your first credit card to ensure good credit build-up and that you get the best out of it.
Once approved for a new credit card, you typically have to wait for it to arrive in the mail before you can use it.
However, there are a few credit card issuers, such as American Express, that supply new account holders with their credit card numbers online, so you can use them instantly.
After you get your card in the mail, here’s what you need to do next:
- Activate your credit card
You’ll have to activate it before you can use it. To activate your card, call the phone number provided or do it online.
- Set up online access
Next, set up online access to help manage your new account. Online access will show you recent purchases and payments, and give you access to statements.
And let you utilize any features and benefits that come with the card, such as rewards bonus points on eligible purchases.
You can also download your card issuer’s mobile app, which will offer much of the same functionality.
- Set up notifications
Take advantage of the notifications offered by your credit card provider. Nearly all credit card issuers offer email or text notifications for important events.
For example, you can configure your account to notify you of new statements available, payment due dates, or even large purchases.
- Take advantage of credit score access
Many credit cards now offer free, online access to your credit score. If they do, take advantage of it.
Your score provides valuable information you can use as you build credit with the credit bureaus.
It’s a good idea to regularly check your credit score so you can quickly find any problems and learn how to build credit fast. And make sure you know how to read your credit report.
- Use your card to make purchases
Once you’ve activated your card and set up your online credit account, it’s time to use your card to make purchases.
Try to use your credit card like you would any method of payment. This means treating all your purchases like they’re being made with cash. Know how much you’re spending and where that money’s going.
Finally, it’s important to think about the security of your credit card. Always keep it in a secure place, and avoid leaving it somewhere someone can take advantage of it.
Now you know how to get a credit card for the first time, feel free to apply when you’re ready and have chosen a credit card that suits you.