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Best Credit Cards to Build Credit of December 2021

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated November 30, 2021 . Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Along with providing the opportunity for credit line increases, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card comes with a $0 annual fee and access to Capital One benefits. That’s what makes it our top overall pick for best credit card to help build credit.
Best Credit Cards to Help Build Credit of December 2021
Best overall card to help build credit Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Best secured card to help build credit Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Best cashback card to help build credit Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best student card to help build credit Discover it® Student Cash Back
Best store card to build credit Target REDcard™ Credit Card

 

If you’re looking to establish or rebuild your credit profile, history and credit scores, signing up for a credit card and using it responsibly is perhaps one of the best ways to do so.

When choosing a credit card to help you do that, it’s important to look for one that reports to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), that accepts individuals with poor, fair or limited credit and one that offers a low annual fee.

Based on our research of cards available through LendingTree, as well as top cards offered by major issuers, we’ve selected our picks for the best credit cards to help build or establish credit for the following categories:

Best For Overall building credit

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Apply Now
on Capital One's secure site
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 26.99% (Variable)

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is a solid, no-frills credit card designed for those with average/fair/limited credit. Along with charging a $0 annual fee, the card reports your credit usage to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Plus, cardholders will automatically be considered for a credit limit increase in as little as six months.

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card does not offer a rewards program. However, sometimes the possibility of earning rewards on a credit card can cause a cardholder to overspend — which is not ideal when trying to build credit.

Additionally, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card has a regular APR of 26.99% (variable).

If you’re looking to boost your credit profile with the help of a credit card, you should consider the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

The card is intended for individuals with average/fair/limited credit, which Capital One describes as those who have defaulted on a loan in the past five years or those who have had a credit card or other credit for less than three years.

While the Capital One Platinum Credit Card doesn’t earn rewards, after demonstrating responsible usage, you may be able to request a product change to a Capital One card that does — such as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

Additional Capital One Platinum Credit Card benefits include:

  • Automatic credit line reviews
  • Virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno
  • Account alerts
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Tap to pay technology

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is a solid, no-frills credit card designed for those with average/fair/limited credit. Along with charging a $0 annual fee, the card reports your credit usage to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Plus, cardholders will automatically be considered for a credit limit increase in as little as six months.

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card does not offer a rewards program. However, sometimes the possibility of earning rewards on a credit card can cause a cardholder to overspend — which is not ideal when trying to build credit.

Additionally, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card has a regular APR of 26.99% (variable).

If you’re looking to boost your credit profile with the help of a credit card, you should consider the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

The card is intended for individuals with average/fair/limited credit, which Capital One describes as those who have defaulted on a loan in the past five years or those who have had a credit card or other credit for less than three years.

While the Capital One Platinum Credit Card doesn’t earn rewards, after demonstrating responsible usage, you may be able to request a product change to a Capital One card that does — such as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

Additional Capital One Platinum Credit Card benefits include:

  • Automatic credit line reviews
  • Virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno
  • Account alerts
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Tap to pay technology

Best For Building credit with a secured credit card

Discover it<sup>®</sup> Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Apply Now
on Discover's secure site
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 22.99% Variable APR

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a secured credit card, meaning it requires you to submit a security deposit ranging from $200 to $2,500, which serves as your line of credit. In the event you don’t pay off what you charge to the card, Discover will use the deposit to recoup that loss.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card holders earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Plus, cardholders get the following sign-up bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

The card charges a $0 annual fee. As for foreign transaction fees, there are none.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is intended for those with limited/bad/poor credit. After you’ve had the card for eight months, Discover will begin conducting monthly account reviews to see if you’re eligible to graduate to an unsecured card and get your deposit refunded.

If this happens, your card will transition to a Discover it® chrome. Note, Discover will evaluate your behavior across your credit cards and loans from Discover as well as other issuers or lenders. You can also get your deposit back if you choose to close your account and pay any remaining balance.

Additionally, the card doesn’t charge a fee the first time you pay late. After that, the late fee will be up to $40.

Just know, it’s important to pay your bill on time when trying to build credit. Also, if you carry a balance on your card from month to month, you will be subject to interest charges of 22.99% Variable APR.

Additional Discover it® Secured Credit Card benefits include:

  • Free FICO Score access
  • Discover Identity Alerts
  • Ability to freeze and unfreeze your card
  • U.S.-based 24/7 customer support

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a secured credit card, meaning it requires you to submit a security deposit ranging from $200 to $2,500, which serves as your line of credit. In the event you don’t pay off what you charge to the card, Discover will use the deposit to recoup that loss.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card holders earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Plus, cardholders get the following sign-up bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

The card charges a $0 annual fee. As for foreign transaction fees, there are none.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is intended for those with limited/bad/poor credit. After you’ve had the card for eight months, Discover will begin conducting monthly account reviews to see if you’re eligible to graduate to an unsecured card and get your deposit refunded.

If this happens, your card will transition to a Discover it® chrome. Note, Discover will evaluate your behavior across your credit cards and loans from Discover as well as other issuers or lenders. You can also get your deposit back if you choose to close your account and pay any remaining balance.

Additionally, the card doesn’t charge a fee the first time you pay late. After that, the late fee will be up to $40.

Just know, it’s important to pay your bill on time when trying to build credit. Also, if you carry a balance on your card from month to month, you will be subject to interest charges of 22.99% Variable APR.

Additional Discover it® Secured Credit Card benefits include:

  • Free FICO Score access
  • Discover Identity Alerts
  • Ability to freeze and unfreeze your card
  • U.S.-based 24/7 customer support

Best For Building credit with a cashback card

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One QuicksilverOne Card

Apply Now
on Capital One's secure site
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Annual Fee $39
Regular Purchase APR 26.99% (Variable)

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card holders earn a solid flat rate of 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.

Rewards can be redeemed for a checks, statement credits or gift cards, or used to directly cover a recent purchase. The Capital One QuicksilverOne Card charges a $39 annual fee, and comes with an APR of 26.99% (variable). As for foreign transaction fees — there are none.

If you want a simple approach to earning rewards while building your credit, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card could be a great fit, since it doesn’t come with bonus categories or spending caps.

Additionally, after demonstrating responsible card usage and building a relationship with Capital One, you may be able to request a product change to the Capital One® Quicksilver® Card, which earns cash back at the same flat rate as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Card and charges a $0 annual fee.

Additional Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card benefits include:

  • Automatic credit line reviews starting at six months
  • Access to your VantageScore with CreditWise
  • Virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno
  • $0 fraud liability
  • Ability to lock your card
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Tap and pay technology

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card holders earn a solid flat rate of 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.

Rewards can be redeemed for a checks, statement credits or gift cards, or used to directly cover a recent purchase. The Capital One QuicksilverOne Card charges a $39 annual fee, and comes with an APR of 26.99% (variable). As for foreign transaction fees — there are none.

If you want a simple approach to earning rewards while building your credit, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card could be a great fit, since it doesn’t come with bonus categories or spending caps.

Additionally, after demonstrating responsible card usage and building a relationship with Capital One, you may be able to request a product change to the Capital One® Quicksilver® Card, which earns cash back at the same flat rate as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Card and charges a $0 annual fee.

Additional Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card benefits include:

  • Automatic credit line reviews starting at six months
  • Access to your VantageScore with CreditWise
  • Virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno
  • $0 fraud liability
  • Ability to lock your card
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Tap and pay technology

Best For Building credit with a student credit card

Discover it<sup>®</sup> Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Apply Now
on Discover's secure site
Intro Purchase APR 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR

The Discover it® Student Cash Back lets cardholders earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Additionally, cardholders get the following sign-up bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

When in college, it’s a good idea to get a head start on building a positive credit history. A $0 annual fee student credit card, such as the Discover it® Student Cash Back, can help you do that while earning rewards in popular spending categories.

If you need to finance a large purchase, like school books or a laptop, you can do so interest free for half a year with the Discover it® Student Cash Back. The card offers an intro APR of 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases, then an ongoing 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR applies. Plus, receive an intro APR of 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers, then a 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is designed for students with fair/limited credit. Just know, to apply for this card, you need to be at least 18 years old, have a U.S. address, have a Social Security Number and show proof of education.

Additional Discover it® Student Cash Back benefits include:

  • Free Social Security number alerts
  • Ability to freeze card
  • $0 fraud liability
  • 100% U.S.-based, 24/7 customer service

The Discover it® Student Cash Back lets cardholders earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Additionally, cardholders get the following sign-up bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

When in college, it’s a good idea to get a head start on building a positive credit history. A $0 annual fee student credit card, such as the Discover it® Student Cash Back, can help you do that while earning rewards in popular spending categories.

If you need to finance a large purchase, like school books or a laptop, you can do so interest free for half a year with the Discover it® Student Cash Back. The card offers an intro APR of 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases, then an ongoing 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR applies. Plus, receive an intro APR of 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers, then a 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is designed for students with fair/limited credit. Just know, to apply for this card, you need to be at least 18 years old, have a U.S. address, have a Social Security Number and show proof of education.

Additional Discover it® Student Cash Back benefits include:

  • Free Social Security number alerts
  • Ability to freeze card
  • $0 fraud liability
  • 100% U.S.-based, 24/7 customer service

Best For Building credit with a store credit card

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Highlights
  • 5% discount at Target and Target.com
  • $0 annual fee
  • 22.90% variable APR

Target REDcard™ Credit Card holders receive 5% off at Target. In store. Online. Every time.

Because the discount is automatically deducted when you check out, there’s no need to worry about redeeming rewards. Additionally, the discount applies to clearance items, purchases at in-store Starbucks locations, subscription deliveries, specialty gift cards and same-day delivery orders through Shipt.

The Target REDcard™ Credit Card comes with a $0 annual fee. But if you carry a balance on the card from month to month, you will be subject to an APR of 22.90% variable.

If you regularly shop at Target or Target.com, the Target REDcard™ Credit Card provides a great opportunity to save on purchases, while also building your credit. Along with discounts on your Target purchases, the card offers free two-day shipping and extended returns.

But keep in mind, the card can only be used at Target stores and Target.com. Also, the discount does not apply to all Target purchases, including Target Optical eye exams or Target gift cards and prepaid cards.

Additional Target REDcard™ Credit Card benefits include:

  • Exclusive access to special items and offers
  • 5% discount on clearance prices
  • 5% off at in-store Starbucks locations
  • 5% off specialty gift cards for travel, restaurants and more

Target REDcard™ Credit Card holders receive 5% off at Target. In store. Online. Every time.

Because the discount is automatically deducted when you check out, there’s no need to worry about redeeming rewards. Additionally, the discount applies to clearance items, purchases at in-store Starbucks locations, subscription deliveries, specialty gift cards and same-day delivery orders through Shipt.

The Target REDcard™ Credit Card comes with a $0 annual fee. But if you carry a balance on the card from month to month, you will be subject to an APR of 22.90% variable.

If you regularly shop at Target or Target.com, the Target REDcard™ Credit Card provides a great opportunity to save on purchases, while also building your credit. Along with discounts on your Target purchases, the card offers free two-day shipping and extended returns.

But keep in mind, the card can only be used at Target stores and Target.com. Also, the discount does not apply to all Target purchases, including Target Optical eye exams or Target gift cards and prepaid cards.

Additional Target REDcard™ Credit Card benefits include:

  • Exclusive access to special items and offers
  • 5% discount on clearance prices
  • 5% off at in-store Starbucks locations
  • 5% off specialty gift cards for travel, restaurants and more
The information related to the Target REDcard™ Credit Card has been collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

Side-by-side comparison of the best card to help build credit

Credit cardBest forAnnual fee
Capital One Platinum Credit CardOverall cardNon-rewards Card$0
Discover it® Secured Credit CardSecured card2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically$0
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit CardCashback rewards1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day$39
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudent credit card5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically$0
Target REDcard™ Credit CardStore credit card5% off at Target. In store. Online. Every time.$0

Methodology

To select the best card for each of these categories, our credit card experts compared secured and unsecured credit cards designed for individuals with poor, limited and average credit on LendingTree.com and issuer sites.

We chose our top picks based on a variety of factors, including the value of the card’s rewards program, the annual fee and the interest rate.

Other factors that came into play when making our selection include the benefits offered by the card, as well as the opportunity to increase your credit line or improve your credit score.

How to build credit with a credit card

Whether using a traditional credit card, secured credit card, store credit card or student credit card, a key factor in building your credit is to use the card responsibly. That includes:

Paying your balance on time and in full each month. Since payment history is the most important factor of your credit score, you should always pay your credit card bill on time each month. It’s also a good habit to pay in full so that you avoid carrying a balance from month to month and incurring interest charges.

Maintaining a low credit utilization ratio. It’s generally recommended that you keep your credit utilization ratio — the amount of credit you use divided by the total amount of available credit you have — below 30%. For example, if you have a credit card limit of $3,000, you should keep your card balance under $900.

Only apply for a credit card when it’s truly needed. Each time you apply for a major loan, such as a new credit card, a hard inquiry appears on your credit — which lowers your credit score by a few points each time one occurs and stays on your credit report for two years. If you have too many hard inquiries in a short period of time, it may signal to lenders that you are a high-risk consumer.

Best credit cards to help build credit FAQs

A credit score is a three-digit number used by lenders to help predict how likely you are to repay debts. Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850, and are calculated using information that’s been reported to the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) from previous or existing credit accounts.

While the ranges vary depending on the credit scoring model, generally scores ranging from 300 to 579 are considered poor, 580 to 669 are fair, 670 to 739 are good, 740 to 799 are very good, and 800 and above are considered excellent.

You can check your credit score in a variety of ways without generating a hard inquiry, which won’t negatively affect it. For example, you can request a free copy of your FICO Score every 30 days through Experian, or you can sign up for a free credit score through My LendingTree.

 

Additionally, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the three major credit bureaus to provide individuals with one free credit report each year through AnnualCreditReport.com, as well as any time that a company takes adverse action against you, such as rejecting you for a credit card or loan.

Tracy Brackman

Tracy joined LendingTree in June 2019 as a senior writer. She began working in the credit card space in 2009 as the editorial department manager for FlexOffers, an affiliate marketing company. She went on to work as product information manager for Bankrate, where she managed the financial and credit card product details for two affiliate networks, as well as Bankrate owned and operated sites. Prior to joining LendingTree, Tracy worked as products editor for CreditCards.com, where she developed the credit card products section and created content focused on breaking credit card news.

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The above offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available. Check the Issuers’ website for more details.