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Best Unsecured Cards for Limited Credit Histories – 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.

When comparing unsecured credit cards intended for those with limited credit history, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card is our top overall pick. That’s because, along with Capital One benefits, the card comes with a $0 annual fee and potential credit line increases.

If you have bad, limited or nonexistent credit history, the idea of being approved for a traditional credit card may sound too good to be true.

Typically, the only options available for individuals with poor credit are secured credit cards — which require a security deposit that serves as your line of credit — or a subprime card that’s latent with numerous high fees and opaque terms.

But rest assured — there are a variety of unsecured credit cards available for those with limited credit histories.

Based on our research of credit cards available through LendingTree and the top cards designed for individuals with limited credit on issuer sites, these are our selections for the best unsecured credit cards in the following categories:

Best Unsecured Cards for Limited Credit Histories of December 2021
Best overall unsecured card Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Best unsecured card for bad credit AvantCard Credit Card
Best unsecured card for no credit Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Credit Card
Best unsecured card for cash back Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best unsecured card for students Discover it® Student Cash Back
Best unsecured card for international students Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Best For Overall unsecured credit card

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 choice for those looking to establish or build their credit.

In addition to reporting your Capital One Platinum Credit Card usage to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), Capital One will automatically begin reviewing your account at six months to see if you qualify for a higher credit line. Cardholders also receive free and unlimited access to their credit score and tools to help monitor their credit through CreditWise from Capital One.

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card does not offer a rewards program. But when you’re building or establishing credit, it’s best to focus on practicing responsible card usage — including paying your bill on time each month and staying well below your credit line — rather than racking up rewards.

Just know, you will be subject to interest charges at an APR of 26.99% (variable) if you carry a balance from month to month on your Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is best for consumers who want to boost their credit profile with the help of a $0-annual-fee card from a major issuer.

The Capital One Platinum Credit 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 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:

  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Access your VantageScore with CreditWise
  • Contactless technology
  • Account alerts
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno
  • $0 fraud liability
  • Ability to lock and unlock your card
  • Emergency card replacement

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is a solid choice for those looking to establish or build their credit.

In addition to reporting your Capital One Platinum Credit Card usage to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), Capital One will automatically begin reviewing your account at six months to see if you qualify for a higher credit line. Cardholders also receive free and unlimited access to their credit score and tools to help monitor their credit through CreditWise from Capital One.

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card does not offer a rewards program. But when you’re building or establishing credit, it’s best to focus on practicing responsible card usage — including paying your bill on time each month and staying well below your credit line — rather than racking up rewards.

Just know, you will be subject to interest charges at an APR of 26.99% (variable) if you carry a balance from month to month on your Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is best for consumers who want to boost their credit profile with the help of a $0-annual-fee card from a major issuer.

The Capital One Platinum Credit 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 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:

  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Access your VantageScore with CreditWise
  • Contactless technology
  • Account alerts
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno
  • $0 fraud liability
  • Ability to lock and unlock your card
  • Emergency card replacement

Best For Rebuilding from bad credit

AvantCard Credit Card

AvantCard Credit Card

Apply Now
on Avant's secure site
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Annual Fee $59
Regular Purchase APR 24.99%* Variable APR

The AvantCard Credit Card is a no frills card with a reasonable $59 annual fee. The card reports to the three major credit bureaus, and offers credit limits ranging from $300 to $1,000.

You can check to see if you prequalify for the AvantCard Credit Card online, without impacting your credit score. Just know, prequalification means you have a good chance of approval, not that it’s guaranteed.

In addition, note that the card has an ongoing 24.99%* Variable APR.

If you’re having a difficult time being approved for a traditional credit card due to negative credit history, the AvantCard Credit Card is a decent option.

The AvantCard Credit Card is designed for individuals with fair/limited/bad/poor credit. But unlike subprime cards that charge expensive fees, the AvantCard Credit Card only charges a $59 annual fee.

That said, you can’t apply for the AvantCard Credit Card if you’re a resident of Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin. Also, the card does not allow authorized users.

Additional AvantCard Credit Card benefits:

  • No hidden fees
  • Zero fraud liability
  • Fast and easy application process
  • 24/7 payments via the online portal

The AvantCard Credit Card is a no frills card with a reasonable $59 annual fee. The card reports to the three major credit bureaus, and offers credit limits ranging from $300 to $1,000.

You can check to see if you prequalify for the AvantCard Credit Card online, without impacting your credit score. Just know, prequalification means you have a good chance of approval, not that it’s guaranteed.

In addition, note that the card has an ongoing 24.99%* Variable APR.

If you’re having a difficult time being approved for a traditional credit card due to negative credit history, the AvantCard Credit Card is a decent option.

The AvantCard Credit Card is designed for individuals with fair/limited/bad/poor credit. But unlike subprime cards that charge expensive fees, the AvantCard Credit Card only charges a $59 annual fee.

That said, you can’t apply for the AvantCard Credit Card if you’re a resident of Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin. Also, the card does not allow authorized users.

Additional AvantCard Credit Card benefits:

  • No hidden fees
  • Zero fraud liability
  • Fast and easy application process
  • 24/7 payments via the online portal

Best For Individuals with no credit

Petal<sup>®</sup> 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa<sup>®</sup> Credit Card

Petal 2 Credit Card

Apply Now
on Petal's secure site
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR Variable APR between 12.99% - 26.99%

The Petal 2 Credit Card , issued by WebBank, Member FDIC, is a $0 annual fee card that lets holders earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away, and 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants.

Petal 2 Credit Card holders have the opportunity to receive a relatively high credit line that ranges from $500 to $10,000. Additionally, the card offers a reasonable Variable APR between 12.99% - 26.99%. The credit line and APR are determined based on creditworthiness.

This card does not charge late payment fees — but you should always pay your bill on time, as to not negatively affect your credit score.

If you’re new to credit, the Petal 2 Credit Card could be a good fit. The card — which is aimed at consumers with limited/average/good credit — differs from competing credit cards by using a “Cash Score” in determining your eligibility.

If you have no credit history, you may be asked to link a bank account so that an algorithm can be used to analyze factors such as transaction history, money earned and money spent each month, and bills paid. This makes it easier for consumers who have responsible financial habits, but haven’t had credit before, to qualify for a card.

Additional Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Credit Card benefits include:

  • None foreign transaction fees
  • Variable APR between 12.99% - 26.99%
  • Ability to freeze your card
  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

The Petal 2 Credit Card , issued by WebBank, Member FDIC, is a $0 annual fee card that lets holders earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away, and 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants.

Petal 2 Credit Card holders have the opportunity to receive a relatively high credit line that ranges from $500 to $10,000. Additionally, the card offers a reasonable Variable APR between 12.99% - 26.99%. The credit line and APR are determined based on creditworthiness.

This card does not charge late payment fees — but you should always pay your bill on time, as to not negatively affect your credit score.

If you’re new to credit, the Petal 2 Credit Card could be a good fit. The card — which is aimed at consumers with limited/average/good credit — differs from competing credit cards by using a “Cash Score” in determining your eligibility.

If you have no credit history, you may be asked to link a bank account so that an algorithm can be used to analyze factors such as transaction history, money earned and money spent each month, and bills paid. This makes it easier for consumers who have responsible financial habits, but haven’t had credit before, to qualify for a card.

Additional Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Credit Card benefits include:

  • None foreign transaction fees
  • Variable APR between 12.99% - 26.99%
  • Ability to freeze your card
  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

Best For Earning cash back

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)

The majority of credit cards intended for people with limited credit earn a low rewards rate, or earn no rewards at all. But with the Capital One QuicksilverOne Card, you’ll earn a solid flat rate of 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.

Rewards can be redeemed for 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).

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Card is best for individuals with average/fair/limited credit who’ll spend at least $2,600 on the card in a year — since that’s how much cash back it will take to recoup the annual fee.

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 Card benefits include:

  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • 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

The majority of credit cards intended for people with limited credit earn a low rewards rate, or earn no rewards at all. But with the Capital One QuicksilverOne Card, you’ll earn a solid flat rate of 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.

Rewards can be redeemed for 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).

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Card is best for individuals with average/fair/limited credit who’ll spend at least $2,600 on the card in a year — since that’s how much cash back it will take to recoup the annual fee.

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 Card benefits include:

  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • 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 College students

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 card offers 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. That’s a hard rate to beat — especially for a student credit card.

New cardmembers also receive 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.

There is also a $0 annual fee.

Building credit history while you’re in college can set you up for success later in life. If you’re a student looking for your first card, the Discover it® Student Cash Back is a good choice. Additionally, as long as you remember to activate the bonus categories each quarter, you’ll earn an exceptional cashback rate with this card.

Note, there’s a $1,500 spending cap on the accelerated cashback rate each quarter. This means you can earn a maximum of $75 in cash back each quarter at the higher rate before your earning rate drops to 1%.

Also know, to apply for this card, you must 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:

  • Free access to your FICO® Score.
  • Monitoring of the Dark Web for your Social Security number (when you enroll).
  • Freeze your card at any time.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card offers 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. That’s a hard rate to beat — especially for a student credit card.

New cardmembers also receive 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.

There is also a $0 annual fee.

Building credit history while you’re in college can set you up for success later in life. If you’re a student looking for your first card, the Discover it® Student Cash Back is a good choice. Additionally, as long as you remember to activate the bonus categories each quarter, you’ll earn an exceptional cashback rate with this card.

Note, there’s a $1,500 spending cap on the accelerated cashback rate each quarter. This means you can earn a maximum of $75 in cash back each quarter at the higher rate before your earning rate drops to 1%.

Also know, to apply for this card, you must 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:

  • Free access to your FICO® Score.
  • Monitoring of the Dark Web for your Social Security number (when you enroll).
  • Freeze your card at any time.

Best For International students at U.S. colleges

Deserve<sup>®</sup> EDU Mastercard for Students

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Apply Now
on Deserve's secure site
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 18.74% Variable

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students offers 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases. It also offers reimbursement for one year of Amazon Student Prime membership (specifically, $59 for the annual plan or $6.49 per month for the monthly plan, up to a lifetime total of $59).

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students comes with a $0 annual fee and an ongoing APR of 18.74% variable. As for foreign transaction fees — there are none.

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a great financial tool for international students studying at U.S. colleges.

While most credit cards require a Social Security Number to apply, international students can apply for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students without one. Just know, you won’t build credit history until you link an SSN.

Additional Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students benefits:

  • Cellphone protection
  • Collision damage waiver
  • Mastercard Platinum benefits

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students offers 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases. It also offers reimbursement for one year of Amazon Student Prime membership (specifically, $59 for the annual plan or $6.49 per month for the monthly plan, up to a lifetime total of $59).

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students comes with a $0 annual fee and an ongoing APR of 18.74% variable. As for foreign transaction fees — there are none.

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a great financial tool for international students studying at U.S. colleges.

While most credit cards require a Social Security Number to apply, international students can apply for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students without one. Just know, you won’t build credit history until you link an SSN.

Additional Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students benefits:

  • Cellphone protection
  • Collision damage waiver
  • Mastercard Platinum benefits

Side-by-side comparison of the best unsecured credit cards

Credit cardBest forAnnual fee
Capital One Platinum Credit CardOverall unsecured credit cardNon-rewards Card$0
AvantCard Credit CardBad creditNon-rewards card$59
Petal 2 Credit CardNo creditEarn 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away, and 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants$0
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit CardCashback rewards1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day$39
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudents5% 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
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for StudentsInternational students1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases$0

Methodology

To select the best card for each of these categories, our credit card experts compared unsecured credit cards designed for individuals with poor, limited or nonexistent 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 come 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.

Consider a secured card instead

Disclosures |
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
on OpenSky's secure site
N/A
17.39% (variable)
$35
None
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card
300 599

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LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

 

The unsecured cards we included in this list provide the opportunity to build your credit. Just know, you should be wary of unsecured cards for bad credit that come with expensive fees and/or confusing terms.

For example, unsecured cards from Credit One, First Premier, Horizon Card Services and Total Visa tend to charge pricey fees, such as set-up fees, program fees and monthly fees. They also sometimes come with extremely high interest rates.

If you have poor credit and think you might struggle to get approved for an unsecured credit card with good terms, you may want to consider a secured card, like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card. The card is available to people with limited/bad/poor credit, and doesn’t require a credit check for approval. The card does, however, require a refundable security deposit starting at $200.

Building your credit with an unsecured credit card

Whether you apply for a secured or an unsecured card, it’s important to use it responsibly in order to build a positive credit history. This includes:

  • Paying on time and in full each month. Paying your credit card bill on time is the most important thing you can do for a good credit score. Plus, by paying in full by the statement due date, you can avoid interest charges.
  • Keeping your card account active. You need to actually use your card so that the payment activity can be reported to the credit bureaus. A good way to do this is to put a recurring charge on your card, like a Netflix or Spotify subscription. Then set up automatic payments so your bill is always paid in full and on time.
  • Not overspending. Maxing out your credit card will hurt your credit score, so it’s best to use less than 30% of your available credit. For example, with a $300 credit limit, don’t use more than $90 of it each billing cycle. This also helps prevent taking on a large amount of credit card debt.

Glen Luke Flanagan

Overview

Glen Luke Flanagan covers credit card news for LendingTree.com. He joined the team in June 2019. His work ranges from reviews of new cards to in-depth pieces on protecting your financial information, and his background is in journalism and government communications. 

Experience

As a journalist in North Carolina and South Carolina, Glen covered topics including city government, state government, local businesses, public safety and more. During his time at The State newspaper, Glen’s work appeared on the websites of newspapers across the United States owned by The McClatchy Company. His reporting at The News Herald and The State newspaper won awards from the North Carolina Press Association and the South Carolina Press Association, respectively.

Education

Glen earned his B.A. in media studies with a concentration in journalism from Radford University, graduating summa cum laude in May 2014. After graduation, he participated in a Dow Jones News Fund training and internship. Out of more than 600 applicants, only 86 were accepted into the DJNF program that summer. He was later one of approximately two dozen fellows selected from journalists across the country to participate in the University of South Carolina’s 2016 Media Law School, which was sponsored by the American Board of Trial Advocates. This program gave fellows an intensive crash course in public records, bankruptcy law, podcasts and more.

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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.