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Credit Card Reviews

Best First Credit Cards of November 2020

The best first credit cards have minimal credit requirements (if any at all) and give cardholders regular access to a free credit score, in addition to exceptional offerings like rewards, few costs, or a low APR. They stand out from the majority of credit cards, which require a more established credit history to qualify. A small collection of products is designed just for people new to credit, and we’ve chosen the best ones.

Best First Credit Cards

  • Discover it Chrome for Students
    Best Overall, Best for Students, Best Unsecured Card
  • Chase Freedom Student Credit Card
    Best With a Low APR
  • Discover it Miles
    Best for Earning Rewards
  • Discover it Secured
    Best Secured Card
  • Apple Card
    Best for Avoiding Fees, Best for Learning About Credit

For more details on how we evaluate credit cards for this list, see our methodology.

Discover it® Chrome for Students

Best Overall

Best for Students

Best Unsecured Card

Our Rating Among Cards For Beginners4.8

Discover it® Chrome for Students

CURRENT OFFER

Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE 350850Poor – Excellent

REGULAR APR (%)17.99% variable
ANNUAL FEE$0
INTRO PURCHASE APR0% for 6 Months
REWARDS EARNING RATEEarn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE (%)0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARDThis student card offers good rewards, a great welcome bonus, and an additional cash-back bonus for cardholders who get good grades, making it a stellar first credit card. Like the other Discover cards on this list, Chrome also waives your first late fee. You should always make payments on time, but it’s nice to know you won’t have to pay a fee for a one-off mistake as you acclimate to using your first credit card. Since this is an unsecured card, you won’t have to pay a deposit upfront to secure a credit limit, either. 
  • PROS & CONSPros
    • Available to those with fair credit, which makes this a good starter card
    • First late payment fee is waived
    • First-year cash-back earnings will be doubled for a generous and unconventional bonus
    • Annual $20 reward for maintaining good grades
    Cons
    • Bonus rewards categories have quarterly earning limits
    • Discover card acceptance may vary compared to Visa and Mastercard
  • HIGHLIGHTS

    Chase Freedom® Student credit card

    Best With a Low APR

    Our Rating Among Cards For Beginners4.8

    Chase Freedom® Student credit card

    CURRENT OFFER

    $50 Bonus earned after first purchase made within the first 3 months from account opening.RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE 670850Good – Excellent

    REGULAR APR (%)14.99% variable
    ANNUAL FEE$0
    REWARDS EARNING RATEEarn 1% cash back on all purchases.
    FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE (%)3%
    • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARDIf you have good credit and there’s a chance you’ll carry a balance on your first card (or you just want a lower-cost option), this is your best option. It carries a 14.99% variable APR, which is below the average student card interest rate and far lower than what even other cards on this list may charge. There’s no promotional 0% APR deal for new cardholders, but that’s not unheard of among student cards. You’ll be eligible for those offers after you’ve become a more experienced credit card user. We also like that the Chase Freedom Student card doesn’t charge an annual fee and offers easy cash-back rewards, too.
    • PROS & CONSPros
      • Simple cash-back program makes earning and redeeming rewards easy while building credit
      • Lets you earn a credit limit increase by making five on-time monthly payments within 10 months of opening account
      • $20 bonus each year your account is in good standing (for up to 5 years)
      Cons
      • Card cannot be applied for online. You must visit a Chase branch
      • Low rewards-earning rate compared to other student cards
    • HIGHLIGHTS

      Discover it® Miles

      Best for Earning Rewards

      Our Rating Among Cards For Beginners4.7

      Discover it® Miles

      CURRENT OFFER

      Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE 670850Good – Excellent

      REGULAR APR (%)11.99% – 22.99% variable
      ANNUAL FEE$0
      REWARDS EARNING RATEEarn unlimited 1.5 miles for every dollar spent.
      INTRO PURCHASE APR0% for 14 Months
      FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE (%)0%
      • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARDThose new to using credit cards will appreciate how simple it is to earn and redeem rewards with this no-annual-fee card, especially if you like to travel. You’ll earn 1.25 miles on every $1 spent, and those miles can be redeemed for cash back or as reimbursement for travel purchases made with this card—even those made on third-party websites. Either way, your miles are worth a consistent 1 cent each. Discover will also match all the miles earned your first year, essentially doubling your earnings, which is a top-notch new-cardholder bonus for those who don’t mind the delayed gratification.
      • PROS & CONSPros
        • No annual fee
        • Miles can be redeemed as travel statement credits or cash back
        • Generous, unconventional bonus doubles your first year earnings
        • Competitive 0% purchase APR offer
        Cons
        • Miles can’t be transferred to airline loyalty programs
        • No travel insurance benefits
        • Card acceptance may vary compared to Visa or Mastercard
      • HIGHLIGHTS

        Discover it® Secured

        Best Secured Card

        Our Rating Among Cards For Beginners4.6

        Discover it® Secured

        CURRENT OFFER

        Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE 350850Poor – Excellent

        REGULAR APR (%)22.99% variable
        ANNUAL FEE$0
        MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO ACTIVATE$200
        ALLOWS UPGRADE TO UNSECURED CARDYes
        PAY DEPOSIT IN INSTALLMENTSNo
        • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARDA secured credit card is often your best option when getting your first credit card, and this is a good one. It offers a generous cash-back rewards rate that is nearly unheard of in a secured card. You can get the Discover it Secured card with a relatively low deposit, and after eight months of on-time payments, Discover may consider your account for an upgrade to an unsecured card (meaning you’ll get your deposit back).
        • PROS & CONSPros
          • Ability to earn cash-back rewards while building credit
          • Responsible use can lead to automatic unsecured card upgrade
          • No foreign transaction fee
          • Cash-back match as a first year bonus
          Cons
          • Low cap on highest rewards earning rate
          • Mediocre maximum credit limit compared to other secured cards
        • HIGHLIGHTS

          Apple Card

          Best for Avoiding Fees

          Best for Learning About Credit

          Our Rating Among Cards For Beginners4.5

          Apple Card

          RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE 350850Poor – Excellent

          REGULAR APR (%)10.99% – 21.99% variable
          ANNUAL FEE$0
          REWARDS EARNING RATEEarn 3% cash back at Apple and select Apple pay partners, 2% on other Apple pay purchases, and 1% on everything else.
          FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE (%)0%
          • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARDThis co-branded card doesn’t charge an annual fee, late payment fee, or any other of the tricky fees you might encounter with cards aimed at people new to credit cards. Although it’s recommended you have a credit score of at least 600 when you apply, you may still be considered for the card if you have a limited, or no, credit history. Whenever you use Apple Pay, you’ll get 2% cash back, or 3% back at Apple and eligible partner retailers such as Walgreens and Uber. Better yet, the card also offers tools that can teach you how your usage impacts your credit history. Keep in mind you have to have an iPhone to get the most value out of this card.
          • PROS & CONSPros
            • Good rewards on Apple and partner-retailer purchases
            • Ability to earn more when using this card with Apple Pay
            • Interactive account tools offer visual ways to learn about credit
            • Lowest offered APR is good for a rewards card
            • No annual fee
            Cons
            • Mediocre rewards rate on non-Apple and non-Apple-Pay purchases
            • Non-iPhone users will miss out on highest rewards earning rate
            • Few extra benefits (e.g. bonus or free credit score)
          • HIGHLIGHTS
            • Apply and start using in minutes. Just open the Wallet app and tapthe plus icon.
            • Get 2% Daily Cash back every time you pay with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
            • See each purchase go through right away. No waiting. No wondering.
            • No fees. Period.

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