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Great credit cards for people with no credit history
Getting a credit card can be difficult when you’ve recently moved to the U.S. and don’t have a local credit history. This article lists great credit cards for people with no credit history.
Nova Credit is a cross-border credit bureau that allows newcomers to apply for U.S. credit cards, phone plans, and loans using their foreign credit history.
Many of the card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which Nova Credit receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). Nova Credit does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.
If you’ve recently moved to the U.S, it can be very difficult to get a credit card.
Even if you have a credit history abroad or have a track record of paying bills on time in the U.S., many credit card companies will request a formal credit history in order to approve you for a credit card.
Fortunately, there are a few great credit cards that people can get with no U.S. credit history—either by using their foreign credit history or applying for secured card options.
Let's review some of the best options out there.
Nova Credit enables U.S newcomers to apply for a credit card with their foreign credit history
If you are an international student, relocating professional, or other type of newcomer to the U.S., American Express and Nova Credit might have you covered.
Using Nova Credit, you can apply for all American Express personal credit cards online if you have credit history in one of the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland, and the U.K.
Make sure to check the box above where you’ve entered your SSN (or your ITIN, if you do not have an SSN) that says “I do not have credit history in the U.S., but have had a credit card or loan in…” This will prompt American Express to ask you to use your foreign credit history later in the application. You can learn more about the application process in our guide.
Fortunately, American Express also reports to all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, Experian), so you will start building credit history after being approved for a card and using it responsibly. You do not even need a Social Security Number (SSN) to start building credit history.
This article will dive into two of our favorite American Express cards, but you can also check out our full list of featured American Express cards for newcomers to find the right card for you.
Featured credit cards to apply with international credit
Our featured cash back grocery card: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Our featured luxury travel card: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Our featured cash back grocery card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Why we chose it:
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, and then a $95 annual fee after that.
The 6% cashback at supermarkets is a great perk, particularly for families who spend a lot of money on groceries.
There is also often an intro bonus offer on the card, which could help you boost your cash back earnings early on. You’ll want to calculate your potential cash back earnings to see if you’ll likely come out ahead after paying the fee.
Our featured luxury travel card
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Why we chose it: The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the most well-known premium cards available.
If you travel often and will take advantage of its luxury travel perks, like airport lounge access, shorter airport lines, and complimentary upgrades to nicer hotel rooms, the Platinum Card® from American Express may be a great option.
With a steep $695 annual fee, you’ll need to make sure that your lifestyle and spending habits will cover that cost. Read our detailed article on who should apply for an American Express® Platinum Card.
Featured secured credit cards if you have no credit
If you cannot use your foreign credit history to apply for an Amex card, then a secured card may be a good option for you. The primary difference between a secured and unsecured credit card is that secured credit cards require you to send the issuer a refundable security deposit, which becomes your credit limit for the card.
Because they’re designed for people with no credit or bad credit, they are sometimes loaded with fees and unfavorable terms. That said, there are some great options out there for those looking to build U.S. credit from scratch — here are some secured cards that you may want to consider:
Our featured option without a bank account: The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Our featured low APR card: Green Dot primor® Visa® Classic Secured Credit Card
Our featured rewards card: Discover it® Secured
Our featured card without a bank account
The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card (Requires SSN)
Why we chose it:
The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card stands out as one of the few secured cards that doesn’t require a bank account. Although you can send your security deposit with a debit card, you can also use a money transfer or mail a money order or check.
There’s no credit check, so having no credit won't affect the credit card application itself.
When you open the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card, you’ll need to send a security deposit of $200 to $3,000, which will be your card’s credit limit. You can get the security deposit back if you, or the issuer, close your account while it’s in good standing (i.e., you don’t owe any money). While it’s a good card to build credit, it’s not particularly helpful for much else.
Our featured low APR card
Green Dot Primor® Mastercard® Classic Secured Credit Card
Why we chose it: Green Dot Bank is best known in the U.S. for offering prepaid cards.
With prepaid cards, you load money into your account and can then use the card to spend it—similar to a checking account and debit card.
However, Green Dot’s secured credit cards are real credit cards and Green Dot Bank reports your account to all three major credit bureaus.
Many secured cards have a high annual percentage rate (APR), which impacts how much interest accrues when you don’t pay your credit card bill in full. The Green Dot Primor® Mastercard® Classic Secured Credit Card’s rate is relatively low compared to other secured cards, which could make it a good option if you might occasionally carry a balance.
Our featured rewards secured card
Discover it® Secured
Why we chose it: The Discover it® Secured card requires a SSN, credit check and U.S. bank account to apply. However, if you can get the card, it’s one of the better secured cards available.
The Discover it® Secured is one of the few secured cards that offers rewards on purchases and doesn’t have an annual fee.
There’s also no foreign transaction fee and Discover waives your first late payment fee.
Using the card, you can earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each quarter, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Plus, at the end of your first year, Discover doubles all the cash back you earned.
Discover also monitors your credit and account history while you’re building credit. After you’ve had the card for eight months, Discover does automatic reviews and may upgrade you to an unsecured card—you keep the same card and benefits, but get your security deposit back.
You can use your foreign credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card
Credit history used to stop at the border—until now. Your existing foreign credit history could help you get credit in the United States.
What to consider when choosing a credit card if you have no credit
As a newcomer to the U.S., you may have limited options when opening a credit card with no credit. The credit cards above may be good options, but choosing the right one will depend on your financial situation, lifestyle, and spending habits.
Here are a few features you should compare as you consider which credit card to choose:
Credit cards for people with no credit can often have a variety of fees, including an annual fee that you have to pay to keep the account open. Additionally, look for usage-based fees, such as foreign transaction fees or cash advance fees.
A grace period:
Most credit cards have a grace period that’s around 21 to 25 days long. During this period, which goes from the end of your purchase period to your bill’s due date, interest won’t accrue on your credit card balance that comes from purchases. It also won’t accrue during your statement period.
However, balances from cash advances and balance transfers generally don’t have a grace period and start accruing interest right away. If you pay your bill in full by the due date, you keep your grace period and never pay interest on your purchases. However, if you don’t pay your bill in full, you lose your grade period and your purchases start to accrue interest right away.
Many credit cards offer rewards as either cash back, points or miles in partner travel companies’ loyalty programs. The best rewards cards often require excellent credit and may have an annual fee, so they're not ideal credit cards for people with no credit. However, some of the cards above have good rewards programs that you can use to earn cash back.
Many rewards credit cards also have an intro offer. This sign-up bonus offer can give you big rewards after making a certain amount of purchases within an introductory period. The intro offers can change over time and from one card to another.
If you have large purchases coming up, you could also look for a card that has an intro APR offer. These offers let you make purchases with the card but pay no interest during the introductory period, which generally lasts 12 to 18 months. You should have a plan for paying off the balance before the promotional interest rate ends, otherwise your interest will begin accruing.
The cardholder benefits:
Many credit cards offer benefits to cardholders simply for having and using the credit card—even if they have no U.S. credit history. These can range from elite status in hotel loyalty programs and access to airport lounges to protections when you use the card for certain purchases.
Most credit cards also come with zero liability for unauthorized purchases. This means that if someone steals your card or uses your account’s information, you won’t have to pay for any of the purchases.
How to use your new card to build credit in the U.S.
Getting a credit card can help you to establish your credit profile in the U.S. Once you’ve got your new card, here are three things you can do to practice responsible card use and work your way to an excellent credit score.
Regularly use your card. Try to use your credit card for a small purchase each month. People who are focused on building their credit, rather than earning rewards, sometimes use their card to automatically pay for an inexpensive subscription service to show repeat usage.
Only use a small portion of your credit limit. Using a small portion of your available credit limit can help improve your credit score. In contrast, maxing out your card (using the entire credit limit) may hurt your score. A helpful rule of thumb is to only make purchases that add up to one third of your credit limit. For example, if your card has a $300 limit, try to keep the balance below $100.
Pay your bill in full. Try to pay off your credit card bill in full each month. The payment might not directly impact your credit scores, but it will keep you from paying interest on your balance.
As you learn more about credit and discover the different types of credit scores in the U.S., you’ll discover there are many factors that can impact your credit profile.
Apply for U.S. credit cards with confidence
Access your free international credit report to see which U.S. credit cards you could already be eligible for.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
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