Credit Cards for Beginners

Credit Cards for Beginners

First article in the series here: Credit Card Primer

Guest Post from Zitong

Building up your credit is important. As an absolute beginner with no credit history at all, your choices are limited. You won’t get approved for most of the “elite” credit cards with decent welcome bonuses.  However, there are still several options available. To help you start building credit, I’ll recommend two credit cards that are best for beginners.

With SSN: Discover it for Students

Discover it card art

Discover it for college student is definitely the best choice to start with if you have a SSN. As long as you are a college student and have a Social Security Number (SSN), Discover will mostly accept your application regardless of your credit history. (However they’ll reject you if you only have a SHORT history instead of NO history.)

Although Discover is considered a relatively small network in the US, the acceptance of Discover It is not bad. In fact, this card supports four networks at the same time: Discover, Unionpay (银联) – China, JCB – Japan, Diner’s club, which makes it super convenient when traveling in Asia. (No Foreign Transaction Fee.)


  • Double Cash Back: Double all cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, including the 5% bonus category, sign-up bonus, Discover Deals, refer bonus. New customers only.
  • Earn $50 after first purchase within 3 months. (Must with referral code. The official application link has no sign-up bonus.)
  •  Good Student Reward: Earn $20 each year when you get at least a 3.0 GPA, up to 5 years.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No credit history needed.
  • No foreign transaction fee.
  • No annual fee.

Application Link: If you decide to apply for Discover it, please use this link. It gives both of us a referral bonus ($100 for you with this link) and helps keep this blog going.

Without SSN: BoA BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

boa travel rewards card

Your credit history comes with your name, DOB, and home address. Even if you don’t have a SSN yet because you are an international student, there are still ways to start building credit history. Bank of America (BoA) is the best place to get started.

As a non-US citizen, you have to go to the branch to apply. You likely won’t get the $200 welcome bonus. However, the point of one’s first credit card is to start building a credit history. Therefore, the welcome bonus should not be your biggest worry. You can go back to the branch and ask for assistance, and they may grant you the bonus regardless.

Usually, you need a good relationship with BoA to get approved for this card. However, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).


  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee.
  • No annual fee.

Application Link:

You have to go to the branch to apply if you are not a US citizen or permanent resident.

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