Learn 11 Things to Know Before Getting Your First Credit Card

Getting your first credit card is a significant milestone — and a significant adjustment. You may already understand how credit cards work and how to use them safely, but the devil is in the details. Understanding those intricacies before you dive in will save you money and help you build good credit faster.


The best credit cards are not for novices.

As a beginner to credit, you’re unlikely to qualify for the finest credit cards, which provide generous rewards and privileges, large sign-up bonuses, and long 0% interest periods. In addition, only applicants with good or outstanding credit (scores of 690+) and longer credit histories who fulfill specific income restrictions are eligible for these top-tier products.

With your first credit card, you’ll most likely need to start small, with a product designed for persons with little or no credit history. But it’s not all bad news: several of these cards provide good rewards and don’t have annual fees. Consider the following options:

  • A student credit card, is often known as a credit card for college students.
  • A secured credit card, is often known as a cash deposit card.
  • A credit card is targeted at those with fair credit, which is commonly characterized as a credit score ranging from 630 to 690.
  • A credit card for which you have pre-qualified, either through your bank or online through NerdWallet’s pre-qualification page or other comparable resources.

A security deposit makes it easier to obtain a credit card.

If you’re having problems getting approved for your first credit card, perhaps because you have no credit at all, consider a secured credit card.

Secured credit cards are intended for persons with poor or no credit. To open your account, you must first make a cash deposit. Typically, your credit limit is equal to your deposit. Depending on the card, the minimum deposit ranges from $200 to $500. Most secured cards allow you to deposit more in order to obtain a larger credit line.


If you become behind on your payments, you may lose this deposit. However, if you constantly pay on time and keep your spending well below the card’s limit, you could create solid credit in a few months. At that point, your issuer may upgrade the account to a regular unsecured card, or you may apply for an unsecured card while keeping the secured card open. Your deposit would be reimbursed in either situation.