Getting a credit card with zero credit history can feel like an impossible task. For beginners the whole system appears to be a vicious cycle: you need credit to get a card, and you need a card to build credit. The reality is not so black and white. Many have done it with a little determination, and so can you. In this article, we’ll cover your chances of approval, average APRs and credit limits, as well as a shortlist of companies with this niche product.
Is it possible to get approved for a credit card with no credit history?
Yes, it’s possible to get approved for a credit card with no credit history. Your chances are better than 50%, and they get even better when you take the time to identify strong offers.
Do I have to get a secured card?
No, you don’t have to get a secured card. Several unsecured cards accept consumers with no credit. You just need to dig around to find them.
According to data from the Federal Reserve1, the rate for credit card approval for consumers with no credit is 62.50%. This means you’ll get rejected about 38% percent of the time. There are several deciding factors such as salary, age, and gender.
That said, the Federal Reserve’s study is a blanket survey and doesn’t track whether applicants use best practices and thorough research before applying.
In fact, more than half of people who don’t apply say it’s simply because they don’t believe they’ll be approved. The fact that you’re here reading suggests you’re more optimistic and driven than the norm.
Average Global Approval Rate
To provide context, the average overall approval rate is 85.46%, or 23% higher than the no credit approval rate. This makes sense because more than 50% of consumers have a score above 700 on the FICO 8 scale, so the “better” scorers weight heavy on acceptance rates.
The image below shows how your chances of approval increase by credit score range. Don’t let this deter you — everyone starts somewhere. You actually have a higher chance of approval with no credit than bad credit (below 620).
This information suggests you should be very careful with your first card. Make sure to pay the balance off in full each month and create a strong track record until your reach the 680 score, where your chanced go above the global average to 88.06%.
The average APR for unsecured credit cards made for consumers with no credit history is 33.70% (variable) as of writing. For the same cards the maximum percent is 35.99% and the minimum is 26.99%.
We looked at 5 credit cards to calculate these figures. We intentionally exclude secured credit cards because they make you front money as collateral, and we selected only cards that declare themselves as tailored to consumers with no credit history. Keep in mind, however, that many of these cards charge annual fees in addition to APRs.
Average Global Rates
As context, the average global APR is 20% as of writing, which is higher than it has been in over a decade. It also means that APRs for consumers without credit history are 67% (or 13.70% in absolute) higher than the norm (33.70% – 20.00%).
If you were skeptical as to why it’s possible to get a card with no credit, now you know. You often pay a flat annual fee PLUS the risk of incurring a 33.70% APR on unpaid balances. This is just another reason to be very careful with your first card.
(average credit limit)
The average credit limit for the cards we examined is $970, with a low of $100 and maximum of $10,000. The range is not much different from secured credit cards (ones that make you pay a security deposit), which begs the question why consumers would pick secured cards over unsecured options targeting those with no history.
Big banks prefer secured cards because they pose less risk, but it’s to your advantage should try to get an unsecured card first.
Average Credit Limit
Based on data from the Federal Reserve, the global average credit limit approved for new credit cards is $6,114. This number makes $970 look very low, but it makes sense when broken down by credit scores as shown in the image below.
Note the average credit limit granted to those with bad credit (below 620) is $716, which makes $970 feel like a good deal.
Is it easy?
The caveat is that no, it’s not easy to get credit when you have no history because lenders have to take a big risk on you. To improve your chances, the most important thing is to find the right card. Right after that, the best way to improve your chances is to establish regular income.
Do I need work history?
Work history is not a prerequisite, but proof of steady income decreases risk to lenders. In turn, they are more willing to grant you a card. Many people think of credit worthiness as a vacuum around credit scores, but the reality is lenders look at your whole profile. Having income, whether from work or family money or dividends on your estate, increases your chances of approval.
Banks think just like you and me. Would you lend an unemployed friend a revolving line of credit? Maybe, if she has a good score… or if he has money coming in from elsewhere.
Can I get instant approval?
Yes, you can get instant approval for credit cards even without credit history. The way it works is you apply to get pre-approved. The bank then runs a “soft” inquiry on your credit report and decides whether to give you an offer. If approved, it’s instantaneous.
That said, they usually still run a hard inquiry on your report once you accept just to make sure. Hard inquiries are formal ways of checking identity and provide additional assurance to the bank.
Can I get a $10,000 credit limit?
Strictly speaking there is at least one unsecured credit card that offers up to $10,000 without requiring credit history. That said, it’s very unlikely. Given that the average credit limit for consumers with excellent 760+ scores is only $8,982, there’s little chance you would be approved.
The best way to attempt obtaining a high credit line like $10k with no credit is to personally appear in front of a bank teller, show proof of yearly income over $100,000, and personally request he/she include that information in their assessment. Inform the teller you’re shopping around for a new bank to stir the competition.
Most of these processes are automated today, but with a little luck you could make it happen.
Credit cards are a great way to get started building credit, and you can find options even without credit history. The important things are to avoid secured cards, ensure you have solid income, keep your expectations for the credit limit low, and do your research. Once you get the card, use very low amounts of credit, but be consistent until you get past the 680 mark. Once you’re there, your credit world will improve dramatically.
- Source: Survey of Consumer Expectations, © 2013-23 Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY). The SCE data are available without charge at www.newyorkfed.org and may be used subject to license terms posted there. FRBNY disclaims any responsibility or legal liability for this analysis and interpretation of Survey of Consumer Expectations data.