Getting your first credit card as a student or someone without a regular source of income can seem difficult. Lenders are often hesitant to extend credit to those without an established credit history or proof of employment. However, there are some credit card options available for individuals in this situation.
This blog post will explain the different types of credit cards you can apply for even without a regular job, including secured credit cards, student cards, and more. Let’s dive in.
Secured Credit Cards: The Safest Bet Without a Job
One of the most reliable options for those without an established credit history or proof of income is a secured credit card. As the name suggests, these cards require a refundable security deposit that acts as your credit limit. Here’s a quick overview:
- How they work: You deposit a certain amount of money (usually $200-$500) as collateral. That becomes your credit limit. For example, with a $300 deposit you’d receive a $300 credit limit.
- Approval chances: Because the lender is essentially lending you your own money as credit, approval for secured cards is much higher than regular cards—even for those with limited or no credit history.
- Building credit: On-time payments get reported to the major credit bureaus just like regular cards. Make all payments on time and your credit score will improve over 6-12 months of responsible use.
- Graduating: After 8-12 months of on-time payments, you may qualify to “graduate” to an unsecured card and get your deposit refunded.
Two of the most popular secured card options that accept applications from individuals without a regular job include the Capital One Secured Mastercard and Discover it Secured Card. Both have low annual fees (usually less than $50) and provide regular credit limit increases as your credit score improves. This makes them ideal starter cards.
Student Credit Cards
If you’re a college student, several issuers offer credit cards designed specifically for students. Here are a few student card options without an income requirement:
- Deserve Edu Mastercard: Reports payment history to all three credit bureaus. No annual fee and a rewards program. Requires US citizenship or permanent residency.
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students: Earns 2x points at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined purchases per year). No annual fee. Must be 13+ with a parent or guardian as a joint applicant.
- Capital One® Journey® Student MilestoneSM Credit Card: Earns rewards on select everyday purchase categories. $0 annual fee. Build credit history as you check key milestones off your list.
- Discover it® Student Cash Back: Earns cash back at different merchant categories each quarter. $0 annual fee. Must be a student named on a valid student ID at an accredited US college.
While student cards don’t technically require proof of income, issuers will consider your expected income sources like financial aid, work study programs, or parental support in approving your application.
Store Credit Cards
Retail store credit cards that partner with major issuers like Synchrony and Citi also provide options for credit builders without traditional income. Popular store card options to consider include:
- Amazon Store Card: Reports payment history to credit bureaus. Instant approval amounts up to $1,000 based on creditworthiness. 5% cash back at Amazon.
- Kohl’s Charge: Earns Kohl’s Cash for on-time payments. Accepts co-applicants for income consideration in the approval process.
- Walmart Credit Card: 6-24 months special financing on Walmart.com or in stores. Reports to credit bureaus.
While store cards are solely for use at the issuing retailer, responsible use over 6-12 months can help boost your overall credit profile for future general purpose cards.
Co-Signers as an Income Alternative
If you have a parent, relative, or spouse with an established credit history willing to co-sign, having them apply with you provides an alternative source of income consideration. The co-signer effectively takes responsibility for payments if you default, improving your chances of approval.
However, co-signing does negatively impact the co-signer’s credit if you miss payments. Only consider this option if you have a supportive co-signer who trusts you to make payments responsibly. Otherwise, explore secured or student options first before having someone co-sign.
Employer Credit Cards
Some large companies offer employee credit cards that can be applied for prior to starting a new job. This provides another alternative income stream:
- Amazon Store Card (as above)
- Lowe’s Consumer Credit Card
- Home Depot Consumer Credit Card
In such cases, you’d provide details about your upcoming job including start date, expected income, etc. While approval isn’t guaranteed, having employment lined up strengthens an application compared to relying solely on personal income history.
Other Options Without Job Requirements
A few other card options exist that don’t explicitly require proof of employment income:
- Petal 1 Visa Card: Reports payments to all three bureaus. Approval based on alternative data like rental and cell phone payment history. No credit check or annual fee.
- Self Credit Cards: Like Self Lender, reports payments and offers no credit check approvals starting at $300 limit. Requires recurring $10 payments toward high-interest credit balance.
- Credit Union Cards: Some local credit unions provide basic cards to members with light or developing credit profiles. Look into options through affiliated credit unions.
- Unsecured Sign & Fly Card: A new Air leading card for those new to credit that approves some without history based on an AI model. $49 annual fee. Builds credit profile without job or income requirements.
The options highlighted here are generally thin-credit or “entry level” cards. With on-time payments over 6-12 months, they provide valuable ways to establish your initial credit history. Just make sure to research and choose carefully based on your individual situation.
Factors Affecting Approval Chances Without a Job
While the above credit card options technically accept applications without traditional proof of employment, your overall financial and credit profile still factor into the approval decision:
- Length and stability of your current address
- Age and consistency of phone and utility accounts
- Income sources (financial aid, family support, etc.)
- Presence of any credit blips or missed payments in your credit report
- Public records like bankruptcies, tax liens, or collections
- Number and type of recent inquiries
- Credit utilization on any open accounts
In general, those with clean credit histories who have been financially independent without major negative marks tend to have stronger chances of approval for starter cards without an established job. Issuers rely more heavily on alternative data points in reviewing profiles without a working income.
Maintain Responsible Credit Habits After Approval
Once approved for a credit builder card without a job, it’s imperative to handle it responsibly:
- Make at least the minimum payment by the due date each month without fail
- Keep credit utilization low (under 30% of the limit)
- Don’t close old accounts (unless delinquent) as they boost credit history length
- Avoid applying for new credit frequently which can lower approval odds
- Check credit reports at least annually for errors and disputes
Consistency over 6-12 months of on-time payments reports a positive credit history to improve your future creditworthiness. This creates opportunities to qualify for traditional unsecured cards and eventually bigger credit lines. But irresponsible use can undo early progress or prevent graduation from secured cards.
Choose Wisely and Educate Yourself
While this article has highlighted many credit card options for those without a job, not every card fits every situation. Take time to research each option closely based on your individual needs and plans to pay balances responsibly. Also consider:
- Annual fees or lack thereof
- Rewards programs and bonus structures
- Credit limit potentials over time
- Requirements to graduate from secured to unsecured status
You should also fully educate yourself on credit reporting, credit scores, and proper credit management. Building credit is a long-term process requiring discipline. With responsible use, though, entry-level credit cards provide valuable ways to establish a credit footprint for future financial opportunities even without traditional proof of income. Choose carefully and handle credit wisely to see results over time