I am a student, I just started my sophomore year. I have always been very financially responsible. Now, I want to start building my credit, so I did my research and applied for a student credit card. I was denied due to the fact that I have no credit. I want to apply to get a different credit card (one that many friends have gotten approved for without having any credit).

Is it possible that I hurt my nonexistent credit score by being denied for the first credit card? And more specifically, is it possible that if I am approved for this other credit card my score will be hurt by being previously denied for a different line of credit?

  • You should also check the credit bureaus to make sure your credit reports are either non-existent or clean. You may think they are but sometimes people starting out find out that they aren't for various reasons you may not even be aware of. Check at this free, govt. mandated site: annualcreditreport.com/index.action At the most there should only be an inquiry
    – doug
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 4:15
  • I'm actually impressed by whichever company denied you. Nothing against you, but them showing at least some method of discernment (even if faulty) is an improvement over the previous state of flooding campuses with tables loaded with free swag for whomever they could get to apply. Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 16:19

3 Answers 3


You don't need a secured card, or one with high fees. Those are for people rebuilding after ruining their credit.

You are a student (college or university, because you do need to be at least 18 years old) with no credit history: a clean slate. That means it won't count against you. (Even with one previous inquiry.) So you need to find an issuer who has other, positive, information about you.

The most likely candidate for that is a bank or credit union where you've had a deposit account (checking or savings, or both). Other banks will look at your college record as proof of responsibility. Apply for a card specifically designed for students. You'll have a low limit and very little in the way of benefits (low cashback, no travel rewards). But you should be able to avoid fees. And stay away from signup bonuses -- you don't need the risk of missing it to pressure you into extra spending.

An extra benefit of getting a credit card from the same bank where you already have a deposit account is that when paying from an account at the same bank, you can make a payment same day, so you don't have to worry about sending a payment days in advance of the due date, or wonder how long the mail takes to get there.

As long as you go into this with an expectation of receiving a chance to prove yourself, and not thinking you are owed anything more than that, you'll find what you are looking for. Problems arise when you start comparing your account benefits to those of friends who have cosigners, or have been doing this a lot longer.


Your credit score was 0 (non-existent) before, now you have a credit inquiry on your credit report which is bad, but not terrible. I would think that it could actually improve your credit, but have no proof for it.
Basically to build credit you need an account that gets reported to the credit rating agencies. It doesn't really matter what kind of account.
The best way to build credit is to actually have a credit limit. When you use 1-10% of that limit your score will be the best it could be. So I would get a secured credit card, use about 10% of it, pay it off when the bill comes. Then try to get an unsecured card after 2 months or so.

  • You have to have at least one active account 6 months or more in age before you get a FICO credit score and those are the ones generally used by creditors. So get a secured card. Use it, and after 6 months you will have a credit score.
    – doug
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 4:00

Depending on how you look at it, you're in one of the most targeted demographics for new credit lines out there. You are fresh debt, in school when most people max out everything, and are most likely in the frame of mind to rely on credit. From a lender's perspective you are prime.

You likely got denied for the kind of account you tried to start. Even though you meet all requirements, the specific kind of credit you applied for could have been marketed at a rate that is low enough to appear attractive while minimizing the risk for the lender.

The kinds of cards that will accept you with no questions are low balance, typically high interest, and probably ones having service fees. All of which are a huge scam, but tend to be what you have to do if you want to play the credit game.

The credit inquiry you speak of will be recorded but will do nothing to affect the kinds of credit lines you can open at this point. In your position, the lines you will be accepted for know what kind of credit the applicants have and will adjust their rates and risks accordingly. You will just have to do some hunting to find them.

You're a student. Look for cards that tend to lend themselves to student needs. Target is a good example. Every student could live through college shopping there and nowhere else. Look into those visa cards with like $300 limits and use it responsibly for about half a year but the second you get a real card with no service fees you balance transfer and close out the initial line immediately.

I had a similar situation as you. I never used credit until my late 20s and had to run through this scheme to build enough to look viable. A year later I qualified for a home loan at 4%. It was instructed and explained this way by my mortgage broker and I'm pretty confident this method works. I started with pretty much no credit score at all.

  • 1
    No, a student is not stuck paying service fees in order to build credit. Here's a list with zero-AF cards especially for students: creditcards.com/student
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 3:35
  • I didn't say definitively that service fee cards are their only option.
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 16:08

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