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Before you can get the best travel credit cards, you need to build credit. If possible, the best credit card is one that earns rewards while you use it to build your credit score. With so many credit cards to choose from, the decision can be harder than you realize. So what are the best credit cards to build credit scores?

Love Boat Party L.A. Oct 1, 2022. Credit: Johnny Jet

Best Credit Cards to Build Credit Score

Whether you want to earn cash rewards or the best credit card for travel miles, these two cards can build your credit score. Plus, you earn rewards at the same time.

Always Pay Your Balance to Build Credit

Let’s cover the main rule of owning credit cards.

You must pay your credit card balance in full each month to boost your score. Missed payments remain on your credit report for up to seven years. Also, each missed payment reduces your credit score and your approval odds can be at risk for future credit applications.

The Best Credit Cards to Build Credit Scores

If you just want to start building credit, try getting an unsecured rewards credit card. You won’t pay an annual fee and you earn rewards points on every purchase.

Also, when you’re ready to apply for a different credit card, you can keep this first card for free. Your credit card is made up of several factors. On-time payments are a driving factor, but the age of your credit accounts is important too.

At first, you will want to keep your card as a secondary card. It will still help your credit score grow, even if you only use it for one purchase a year. It’s also a free way to build credit because you don’t pay an annual fee.

The average American credit score is around 695. If you’re a few points below, you have good approval odds with these recommendations.

Option 1: Chase Freedom Flex

The information for the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers tiered purchase rewards. Each quarter, there are revolving 5% bonus categories on the first $1,500 in combined spending that you activate. After that, you earn 1% on all purchases. Plus, you always earn an unlimited 1% on all non-bonus categories.

These are the Chase Freedom Flex℠ bonus categories:

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1% back)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% on all other purchases

You can redeem your rewards for cash back, award travel, and gift cards.

More importantly, you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, some of the most valuable credit card rewards points. You can also pool them with your other Ultimate Rewards credit cards.

One of these cards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With the Sapphire Preferred, your points are worth 25% more for award travel. You can transfer them directly to airlines and hotel loyalty accounts. But, you may need a credit score of 740 to qualify for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Since the Freedom Flex is an easy way to earn bonus points on non-travel awards, you can continue to use it on a regular basis. Then, you can redeem the points for award travel with the Sapphire Preferred.

FYI: here’s a comparison post on the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture, another comparable travel credit card that isn’t in the Chase family.

Related: Best Chase Credit Cards

Option 2: IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card

Hotel credit cards are another way easy way to build credit. When you pick one with a reward anniversary night, the reward night usually offsets the annual fee. The IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card is one of these cards.

Each card anniversary, you get a reward night. Some of the places you can enjoy your reward night include Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites, and InterContinental.

If you sit through long security lines when you fly, IHG offers a fee credit for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck.

New IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card cardholders can earn 165,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Member FDIC

The annual fee is $99. 

An exclusive IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card benefit is getting the 4th Reward Night when you pay for your first 3+ nights with points.

Related: Best Hotel Credit Cards

Option 3: Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card

It used to be that airline credit cards were not great for things other than a flight. That’s no longer the case. If you fly Delta, consider the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card. It earns 2x miles per dollar at restaurants worldwide, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S. Additionally, it earns 2x miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and 1x mile on all other eligible purchases.

Plus, you can Pay with Miles: take up to $50 off the cost of your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem with Pay with Miles when you book on Plus, receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after using your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food and beverages. There is no annual fee or foreign transaction fee (See Rates & Fees)When you want a basic credit card that earns miles and builds credit, this is a solid choice.

But, you will want to go for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card if you want free checked bags and priority boarding on Delta flights. The introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $150 (See Rates & Fees). With either of these Delta credit cards, you only need a credit score in the mid-600s.

Both are some of the best Delta credit cards.

If you’re more of a Southwest Airlines fan, you can learn more about which Southwest credit cards are easiest to get.

What If You Don’t Have Good Credit?

If you don’t have a credit score in the 600s, you still have options to build credit. It’s still possible to get a rewards credit card. But, it may have to be a secured credit card. You won’t have a high credit limit, but you might qualify for an unsecured rewards card in one year. There are different types of credit cards, so you might find that one better suits you than another.

Summary of Best Credit Cards to Build Credit

Any credit card you make on-time payments with will build credit. But, going with a rewards card that doesn’t charge an annual fee lets you do it for free. Plus, you “get paid” to build credit at the same time.

Related Articles:

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here.

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