The reason why I recommend laying your credit score foundation with five cards is that you generally want more cards, as opposed to just one. I typically try to avoid cards with annual fees when building the base.
The most common problem I see is that when people are ready to buy a car or take out a mortgage, their credit file is too thin.
The solution to building a thicker credit profile is to add more no annual fee cards. Remember, you shouldn't be paying ANY interest.
The alternative solution is manual underwriting.
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Benefits of having a strong base
- More cash back/rewards on normal spend
- "Free" travel
- Less impact on future applications
- Ability to close cards without the fear of your credit score dropping
How to start building a foundation
Secured credit cards
I recommend starting with a secured credit card or a student credit card to build a credit history.
Discover It secured or student cards are a good starting point because you can graduate to a Discover It with Cashback Match in the future.
After getting a secured credit card, wait 6-12 months before applying for another card. The main reason for this is so you can get cards affected by the Chase 5/24 rule.
Cash back cards
The Chase Freedom card is a good starting point when you're ready for a starter credit card. If you get denied for the Chase Freedom, read this post on how to get approved for your first Chase credit card.
If you want to earn unlimited cash back on everything, I recommend going for the Citi Double Cash (2% cash back) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5x points)
Gas and Groceries
If you want to optimize for gas and groceries, the American Express Blue Cash or the American Express EveryDay card are good options. Learn more about grocery cards here.