I don't know that I would agree that it would be difficult to get a top-tier prime card with little credit. I got my Escape by Discover with about 20K in student loans owing, a 2K limit Macys card, a $2500 line of credit with Dell and a couple of other cards with limits totalling about $1600. I may be wrong, but those aren't exactly stellar, and Discover approved me.
Experian Score: 689--Amex 27 July 2014; Equifax Score 680--MyFICO--17 September 2014; TransUnion Score 718-Discover 20 August 2014--PUH-RAISE JESUS, I finally broke 700!!! Cards and Credit Lines: Escape by Discover, Chase Freedom Signature Visa, Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Signature Visa, Chase Sapphire Preferred Signature Visa, Barclay's Holland America Visa, Citibank Custom Credit Line, Paypal Custom Connect Credit Line, Bloomingdale's, Macy's Premier Elite, Amazon Store Card, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Discover It, Gold Delta SkyMiles from American Express, PayPal BML.