[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]
One of the easiest ways to build credit is to use a credit card. Of course, you need to be able to get a credit card in order to use it and getting a credit card with bad credit can be a little tricky. But there are credit cards for no credit, and you can do several things to increase your chances of getting approved and make sure your new card has a positive effect on your finances.
How Do You Go About Getting a Credit Card?
To get a credit card, you need to have a Social Security number (or taxpayer identification number) and the means to pay a credit card bill (generally income). You also tend to need to have a credit history, because credit card issuers will evaluate your credit, along with your ability to repay debt, in the approval process. If you have no credit or bad credit, you may still be able to get a credit card, but you have to make sure you’re applying for the right card.
What Is a Secured Credit Card?
Secured credit cards are generally the easiest credit cards to get, which tends to make them the best credit cards for people with bad credit. The cardholder must put down a refundable deposit to secure a line of credit for the card, and that protects the credit card company from losses if the cardholder doesn’t pay. (They’ll take the deposit if you don’t make your credit card payments.)
The deposit, which may be anywhere from about $200 to $2,000, also serves as your credit limit. Though secured cards have very low qualification standards, you may still be turned down for a secured credit card. For example, people with non-discharged bankruptcies on their credit reports or no bank account may not be eligible for most secured credit cards. Check the card terms before you apply.
The deposit is really the only difference between secured credit cards and unsecured credit cards — they otherwise function the same way. Once you close your credit card (or upgrade to an unsecured credit card, if that’s an option), you’ll get your deposit back.
How to Choose a Credit Card to Build Credit
No matter what sort of credit card you’re looking for, you need to do some research before applying. Start by seeing where your credit score stands (you can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com) and use that information to help you compare credit cards you may be able to qualify for. Once you’ve narrowed it down, think about what’s important to you: Do you want a secured credit card that might let you upgrade to an unsecured credit card? Do you feel like the credit card’s annual fee is worth paying? Make sure you’re certain you want the card before you apply, because credit card applications can hurt your credit. Once you get a credit card, do your best to make payments on time and keep your credit card balance as low as possible so you can achieve your goal of improving your credit.
Our Picks for the Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit
Why We Picked It: If you make your first five monthly payments on time, you can qualify for a higher credit limit without making an additional deposit. You can also pick your own monthly due date and method of payment. You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 26.99% (Variable)
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
- Build Your Credit fast with our monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus.
- Choose your credit line as low as $200 up to $3000, secured by a fully-refundable* security deposit.
- Security deposit needs to be submitted before the credit card can be issued.
- No credit check necessary and no checking account required; apply in less than 5 minutes.
- Extra credit when you need it, increase your credit line up to $5000
- Access to online financial education.
- *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card. Click the Apply Now button to get to the application page.
Card Details +
Why We Picked It: This secured card is not only accessible to those with fair, poor or bad credit, it’s also accessible to those with no credit. Yes, no credit. And without a credit check. You choose a fully refundable security deposit, that acts as your credit line, as low as $200 or up to $3000.
Annual Fee: $35
APR: 19.64% Variable
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards
- Seeing if you Pre-Qualify is fast, easy, and secure
- Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase, terms apply
- Rewards post automatically to your account each month
- Looking for more credit? Get credit line increase opportunities, a fee may apply
- With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
- Pick a card that fits your style. Multiple card designs are available, a fee may apply
- Enjoy exclusive offers available to Credit One Bank card members through Visa® Discounts.
- Your card includes travel accident and auto rental collision insurance from Visa®
Card Details +
Why We Picked It: This card is not only accessible to those with fair, poor or flat-out bad credit, it pays 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase, terms apply! And rewards post automatically to your account each month.
Annual Fee: $0 - $99
APR: 20.24% - 26.24% Variable
At publishing time, the Capital One Secured Mastercard.OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card and Credit One Bank Platinum Visa with Cash Back Rewards cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.