[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
If your credit isn’t in tip-top shape, and you want to work on building it, you may be wondering if you can even get a credit card in order to do so. Yes, your bad credit is going to stonewall for getting a premium credit card. But, unless your credit is the absolute worst, you probably won’t be barred from plastic completely. In fact, there are some fine options out there for people looking to build or rebuild their scores.
If your credit isn’t in tip-top shape, and you need to work on building it. You may wonder if you can even get a credit card. The answer is that while your bad credit is going to stonewall getting a premium credit card in your pocket, you won’t be locked out of owning plastic completely. In fact, there are some solid credit card options for people looking to build or rebuild their credit.
Sweet. How Do I Get a Credit Card with Bad Credit?
First, check your credit score. You want to know exactly how good your bad score is and, more importantly, you want to find out if there’s anything you can do to improve it. Everyone’s credit profile is different, but there are some general rules of thumb when it comes to boosting your credit score:
- Dispute any errors on your credit reports
- Pay down existing credit card debt
- Improve your payment history
Your free credit score and report card from Credit.com can help you know your score, pinpoint your specific credit score killers and provide tips on how to address them. It also comes with an updated credit score every two weeks, so you can monitor your progress.
So, What Credit Cards Can I Get with Bad Credit?
- Secured credit cards that require an upfront deposit that serves as your credit limit. Most report your responsible use of the card to all three credit bureaus.
- Store credit cards that are offered by retailers and carry lower underwriting standards, since they also come with low credit limits and higher annual percentage rates (APRs).
There are some unsecured credit cards for people with bad credit, but the trade-off for not putting down an upfront deposit is usually high fees and/or high-interest rates. In fact, if you’re looking to score the best terms, you may want to start with a secured credit card. The deposit for a secured card can help you get better terms. That aside our picks include an unsecured card as an option.
How Do I Know the Best Card I Can Get?
You can’t really know for sure. Credit card issuers all have specific underwriting criteria. There’s a chance that even if you fall into a card’s designated score bracket—fair vs. bad for instance—there may still be something on your credit file the issuer considers too risky. Some secured credit card issuers, for example, won’t lend to people with an unresolved bankruptcy on file.
Regardless, the editors at Credit.com have picked some of the best cards for bad credit to help you narrow down your search. There’s no one best card for everyone, but if one of our picks strikes your fancy, consider calling the issuer directly to ask questions about their underwriting standards before you apply.
Our Picks for the Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit
- Credit One® Bank Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards is available to those with bad credit and lets you earn rewards.
- Capital One® Secured Mastercard® a rock-solid secured card with no annual fee.
- Green Dot primor® Visa Gold Secured Credit Card a secured card with an unbelievable low interest rate of just 9.99%.
- Official NASCAR® Credit Card from Credit One Bank® an unsecured card with a decent interest rate and that lets you earn cash back.
The Best Unsecured Card for Building Credit and Earning Rewards: Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®
- See if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score
- This unsecured card requires no deposit and can help build your credit
- Track your progress with free online access to your Experian credit score, terms apply
- Build your credit history—we report to the credit bureaus monthly
- Accounts are automatically reviewed for credit line increase opportunities
- Enjoy the flexibility to choose your payment due date, terms apply
- Receive 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases, terms apply
- No need to fret—you’re covered by $0 Fraud Liability
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If building credit is what it’s all about for you and you also want rewards, this is a great card.
How it works: You can see if you pre-qualify. And you may quality with fair, poor or bad credit.
Benefits: This card has an annual fee of $0 - $99, depending on your credit. It helps build your credit because Credit One Bank reports to the credit bureaus each month. Plus, you earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases, terms apply.
Drawbacks: This card’s APR is also on the steeper side—not for unsecured cards, but for credit cards in general. It’s 20.24% - 26.24% Variable. So, as with this, if you get it, use it to build credit and not credit card debt. To build your credit and not hurt it, keep your monthly payments higher than your balance if not equal to it.
The Best Secured Card with No Annual Fee: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
If building credit is what it’s all about for you and not rewards, this is another fabulous card.
How it works: You put down a refundable deposit of $49, $99 or $200 and get a credit limit of $200 depending on your creditworthiness.
Benefits: This card has no annual fee. And once you make five monthly payments on time, you can get a higher credit line without any additional deposit.
Drawbacks: This card’s APR is also on the steeper side—not for unsecured cards, but for credit cards in general. It’s 26.99% (Variable). So, if you get this card, use it to build credit and not credit card debt. To build your credit and not hurt it, keep your monthly payments higher than your balance if not equal to it.
The Best Secured Credit Card with Low Interest: Green Dot primor® Visa Gold Secured Credit Card
Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card
- Credit lines available from $200 to $5,000! Super Low Fixed 9.99% interest rate on purchases - with no penalty rate!
- No minimum credit score requirements! We invite all credit types to apply! No processing or application fees!
- Helps strengthen your credit with responsible card use. Reports to three national bureaus
- Fast, easy application process. Choose your credit line and open your Personal Savings Deposit Account to secure your line.
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If building credit is what you need or money is tight and you’re afraid of carrying a balance, the primor Visa Gold Secured has one of the lowest APRs of any secured credit card.
How it works: You put down a refundable security deposit of $200 to $5,000. You do that through a personal savings deposit account that’s created when you open your account.
Benefits: This card has no minimum credit score requirements—a plus for those with bad credit! And it doesn’t require you have a bank account, which makes it accessible. The interest rate is a puny 9.99% APR. So even if you can’t pay your card down each month, the interest won’t be as impactful as a 25% rate.
Drawbacks: This card does have a $49 annual fee, which is a bit steep for an unsecured card. The lower interest rate offsets that a bit, but the annual fee also offsets the lower interest rate a bit. Still, this card’s accessibility and low-interest rate, make it a solid option for people with bad credit. So, unless earning rewards is a requirement for you, it’s hard to find any huge drawbacks for this card.
The Best Unsecured Credit Card for Bad Credit: Official NASCAR® Credit Card from Credit One Bank®
While unsecured credit cards tend to carry higher rates and fees in exchange for the risk the issuer is taking, the Credit One Bank Unsecured Visa has rates and fees that are more favorable than most of its counterparts. Plus, it lets you earn rewards.
Benefits: You earn cash back—1% on eligible purchases and double cash back at the NASCAR.com Superstore. Credit One will automatically review your account for credit line increases too. You choose your own monthly payment due date. And you can prequalify for this card without any impact on your credit score. This card also has a pretty standard APR of 20.24% - 26.24% Variable depending on your credit rating.
Drawbacks: This card can come with a whopping annual fee up to $99 depending on your creditworthiness. That is capped at up to $75 your first year. Some cardholders pay no annual fee, but others will pay up to $99 after the first year.
Credit One Bank® NASCAR® Visa® Credit Card
- Qualified applicants will receive exclusive benefits such as 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, no annual fee, and a competitive APR. Terms apply.
- Get double cash back rewards at the NASCAR.com Superstore. Terms Apply.
- Find out if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score. It's fast, easy, and secure.
- Zero Fraud Liability ensures that your account is protected against unauthorized charges.
- Accounts are automatically reviewed for credit line increase opportunities.
- Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary. Terms apply.
- CreditOneBank.com and the Credit One Bank mobile app makes it easy to access and manage all your account information and make payments whether you’re at home or on-the-go.
- Always know what’s happening with your account with custom email and text alerts to remind you about your payment due date, notify you when a payment posts, or warn you if your available credit runs low.
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Is There Anything Else I Can Do to Get a Credit Card with Bad Credit?
Yes. See if a friend or family member with good credit will add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. If their scores are good, chances are, the card in their wallet is better than one you can net on your own. You can also look into a co-signer, though fewer and fewer credit card issuers are allowing those these day and there are risks involved. With a co-signer, you’re both be on the hook for charges and will be penalized if the co-signer doesn’t pay.
If you do get rejected for a credit card, the issuer is required by law to send a notice that details why. That notice can provide valuable insight into what you can do to prevent getting rejected again. You can call the issuer that rejected you and ask them to reconsider. Beyond that, you can wait. Making on-time payments, keeping debt levels low and limiting new credit inquiries will help you build a better credit score over time—and that’ll help you qualify for top-tier credit cards down the line.
Use Caution When Applying for Credit Cards
When you apply for a credit card, the credit card issuer will check your credit history by pulling your credit report. This is called a hard inquiry. Hard inquiries affect your credit. Too many can drop your credit score. And if you have bad credit, your score is low enough already.
That said, don’t go out and apply for multiple credit cards at once. If you do, your score can suffer for up to six months. Pick the one you want and apply only for it. Consider calling the issuer before you apply to avoid an unnecessary hard inquiry on your report.
A Final Note
Interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products change frequently. As a result, the rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in this article may have changed since the article was published. Please verify current rates, fees and terms with each credit card’s issuer, bank or other financial institution directly.
Editorial disclosure: Reviews are as determined solely by Credit.com staff. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the reviewers and aren’t reviewed or approved by any advertiser. Information presented is accurate as of the date of the review, including information on card rates, rewards and fees. Check the issuer’s website for the most current information on each card listed.
Advertiser disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this website are from credit card companies that Credit.com receives compensation from. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers.
This article was originally published February 2, 2017, and has since been updated by a different author.