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Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Written by: Joey Robinson | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Jason Steele
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December 2, 2021

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit of December 2021

BEST FOR GLOBAL ACCEPTANCE
Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card
Our rating:2.4 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

300-670 (Bad to Fair) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual fee
$0 - $59
Balance transfer intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
26.99% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR CASH BACK
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

(No Credit History) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

2%
Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

At A Glance

Annual fee
$0
Balance transfer intro APR
10.99% for 6 months
Regular APR
22.99% variable
BEST FOR UNSECURED CREDIT + REWARDS
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit
Our rating:2.2 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

300-670 (Bad to Fair) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

1%
Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Terms apply.

At A Glance

Annual fee
$75 for the first year. After that, $99 annually ($8.25 per month)
Balance transfer intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
23.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR NO CREDIT CHECK
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Our rating:3.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

(No Credit History) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual fee
$35
Balance transfer intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
17.39% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FINANCIAL PRODUCT FOR ESTABLISHING CREDIT
Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card
Our rating:2.5 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

(No Credit History) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual fee
$25 monthly payment, 24 month term with a $9 admin fee
Balance transfer intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
15.92% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
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Comparing the best credit cards for bad credit

Okay, so your credit isn’t at its best. Maybe you don’t have much experience with paying bills, or perhaps you’ve had a couple of late payments. Well, we’ve got your back. It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best and fastest ways to rebuild credit is with a credit card. That’s right. Believe it or not, with the right credit card, you can improve your credit in a few short months. The trick is to know how. We’ll tell you what you need to know and how to do it so there aren’t any surprises along the way. Plus, we’ll identify the best credit cards for bad credit.


Summary of the best credit cards for bad credit

Credit CardBest forAnnual FeeDeposit Requirement
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit CardFlexible security deposits$0$49-$200
Mission Lane Visa® Credit CardBest for global acceptance$59$0
Discover it® Secured Credit CardCash back$0$200-$2,500
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding CreditBest for unsecured credit + rewards$75 for the first year. After that, $99 annually ($8.25 per month)$0
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit CardNo credit check$35$200-$3,000
Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa Credit CardEstablishing Credit$25 monthly payment, 24 month term with a $9 admin fee$0

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best for flexible security deposits

Why we picked it: The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is one of the only secured cards that allows your initial credit limit to be higher than your security deposit (if you qualify). The required refundable security deposit ranges from $49 to $200, depending on your credit. Your initial credit limit ranges from $200 to $1,000, depending on your deposit.

Pros: There’s no annual fee and, after six on-time monthly payments, you’ll automatically be considered for a higher credit line, which could boost your credit.

Cons: The variable 26.99% APR is on the high side, so you’ll want to avoid carrying a balance on this card. There are no rewards, which is common among credit cards for bad credit. However, there are a few secured cards on the market that offer modest rewards.

Who should apply? If you’re looking to minimize the costs associated with getting a credit card with bad credit, this is a great option. On top of the low security deposit requirements, the card doesn’t charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

Who should skip? If you have your heart set on earning rewards, consider alternatives like the Discover it® Secured Credit Card or the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit.

Read our full Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card: Best for global acceptance

Why we picked it: The Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card is a relatively low-cost unsecured credit card for people with bad credit, given it doesn’t charge monthly maintenance or activation fees. As an unsecured credit card, it also doesn’t require an upfront security deposit.

Pros: The issuer will review your account after six months of on-time payments to see if you’re eligible for a credit limit increase. All cardholders start with a minimum credit limit of $300.

Cons: That minimum credit limit is pretty low and the variable 29.99% APR is high, even for this card category, so you’ll want to avoid carrying a balance on this card (a best practice in general if you’re trying to build credit.) There’s a $59 annual fee, though that is lower compared to some other cards in this category.

Who should apply? If you have bad credit and are hoping to obtain an unsecured credit card, the Mission Lane Visa is an option.

Who should skip? If you have even fair credit, you could potentially qualify for a card with more favorable terms and conditions. See the best credit cards for fair credit.

Read our full Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card: Best for cash back

Why we picked it: This card offers rewards, which isn’t common among credit cards for bad credit. Cardholders get 2% cash back at gas stations and at restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1%).

Pros: This is another decidedly consumer-friendly credit card for bad credit applicants. Discover doesn’t charge an annual fee, foreign transaction fees or a penalty APR. It also waives a first late payment fee (up to $40 after that), though missed payments will still affect your credit score and should be avoided.

Cons: The ongoing APR on purchases (22.99% variable) is high even for a secured card. Rewards are great so long as you can resist the urge to overspend. If you wind up carrying a balance, you’ll lose rewards to interest and potentially hurt your credit utilization rate and credit score.

Who should apply? If you’re in the market for a secured credit card (or your credit is only likely to qualify for a secured credit card), consider the Discover it Secured Credit Card a prime pick.

Who should skip? If you suspect the opportunity to earn rewards will prove distracting, consider a no-frills secured credit card, like the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card.

Read our full Discover it® Secured Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit: Best for unsecured credit + rewards

Why we picked it: The annual fee on this card for bad credit is high ($75 the first year, then $99 annually billed at $8.25 per month), but it’s an option for people with bad credit who want to earn rewards and avoid putting down an upfront security deposit.

Pros: You’ll receive 1% cash back on eligible purchases including gas, groceries and mobile phone/internet/cable/satellite tv services (terms apply).

Cons: This card is expensive to hold, particularly in the second year where the annual fee rises from $75 to $99. The variable 23.99% APR is also high and your credit limit could be quite low (the minimum credit limit is $300), so you don’t want to carry a balance on this card.

Who should apply? This is an option if you’re looking to avoid putting down an upfront security deposit, given it’s an unsecured credit card designed for people with bad credit.

Who should skip? If you have bad credit, but your heart is set on earning rewards, this Credit One card does have a cash back program. However, if your credit is already on the rebound and entering fair territory, it’s best to shop around.

Read our full Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card: Best for no credit check

Why we picked it: The card doesn’t require a credit check, so you won’t risk your score in applying. You don’t even need a bank account: You can pay your security deposit (up to $3,000) via check, Western Union or money order.

Pros: If you need to carry a balance, the card’s 17.39% (variable) APR is relatively low. If you have extra funds to put down, you could secure a credit limit as high as $3,000, which can be helpful in building your credit score as (provided you don’t carry a big balance) a high limit can improve your credit utilization rate.

Cons: The card does charge a $35 annual fee and lacks any rewards-earning capabilities.

Who should apply? The card is a good option for people with bad credit who anticipate carrying a balance from time to time, as its APR is one the lower side for this card category.

Who should skip? If you’re looking to earn rewards, look into other options, like the Discover it® Secured Credit Card.

Read our full OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card: Best financial product for establishing credit

Why we picked it: The Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa Credit Card doesn’t require a credit history. You start out with a credit-builder account, but will automatically be eligible for the secured credit card once you’ve made three consecutive monthly payments on time, have at least $100 in savings and are in good standing.

Pros: You also enjoy features like credit monitoring and account alerts to help you stay on track. Your payments are reported to the three credit bureaus, and unlike other secured card options, your repaired credit could be stronger since this loan-and-card combo helps build a credit mix – worth 10% of a good credit score.

Cons: You’ll pay a monthly fee, plus an administrative fee, for the account (terms will vary) and you’ll have to wait until your 12- to 24-month payments are complete to receive your deposit.

Who should apply? This hybrid product could be a good option for people who can’t afford to put down a large upfront security deposit or people who want to be forced to save some money while they build their credit.

Who should skip? Anyone who is looking for a credit card in short order should pursue other options as you’ll need to make at least three consecutive on-time monthly payments on the personal loan (and meet the criteria mentioned above) before qualifying for the secured credit card.

Read our full Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.


What is bad credit?

A “bad credit” score is typically under 580 out of a range of 300 to 850 as defined by FICO, with 850 being the best possible score. Using the same 300 to 850 scale, a VantageScore defines “poor credit” as a credit score under 600. In the eyes of financial institutions, a bad credit score represents a risky or unproven consumer. Typically, bad credit originates from one of the following:

  • Credit card or loan defaults: Failing to pay off credit card bills or pay back a loan – also known as defaulting – marks you as a clear credit risk to lenders.
  • Late payments: Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score. If you’re late with your payments – on credit cards, student loans or mortgages – your credit will take a big hit.
  • Maxing out your cards: Credit utilization – the amount you’ve borrowed compared to your total available credit – accounts for another 30% of your score. The lower your credit utilization, the better. Check out our credit utilization calculator to calculate yours today
  • Charge offs: When a creditor decides you have no intention of paying back your debt and stops collection attempts, your account becomes charged off.
  • Bankruptcy: While it’s sometimes your only option to get out of debt, bankruptcy is a credit score disaster, and should only be used as a last resort.
  • Foreclosure: The higher your starting credit score, the bigger a drop you’ll see as a result of foreclosure.
  • Judgments:  Judgments show lenders that the court system had to force you to pay off your debt. Be sure to settle your debts, as an unpaid judgment is worse than a paid judgment.

Bad credit can lead to several obstacles. You could face higher interest rates, trouble with financing approval, difficulty renting an apartment, higher insurance premiums and even issues when applying for certain jobs. Luckily, understanding bad credit scores is often the first step to improvement.

Why improving your bad credit is important

Just as bad credit hinders what you can do, good credit can open doors to new possibilities. These include:

  • Interest savings. When taking out a loan to finance a home or car, the slightest difference in interest rate can cost thousands over the lifetime of the loan. The better your credit score, the more likely you are to be approved for the best rate.
  • Better terms. A good credit score can also earn you more generous payment schedules and credit limits.
  • Access to top credit cards. Cards with lucrative rewards, friendlier interest rates and can’t-miss sign-up bonuses are available to people with good credit. (Check out the best credit cards for good credit.)
  • Save on insurance. A good score may qualify you for lower premiums on car insurance.
  • Better financial reputation. Some landlords, rental management companies, utility companies and potential employers look at your credit score. Your score is meant to show how financially trustworthy you are, so being in good standing will protect you from any hassle.

Pros and cons of a credit card for bad credit

Pros of a credit card for bad credit

  • Easier approval process. If you’re just starting out or rebuilding your credit after financial setbacks, many credit cards can be out of reach. Credit cards for bad credit are designed with a low barrier of entry to help consumers build their credit from the ground up.
  • Credit-building tools. Credit cards in this category frequently offer a host of financial education resources, free access to your credit score and auto-pay. Some issuers will even review your account for a credit line increase after several months of good financial behavior.

Cons of a credit card for bad credit

  • Higher interest rates. Credit scores are designed to gauge the likelihood of a consumer defaulting on a credit card, so creditors will often charge a higher interest rate to compensate for the risk they assume when taking on a cardholder with bad credit.
  • Lack of rewards. Credit cards designed for bad credit typically lack rewards like cash back, travel points and miles, introductory offers or sign-up bonuses. However, these enticing features can become a possibility as you work towards building your credit.
  • Security deposits. Many credit cards in this category are secured, meaning you’ll need to make an initial deposit (usually between $200 and $5,000) to serve as your credit limit as you open your account.

How to choose a credit card for bad credit

Who should get a credit card for bad credit

  • The credit beginner. Credit cards for people with bad credit are often accessible for people who have little or no credit due to the lighter qualification requirements. Applying for a secured credit card or another option available for bad credit offers access to a credit line so you can start building credit with on-time payments and other responsible use.
  • The credit rebuilder. People who have experienced financial setbacks may find it a bit difficult to qualify for a more typical, unsecured credit card or a card that offers perks and rewards. Because credit cards in this category typically have a straightforward approval process, you can shift your focus to using your card responsibly (via on-time payments and low credit utilization) and eventually you should be able to graduate to a better credit card.

Who should skip a credit card for bad credit

  • The rewards seeker. As credit cards for those with bad credit are designed with credit-building as the main objective, you’ll likely miss out on the more lucrative programs attached to traditional or premium rewards credit cards until your issuer permits an upgrade.
  • The frequent revolver. If you tend to consistently carry at least somewhat of a balance over from month to month, the higher interest rates commonly associated with this type of card can provide a large financial hurdle.

What to look out for in a credit card for bad credit

With a proper amount of research and consideration, a credit card for bad credit can be a lifeline for rebuilding your credit. However, you need to do your research. Some credit cards for bad credit compensate for riskier lending with high APRs and harsh penalties. Especially if you’re inexperienced when it comes to credit, you should weigh the benefits against potential pitfalls.

Here are the key elements to keep in mind when evaluating credit cards for bad credit:

  • Fees: Credit cards for people with bad credit tend to carry a lot of fees, so take note of any annual fees, program fees, inactive account fees, or any others. To find the info you need, take a look at the card’s rates and fees on the application page: Primary fees – late fee, foreign transaction, etc. – are shown at the top of the document (called the Schumer Box), but keep an eye out for lesser-known fees appearing further down in the text.
  • APR: Cards for bad credit often bring along high interest rates and in an unfortunate situation – penalty APRs. As such, getting the lowest rate possible should be one of your top priorities if you know you’ll carry a balance.
  • Minimum/maximum security deposit: If your card requires a deposit, check the range offered to see if it makes sense. Can you afford to tie up $1,000?
  • Credit limit: You’ll want to be sure the card offers a limit that’s high enough to allow you to keep your credit utilization low.
  • Be wary of targeted mailers: Watch out for mailings that target your situation. Banks have been found to send these disproportionally to people with less formal education.

How to get a credit card with bad credit

If you’ve made a few financial mistakes or don’t have a credit history, you may be wondering if it’s even possible for you to get accepted for a credit card. It is, but here are a few steps you can take to increase your odds of approval.

  1. Check your credit report. Before you begin browsing and applying, it’s important to know where you stand. Even if your credit is poor, knowing how close you are to having fair credit allows you to decide whether you should apply now or wait until you’ve given your credit a boost and have better options. The 3 major credit bureaus are legally required to give you a free credit report at least once per year. You can request yours online, by phone or by mail.
  2. Dispute any fraudulent or incorrect activity. If your credit score is surprisingly low, you may want to do some investigating. It’s possible that fraud or mistakes are wrongfully affecting your credit. If you find mistakes, be sure to dispute the incorrect items on your credit report.
  3. Pay down any debt if you’re able. One of the major factors that go into your credit score is your credit utilization ratio. A high utilization ratio can lower your credit score, so it’s a good idea to pay down existing balances before you apply for a new credit card.
  4. Look for a card that matches your situation. Once you’ve done your research and feel comfortable with your standing, it’s time to start browsing credit cards. Be sure to pick a card with credit requirements you can satisfy. That is, don’t waste time looking at or applying for cards that require good credit if yours isn’t quite there yet.

The cards at the top of this page do have low credit requirements, though it’s important to note that if you are currently in bankruptcy or foreclosure, have a recent history of bankruptcy, or are currently delinquent or in default on other accounts, your application will most likely be denied. In these cases, secured credit cards are a better option. They require a one-time, refundable security deposit and some even offer rewards.

What to do if your application is denied

Luckily, you won’t be left in the dark on the “why,” as issuers are legally required to send you an adverse action notice explaining why you were denied.

Here are some common reasons for denial and what you can do about them:

  • Too much debt – Your balances are too high. Make a budget and pay more than the minimum each month to pay down your existing debt.
  • Limited credit history – Wait a couple of months, then apply for a secured card designed for credit building. Within months, your score will improve with on-time payments.
  • Low income – Next time, try a card that is not a premium product, but has the features you are looking for.
  • Too many applications – Take a break from applying for cards for several months and focus on building your credit with a credit-builder loan.
  • Too young – People under 21 must have an independent source of income to get a card, but you can be an authorized user and still build credit
  • Negative information on credit reports – Late payments or judgments, such as bankruptcies, take time to drop off your reports. Just pay on time and in full going forward.
  • Score too low – If the issue is your credit score, you can look at a credit-builder loan at your credit union. About 1 in 5 credit unions offer credit-builder loans.

Secured vs. unsecured credit cards for bad credit

There are two main types of cards to consider when you’re looking for a credit card with bad credit: secured and unsecured cards. Both can be a useful tool in your credit-rebuilding efforts.

Secured credit cards

Secured cards require a refundable deposit, which is usually equal to your credit limit. With many cards, after 6-12 months of on-time payments, you should be able to get your deposit back and graduate to a traditional (unsecured) credit card with a higher limit.
Examples of secured credit cards for bad credit:

CardCredit RecommendedAnnual Fee
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit CardLimited/No Credit$0
Discover it® Secured Credit CardLimited/No Credit$0
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit CardBad Credit$49
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit CardNo Credit Check$35

Unsecured credit cards

An unsecured credit card, as the name implies, offers an “unsecured” line of credit, so you won’t have to put down a security deposit to borrow money. You’re given a credit limit based on your creditworthiness and can borrow up to that amount. A high credit limit will also likely improve your credit score by helping your credit utilization.
Examples of unsecured credit cards for bad credit:

CardCredit RecommendedAnnual Fee
Total Visa Unsecured Credit CardBad/Fair CreditSee Terms
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding CreditBad Credit$75 for the first year. After that, $99 annually ($8.25 per month)

Research methodology: How we got to our top picks

We evaluated 269 credit cards for bad credit to identify the top products in this category. Core criteria we considered in our analysis include:

  • Costs and fees: Credit cards for bad credit often carry upfront costs, including annual fees and security deposits. They also sometimes carry hidden fees for items like replacement cards. We gave more weight to cards with lower and/or limited fees.
  • APRs: Credit cards for bad credit often carry higher interest rates, given applicants generally represent more of a credit risk. However, we still evaluated whether a card’s APRs were competitive for this category and how they stacked up relevant to the current industry average.
  • Rewards: Although a poor credit score won’t let you get top-notch rewards, several options here allow you to earn on your spending. (Note: Consider avoiding cards with rewards if you fear they will entice you to overspend.)
  • Added benefits: Many cards offer the ability to increase your credit limit, tools to track your credit score, added security, regular reporting to the major credit bureaus and more. Some of these benefits can really help you build your credit score.

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