Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Have bad credit? Here are the top offers designed to help you rebuild your credit and improve your score. Make sure to pay on time and keep a low balance (relative to your credit limit) and this may improve your credit report each month. New to credit cards? See offers from our partners for students or those with no credit. Looking for more credit card options? Check out our experts’ list of the best credit cards.

Have bad credit? Here are the top offers designed to help you rebuild your credit and improve your score. Make sure to pay on time and keep a low balance (relative to your credit limit) and this may improve your credit report each month. New to credit cards? See offers from our partners for students or those with no credit. Looking for more credit card options? Check out our experts’ list of the best credit cards.

Summary

CreditCards.com’s Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit of January 2020

Bad to Fair

Credit Recommended (300-670)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$35-$99
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
24.90% fixed

Bad to Fair

Credit Recommended (300-670)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0-$99
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
24.90% fixed

Bad to Fair

Credit Recommended (300-670)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$35-$99
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
24.90% fixed

Bad to Fair

Credit Recommended (300-670)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0-$99
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
24.90% fixed

No Credit History

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
See Issuer Website

Bad to Fair

Credit Recommended (300-670)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

1%
Qualified applicants will receive exclusive benefits such as 1% cash back rewards on all purchases. Terms apply.

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0 - $99
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.49% - 25.49% variable

Bad to Fair

Credit Recommended (300-670)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0-$70
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
20.95% - 29.20% variable

No Credit History

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$39
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
13.99% variable

No Credit History

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
One Time $9 - $15 Account Fee (Varies by Product)
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
12.03% - 15.98% variable

Bad to Fair

Credit Recommended (300-670)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Annual Fee
See Terms*
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
See Terms*

Back to top

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

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Comparing the Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Updated: January 28, 2020

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 counter intuitive, 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. Here’s what we look at:


Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit of 2020

Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

Why it’s the best credit card for bad credit with no deposit

Many credit cards for people with bad credit require a deposit of $200 or more, but the Credit One Bank Visa is an unsecured card, so you don’t have to put down any money up front.

Pros

You’ll earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases of gas, groceries and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. You’ll also get an initial minimum credit limit of $300 that may go up if you use the card responsibly.

Cons

You may have to pay an annual fee of $0 to $99, which will reduce your credit limit.

Credit-building features

You can set custom alerts to help you keep up with payments, avoid late fees and ensure your credit building efforts stay on track. You’ll also get free online access to your Experian credit score each month.

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

Why it’s the best credit card for bad credit after bankruptcy

After a bankruptcy, the last thing you need is to further damage your score by applying for multiple cards only to be rejected. Luckily, you can qualify for this card even with a previous bankruptcy.

Pros

Should you find yourself in a bind and need cash, it could be a lifesaver thanks to its $0 cash advance fee during the first year (after that, $5 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater).

Cons

You may be charged an annual fee of $0-$99, which will immediately reduce your available credit. You also won’t earn any cash back, points or miles.

Credit-building features

You can check if you pre-qualify online before you apply for a sense of whether you’re likely to be approved. You’re also covered by fraud protection.

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

Why it’s the best credit card for bad credit for cash back

You’ll earn 1% cash back on eligible gas, grocery and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV service purchases. Plus, you can boost your cash back earnings with the More Rewards card-linked offer program.

Pros

Since it’s an unsecured card, you won’t have to put any money down as a deposit. You can also check if you pre-qualify online without affecting your credit score.

Cons

Along with charging some cardholders an annual fee($0 to $99), the card charges a foreign transaction fee of 3% per purchase (or $1, whichever is greater).

Credit-building features

You can monitor your progress online with a free monthly Experian credit score. Plus, you can qualify for a higher credit limit and improve your credit utilization with responsible use.

Milestone® Gold Mastercard®

Why it’s the best credit card for bad credit with quick pre-qualification

Its pre-qualification tool should help you get a sense of your approval chances without impacting your credit score. And if your credit profile isn’t a match, you may be invited to apply for another card.

Pros

You can qualify for the card even with a previous bankruptcy, and its foreign transaction fee – 1% of each transaction – is much lower than that of many competing cards.

Cons

If you struggle with paying on time, this card could cost you: A penalty APR of 29.90% may kick in after late payments and could apply to your account indefinitely.

Credit-building features

It includes fraud protection, so you won’t be liable for any charges made if your card is lost or stolen.

Discover it® Secured

Why it’s the best secured credit card for bad credit

Along with the 2% cash back you’ll earn at gas stations and restaurants (on the first $1,000 in combined spend each quarter), you’ll get 1% back on general purchases. Plus, Discover will match the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

Pros

The card charges no annual fee and gives you a chance to “graduate” to an unsecured card. It also offers some wiggle room: You won’t be charged a penalty fee the first time you pay late and you’ll never be charged a penalty APR.

Cons

You’ll have to put down a minimum of $200 as a deposit, which may be more than you want to tie up. You’ll also have to wait a full year after opening your account to get your cash back match.

Credit-building features

You can put down a deposit as high as $2,500, which will help keep your credit utilization low. You can also track your credit-building progress with a free FICO scorecard each month.

Total Visa® Unsecured Credit Card

Why it’s the best unsecured credit card for bad credit

You can build credit with no money down, and as a Visa card it enjoys wide domestic and online acceptance.

Pros

The card has a low barrier of entry and you can get an approval decision in seconds.

Cons

The card charges a high annual fee and carries an extremely high variable APR. It could also cost you a ton in other fees, including a one-time program fee, monthly servicing fees and authorized user card fees.

Credit-building features

The card has an initial minimum credit limit of $225, which should encourage you to spend responsibly if you want to keep your credit utilization in check.

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Why it’s the best credit card for students with bad credit

It’s a great option for those new to credit, charging no annual fee or penalty APR. It also carries no foreign transaction fee, making it ideal if you plan to travel or study abroad.

Pros

Not only does the card carry no annual fee, your minimum required deposit could end up super low (as low as $49 if you qualify, otherwise the minimum will be either $99 or $200), allowing you to build credit without putting down a lot of money up front. You even have a chance at a higher limit if you make your first 5 payments on time.

Cons

The card offers no rewards and you’ll need to pay off your purchases in full each month to avoid its high APR (26.99% variable).

Credit-building features

The card comes with CreditWise credit monitoring, which should help you stay on top of your credit score and potential fraud tied to your account.

Surge Mastercard Credit Card

Why it’s the best credit card for bad credit with a high limit

If you’re approved for the unsecured version of the card, you can get a credit limit of up to $500, which is fairly high for someone with damaged credit.

Pros

This card could be a good option if you’d rather not pay a deposit. You’ll also have a grace period of 25 days after your last billing cycle to pay your balance with no interest charges.

Cons

There’s no guarantee you’ll be offered the unsecured version of the card, and if you get the secured version, Celtic Bank could set your deposit requirement (and, accordingly, your credit limit) at as low as $50. Such a low credit ceiling may make it difficult to keep your credit utilization in check, which is a key factor in credit scoring.

Credit-building features

Continental Finance states that your account will be reviewed for a credit limit increase after 12 months, which should incentivize you to stick to responsible spending and payment habits.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Why it’s the best credit card for bad credit with no credit check

The card doesn’t require a credit check, so you won’t be risking your score in applying. You don’t even need a bank account: You can pay your security deposit via check, Western Union or money order.

Pros

You can put down a deposit of up to $3,000 (and get a $3,000 credit limit) to help keep your credit utilization low. Also, should you need to carry a balance, the card’s variable APR of 18.89% is relatively low.

Cons

You won’t earn any cash back, points or miles with this card. It also carries a $35 annual fee and an inactivate account fee of $10 per month if you have no account activity for more than a year.

Credit-building features

OpenSky hosts a credit education page on its website to help support your credit-building journey.

First Access Visa® Credit Card

Why it’s the best credit card for bad credit with instant approval

You can get an approval decision in as little as 60 seconds – no waiting around for days only to be denied.

Pros

You could get a $300 credit limit without putting down a deposit. Plus, if you need the card immediately, you can pay an additional fee to get it more quickly via Expedited Processing.

Cons

In exchange for the chance to rebuild your credit without putting down a deposit, you’ll pay a lot in fees, including an annual fee, a one-time Program Fee and, after the first year, a monthly servicing fee. You may even be asked to pay a fee if you accept a higher credit limit after your first year.

Credit-building features

The card reports monthly to all 3 major credit reporting agencies.

Compare the best credit cards for bad credit

Credit Card Best for Annual Fee Deposit Requirement
Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card No deposit $0-$99 $0
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit card for after bankruptcy $0-$99 $0
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards Cash back $0-$99 $0
Milestone® Gold Mastercard® Quick prequalification $35-$99 See terms*
Discover it® Secured Secured card for bad credit $0 $200-$2500
Total Visa® Unsecured Credit Card Unsecured card for bad credit See terms* $0
Capital One® Secured Mastercard® Students with bad credit $0 $49-$200
Surge Mastercard Credit Card Credit card with a high limit See terms* $0
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card No credit check $35 $200-$3,000
First Access Visa® Credit Card Instant approval See terms* $0

Research methodology: how we got to our top picks

Credit cards for bad credit analyzed: 269

Criteria used: credit needed; deposit required (if any); annual fee; regular APR; other rates and fees, including hidden fees such as copy fees and new card fees; customer service; ability to improve credit line; tools to track credit score; rewards rates; security; and miscellaneous benefits, such as no foreign transaction fees and extended warranty protection.

What is bad credit?

A “bad credit” score is typically under 580 out of a range of 300-850 as defined by FICO, with 850 being the best possible score. Using the same 300-850 scale, a VantageScore defines “poor credit” as a credit score under 550.

To get a good or excellent rating, you’ll want to shoot for at least 700. Below that, you’ll be offered higher interest rates and other less-than-stellar offers for financial products.

How many people have bad credit?

According to a study by the credit bureau Experian, about 16% of consumers have bad credit, and more than a third of the population has what lenders call a subprime score, which includes the fair and poor categories.

Here’s how credit scores break down in the U.S.:

Credit score Rating % of people Impact
300-579 Poor 16% Credit applicants may be required to pay a fee or deposit, and applicants with this rating may not be approved for credit at all.
580-669 Fair 18% Applicants with scores in this range are considered to be subprime borrowers.
670-739 Good 21% Only 8% of applicants in this score range are likely to become seriously delinquent in the future.
740-799 Very good 25% Applicants with scores here are likely to receive better than average rates from lenders.
800-850 Exceptional 20% Applicants with scores in this range are at the top of the list for the best rates from lenders.

How do you get bad credit?

You can end up with bad credit in a variety of ways, including:

  • Credit card or loan defaults – As you might expect, failing to pay off your 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 – be they credit cards, student loans or mortgages – your credit will take a big hit.
  • Maxing out your cardsCredit utilization – the amount you’ve borrowed compared to your total available credit – accounts for another 30% of your score. While you may have heard an old rule of thumb that says you should keep your credit utilization below 30%, this is a myth. The lower your credit utilization, the better.
  • Charge offs – When a creditor decides you have no intention of paying back your debt and stops collection attempts, your account will become charged off.
  • Bankruptcy ‐ While it’s sometimes your only option to get out from under 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 (as much as 140 points according to FICO research).
  • 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.

What are the effects of bad credit?

You’ll face higher interest rates, trouble with credit and loan application approval, difficulty renting an apartment, higher insurance premiums and even trouble getting certain jobs.

FAQ: Credit cards and bad credit

When you have a bad credit score and are looking for a new credit card, it can be tough to know where to begin. Check out these commonly asked questions to get a sense of which direction you should go.

Can you get a credit card with no bank account?

It will be very difficult to get a credit card without a bank account. Even most cards backed by a deposit require you to have a bank account. One exception is the OpenSky Secured Visa: You can pay your security deposit via money order or have someone send the issuer a check or transfer on your behalf.

Can you prequalify for a credit card with bad credit?

You certainly can, though not all issuers offer prequalification. Luckily, those that do typically determine who prequalifies for a card with a soft credit pull, which won’t impact your credit score. That said, your application can still be denied even after you’ve prequalified.

Credit cards for bad credit that offer prequalification include:

Can you get a credit card after bankruptcy?

Yes, though your options will be limited. To save time and protect your credit score, it’s best to only apply for credit cards designed for bad credit and rebuilding credit. Indeed, a few such cards explicitly specify that previous bankruptcy is OK, including the Indigo Platinum Mastercard and the Milestone Gold Mastercard.

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:
Card Credit Needed Annual Fee
Capital One Secured Mastercard Limited/Bad Credit $0
Discover it Secured Limited/Bad Credit $0
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card Bad Credit $49
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card No 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.

Examples of unsecured credit cards for bad credit:
Card Credit Needed Annual Fee
Total Visa Unsecured Credit Card Bad/Fair Credit See terms*
Credit One Bank Unsecured Visa with Cash Back Rewards Bad Credit $0-$99
Credit One Bank Unsecured Visa with Free Credit Score Tracking Bad Credit $0-$99

Can you do a balance transfer with bad credit?

It’s technically possible to do a balance transfer with bad credit, but it may not be practical. The only cards you’re likely to qualify for that allow balance transfers are secured cards, and it usually makes more sense to pay down a portion of your existing balance than put up a deposit.

Can you get blacklisted by a credit card company?

While there’s no official credit “blacklist,” if you’ve burned a credit card company in the past, they may be unlikely to offer you any new credit for years to come. Additionally, if you have a history of bounced checks or refusing to pay a negative balance at your bank, you could be flagged by ChexSystems, a consumer reporting agency that gathers reports of checking account misuse or fraud. Activity stays in a ChexSystems report for five years.

Can I use a store credit card to repair my bad credit?

A store credit card could be a solid bad credit option, offering a low entry barrier and a chance to build credit while you earn rewards at your favorite retailer.

Pros of using a store card for bad credit

  • Qualifying for a store credit card is usually easier.
  • You can build credit with responsible use.
  • Store cards offer money-saving store rewards, perks and discounts.
  • Store cards rarely charge an annual fee.

Cons of using a store card for bad credit

  • Store cards tend to carry extremely high APRs.
  • You could get caught in the deferred interest trap.
  • Store cards are often “closed loop” cards.
  • A store card could spark frivolous spending.

Bottom line: The best store credit card for bad credit is one that keeps you on track with your credit-building goals. To ensure good habits, pick a card tied to a store you visit frequently for everyday purchases.

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

A 2015 CFPB study looked at the vulnerability of subprime consumers (consumers with a FICO score of 659 or below) and found that credit cards for bad credit are significantly more expensive, with fees and interest exceeding 40% of those consumers’ year-end balances in 2013 and 2014.
The CFPB also found that agreements for credit card products marketed primarily by subprime specialist issuers are particularly difficult to read.
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. You may need to weigh annual fees, program fees and inactive account fees, to name a few. The trick is to know how to look for them before committing to a card.

Take a look at the card’s rates and fees document on the application page. While the primary fees (late fee, foreign transaction, etc.) are displayed at the top of the document, which is called the Schumer Box, lesser-known fees may appear lower in the document in the text.

APR

Another concern should be interest rates. “Someone with bad credit is likely to only qualify for loans or credit with relatively high interest rates,” says Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and financial planner Rachel Podnos. “This is also a red flag but may be unavoidable. If someone with bad credit must apply for credit at high interest rates, my advice would be to never ever carry a balance. Carrying any balance in this situation can quickly become crippling and impossible to tackle because it grows exponentially.”

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

Finally, watch out for mailings that target your situation. The CFPB found that banks send these mailings disproportionally to consumers with lower levels of formal education.

How to fix bad credit

First, be sure to access your free credit reports once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com to see where you stand. Then take these steps to improve your credit:

  • Dispute fraud / mistakes on your credit report – If you’ve been a victim of fraud or if you review your credit report and find mistakes, be sure to dispute the incorrect items.
  • Pay on time – This is the most impactful element of your credit score. Set alerts and reminders to ensure you keep up with your payments or, better yet, set up automatic payments.
  • Keep your balances low – Pay down outstanding balances and avoid unnecessary spending to keep your credit utilization low. You may even consider making early payments to reduce your utilization.
  • Keep your old accounts open – Even if you don’t intend to ever use an old card again, closing it could hurt your score. Instead, consider setting up a small recurring automatic charge on the card, along with an automatic payment to ensure you never miss a bill.
  • Become an authorized user – If you’re added as an authorized user to another person’s card, they can give your score a boost based on their credit limit and payment history. Just make sure they have excellent credit and pay on time!

Credit score myths

Credit bureau TransUnion found that a surprising number of consumers misunderstand what is used to generate their credit reports and scores. Let’s clear some of these myths up:

  • Closing a credit card account doesn’t necessarily decrease your credit score.
  • There’s no tool that protects all 3 credit reports at once.
  • Marital status isn’t part of your credit report.
  • Healthy credit isn’t required to enter a foreign country.
  • Your credit is not impacted when you check your own credit score.
  • Late payments on things like utility bills are sometimes, but not always included in credit scores.

How long does it take to rebuild credit?

With responsible card use, you can see your credit score improve in a matter of months. That said, some negative items on your report will take years to be fully “erased.”

Time to see impact / time to fall off report Activity
1-3 months
  • Fixed mistakes and disputed fraudulent activity
  • Paying off credit card balances
12-24 months
  • Hard inquiries (remain on report for up to 2 years, but no impact after 12 months)
7-10 years
  • Late payments (stay on report for 7 years, but impact can be lessened in around 2 years with good credit behavior)
  • Charged off accounts (7 years from original delinquency date of account)
  • Foreclosures (7 years)
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy (7 years)
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy (10 years)

Source: Experian Information Solutions

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.

Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura’s work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at laura.mohammad@creditcards.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.


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