After a credit disaster like bankruptcy, you should look for a card that offers good approval odds, a relatively low cost of ownership and credit-building tools. Here are some of our top picks.
Applying for credit cards after bankruptcy may feel like the last thing you should do. After all, a bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven to 10 years and can drop your credit score by over 100 points, leaving you burdened with bad credit.
But recovery is within reach, and believe it or not, getting a new card can be an important first step toward rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy. We’ve broken down what to look for when evaluating credit card options after bankruptcy, along with some of our top picks.
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: Best for no credit check
Why we picked it: If you’re willing to tie up money in a security deposit, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is one of your best credit-building options after bankruptcy. To start, it’s one of the few credit cards for bad credit that does not require a credit check, so you won’t put your score at risk by applying.
All OpenSky Secured Visa cardholders are assigned the same relatively low APR of 22.64 percent variable. The card’s credit limit can range from $200 to $3,000, based on the security deposit. Having the option to put down such a large deposit wins this card a ton of points since doing so will make it much easier to keep your credit utilization in check.
On the downside, the card charges an annual fee of $35, though this is low compared to most cards for people with bad credit (many charge $75 or more). The OpenSky Secured Visa also lacks a secured card graduation option that would allow you to switch over to an unsecured card after you demonstrate responsible use.
Overall, the OpenSky Secured Visa’s potentially high credit limit and relatively low annual fee and APR make it one of the best starting points in rebuilding credit with a secured card after bankruptcy.
- Builds credit
- No credit check
- Low APR at 22.64 percent variable
- $35 annual fee
- No opportunity to graduate to an unsecured card
- No rewards
Who should apply: The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card is a great card for those with bad to fair credit. You can keep fees low and qualify for it without a credit check.
Who should skip: If you want a card that enables you to eventually graduate to an unsecured card, this might not be the right choice for you.
Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit: Best unsecured card option
Why we picked it: When you have bad credit, particularly with a bankruptcy on your credit report, it can be difficult to get an unsecured card. Those you can qualify for will usually carry a ton of fees and offer little in the way of rewards. But if you’re determined to avoid putting down a deposit, the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit* is a decent post-bankruptcy option.
To start, the card offers 1 percent cash back rewards on eligible purchases of gas, groceries, and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. While this rate is not impressive compared to that of dedicated cash back cards, earning rewards in such practical categories should help you offset the card’s annual fee ($75 for the first year, then $99 annually) at least a bit.
Additionally, the card’s $300 minimum credit limit could be eligible for an increase over time, though Credit One does not offer a specific time frame or terms for credit line increases. You’ll also get free online access to your credit score (provided by Experian) and can set up alerts via email and text to ensure you keep up with payments and avoid late fees.
A bankruptcy alone is unlikely to prevent you from getting the Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit, but bankruptcy could lead to a low-end credit limit and high annual fee. Luckily, you can check if you prequalify for Credit One cards before you apply.
- 1 percent cash back rewards on eligible purchases
- No deposit required
- Free online access to your credit score
- $75 annual fee for the first year, then $99 after
- High APR of 28.99 percent variable
- Low initial credit limit
Who should apply: If you want a simple cash back rewards program and a chance to rebuild your credit with an unsecured card, the Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit could be the card for you.
Who should skip: If you are an international traveler or someone who’s looking for a low annual fee on a card, you should probably choose another option.
Discover it Secured Credit Card: Best for cash back rewards
Why we picked it: The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is another attractive secured card option, most notable for its generous cash back rewards program (a rarity among cards designed for people with bad credit).
The card charges no annual fee and earns 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, plus 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Even better, Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
You’ll also get a free monthly credit scorecard including your current FICO score, a credit limit of $200 to $2,500 (equal to your deposit) and a chance to graduate to an unsecured credit line after six months of on-time payments.
Discover offers a preapproval tool on its site, but to be safe you may want to shoot for this card only after you’ve gotten some distance from your bankruptcy. Discover states that applicants must “represent that there are no current…bankruptcy proceedings that might affect our interest in the Security Deposit Account or the Funds.”
- 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on first $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter) and 1 percent back on general purchases
- No annual fee
- Match for all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year
- Deposit, and matching credit limit, can range from $200 to $2,500
- High APR at 28.24 percent variable
Who should apply: If you want the chance to graduate to an unsecured card in as little as six months and are eager to earn cash back rewards, the Discover it Secured Card could be a great option for you.
Who should skip: If the $200 minimum security deposit is a barrier for you or you don’t have a bank account, this probably isn’t a viable solution.
First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard Secured Credit Card: Best for a low APR
Why we picked it: The First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard® Secured Credit Card does not require a credit history or a minimum credit score for approval. Even if you have a discharged bankruptcy in your credit file you can still get approved.
It does require a minimum deposit of $200, which is refundable, and you must pay an annual fee of $39. And it comes with a low APR of 19.24 percent variable. As an extra incentive for you to pay off your First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard Secured Credit Card regularly, the card earns 1 percent cash back when you make payments. You can use the card to build credit because your payment history will be reported to all three major credit bureaus.
- Low APR of 19.24 percent variable
- No credit history or minimum credit score required for approval
- Monthly reporting to all three credit bureaus
- Make payments and earn 1 percent cash back
- $39 annual fee
- No graduation option to an unsecured card
Who should apply: If you want easy credit requirements combined with a moderate APR on purchases, the First Progress Platinum Select MasterCard Secured Credit Card may be a good fit.
Who should skip: If you’re someone who pays off their credit card bills each month, you might want to look for a better option.
Comparing the best credit cards after bankruptcy
Due to their relatively low barriers to entry and low annual fees, these cards are all great tools for a cardholder to use to rebuild their credit after bankruptcy. Check out this table to directly compare and contrast their features:
|Credit card||Card type||Annual fee||APR|
|OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card||Secured||$35||22.64% variable|
|Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit||Unsecured||$75 first year, then $99 annually||28.99% variable|
|Discover it Secured Credit Card||Secured||$0||28.24% variable|
|First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard Secured Credit Card||Secured||$39||19.24% (variable)|
How to choose a credit card after bankruptcy
Each credit card application results in a hard pull of your credit report, which can cause a temporary decline in your credit score, so it’s important to be strategic about which cards you apply for. When searching for a post-bankruptcy credit card, it may make sense to stick to cards designed for people with bad credit. These cards tend to have good approval odds and often come with features that can help you control your spending while you monitor and rebuild your credit.
Here are a few things to look out for when choosing a credit card:
- Can you prequalify? While it doesn’t guarantee approval, prequalification allows you to get a sense of your chances of acceptance before you apply for a new card. Many cards offer some form of preapproval or prequalification, so take advantage when you can.
- What fees does it charge? Credit cards for people with damaged credit scores tend to charge a lot of fees, including annual fees, program fees, activation fees, authorized user fees and more. These fees may simply be the cost of rebuilding your credit, but try to avoid them if you can.
- What’s the APR? Even if you’re convinced you won’t carry a balance, you should account for the possibility and factor in each credit card’s APR. Many cards that you may qualify for after bankruptcy come with high APRs, so try to find the lowest interest rates when possible. If a high APR is unavoidable, try to use your card only for purchases you can pay off in full before interest charges rack up.
- Is it a secured or unsecured card? Secured cards can be easier to get after bankruptcy, but they require you to put up a refundable security deposit, which typically also acts as the card’s credit limit. If you’d rather not tie up money, there are a smaller number of unsecured cards available for those with bad credit, though they tend to come with lower credit limits.
- What’s the card’s credit limit?Credit utilization — the amount you’ve borrowed compared to your total available credit — impacts your FICO credit score, so be sure the card’s credit limit is high enough to give you some breathing room. Keeping your credit utilization ratio low is a key factor in rebuilding your score with a credit card after bankruptcy.
Not only is getting a credit card after bankruptcy possible, but doing so will also offer a chance to repair your credit history and prove your creditworthiness going forward. To give yourself the best chance at approval, look for secured cards and other cards designed for people with bad credit. With responsible use and a lot of patience, you can get back on track and qualify for more lucrative credit cards down the line.
*Information about the Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.