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.
How to get a credit card after bankruptcy
While there are no special steps you have to take to apply for credit cards after a bankruptcy, it helps to be strategic about which cards you target. Not only is it tough to find a fit with a bankruptcy on your credit report, but each application also results in a hard pull of your credit report, which will only hurt your already damaged score.
Because of this, when you’re searching for a bankruptcy-friendly credit card, you’re best off sticking to cards designed for people with bad credit. These cards tend to have good approval odds and often include 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 post-bankruptcy 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. You can also try out our CardMatch tool to see if you’re eligible for any personalized credit card offers, with no impact to your credit score.
- What fees does it carry? Credit cards for people with damaged credit tend to charge a lot of fees, including annual fees, program fees, activation fees, authorized user fees and more. Such fees may simply be the cost of rebuilding your credit, but avoid them if you can.
- What’s the APR? Even if you’re convinced you won’t need to carry a balance, it’s important to keep your new credit card’s APR in mind. Most of the cards you can get with a bankruptcy on your record will carry high APRs, but some are especially eye-popping. Try to only use your card for things you know you can pay off to save on interest and avoid digging yourself into debt once more.
- Is it a secured or unsecured card? Secured cards are easier to get after a bankruptcy, but they require you to put up a refundable security deposit that usually doubles as your credit limit. If you’d rather not tie up money, a smaller number of unsecured cards for bad credit are available, though they tend to offer much lower credit limits. Either way, maintaining positive payment history will be crucial.
- What’s the card’s credit limit? Credit utilization – the amount you’ve borrowed compared to your total available credit – accounts for 30% of your 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.
See related: How to build good credit
Comparing the best credit cards after bankruptcy
Keeping these key factors in mind, here are our top picks for credit cards to consider post-bankruptcy:
|Credit card||Best for||Card type||Annual fee||APR|
|OpenSky® Secured Visa Credit Card||Building credit with a secured card||Secured||$35||17.39% (variable)|
|Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit||Building credit with an unsecured card||Unsecured||$75 for the first year. After that, $99 annually ($8.25 per month)||23.99% Variable|
|Discover it® Secured Credit Card||Cash back rewards||Secured||$0||22.99% Variable|
|Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®||Easy approval||Unsecured||$0-$99||24.90%|
If you’re willing to tie up money in a security deposit, the OpenSky Secured Visa 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 be putting your score at risk by applying.
All OpenSky Secured Visa cardholders are assigned the same relatively low APR of 17.39% (variable) and credit range ($200-$3,000, based on your 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.
See related: Best high limit secured credit cards
On the downside, the card charges an annual fee of $35, though this is relatively low compared to most cards for people with bad credit (many charge $75 or more). It also lacks a secured card “graduation” option that would allow you to switch over to an unsecured card with 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.
Best unsecured credit card after bankruptcy
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% 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 initial 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 Experian credit score 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 this card, but it 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.
Best cash back credit card after bankruptcy
The Discover it Secured 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% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter, plus 1% 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-$2,500 (equal to your deposit) and a chance to graduate to an unsecured card after eight 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, as Discover states that “filed (in process) bankruptcy, dismissed or recently discharged bankruptcy, debt or recent delinquency may prevent your ability to be approved.”
Best credit card after bankruptcy with easy approval
The Indigo Platinum Mastercard is far from the only credit card for bad credit to offer prequalification, but Celtic Bank is one of the few issuers that explicitly mentions that having a “previous bankruptcy [is] OK.” This makes it a fair – albeit costly – choice if you’re willing to sacrifice rewards and perks in exchange for an unsecured card with great approval odds.
While the card charges an annual fee ($0-$99) and offers nothing in the way of rewards or perks, it carries an APR of 24.90%, which is just slightly below average for a credit card for bad credit. It also charges a relatively low foreign transaction fee of 1% and no cash advance fee during the first year, which, though cash advances are risky, could come in handy should you find yourself in a bind and need cash immediately.
Despite its high cost of ownership, the Indigo Platinum Mastercard may be worth it as a temporary, “last resort” option for rebuilding your credit with an unsecured card after bankruptcy.
Not only is getting a credit card after bankruptcy possible, doing so will give you 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.