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Can you get a credit card without a job?

Unemployment doesn't have to be a hurdle when getting new plastic.

Updated

Given the importance of credit for life’s big purchases, it’s always a good idea to carry plastic. If you don’t have a job, however, don’t worry – being unemployed shouldn’t get in the way of you acquiring a credit card.

With that said, qualifying for a credit card could prove a little trickier without a job. Here are a few things you should know if you don’t have a job and are trying to get a credit card.

What job info is important for credit card approval?

Some card issuers won’t ask for employment details in the application form, while others will. In either case, issuers want to know how likely you are to make payments on your card. Some information that can help supply this includes:

  • Income details.
    When a credit card application is concerned, income is more important than employment. You can provide any income you have, including social security, child support, alimony and scholarships. Any source can work, provided you have “reasonable expectation of access” as per the Credit Card Act of 2009.
  • Employment details.
    If you are transitioning to a new job, you shouldn’t have problems providing your new employer’s details. But if the issuer requires several months of payment history, you could either wait or apply for a different card at another card issuer.
  • Credit history.
    Unless you’re a fresh graduate, your credit history always factors heavily into all credit applications. Having a good credit history will help in this case.
  • Debt-to-income ratio. Related to your income details, issuers will want to know your debt-to-income ratio. This number represents your total monthly debt versus your gross income. The lower the number, the better your chances of approval.

How does income affect my application?

Issuers look at your income on your credit card application, but that’s only part of the equation. Your debt-to-income ratio is what matters most to an issuer. This ratio tells the issuer how much of your income is currently invalidated by your outstanding debt. So even if you make $4,000 a month, the issuer is going to look at how much of that money goes to debt before deciding to approve your application.

What types of income do issuers consider?

Here are a few examples of the kinds of income an issuer will consider when you apply for a credit card. These forms of income are only considered if you have “reasonable access” to them:

  • Wages
  • Social Security
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Retirement funds
  • Scholarships
  • An inheritance or trust funds
  • Unemployment benefits
  • A savings account
  • Income from a spouse or family member

Tips for approval when your income isn’t sufficient

Even without a job, if you have a solid income you could still get a decent credit card. But if you have limited or no accessible income, here are a few options for gaining credit card access:

  • List someone else’s income.
    You could use your spouse’s income if you have access to pay your balance.
  • Become an authorized user.
    You can apply with someone else to become an authorized user or you can be added as an authorized user to an existing credit card. This can be either your spouse or family members. As an authorized user, you aren’t liable for credit card payments.
  • Get a joint account.
    Similar to being an authorized user, you can apply for a joint account with another person. But in this case, you’re both liable for credit card payments.
  • Consider a secured card.
    To get a secured card, you have to make a secured deposit. This serves as your credit line. Since you already paid your credit line, banks have minimized their risk and are more likely to approve your application.
  • Consider a student card.
    If you’re a student without a job, student credit cards offer a great opportunity for approval. However, showing annual income still applies. You can use your parents’ income if allowed by the issuer.
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Compare secured credit cards

Name Product Filter values Minimum deposit required Purchase APR Annual fee Recommended minimum credit score
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Starting at $200
17.39% variable
$35
300
Apply for this card with no credit check if you're new to credit or have bad credit.
Assent Platinum 0% Intro Rate Mastercard® Secured Credit Card
Starting at $200
0% intro for the first 6 months (then 12.99% variable)
$49
300
A rare secured card with a 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, followed by 12.99% variable.
First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
Starting at $200
19.99% variable
$29
300
Build your credit with all three major credit bureaus.
Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card
Starting at $200
9.99% fixed
$48
300
No credit check is required for this secured card. Make a deposit of at least $200 to open this card and get a low 9.99% fixed APR on purchases.
Self Visa® Credit Card
Starting at $100
21.74% variable
$25
300
Build your credit with a low minimum security deposit of $100 and no credit score required.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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Bottom line

Getting a credit card without a job may seem impossible, but you have several options at hand, including being an authorized user, applying for a joint account, applying with someone else’s income or applying for a secured card or a student card.

Whichever path you choose, it’s important that you compare your credit card options to find the right card for your situation.

Frequently asked questions

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