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Best credit cards for bad credit

Compare six credit cards for bad credit, get approval tips and more.

Compare credit cards for bad credit

Our best cards for bad credit may not always suit your financial situation. Compare other cards for building credit until you find the right pick for your situation.

Name Product Filter values Minimum deposit required Purchase APR Annual fee Minimum Credit Score
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
$49, $99 or $200
26.99% variable
$0
New to credit
A no-annual-fee secured card that separates itself from the pack with a $200 credit limit after making a more affordable than average deposit of $49, $99 or $200.
Tomo Credit Card
N/A
N/A
$0
New to credit
A credit-building card with no fees, no APR, and no credit check.
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.
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa®
N/A
23.99% variable
$39
Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone service, internet, cable and satellite TV services.
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This article was reviewed by Marguerita Cheng, a member of the Finder Editorial Review Board and award-winning advocate for ethical financial planning for over 20 years.

Best credit cards for bad credit

The best credit card for bad credit is often the one you can get approval for. To help you navigate to the right card, our credit card experts spend hundreds of hours each week comparing and reviewing credit cards, including those that aren’t partnered with our site. This ensures you’re receiving an unbiased assessment of which cards for bad credit can best serve your needs. The six cards we ranked as our top 2021 picks offer the most-needed benefits for bad credit including, low credit score requirements, reporting to major credit bureaus and low fees.

Best for low APR

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Finder rating 4 / 5 ★★★★★

Apply now
on Capital Bank N.A.'s secure website
If your credit score is especially weak, you might consider the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card. It doesn't require a credit check for qualification — a rarity among credit-building cards — and you don't even need a bank account to use it. The $35 annual fee is a rather small tradeoff for the card's generous application requirements.

Best prequalification card

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

Finder rating 3.8 / 5 ★★★★★

The Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card is a solid unsecured card for bad credit, though recently usurped by the Petal 1 when it comes to ideal unsecured credit-building. However, the Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card does allow you to see your approval chances before you apply. This can help you determine if the card is right for you without the burden of a hard credit pull on your score.

Best for motorheads

Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured Card

Read review
Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured Card is, curiously, a solid secured card for bad credit thanks to it's no annual fee and the ability to earn rewards on purchases. Granted, these rewards aren't as diverse as the Petal's offerings, but a majority of secured cards don't offer any sort of rewards at all — especially for no annual fee.

Best for rewards

Discover it® Secured

Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★

The Discover it® Secured is one of the most rewarding credit cards for bad credit. This secured card not only earns 2% back on dining and fuel on up to $1,000 each quarter, but Discover will match all the cash back you earned during your first year. This makes it one of the rare secured cards with a signup bonus, and a powerful one at that. To sweeten the deal, you won't pay an annual fee for the card.

Best card for Amazon purchases

Amazon Prime Store Card Credit Builder

Read review
Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Amazon Prime Store Card Credit Builder is a credit-building option offered to those who apply for the Amazon Prime Store Card but may not qualify based on credit. Even as a secured card, if offers some great value plays for Amazon fans, as you get to choose to either earn 5% cash back on your Amazon purchases or get between 6 and 24 months of deferred interest if paid in full. The only tradeoff is this card doesn't earn rewards elsewhere.

How to apply for a credit card with bad credit

The application process for cards for bad credit is usually the same as with any other card:

  1. Visit the card’s website and select the card you want to apply for.
  2. Select Apply Now and fill out the application form.
  3. Review the form and submit.

Note: Some card providers let you prequalify. This shows you your chances of approval. However, there’s no guarantee that your application will be approved even if the chances of approval are high.

What if my credit card application is rejected?

In this case, try calling your card provider and ask for reconsideration. Another alternative is to apply for credit cards with no credit check. This way your credit score won’t take a hit and your card application will most likely be approved.

If your application was rejected, it also may mean you need a higher credit score to qualify. There are a variety of ways to improve your credit score without a credit card. For example, some landlords and property management companies will allow you to establish credit or improve your credit by reporting your timely rent payment to the three major credit reporting bureaus.

4 tips for getting a credit card for bad credit

There are a few ways to maximize your chances of approval for a credit card for bad credit.

  1. Pick based on your score.Knowing your credit score before you apply can prevent you from choosing cards that are out of your range. Remember, applying for a credit card often results in a credit check, which can put a small, temporary dent in your score.
  2. Search among reputable banks. If you can help it, find a credit card for bad credit from a trusted major provider, such as Capital One or Discover. “Bad credit” cards from lesser-known banks may have especially harsh or unusual fees attached to them, such as activation fees or monthly fees you won’t find on most cards.
  3. Pay off existing debts. If you have any small debts hanging overhead, try paying those off first. This can help boost your credit score, which will improve your chances of getting approved for a card.
  4. Look at secured and unsecured cards. Unsecured cards aren’t your only option for bad credit. Secured cards are a great tool for building credit when you have a poor credit history. But mind the secured and unsecured card differences.

How do I compare credit cards for bad credit?

Having a bad credit score limits your financial tool options, meaning you can only get subprime credit cards. In this case, getting the right credit card is paramount to building your credit. Here’s what to consider when comparing credit cards for bad credit:

  • Annual fee. Look for a secured card with an annual fee below the average unsecured fee range of $89 and $200. Secured cards usually have an annual fee between $29 and $49, while some have no fee at all.
  • Credit limit. Get a credit limit as high as $5,000 using a secured card as that credit line is your deposit. Unsecured cards often come with a credit limit between $200 and $300.
  • Interest rates. Keep an eye on this because some unsecured cards come with no grace period. This means you start to accrue interest from the moment you make the purchase. This can quickly spiral out of control and pull you deeper in debt.
  • Security deposits. If you’re interested in a secured credit card to help you build your credit score, you’ll want to review each card’s required security deposit. A card with a large security deposit could put too much strain on your finances to be worth it. On the other hand a small security deposit might not give you the spending power you desire from your secured card. Compare your options to find the right balance for your finances.
  • Rewards program. This is rare with credit cards for bad credit, but some secured cards let you earn rewards on your purchases, such as gas or groceries. Many kinds of store credit cards made for bad credit are also frequently available.

What are the types of credit cards for bad credit?

While a bad credit score is limiting, it doesn’t stop you from utilizing credit. Here are the two main options available to you if you have poor credit.

  • Secured credit cards. Secured credit cards for bad credit operate like regular credit cards but require a security deposit to determine the limit of your card. Say you make a $500 security deposit, then you have a $500 card limit. This tells the issuer you have enough money to pay off the card. This is a great way to rebuild your credit history provided the issuer reports to the three major bureaus — and most secured cards do — and provided you pay off your card on time.
  • Unsecured cards for building credit. These are standard credit cards specifically designed for those with poor credit. While you can build your credit with unsecured cards for bad credit, they often have low credit limits, punishing rates and fees. This could make them an expensive credit-building option.

    But if you can’t afford to make an upfront deposit for a secured card, an unsecured card for bad credit is your next option.

Credit card for bad credit red flags

Although you can build your credit with this type of card, there are some card features to keep an eye on, which may hinder your credit-building efforts. For example:

  • Doesn’t report to credit bureaus. You may find the perfect card for your current financial situation. But if it doesn’t report to the three major credit bureaus, it’s useless for building credit. Whichever card you choose, make sure it reports to the major three credit bureaus.
  • Hidden or unusual fees. Keep an eye for fees that aren’t openly advertised. This is often the case with unsecured credit cards for bad credit where you may be charged program fees of up to $25 each month for services you may likely never need. Other fees include monthly maintenance fees, additional card fees and higher-than-average late-payment fees.
  • Interest rates. Credit cards for bad credit aren’t known for their low-interest rates, although there are some cards that’ll surprise you. Either way, if you’re looking to build your credit, you should try to pay your full balance on time and avoid paying any interest altogether.

    Bottom line

    Ultimately, a bad credit rating can significantly impact your lifestyle, making it difficult to get a car, a home loan or other forms of credit. If you find yourself in such a position, don’t despair. Work on improving your credit rating and managing your finances so that you can live debt-free.
    Compare secured credit cards for one that best fits your current financial situation.

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