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Credit cards for bad credit: What are your options?

Improve your credit rating to restore your full range of card options.

Updated

Fact checked

Our pick for bad credit: OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card logo

from $200

Security deposit

  • No credit check to apply
  • Low annual fee of $35
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus to help build credit
Apply now
While a bad credit score can have a negative impact on your chances of getting a credit card in the short-term, it’s possible to find credit cards for poor credit. Use these cards effectively and you’ll be able to select from a greater range of cards as your score improves. If you have poor credit and want to rebuild your score, this guide will help you understand the different options available to you now.

Cards for bad credit

Best for low APR

Green Dot primor® Mastercard® Gold Secured Credit Card

Green Dot primor® Mastercard® Gold Secured Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (300-579)
Read review
300
Min. credit score
$49
Annual fee
n/a
Rewards
n/a
Welcome offer
The Green Dot primor® Mastercard® Gold Secured Credit Card is a simple secured card with a $49 annual fee and one of the lowest interest rates you can find in a credit card. This makes it a solid option for building credit even if you can't always pay off your balance on time and in full.
  • Build your credit. The card reports to all three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This means you can quickly build your credit if you keep your utilization low and pay your balance on time.
  • Fixed APR. Unlike many other cards that have variable APR, with this card you get one of the lowest APRs at 9.99% fixed.
  • No minimum credit score. Apply with bad credit or with no credit history.
  • Annual fee. Aside from making a secured deposit, you also have to pay a $49 annual fee.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Using the card abroad or online to make purchases at foreign merchants, will cost you 3% of the amount.
Annual Fee $49
Purchase APR 9.99% fixed
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer N/A
Rewards N/A

Best for rewards

Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (300-669)
Read review
300
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 2%
Cash back
Other
Welcome offer
The Discover it® Secured is probably one of the most rewarding of its kind. You get to earn cash back on your purchases and at the end of the year, Discover will match all the cash back you earned during your first year. To sweeten the deal, you won't pay an annual fee for the card.
  • Cash back. Earn 2% back on dining and gas on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. After reaching the cap and on all other purchases earn 1% cash back.
  • Cashback match. At the end of your first year, Discover will match all of the cash back you've earned without limits.
  • Potential secured deposit return. After eight months of responsible card use, Discover may return your secured deposit.
  • Secured card. You still have to make a secured deposit to use the card.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 22.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 10.99% intro for the first 6 months (then 22.99% variable)
Welcome offer Discover will match cash back earned at the end of your first card year
Rewards 2% back on gas and dining up to $1,000 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases

Best unsecured card

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 3.8 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (580-739)
Go to site
on Genesis FS Card Services's secure site
580
Min. credit score
$0 to $99
Annual fee
n/a
Rewards
n/a
Welcome offer
The Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card is a solid unsecured card for bad credit where you can see your approval chances before you apply. Also, you may end up paying no annual for the first year, but this mostly depends on your creditworthiness.
  • Unsecured card. You don't need to make a secured deposit to stard building your credit.
  • Prequalification. Request prequalification to see your chances of approval without a hard pull on your credit.
  • No cash advance fees. For the first year, you get to save money on cash advance fees. But after that a fee of either $5 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater, applies.
  • You may pay an annual fee. Depending on your creditworthiness, you could pay $0, $59 or $75 for the first year and $99 thereafter.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Purchases made abroad or online with foreign merchants will cost you a 1% fee of the amount.
Annual Fee $0 to $99
Purchase APR 24.9% fixed
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer N/A
Rewards N/A

Best card for Amazon purchases

Amazon Prime Store Card Credit Builder

Amazon Prime Store Card Credit Builder logo
Credit recommended (300-669)
Read review
Rates & fees

300
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 5%
Cash back
$10
Welcome offer
The Amazon Prime Store Card Credit Builder is one of the best secured store cards where 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.
  • Cash back. Earn 5% cash back on your Amazon purchases.
  • Interest-free perios. Use a promo interest period on purchases made at Amazon.com for 6, 12 or 24 months, depending on the amount you spend. Keep in mind, you must pay your purchases in full before the interest-free period is up. Otherwise, you'll pay interest accrued from the moment you made your purchase.
  • Build credit. Amazon will report to all three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. With responsible use, you will build your credit and Amazon may upgrade you to an unsecured card.
  • Secured card. You must make a secured deposit to use the card.
  • Limited use. You can only use the card for Amazon.com purchases and nowhere else.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 27.49% variable
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer $$10 Amazon.com gift card upon account opening
Rewards 5% back at Amazon.com

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

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

If you go with an unsecured credit card, you could pay a high annual fee between $89 and $200. Secured cards also have annual fees, but they are usually lower — between $29 and $49. Some secured cards have no annual fee.


Credit limit

Unsecured cards often come with a low credit limit between $200 and $300, and they rarely increase the amount. With secured cards, it’s easier because your deposit acts as a credit line. In this case, you can get a credit limit as high as $5,000.


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.


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 credit cards can I get with bad credit?

While a bad credit score is limiting, it doesn’t stop you from utilizing credit. Here are some options suited to those with poor credit:

  • Secured credit cards. Secured credit cards for bad credit operate just 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. 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.

What should I avoid in a credit card for bad credit?

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 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.

How do I know if I need a card for bad credit?

If you had financial difficulties in the past few years, such as bankruptcies, chances are you have less-than-perfect credit. You can check your credit score with one of the major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax or TransUnion, and see where you stand. If you own a credit card from some of the most popular card providers like American Express, Citi or Discover, you can see your credit score for free.

A credit score between 300 and 579 is considered poor. In this case, your options are limited and you can only get a credit card for bad credit. If your credit score is between 580 and 669, however, you fall in the fair credit score category. Credit cards for fair credit often come with lower fees and a rewards program.

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. Click 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 application is rejected

In this case, you can 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.

How do I raise my credit score?

First, you need a credit-building credit card that reports to all three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — has low application requirements and a low annual fee.

Use your card often for purchases, but don’t max out your credit limit. These types of cards usually come with a low credit limit of $300, so make sure you use automated payments to pay for your subscriptions. And most importantly — always pay your full balance before the due date.

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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