Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for low annual fee

Apply now
On Mission Lane's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0 - $59
Regular APR
26.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Bad to Fair (300 - 670)

Best secured card with rewards

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 2% Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • 1% Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
24.49% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for unsecured credit-building

Apply now
On Petal's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
21.49% - 30.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 
Apply now
On Self's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$25
Regular APR
24.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for low-interest credit-building

Apply now
On Capital Bank's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$35
Regular APR
18.14% (variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Compare Bankrate’s best cards for bad credit

Card Name Our pick for Bankrate Review Score
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card Rebuilding credit 4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
Mission Lane Visa Credit Card Low annual fee 3.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Secured Credit Card Secured card with rewards 5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card Local cash back offers 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa Credit Card Building credit with savings 3.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card Credit educational support 3.0 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at top credit cards for bad credit

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best for rebuilding credit

  • What we love about the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: With its automatic credit line review after six months of responsible use and its security deposit that’s lower than most annual fees, the Capital One Platinum Secured is an affordable and efficient credit-building tool.
  • Who this card is good for: Simplicity-lovers building their credit scores. There’s not a lot of fluff that comes with this card — you won’t earn cash back or points.
  • Alternatives: If you’re not willing to pay a security deposit to obtain a credit card, there are other unsecured credit card options available like the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit. Credit One may approves cardholders with credit scores as low as 300, and requires no security deposit. Despite the lack of a security deposit, this card can be quite costly. Cardholders will have to pay a $75 annual fee for the first year, then $99 or $8.25 per month.

Learn more: Who should get the Capital One Platinum Card?
Read our Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Mission Lane Visa Credit Card: Best for low annual fee

  • What we love about the Mission Lane Visa Credit Card: This card is a straightforward credit-building tool. It doesn’t come with a lot of the bells and whistles of traditional credit cards, but it makes up for it by being an accessible, inexpensive option for building credit.
  • Who this card is good for: Credit builders looking for an inexpensive card to start their credit-building journey. The annual fee is reasonable — ranging from $0 to $59 — and there is no need to tie up your funds in a security deposit.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking for a card that will give you a higher credit limit to work with, it may be worth it to consider other options. The Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card, for example, provides cardholders the opportunity to have a credit limit that matches their security deposit, so your credit limit can be as high or low as you’d like.

Read our Mission Lane Visa Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Discover it Secured Credit Card: Best secured card with rewards

  • What we love about the Discover it Secured Credit Card: It’s rare to find a secured credit card that earns such a generous rewards rate. It also touts notable features like the Cashback Match™ offer (Discover will match all cash back earned at the end of your first year) and no annual fee.
  • Who this card is good for: Cash back seekers with less than stellar credit. Few secured cards earn cash back, but the Discover it Secured does. Cardholders will earn 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter) with a security deposit as low as $200.
  • Alternatives: If paying a security deposit isn’t an option for you, you do have choices in unsecured credit cards for bad credit. The Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card has similarly lenient credit requirements — the card issuer may approve cardholders who have no credit history. It’s also a cost effective option — there’s no annual fee and a reasonable 13.74 percent to 27.74 percent variable APR.

Read our Discover it Secured Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card: Best for local cash back offers

  • What we love about the Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card: This is a low-cost starter card that provides the opportunity to earn limited rewards — cardholders are automatically enrolled in the Petal Perks program and can earn anywhere from two percent to 10 percent cash back at eligible merchants.
  • Who this card is good for: Credit builders who want to earn some rewards and skip the annual fee. Some rewards are better than none. Cardholders will earn rewards occasionally and with select merchants.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking for a simpler way to earn cash back, the Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card provides a solid alternative. Cardholders can earn up to 1.5 percent cash back on eligible purchases (with 12 on-time monthly payments).

Read our Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa Credit Card: Best for building credit with savings

  • What we love about the Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa: When you’re approved for the Self Visa card, you’re granted a loan that’s placed into an interest-bearing account. Repayments of that loan are reported to the credit bureaus — helping you boost your credit score. Once you’ve repaid the loan, the principal and interest can be used as a security deposit for your credit card.
  • This card is good for: People who want to build their credit and their savings simultaneously.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking for access to a line of credit immediately, a secured card like the Citi® Secured Mastercard® could be the right choice. The $200 minimum security deposit could be refunded after 18 months of using the card responsibly.

Read our Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: Best for credit educational support

  • What we love about the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: You can choose your own credit limit (of up to $3,000 with a matching deposit) with this card, and with its 18.14 percent variable APR, it comes out ahead of its competition in a number of ways as a credit-building tool.
  • This card is good for: Someone who wants more control over their credit. Choosing your own credit limit can help you manage your credit utilization ratio and credit score more effectively.
  • Alternatives: The annual fee for the OpenSky Secured Visa is on the higher end for a secured card. Options abound for secured cards with no annual fee, but they often come with higher APRs and access to less credit. The BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card addresses the need for a higher credit limit with its maximum of $4,900, but it comes with a higher APR.

Read our OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

All information about the BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.


What is a bad credit score?

A bad credit score — a FICO score under 579 — can happen for a number of reasons and negatively impact your finances. Defaulting on loans, missing credit card payments or even opening too many credit cards can negatively impact your credit score. If you’re a credit card fraud or identity theft victim, your credit score could also take a hit, making it more difficult to qualify for the financial products and services you need. Renting an apartment, getting a credit card or applying for a mortgage all become more difficult with poor credit — thankfully, there are ways to build your credit with a credit card.

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Checking your credit score regularly is a good financial practice that can help you spot inaccuracies. Spotting inaccuracies on your credit report can help you keep your credit report tidy, making it easier to get and keep your credit score where it needs to be. Luckily “cleaning” your credit report is a fairly easy five-step process.

Learn more: Is no credit better than bad credit?

When should you get a credit card for bad credit?

There are credit cards designed to help you repair your credit. They have fewer requirements needed to qualify and come with credit-building features, which may include affordable interest rates, limited fees or free credit score access and credit monitoring. When used responsibly, credit cards for bad credit are a good fit for the following people:

Pros and cons of credit cards for bad credit

Pros

  • Easier approval: Compared to traditional credit cards, it’s easier to get approved for credit cards for bad credit. Most have lower credit score requirements, and some do not require a credit check for approval.
  • Improve credit score: The two biggest factors that impact your credit score are payment history and credit utilization. When you use a credit card for bad credit, make on-time payments and keep your available credit high, these actions could help quickly raise your credit score.
  • Credit-building tools: Free access to your credit score, auto-pay and automatic credit line increase reviews are common features among credit cards for bad credit.

Cons

  • Higher interest rates: A low credit score suggests to lenders that someone is more likely to fail to make payments and default on a credit card. So creditors and lenders often charge a higher interest rate to account for the riskiness of a cardholder with bad credit.
  • Lack of rewards: Credit cards for bad credit focus on helping you build your credit. Most will not offer the type of rewards, introductory offers or sign-up bonuses you will find with credit cards for people with good credit.
  • Less leeway from issuers: Although it will vary among cards, bad credit options are typically less generous when it comes to penalties and fees. Also, if you ever need to negotiate with your provider, a bad credit score may keep you on a shorter leash as you try to plead your case. Many cards for bad credit even require cardholders to submit a security deposit, giving them fewer options with their funds.

How to choose the right credit card for bad credit

Getting a credit card designed for consumers with bad credit is an excellent opportunity to improve your credit profile, but it’s important to choose the right credit card if the card is going to work for you. Here are some important factors to consider when looking for a credit card for bad credit:

  • Know your score: Knowing your credit score will give you a better idea of which cards you might qualify for and your overall financial standing. Most credit card offers specify a range of recommended credit scores.
  • Know the fees: Some cards for poor credit carry high annual fees, among a multitude of other fees. Seek out a card that minimizes your out-of-pocket costs as much as possible.
  • Get reporting: The best cards for bad credit will report to at least one of the three major credit bureaus. Consistent payments over time are crucial to improving your credit score.
  • Prep for upgrades: Many of the best cards for bad credit allow you to upgrade to an unsecured credit card after a period of time, assuming good payment history. This is beneficial for cardholders because you don’t have to close a credit line and open a new account once your credit has improved, which can negatively impact your credit score.

Still unsure if a credit card is right for you even if you have bad credit? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool, where you can get personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score, spending habits and daily needs.

What’s the easiest credit card to get approved for?

Although many of our listed cards have low barriers to entry, finding guaranteed approval in the credit card world is a near-myth. The closest thing you’ll get are options that let you bypass a credit check, such as the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card. To take a broader approach on finding the easiest credit cards to be approved for, here are some types that make it much simpler than others:

  • Secured cards: Submitting a deposit lessens the risk taken on by card issuers, so these types of cards are often much more accessible than their unsecured counterparts.
  • Student credit cards: There may be certain requirements to be approved, such as proving you have independent income or finding a co-signer, but these cards are specifically designed to help those who are just starting their credit journey.
  • Store cards: These cards are typically easier to qualify for than traditional credit cards. Cardholders can use them as a credit-building tool with the right habits, but their often low credit limits and high-interest rates raise valid questions around whether store cards are worth it.

How to build your credit score with a credit card

Responsible use of a credit card is one of the best ways to build a positive credit history. Without any credit history or with a poor credit score, it may be difficult to acquire a more traditional credit card. You can build your credit score by using your credit card responsibly.

Start by following these five tips for improving a bad credit score:

  1. Check your credit report. Credit report errors are common, so obtain your credit report and check it thoroughly. If you see any, be sure to submit a dispute.
  2. Clear debts. Catalog all of your debts and create a plan of attack to clear them. Prioritize your debts and stick to a payment schedule to pay everything down.
  3. Spend smart. Ensure you’re making all of your payments on time and in full. Keep a healthy amount of available credit, maintain low balances when possible and do your best not to spend beyond your means.
  4. Keep climbing. Length of credit history plays into your score, but recent activity also carries weight. Your continued good credit behavior will be rewarded as enough time passes for past debts to fall off your credit report.

In the news: Medical debt could be wiped from your credit report

Consumers struggling to rebuild their credit after setbacks with medical debt are finally catching a break. In March, the three credit bureaus announced that major changes are coming to how credit scores are impacted by medical debt. Starting in July, medical collections will disappear from all three credit bureau reports, where they previously could have remained for up to seven years.

These medical debts would drag consumers’ otherwise solid credit scores down significantly. While consumers will still bear the responsibility of repaying their medical debt, removing them from credit reports may help raise some scores by up to 100 points.

Credit-building alternatives to credit cards

Although responsible use of a credit card is a great way to build credit, it’s not the only way. In many cases you’re better off building your credit without using a credit card — perhaps your credit score isn’t in the right place (many credit cards aimed at people with low scores are predatory in nature) or because you’re simply not ready to carry the responsibility of using a credit card wisely. In either case, there are plenty of suitable options for people looking to build their credit without using a credit card.

Get a credit-builder loan

A credit-builder loan is a great tool for someone who doesn’t have strong enough credit to be approved for a credit card, but still hopes to build their credit score. With a credit-builder loan, you’ll receive the loan amount (usually between $300 to $1,000 dollars) to a secure account that you won’t have access to right away. You’ll make a fixed monthly payment until you’ve paid off the entire amount of the loan and then get the full amount back. All of your payments will be reported to the three credit bureaus, which boosts your credit score over time.

Repay an existing loan

Repaying an existing loan — like a car or student loan — can help you improve your credit score if you pay on time and pay your entire balance each month. All loan payments are reported to the credit bureaus by the lender. Conversely, defaulting on a loan, or not making payments in a timely manner can negatively affect your credit score.

Report existing bills

A tool like Experian Boost can help you build your credit score quickly by adding alternative data to your credit report. The Experian Boost service lets users add cell phone bills, cable and internet bills, gas bills, electric bills and bills for streaming services to their credit reports. Traditionally these types of bills had no impact on your credit report because they weren’t reported to the three credit bureaus, but with Experian Boost these payments are used by FICO to calculate your score.

Video guide: What to do if your credit card application is denied


How we chose our list of top cards for bad credit

Bankrate uses a 5-star scoring system that evaluates credit cards based on annual fees, APR , sign-up bonuses, rewards programs and other features. For credit cards tailored to people with poor or bad credit, we focus on the attributes you might be most concerned about when selecting a new credit card.

Annual fee

Getting charged a fee every year for being a cardholder can eat into the value you’re getting from your card. We look for benefits that help make up for the cost of an annual fee.

0% introductory APR offer

The annual percentage rate is the rate of interest you’ll have to pay on your outstanding balance. The longer the period with a 0 percent APR, the better.

Balance transfer offer

When you move part or all of the outstanding balance you owe from one lender to another, this is called a balance transfer. Some cards offer a low fee on transferred balances — usually around 3 percent to 5 percent of the transferred amount. Transferring a balance can be a tool to consolidate debt, pay down what you owe at a lower rate and improve your credit score.

Rewards

Even if your credit score isn’t perfect, there are cards that offer fantastic rewards that help you earn cash back, points, or miles on what you’re spending every day. We evaluate the rewards and identify which card is a good fit for different types of spenders.

Additional resources to help you improve your credit score

Check out these informative Bankrate resources, plus in-depth reviews of credit cards designed for people with bad credit:


Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

Frequently asked questions about credit cards for bad credit

about the author
As a Bankrate credit cards editor, Ashley Parks is fascinated by the ways people can make credit cards work for them when armed with the right knowledge.
about the editor
Courtney Mihocik is an editor at Bankrate Credit Cards and CreditCards.com specializing in credit card news and personal finance advice. Previously, she led insurance content at Reviews.com and worked as the loans editor at The Simple Dollar.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.