Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit: 2018

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated Sep 21, 2018

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Learn more about how we rate cards.

Our Top Secured Card Picks for Bad Credit

Earning Rewards, No Annual Fee

Low Security Deposit

High Credit Limit

No Bank Account Required

No Credit Check Required

Various Cards

Military Members and Families

Read more about our picks for the Best Secured Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Our Top Unsecured Card Picks for Bad Credit

Earning Rewards

Credit Building

Read more about our picks for the Best Unsecured Cards for Bad Credit

Choosing a Credit Card for Bad Credit

If you have bad credit (a FICO 8 Credit Score of around 660 or less) you won’t be able to qualify for the best credit card offers on the market. Instead, you’ll usually need to settle for a card with higher interest rates and fewer features until your credit improves.

You still have quite a few card options available to you, however:

In most cases it will be easiest for you to qualify for a secured credit card, which will require a security deposit. This deposit will fund your credit limit.

There are also some unsecured credit cards designed for poor credit, but these options are more limited. Many of them have very high fees and below-average customer service.

Lastly, there are store credit cards. These cards usually have lower credit requirements, making them easier to get. But they tend to be restricted in how you can use them, and they don’t always have the best customer service either.

If you’re a student, you have access to special cards designed for young people who are just starting to build up their credit. Take a look at our picks for the Best Credit Cards for College Students.

You can also consider checking your local bank or credit union for their credit card offers. In some cases you may be able to leverage your existing relationship to help qualify for a card.

Maybe your credit is right on the edge of bad and fair, or you’re not very far below 660. If that’s the case you may qualify for cards designed for fair or average credit, depending on your particular finances.

Not sure if you’ll be approved for a particular credit card? You can check to see if you’re pre-qualified without harming your credit scores. This is a great way to shop around — you may find that you’re pre-approved for cards that you thought were out of your league!

Using a secured or lower-end credit card is not a bad thing. As long as you use your card and other credit accounts responsibly, your credit will improve and you’ll be able to qualify for cards with much better rewards.

Selection Criteria: What Makes a Great Credit Card for Bad Credit?

You may not have the best credit, but that doesn’t mean you have to apply for the first credit card offer that comes your way. It will still benefit you to survey your options, and look for a card with the most favorable terms you can get.

  • No annual fee, or a reasonable fee: You might have to pay a fee to improve your credit, but it doesn’t have to be very big.
  • No extra costs: Some cards for poor credit have signup fees or monthly fees, usually in addition to a high annual fee. But you can usually avoid cards like these.
  • Good customer support: Credit card companies aren’t always known for their excellent customer support, but you should be able to get help when you need it.
  • A modern, quick payment system: Paying your bill should be easy, and it shouldn’t take too long to process.
  • Rewards, in some cases: Most cards for bad credit don’t offer rewards, but occasionally you’ll find some that do.
  • Additional benefits: Credit cards usually come with some basic benefits, like Purchase Protection, but sometimes you’ll find cards that offer more.

Secured Credit Cards

With bad, limited, or no credit, secured credit cards will be some of your best options.

By providing a security deposit to fund the credit limit, you reduce the risk for the credit card issuer. But this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be approved for secured cards. You can still be denied if your credit is bad enough, for example, or if your income is below a certain amount.

In most cases your credit line will be equal to the amount of your security deposit. Credit limits tend to be no higher than $2,000 or $3,000, and, depending on the card, your maximum limit might be based on your creditworthiness. Sometimes you can make an additional deposit later on to increase the credit limit.

Secured cards usually don’t offer rewards of any kind, although there are a few that do. In most cases they have pretty high interest rates, and very few extra benefits. These cards usually report to the three major credit bureaus, just like most unsecured cards: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Some issuers may review your credit card account periodically, to see if you qualify to have your deposit returned or even for an upgrade to an unsecured card. But not all issuers offer this service.

See our card picks below, and learn more about them in the Best Secured Credit Cards for Bad Credit. These stand out among other secured cards for their lack of fees, the rewards they offer, or their other valuable benefits.

Best Secured Cards For Card
Earning Rewards, No Annual Fee Discover it® Secured Credit Card (Review)
Low Security Deposit Capital One® Secured Mastercard® (Review)
High Credit Limit Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card
No Bank Account Required Citi Secured® Mastercard® (Review)
No Credit Check Required Various Cards
Military Members and Families USAA Secured Card® American Express (Review)

Best for Earning Rewards, No Annual Fee

Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Apply Now

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

For People with
Bad Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 24.24% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 2% cash back at restaurants and on gas - up to $1,000 per quarter.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

The Discover it Secured Credit Card (Review) actually offers a decent rewards program, unlike most secured cards. It provides 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations, with double your cash back in the first year.

Read more about why we like the Discover it Secured Card

Best for Low Security Deposit

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
Apply Now

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

For People with
Bad Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 24.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • No annual fee, with all the credit building benefits
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Free access to your credit score and learn how everyday decisions can affect your score using Capital One® Credit Wise
  • Your minimum security deposit gets you a $200 credit line
  • You may qualify for a credit line increase based on your payment history and creditworthiness with no additional deposit required
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone, or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide

The Capital One Secured Mastercard (Review) will require a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, depending on your creditworthiness. But no matter which amount you’re required to deposit, your initial credit limit will be $200. So you may be able to pay a very low deposit, if you qualify. You can also deposit more to increase the credit limit to $1,000, if you’d like.

Read more about why we like the Capital One Secured Mastercard

Best for High Credit Limit

Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card
Apply Now

Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card

For People with
No Credit

  • Annual Fee: $25
  • Interest Rate: 18.99% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • Emergency Card Replacement
  • Free Online Credit Education Courses
  • Choose Your Due Date
  • Verified by Visa®: Protect your card with a unique password.

Secured cards usually come with relatively small credit limits, but the Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card breaks that trend. It has a maximum security deposit and credit line of $10,000, several times higher than most other secured cards. But you’ll need to have a Wells Fargo checking or savings account to apply for this card.

Read more about why we like the Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card

Best for No Bank Account Required

Citi Secured® Mastercard®
Apply Now

Citi Secured® Mastercard®

For People with
Bad Credit

  • Annual Fee: None
  • Interest Rate: 23.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • A minimum security deposit of $200 is required when opening the card, with a maximum of $2,500
  • The credit limit will be equal to the security deposit
  • Users can qualify with limited credit
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions
  • No rewards
  • No annual fee
  • Purchase and balance transfer APR of 23.99% Variable

If you don’t have a bank account to transfer your security deposit, you won’t be able to apply for most secured cards. But the Citi Secured Mastercard (Review) allows you to pay the deposit by other methods, although you’ll need to visit a Citibank location in person to do this. You can also apply for the card as normal online if you do have a bank account.

Read more about why we like the Citi Secured Mastercard

Best for No Credit Check Required

Some secured cards don’t require a credit check when you apply, making them very easy to get no matter what your credit scores might be. But in return for that they also have fees, and are known to have poor customer support. In some cases the payment process may be quite slow, causing late payments which could damage your credit.

A few examples are:

We usually don’t recommend these cards. But if you can’t get approved for other secured cards, these may be your last resort.

Read more about why we picked these cards

Best for Military Members and Families

USAA Secured Card® American Express®
Apply Now

USAA Secured Card® American Express®

For People with
Bad Credit

  • Annual Fee: $35
  • Interest Rate: 11.65–21.65% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Best for members rebuilding or establishing credit.
  • Determine your own credit limit ($250 to $5,000) with an interest-earning CD.
  • No foreign transaction fees when you travel outside the United States.
  • It's not a debit or prepaid card.

The USAA Secured Card American Express (Review) has an annual fee of $35, but it also offers special benefits for servicemembers. You’ll need to qualify for USAA membership to get this card.

Read more about why we like the USAA Secured Card American Express

Unsecured Credit Cards

Although secured cards are usually the go-to option for people with poor credit, there are also some decent unsecured cards out there. You may be able to qualify for one of these cards even if you have bad or limited credit, because card issuers take several elements into account when deciding if you’ll be approved for a card or not.

Besides just looking at your credit, issuers also want to know about your income, whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, and your employment status, among other factors.

So, don’t assume that you’ll be denied for a particular card just because of your credit scores. Sometimes people are approved for cards that they didn’t expect to be, and sometimes people are denied when they thought their credit was good enough.

Here are the best unsecured cards that are accessible for people with bad credit. You can use them to demonstrate responsible card use, and eventually qualify for something better.

Best Unsecured Cards For Card
Earning Rewards Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card (Review)
Credit Building Capital One® Platinum Credit Card (Review)

Best for Earning Rewards

Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card
Apply Now

Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card

For People with
No Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 24.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases, pay on time and that goes up to 1.25% cash back
  • Higher credit line after making first 5 payments on time
  • No annual fee
  • Made for students with limited or no credit
  • 24.99% APR for purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees

The Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One (Review) is a Visa designed for people with fair credit scores or limited credit histories, like other student credit cards. But unlike most other student cards, you don’t actually need to be a student to apply for this card.

That makes it worth trying for anyone with poor or limited credit, who is looking to rebuild. You’ll even earn some cash back:

  • 1% cash back for every purchase
    • pay on time and that goes up to 1.25% cash back

So you can expect to get 1.25% cash back with this card, as long as you use it responsibly. Payments should always be made on time, of course, and this is even more important if you’re trying to improve your credit.

You can get an automatic credit line increase with this card after making your first five monthly payments on time. And there’s the Capital One CreditWise tool, providing free access to your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, based on your TransUnion credit report. Tips for improving your credit scores are included. CreditWise also provides access to your actual TransUnion credit report, something that other issuers don’t do.

There are some other basic protections too. All this comes for no annual fee, and there are no foreign transaction fees either.

The Journey Student card can be a very cheap way to build up your credit scores, earning 1.25% cash back on everything you buy.

Read more in our Review of the Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One

Best for Credit Building

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
Apply Now

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

For People with
Fair Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 24.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online, or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Free access to your credit score and learn how everyday decisions can affect your score using Capital One® Credit Wise

The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card (Review) is a simple credit card, designed with one purpose in mind: to help you improve your credit scores.

There are no spending rewards or signup bonus, but the benefits are not too bad for a card like this. The most relevant, for most people, will probably be access to a higher credit line. After paying your first five monthly statements you’ll be given a larger credit limit.

This is a Platinum Mastercard, and comes with benefits like Price Protection, Extended Warranties, and Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers.

Cardholders can access Capital One’s CreditWise service using their normal login info, which provides credit monitoring on TransUnion credit reports. CreditWise provides a pretty comprehensive monitoring service, which includes VantageScores and comprehensive details from TransUnion credit reports.

There’s no annual fee for the Platinum card. And like all cards from Capital One, it has no foreign transaction fees.

Read more in our Review of the Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Runners Up

There are some other unsecured credit cards out there designed for people with bad credit, promising to accept almost anyone. But in exchange they often tend to have exorbitant fees, issues with their bill payment systems, and poor customer service.

We recommend trying the secured and unsecured cards mentioned above before looking into the following cards. Normally, we wouldn’t suggest using these cards unless they’re your last resort. There are still other options available, like store cards and credit builder loans.

If you need to use one of these cards, be sure to fully understand what you’ll be expected to pay. They typically have high annual fees, along with monthly fees. Pay your bills early, because sometimes payments can take longer than you’d expect and you may get late fees. Avoid these cards if possible, but if you end up using one do your best to stay safe and protect your credit.

  • Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® (Review): Annual fee of $0–$99 depending on creditworthiness, slow payment processing, complaints about customer service
  • First Premier Bank Credit Card (Review): Lots of fees, deducted from your available credit until paid — $95 program fee, annual fee up to $125 the first year and $49 afterward, monthly fee up to $10.40 after the first year

Store Credit Cards

Store cards are generally easier to get than regular credit cards, with lower credit requirements. But they also usually have higher interest rates, and may have some different rules about how and where you can use them. Your credit line will usually be smaller than what you get with other reward cards.

If you shop at a particular store very often and they offer a credit card, it could be a good idea to use that card. As long as you completely understand the terms and use it responsibly, you’ll improve your credit and can move on to better cards if you’d like.

Sometimes these cards are connected with a payment network, like Visa or Mastercard. But in other cases they aren’t. This is important, because unless your card is part of a network like Visa you can only use it at the store it’s associated with.

Take a moment to watch our video below on a few of the most important things to know about store credit cards. If you decide that one is right for you, learn more about store credit cards and then check out our picks for the Best Store Cards.

3 Things You Should Know Before You Apply

Store credit cards can be a good way to build or rebuild your credit and get some rewards while shopping, as long as you’re sure to follow the terms and pay them off on time. In some cases, store cards have special financing deals that you need to pay very close attention to, or you can end up getting burned with retroactive interest charges. If you’re not careful, not only will you end up paying more for interest, you can also do damage to your credit scores.

So always use your cards responsibly, and keep an eye on your credit scores too. In time, you’ll be able to qualify for some great credit cards.

How to Build or Rebuild Credit With Credit Cards

  • Always pay your bills on time. Make at least the minimum monthly payments.
  • We recommend paying more than just the minimum payment. Try to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid interest and help your credit utilization.
  • Set up autopay on your cards so you’re never late on payments.
  • Be patient. The only way to establish a positive credit history is to consistently make on-time payments over a long period.
  • Track your credit scores using a free credit monitoring service to be sure that you’re making progress, and to get specific tips based on your credit reports. Discover and Capital One both have free credit monitoring tools for non-cardholders.
  • As your credit improves with responsible card use, eventually you’ll be able to qualify for more rewarding credit cards. You can always check to see if you’re pre-qualified for any cards without hurting your credit scores at all.
Establishing a positive, robust credit history is pretty simple overall, but it takes some time and dedication. Learn everything you need to know about improving your credit scores in our Definitive Guide to Building Credit with Credit Cards.

Credit Builder Loans

Another good way to build or improve your credit is through credit builder loans. This is a type of installment loan, and you can use it along with or instead of a credit card to raise your credit scores.

Unlike other installment loans, the funds for a credit builder loan go into a special account that you can’t access. You’ll make a regular payment each month to “pay off” the loan, generating a positive record of activity which the lender will report to the major credit bureaus.

After paying off the entire amount of the loan, you’ll get the money that was placed in the special account. It’s a bit like a loan in reverse, which requires you to pay it off in full before you can access the funds. It gives you a chance to lay down a history of on-time payments, showing that you’re a responsible credit user.

Learn more about credit builder loans offered by Self Lender

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