Man balancing his finances
@beachbumledford/Twenty20

Consumers with “very good” or “excellent” credit or a FICO score over 740 are most likely to qualify for credit cards and loans with the best rates and terms. But if your credit is poor or you don’t have any credit to speak of, you’ll need to apply for credit cards made specifically for people with bad credit or find some other way to access the credit you need.

Why is having a credit card important?

There are myriad ways having a credit card can pay off, although they can vary from person to person. You typically need a credit card to rent a hotel room or a car, for example. Plus, you gain valuable consumer protections when you use credit to make purchases online.

In addition to those benefits, having a credit card can help you build credit since your monthly payments and usage will be reported to the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

4 ways to get a credit card with bad credit

Fortunately, poor credit doesn’t bar you from having a credit card completely. Here are four ways you can get your hands on a credit card even if your credit is poor:

1. Apply for a secured credit card.

Secured credit cards require you to put down a cash deposit as collateral but offer a small spending limit in return. This type of card is a good option because it helps you build credit when you can’t qualify for an unsecured card that doesn’t require a deposit.

  • Pros: Secured cards help you build credit since they report to the credit reporting agencies.
  • Cons: Some charge annual fees or monthly fees and you have to put down a cash deposit as collateral.

2. Get a credit card made specifically for people with poor credit.

There are a handful of credit cards designed specifically for people with poor credit. These cards tend to offer low spending limits and high interest rates, but they can help you build credit over time.

  • Pros: You get to build credit while accessing a line of credit, and some credit cards for bad credit even offer rewards.
  • Cons: Some cards for people with bad credit have annual fees or monthly account fees plus high interest rates.

3. Find a co-signer.

If you can’t qualify for an unsecured credit card on your own, you may be able to qualify for one with someone else. By applying for a credit card with a co-signer who has good credit, you could receive a card for your own joint account.

  • Pros: Lean on the good credit of a trusted friend or family member to build credit with your own credit card.
  • Cons: Having a joint account makes you jointly responsible for debts charged to your card, including purchases charged by the joint account holder.

4. Have a trusted family member or friend add you as an authorized user.

As a last resort, you could also ask a trusted friend or family member to add you as an authorized user to their credit card account. You won’t receive an account of your own with this strategy, but you will receive your own credit card.

  • Pros: Becoming an authorized user on another account can help your credit score since payments are reported to your credit report as well as the primary cardholder’s report.
  • Cons: Authorized user reporting doesn’t make as big an impact on your credit score as if you had your own credit card.