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5 best credit cards for bad credit in October 2023

Updated September 28, 2023

People with bad credit scores (in the 300 to 579 FICO score range) can benefit from using a card designed specifically for them. Building or repairing your credit opens your options for financial products with better terms and rates. To make it easier to find a card that fits your needs, we’ve compiled the best credit cards for bad credit available from our partners.

Image of Secured Chime® Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card
Apply now Lock
on Chime's secure site
Rating: 4.2 stars out of 5
4.2 Bankrate review

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Image of Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card


Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card

Apply now Lock
on Mission Lane's secure site
Rating: 3.4 stars out of 5
3.4 Bankrate review

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Image of Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1 Bankrate review

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Image of Self - Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa® Credit Card
Apply now Lock
on Self's secure site
Rating: 3.1 stars out of 5
3.1 Bankrate review

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Image of Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Best secured card with rewards

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0 Bankrate review

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

No Credit History

Compare Bankrate’s best cards for bad credit

Card Name Our pick for Recommended Credit Score Bankrate Review Score
Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa Credit Card Flexible deposit No credit history

4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)

Mission Lane Visa Credit Card Unsecured card for bad credit Bad to fair (300–670) 3.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card Rebuilding credit No credit history 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa Credit Card Building credit with savings No credit history 3.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Secured Credit Card Secured card with rewards No credit history 5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Zolve Azpire Credit Builder Card + Checking Account Building credit with no interest No credit history 3.5 / 5 
(Read full card review)

A closer look at top credit cards for bad credit

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Secured Chime® Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card

Best for flexible deposit

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It’s a low-cost way to build credit, since it doesn’t pose an annual fee or require a security deposit. 

People new to credit who want to avoid common credit card pitfalls like interest and over-limit charges. 

The Zolve Azpire Credit Builder Card + Checking Account works similarly to the Secured Chime Credit Builder.  However, the Zolve will automatically deduct purchases you make with the Azpire card from the account with your funds, making it easier to stay on track with paying your credit card.

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Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card

Best unsecured card for bad credit

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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.
People who want an unsecured card to start their credit-building journey. The annual fee is reasonable, and there is no need to tie up your funds in a security deposit.
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 matches your credit limit with your security deposit, so your credit limit can be as high or low as you’d like.
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Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Best for rebuilding credit

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With its automatic credit line review after six months of responsible use and a relatively low security deposit, the Capital One Platinum Secured is a cost-efficient credit-building tool.
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.
If you want to earn rewards while you build credit, try the Discover it® Secured Credit Card. While it doesn’t have as low a security deposit as the Capital One Platinum Secured, it offers consistent cash back.
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Self - Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa® Credit Card

Best for building credit with savings

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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.
People who want to build their credit and their savings simultaneously.
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.
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Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Best secured card with rewards

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It’s rare to find a secured credit card with features and benefits that mimic those of a top rewards card. This card not only earns rewards but also touts notable features like Cashback Match™ and no annual fee.
Credit-builders who want to avoid annual fees, earn rewards and lay the foundation for responsible credit use. Its minimal fees and rewards structure gives it a leg up over other secured cards.
If paying a security deposit isn’t an option for you, there are unsecured credit cards that are open to people with low credit scores. The Mission Lane Visa Credit Card is a relatively low-cost — if bare-bones — option for people who have bad credit.
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Zolve Azpire Credit Builder Card + Checking Account

Best for building credit with no interest

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It doesn’t require any credit history or credit check to apply, making it a low-barrier option for people who need to start building credit. The Azpire also accepts alternate identification, like a passport or ITIN to apply.
People who don’t want — or can’t qualify for — a traditional card for bad credit, as it uses a deposit account to fund purchases with the card.
It’s hard to find a true alternative, but the Self - Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa helps people improve their credit mix by including a credit-builder loan. The loan account acts as the security deposit and credit limit for the Visa card.

What is a bad credit score?

A bad credit score — a FICO score under 579 or a VantageScore under 600— 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 lines can negatively impact your credit score. If you’re a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, 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. You can build your credit with a credit card when you use it responsibly. 

Learn more: How does a bad credit score affect you?

What causes bad credit?

A few primary elements affect your credit score. Your credit behavior and the way these elements appear on your credit report are what triggers negative changes.

The cost of bad credit

Having bad credit can make many financial products less favorable or inaccessible. Here are the ways bad credit can affect you.


Bankrate Insight

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.

How to tell if you need a credit card for bad credit

If you are unsure whether a credit card for bad credit will be a beneficial addition to your wallet, you can take a few actions to get a better understanding of the type of credit card you need to help meet your goals.

Check your credit score

One of the best ways to find out if you need a credit card for bad credit is to check your credit score. Credit reporting agencies consider a bad credit score to be anything below 580 on the FICO scale or below 600 on the VantageScore scale. If your score is below these thresholds, a credit card for bad credit may be your best option.

To check your credit score, you can use free credit score monitoring programs. Capital One’s CreditWise, Discover’s Credit Scorecard and Chase’s Credit Journey are a few examples, and you don’t need an account with any of these banks to access these monitoring benefits. Checking your score through these programs also counts as a soft credit check that doesn't hurt your credit score. 

Read your credit report

Your credit score and your credit report are not the same. Activity listed on your credit report, however, does directly impact your credit score. Late or missed payments and bankruptcies are two examples of major financial activities that could end up on your credit report and affect your score. Knowing what’s on your credit report can help you get a better understanding of what specific activities impact your score the most and point you in the direction of things you can start to change as you rebuild.

To check your credit report, you can request one free report each year from the three credit bureaus at

Explore preapproval offers

Another great way to see where you stand and find out what credit products you’re most likely to get approval for is to go through a preapproval process. With preapprovals, you’ll most likely get a soft pull on your credit, which doesn’t impact your credit score. Once you have your results, you can explore your options and see if the cards you’re preapproved for have a chance for approval with no credit or a bad credit score. If your preapproval results give you primarily credit cards for bad credit, then these are most likely the cards you’ll have a higher chance to get.

To check for preapproval, you can use a tool like Bankrate’s CardMatch™ to help you narrow down your options.

When to use a credit card for bad credit

Even with bad credit, a credit card can still be a useful tool. You can use a card to help you establish credit, boost your credit file or begin fixing past credit mistakes. Here’s when it’s smart to use a credit card for bad credit: 

Secured vs. unsecured credit cards for bad credit

The two types of credit cards most commonly available to people with bad credit are secured cards and unsecured cards. Both of these options have notable advantages and disadvantages, primarily surrounding affordability, and deciding which one is best for you may come down to a few key differences.

Should you get a secured or unsecured credit card?

The answer will depend on what you’re willing to spend and what you’re willing to spend on. If you don’t mind paying more upfront for a security deposit, which you can likely get back with responsible card use, then it may be best to get a secured card. A secured card may also be more ideal if your credit score is lower, since the security deposit acts as extra insurance for you and the lender if you miss a payment.

If your score is closer to the fair range and you don’t want to pay a large sum upfront, an unsecured card for bad credit would be the way to go. The higher your score, the better your chances of approval for an unsecured credit card. You may have to pay an annual fee, but these fees are often much less than the cost of a security deposit. Whether you want to spend your money on a security deposit and fees and depending on where your score falls within the bad to fair credit range, these are the features that will matter most in helping you decide between a secured or unsecured credit card for bad credit. 

How to choose a credit card for bad credit

Getting a credit card for bad credit is an excellent opportunity to improve your credit profile, but it’s important to choose the right credit card for you. Here are some key factors to consider:

What’s your credit score?

Your credit score helps you narrow down which credit cards could give you the best chances for approval. It’s also essential to understand the factors that affect your score so that you can avoid pitfalls that will slow down your credit-building progress and show creditors you know how to use a credit card responsibly.

Do you know all the fees?

Watch out for common credit card fees, which can be especially high on cards for people with low credit scores. These include annual fees, late fees, monthly maintenance fees, penalty APRs and balance transfer fees. Such fees can add to your debt and make it harder to build credit. Fortunately, the right credit card and responsible use can help you avoid many of these extra costs.

What’s your plan as your score improves?

As your credit score starts to increase, you’ll need to be ready for new opportunities. The best credit cards for bad credit offer chances to graduate or upgrade to a better card with better terms. If you practice good credit habits, your card issuer may refund your security deposit on a secured card or increase your credit limit. Make sure you know how to compare credit cards ahead of time so you know what features you want and what cards to avoid.

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.

How to get a credit card with bad credit

While accessing a credit card with bad credit may be slightly more challenging, it’s definitely not impossible. Knowing your credit score, specifically where you land within the bad credit score range, can help you better understand the credit card approval process.

How to get a secured credit card for bad credit

Once you’ve chosen secured credit cards for your credit-building journey, here’s how you can get one:

  1. Find the right card: Compare secured credit cards from credit card companies, banks and even credit unions to find the right secured card for you. You can also read online reviews or ask your current bank if it offers a credit card that meets your needs.
  2. Prepare your security deposit: Be prepared to put down a security deposit of $50 to $300 for your starting credit limit. Even though you’re tying up the money now, the issuer will refund it in the future after responsible credit use or when you close the account. 
  3. Apply: Gather all the information you need to fill out an application and apply for the secured credit card through the issuer’s website or call customer service to apply over the phone. Your credit will take a small hit from the hard pull, but it will fall off your report in 12 months.

How to get an unsecured credit card for bad credit

If you’d rather not put down a security deposit and you want an unsecured card, the process is similar to getting a secured card. Here’s how to get an unsecured card: 

  1. Find the right card: Compare unsecured cards for bad credit from issuers, banks and credit unions to find the one that will help you best meet your credit-building goals. Many online issuers and banks design credit cards that help people with bad credit increase their scores.
  2. Gather your information: The credit card application will likely ask for your Social Security number and estimated income, so have this information ready when you apply. 
  3. Apply: You can use the issuer’s website or call customer service to apply for the card that you want. The issuer typically comes to a decision within minutes and if it approves you for the card, it will send it to you in the mail within a few business days. If you don’t qualify for the card, the issuer must send you a letter explaining why.

From our experts: 6 tips for applying for a credit card with bad credit

Things to avoid when choosing a credit card for bad credit

Many credit cards aimed at people with low scores are predatory in nature. These cards often are way more expensive than an unsecured credit card for bad credit or even a good secured credit card (in spite of the security deposit). Here are some characteristics to avoid when steering clear of exploitive credit cards for bad credit:

Excessive fees 

A few cards for bad credit go well beyond charging standard annual fees or security deposits. These cards may also come with an overwhelming amount of hidden fees. Some examples of excess fees include membership fees, application fees, activation fees, processing fees or monthly maintenance fees. All of these fees could quickly make the card cost more than it’s actually worth, and the credit card debt cycle can be hard to break. To save your wallet, look at the card’s Schumer Box and read the terms and conditions. If the card has too many fees, don’t apply for it.

Confusing or vague terms and conditions

Some cards for bad credit have terms and conditions that are hard to understand — even for some credit card experts. Cards that seem intentionally vague about the type of card you’ll receive or what the annual fee or ongoing APR will be (until you go through with an application and a hard pull on your credit), are best left alone.

Limited spending power

While some store credit cards are worth it, a few are anything but. Niche stores with few locations or small online presences tend to offer the kinds of store credit cards you should avoid. Many of these cards are very limiting, since you’re often only able to use the card at the issuing store. In addition to having higher-than-average APRs, several of these kinds of credit cards will fall into the same categories mentioned above: they come with confusing terms or charge excessive fees.

Credit repair scams

Not all credit repair companies are scams, but some bad actors do exist. Scammers may be more inclined to target people with bad credit, so you must be diligent when exploring companies like these. Check with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or your local Financial Empowerment Center for help on identifying legitimate credit counseling and repair services.

Interested in exploring credit repair? We break down the pros and cons and what to consider before getting started

How to build your credit score with a credit card

Responsible credit card use is one of the best ways to build a positive credit history and move on to the next stage of your credit journey: finding a credit card for fair credit. Here are five tips to follow to help you improve a bad credit score:

  1. Apply for a card that best fits your needs

    Once you’ve established a budget and you know where you spend the most, apply for a credit card that aligns best with your financial needs and lifestyle. Opening a card, especially if it's your first credit account, will establish your credit and get the ball rolling on building a good score.

  2. Pay on time, in full or over the minimum due

    Your payment history is one of the most significant contributing factors to your credit score. To build a high score and maintain it, you should work to pay your bills on time and in full whenever possible. If you’re unable to pay your balance in full, try to pay more than the minimum payment to help eliminate some of your outstanding balance quicker.

  3. Keep your credit utilization low

    Another best practice for building up your credit score with a credit card is to keep a healthy amount of available credit and maintain low balances when possible, which typically means keeping your utilization ratio under 30 percent. Consider treating your credit card as primarily something to use in an emergency and do not spend beyond your means.

  4. Maintain older accounts

    While it may make sense to close a secured credit card or an unused card with an annual fee, you may want to consider keeping these cards open to avoid damaging your credit score. The longer your accounts are open, the older your credit history. However, if you feel enticed to overspend with a card or it has too many fees, it’s best to close the account to avoid undoing any hard work.

  5. Keep track of your progress

    Your credit report and credit score are the two best indicators of your progress while building credit. Start by choosing a credit card that reports to at least one of the three credit bureaus to ensure your credit activity is recorded. Check your credit score regularly, which you can often access for free through your credit card issuer’s mobile app. Keep an eye on your credit report and make sure no incorrect info is holding you back. By keeping close tabs on your credit, you’ll have a better knowledge of what cards you can graduate to as your score improves. 

How long will it take to improve my credit score?

It will take at least a few months to see changes in your credit score, but the total time will depend on your credit history. Many factors go into calculating your credit score, and some credit dings last longer than others. If you want a clearer gauge on how long it takes to raise your credit score, start by taking a close look at your credit report and note the types of delinquencies you have and how long they stay on your credit profile.


Bankrate Insight

While your first priority should be building up your credit if you have a low score, having bad credit won’t necessarily stop you from getting a rewards credit card. Travel rewards credit cards are some of the most popular, and there are travel credit cards for people with bad or fair credit available, though approval is not guaranteed. 

How to build credit without a credit card

  • Loan

    Get a credit-builder loan

    A credit-builder loan is a great tool for someone who doesn’t have strong enough credit to get issuer approval 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 $200 to $2,000) in 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 amount back, minus any fees. The lender reports all of your payments to the three credit bureaus, which can boost your credit score over time.

  • Calendar
    Pay existing loans on time

    Repaying an existing loan — like a car or student loan — can help you improve your credit score if you pay your monthly payment on time and in full each month. The lender reports your loan payments to the credit bureaus, which establishes a positive payment history. Conversely, defaulting on a loan, or not making payments in a timely manner can negatively affect your credit score.

  • Credit Fair
    Use Experian Boost™

    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 rent payments, cell phone bills, cable and internet bills, gas bills, electric bills and stream subscriptions to their credit reports. Traditionally, these types of bills had no impact on your credit report because utility companies, landlords and subscription services don’t report payments to the credit bureaus. Other services similar to Experian Boost are Experian Go, UltraFICO and eCredable Lift. Experian Go, in particular, doesn’t require an existing credit score to use.

Further reading on bad credit credit cards

Having bad credit is an uphill battle, but being informed and armed with research is the best tool in your arsenal. Here’s more information on credit cards and 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.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply. 

How we assess the best credit cards for people with bad credit

Cards rated
Data points analyzed
Fees tracked
Credit Card Reviews
Perks evaluated

When evaluating the best cards for building credit, we consider a mix of factors, including how cards score in our proprietary card rating system and whether cards offer features that make it easy to build credit history while minimizing costs.

We analyzed over 50 of the most popular cards designed for people with no credit history, bad credit or a fair credit score and rated each based on its cost, APR, credit-building features and more to determine whether it belonged in this month’s roundup.

Here are some of the key factors that we considered:

Frequently asked questions about credit cards for bad credit