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5 best credit cards for bad credit in February 2023

Updated February 01, 2023

Building or repairing your credit can make it easier to open doors with lenders, landlords and even potential employers. People with bad credit scores (in the 300 to 579 FICO score range) can benefit from using a card designed with them in mind. 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 Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card

BEST UNSECURED CARD FOR BAD CREDIT

Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card

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On Mission Lane's secure site
Rating: 3.4 stars out of 5
3.4 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

$0 - $59

Regular APR

26.99% - 29.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info
Image of Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Apply now Lock
On Capital One's secure site
Rating: 4.2 stars out of 5
4.2 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

29.74% (Variable)

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Info
Image of Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Best secured card with rewards

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

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On Discover's secure site
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0 Bankrate review
Info
See Rates & Fees

Intro offer

Cashback Match™
Info

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

27.24% Variable APR

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Info
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
Info

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

$25

Regular APR

26.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Info
Image of OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Best for low-interest credit-building

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Apply now Lock
On Capital Bank's secure site
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
3.0 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

$35

Regular APR

21.64% (variable)

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Info

Compare Bankrate’s best cards for bad credit

Card Name Our pick for Recommended Credit Score Bankrate Review Score
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 4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Secured Credit Card Secured card with rewards No credit history 5 / 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)
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card Low-interest credit-building No credit history 3.0 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at top credit cards for bad credit

Mission Lane Visa Credit Card: Best unsecured card for bad credit

  • 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: 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.
  • 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  matches your credit limit with your security deposit, so your credit limit can be as high or low as you’d like.

Learn more: How to use the Mission Lane Visa Card
Read our Mission Lane Visa Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

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 a relatively low security deposit, the Capital One Platinum Secured is a cost-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 tie up money in a security deposit, you may be eligible for an unsecured credit card like the Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card

Learn more: Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card Benefits Guide
Read our Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card review or 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 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.
  • Who this card is good for: 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.
  • Alternatives: 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.

Learn more: Is the Discover it Secured Credit Card worth it?
Read our Discover it Secured Credit Card review or 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.
  • Who 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.

Learn more: How to use the Self Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa
Read our Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: Best for low-interest credit-building

  • What we love about the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: You can get a credit limit of up to $3,000 with a matching deposit, which is higher than other starting credit limits for other credit cards for bad credit.
  • Who 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: If you can pay your balances in full each month and don’t need a low-interest credit card, the BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card comes with a higher potential credit limit (a maximum of $5,000 based on your deposit) but also a higher APR.

Learn more: How to use the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card
Read our OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

All information about the BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card and Citi® Secured Mastercard® 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 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. Thankfully, there are ways to build your credit with a credit card.

In the News: 5 realistic New Year’s goals for people with credit card debt

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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.

Pros and cons of credit cards for bad credit

Pros

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    Easier approval compared to traditional credit cards because of the potential for no credit checks and lower credit score requirements

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    Helps improve your credit score if you make on-time payments and keep your available credit high

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    Many cards for bad credit offer credit-building tools like free credit score access, auto-pay and account reviews for automatic credit line increases

Cons

  • Higher interest rates to account for the riskiness of a cardholder with bad credit

  • Lack of rewards compared to credit cards for people with good credit

  • Less leeway from issuers when it comes to penalties, fees or negotiating with your issuer

Types of credit cards for bad credit

When to use a credit card with bad credit

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

  • When your credit score is under 579. It goes without saying that if you have bad credit, your chances of getting many of the best credit cards are slim. If you’re set on getting a credit card, getting one made for people with bad credit is one of your best options. 
  • When you’re ready to repair your credit. If you’ve made mistakes in the past and are ready to give credit-building another try, using a credit card for bad credit can help get you back on track. As long as you’re ready to make on-time payments, keep your credit utilization ratio under 30 percent and practice other responsible credit habits, then you can get on the right path to a good or excellent credit score and better card options. 
  • When you’re getting your first credit card. While you may not necessarily have bad credit, not having any credit is just as limiting. Many credit cards for bad credit are also some of the best for no credit history. People who are new to credit can try starter credit cards and first-generation credit users can find cards that meet their needs in many of our featured cards.

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. Check your credit report. If you know how to read your credit report, you’ll have an easier time tracking your progress to good credit. Credit report errors are also common, so keeping an eye on your credit report will make it easier to stay on top of any mistakes that could have a negative impact on your credit. If you don’t have any credit accounts yet, you may not have a credit report to check. In this case, whatever credit account you open first (student loan, credit card, etc.) will create a credit report.
  2. Set a budget. Before you apply for credit, be sure you know exactly how much you should be able to comfortably use and pay back in full each billing cycle. Sticking to a budget makes it much easier to pay off credit card debt and grow your personal finances. You can choose a budgeting method that’s right for you or use a budgeting app.
  3. 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. If you’re able to get a card that offers rewards like the Discover it Secured, use it to cover gas or dining purchases that you pay off each month. Doing so could earn you rewards while also building your credit.
  4. Practice good credit habits. To grow your credit score, you’ll need to pay your bills on time, keep a healthy amount of available credit, maintain low balances when possible and do your best not to spend beyond your means. Your continued good credit behavior will be rewarded as enough time passes and past debts fall off your credit report.
  5. Keep accounts open. As time goes on, you may outgrow your starter credit card. And while it may make sense to close a secured credit card or an unused card with an annual fee, there are consequences to closing a credit card. To protect your credit score, you should consider keeping your accounts open. The longer your accounts are open, the more available credit you have and the longer your credit history will be. Both of these factors highly impact your credit score. However, if you feel enticed to overspend on a card or there’s a large amount of maintenance fees, it’s best to close the account to avoid undoing any hard work.
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Bankrate Insight

There are major changes to how medical debt impacts credit scores. Implemented July 1, 2022, medical debt was wiped from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian credit reports. Many consumers could see credit score increases of up to 100 points from the three credit bureaus’ policy changes.

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. 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.

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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.

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.

Frequently asked questions about credit cards for bad credit