Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 
Apply now
On Self's secure site
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
$25 monthly payment, 24 month term with a $9 admin fee
Regular APR
15.92% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for credit educational support

Apply now
On Capital Bank's secure site
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
$35
Regular APR
17.39% (variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best unsecured credit card with rewards

Apply now
On Credit One Bank's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Rewards rate
  • 1% Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Terms apply.
Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
$75 for the first year. After that, $99 annually ($8.25 per month)
Regular APR
23.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Bad to Fair (300 - 670)

Best secured card with rewards

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
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 bonus
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
22.99% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for local cash back offers

Apply now
On WebBank's secure site
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

The more you know…
The pandemic has resulted in financial challenges for many Americans. According to our study, 33% of cardholders did something that could hurt their credit score during COVID-19.

Personal finance experts at Bankrate have evaluated today’s best credit cards for bad credit and chosen the top options. We also offer tips on qualifying for a credit card and improving your credit score. Use this information to make the best choice for your financial future.


Compare Bankrate’s best cards for bad credit

Card Name Our pick for Bankrate Review Score
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card Best for rebuilding credit 3.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa Credit Card Best for building credit with savings 3.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Best for credit educational support 3.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit Best unsecured credit card with rewards 2.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Secured Credit Card Best secured card with rewards 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card Best for local cash back offers 3.6 / 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

  • This card is a good fit for: Someone who wants a simple, minimal-fee path to a better credit score and isn’t concerned with earning rewards.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who refuses to pay a security deposit or wants to earn cash back.
  • What makes this card unique?The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is one of the only secured cards with a deposit requirement that could be lower than your limit. This card also comes with an option to pay the opening deposit in installments over a 35-day period.
  • Is the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card worth it? If your primary goal is to build credit, this card is an excellent choice. With an automatic credit line review after six months and a security deposit that’s lower than most annual fees, the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is an affordable and efficient credit-building tool.

Read our Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card

Best for building credit with savings

  • This card is a good fit for: Someone whose goal is to build their savings along with their credit history.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those looking for a line of credit immediately. You won’t actually receive a credit card until you’ve saved $100 in your Credit Builder Account and made three on-time monthly payments in a row.
  • What makes this card unique? This savings account and credit card combination is pretty unique on its own, but even more so because the process doesn’t require a hard inquiry on your credit report.
  • Is the Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card worth it? If saving money is part of your financial plan and you’re fine with waiting a few months to gain access to the credit card, the Self Visa is a viable option. The ability to have two lines of credit (the credit builder account, which is a loan, and a credit card) without a hard inquiry on your report is pretty remarkable.

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

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Best for credit educational support

  • This card is a good fit for: Someone who wants to choose their own credit limit, which will be equal to the amount you provide as a security deposit (from as low as $200).
  • This card is not a great choice for: Rewards seekers and those who want to avoid an annual fee.
  • What makes this card unique? The OpenSky Secured Visa does not do a credit check or even require you to have a checking account, a lifeline for someone in a credit jam who is trying to get a credit card. Plus, they provide credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on their website to support your journey.
  • Is the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card worth it? The ability to choose your own credit limit based on the security deposit you provide is useful. However, the fact that you have to pay an annual fee on top of a security deposit detracts from the card’s overall value.

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

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit

Best unsecured credit card with rewards

  • This card is a good fit for: Frugal spenders who want to earn rewards on the everyday essentials.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone who wants to avoid an annual fee. It’s only $75 for the first year, but it’s $99 for each year after that ($8.25 per month).
  • What makes this card unique? Purchases that are eligible for earning 1% cash back include gas, groceries, mobile phone, internet, cable TV and satellite TV services (terms apply).
  • Is the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit worth it?If you’re not thrilled about the idea of fronting several hundred dollars for a security deposit, this card offers the tradeoff of a $75 annual fee for the first year, then $99 ($8.25 per month). Plus, the opportunity to earn cash back on everyday purchases can help reduce the financial burden of the annual fee.

Read our Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit review.
Jump back to offer details.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Best secured card with rewards

  • This card is a good fit for: Those who want to earn cash back and can put down a security deposit of as little as $200.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone without a bank account, which is a requirement to apply.
  • What makes this card unique? If you don’t have a robust credit history, finding a card that offers a substantial rewards program can be difficult. With the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, you’ll earn cash back in several useful categories, and Discover will match all of the cash back that you earned at the end of your first year — automatically.
  • Is the Discover it® Secured Credit Card worth it? With no annual fee, generous rewards, and a security deposit as low as $200, this card is a clear frontrunner in the secured credit card game.

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

  • This card is a good fit for: Credit builders who are after cash rewards and no annual fee.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone looking for consistent cash back opportunities. Cash back offers from the Petal Perks program are occasional and valid with select merchants only.
  • What makes this card unique? Instead of only using your credit score to determine your eligibility, the Petal 1 Card evaluates other financial factors like your income and bill payment behavior.
  • Is the Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card worth it? If you’re looking for a low-cost starter card, the Petal 1 Card’s flexible eligibility guidelines, lack of fees and cash back opportunities make it a solid choice.

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


What is considered bad credit?

Bad credit is typically defined by FICO® as a credit score lower than 579. So if your credit score falls within that range, your best bet may be a credit card for bad credit. People who have made financial mistakes, like defaulting on a loan or missing credit card payments, will often have poor credit. Sometimes, people who lack a credit history (i.e. never had a loan or credit card before) and, therefore, a credit score will need to opt for a card in this category.

Credit cards for bad credit typically come with fewer qualification requirements, different fee structures and specific features to help your credit-building journey along.

It’s important to keep in mind that credit scores are flexible and can change often depending on your individual credit activity.

Bankrate Insight
Not sure how to check your credit score? Experian offers a free FICO 8 credit score with its free monitoring service. Read our full guide to checking your credit score to compare options.

Who should get a credit card for bad credit?

You can rebuild your credit with consistent, positive changes in your money-managing habits. A credit card for bad credit may be worthwhile for the following people:

The credit rebuilder

People who have made credit mistakes in the past may find it a bit difficult to qualify for a more typical, unsecured credit card or credit cards that come with a lot of perks and rewards. Unsecured cards that feature perks and rewards are often reserved for those who have a good credit score or higher. Credit cards designed for people with bad credit often have low barriers of entry for approval in terms of credit scores. This factor means that it is easier to qualify for these cards. In other words, if you have bad credit, these kinds of cards may be your only option. Choose a standout card in the category, focus on using it responsibly (via on-time payments and low credit utilization) and, ultimately, you should be able to “graduate” to a better credit card.

The credit beginner

For those who have limited or no credit history, and, therefore, have no credit score, it can be difficult to acquire many of the more popular unsecured card options on the market. Credit cards for people with bad credit are often accessible for people who have little or no credit given the lighter qualification requirements. Applying for a secured credit card or another option available for bad credit could help you get access to a credit line so you can start building credit via on-time payments and other responsible use.

Bonus: If you are a student seeking to start building credit, you may find a better match in the various student cards on the market, which feature student-centric perks and benefits that secured credit cards do not.

The no-frills seeker

If you are laser-focused on credit recovery and looking to slowly rebuild your score with responsible card use and few distractions, you may benefit from a basic card that doesn’t offer rewards. Points, miles or cash back could entice you to overspend. Some cards will reward your credit rebuilding efforts by offering a credit line increase after a set period of responsible use. Paying on time, all the time and in full whenever possible is important when practicing responsible credit habits and rebuilding a credit score. When choosing a card designed for people with bad credit, always be sure to check that it doesn’t charge too many onerous fees that could stunt your efforts.

Pros and cons of credit cards for bad credit

Credit cards for bad credit can be a lifeline if you need to build your credit from scratch, but there are tradeoffs.

Pros

  • Easier to be approved for: If you’re brand new to credit or rebuilding after financial setbacks, many credit cards are out of reach. Credit cards for bad credit are designed to help consumers build their credit from the ground up.
  • Credit-building tools: Free access to your credit score, auto-pay, and financial education resources are common features among credit cards for bad credit. Some issuers will even review your account for a credit limit increase after several months.

Cons

  • Higher interest rates: Credit scores are meant to gauge how likely it is that you will 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. This can be devastating to account holders with an outstanding balance, but proper card habits over time can earn you a friendlier rate.
  • Lack of rewards: Credit cards designed for bad credit seldom feature rewards like cash back, travel points, introductory offers or sign-up bonuses. As you work towards better credit, cards with these enticing features become a possibility.
  • Less leeway from issuers: Although it will vary card-by-card, 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.
  • Security deposits: Many cards for bad credit are secured, meaning they require an initial deposit, usually between $200 to $5,000, to open the account. This refundable deposit serves as the card’s credit limit (and an added expense for new cardholders).

The difference between secured and unsecured credit cards

Secured credit cards require an initial deposit, which serves as a layer of protection for the card issuer in case you miss payments. The deposit you make often becomes your credit limit. But you may receive a credit line that is greater than the initial deposit.

A secured credit card otherwise operates in a way that is similar to a regular, unsecured credit card. You’ll be able to purchase items with the card and then make payments. Interest is charged on balances carried month-to-month.

If you’re curious to learn more about these options, check out our picks for the best secured credit cards available from our partners.

Unlike secured credit cards, unsecured credit cards don’t require a deposit. They allow you to buy items, charge them to the account, and then pay off the balance. However, unsecured credit cards for bad credit tend to include additional fees and higher-than-average interest rates.

How to get a credit card with bad credit

Applying for a credit card doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive a credit card. A recent Bankrate survey found that 21 percent of consumers have had an application for credit denied in recent months because of a low credit score. Thirteen percent of that group had been rejected for a credit card.

Don’t be discouraged, though. Even if you have bad credit, credit cards aren’t necessarily out of your reach. Consider these four tips for finding a card that fits your needs.

  1. Check your credit score first: Knowing your credit score will give you a better idea of which cards you might qualify for, as well as your overall financial standing. Most credit card offers specify a range of recommended credit scores.
  2. Do your research: Be thorough in your research before applying and ensure it’s the right card for your needs. Look closely at any fees and interest rates.
  3. Be selective with applications: An application that involves a hard inquiry on your credit will temporarily lower your credit score.
  4. Consider secured credit cards: If you’re finding it difficult to find a card that you qualify for, take a look at secured cards. These cards require a deposit upfront, but with on-time payments and other types of responsible credit behavior, these cards could help you build your credit score.
Bankrate Insight
One way to feel more confident about your application is to check for pre-qualified offers. With tools like CardMatch™, credit card issuers use your basic information to show you which cards you’re most likely to be approved for – no hard credit check required.

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:

  1. Fees — Some cards for poor credit carry high annual fees, among a multitude of other fees. Seek out a card that attempts to minimize your out-of-pocket costs as much as possible.
  2. Reporting — The best cards for bad credit will report to at least one of the three major credit bureaus. Consistent payments over time will be crucial to improving your credit score.
  3. Opportunity to upgrade — Many of the best cards for bad credit will 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.

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. You can get your deposit back after closing or upgrading your account, so these more inclusive options can be an excellent starting point to increasing a bad credit score.
  • 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. This often means no credit history is required, making options like the Discover it® Student Cash Back and the Discover it® Student chrome accessible to many.
  • Store cards: These cards are typically easier to qualify for than traditional credit cards, and can be used as a credit-building tool with the right habits. However, 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

At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive to take on a credit card to improve your credit score, but 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 (in the 300-579 range), it may be difficult to acquire a more traditional credit card. That’s where credit cards designed for cardholders with poor credit come in.

With responsible use, like paying your full balance each month on time, you demonstrate to your card issuer and the credit bureaus that you can manage a credit card responsibly. This will boost your credit score and open the door to more lucrative cards that offer rewards and perks.

With time, careful decision-making and the right credit card, you can make a bad credit score better and gradually build a healthier credit profile.
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. Of course, this is easier said than done, but managing debt is a big step forward in improving your score.
  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. Stick to a plan. Although you can quickly find yourself with a low score, it is possible to improve your credit score. Avoid opening and closing credit accounts unless it makes sense.
  5. 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.

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% 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%-5% 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 research 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 the author
Former Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina.
about the editor
Mariah Ackary is a personal finance writer who specializes in credit card rewards and small business credit. Mariah is a lifelong writer, but she began writing about finance in 2018. She joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to directly help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com ...

* 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.