Picking up a credit card after bankruptcy may seem like a huge risk, but this step could actually help you recover. Having a credit card will give you the opportunity to prove your creditworthiness and have all your credit movements reported to the three credit bureaus. With enough positive reporting on your credit reports, you’ll have a shot at moving past bankruptcy and getting a fresh start on your finances.

Unfortunately, card issuers aren’t usually eager to extend a line of credit to individuals with bankruptcy in their recent past. But credit cards for people with bankruptcies do exist if you look hard enough. Cards in this niche tend to be secured credit cards, meaning you’ll have to put down a cash deposit as collateral to get started.

Should you get a credit card after bankruptcy?

A credit card can help you rebuild your credit and your finances after bankruptcy. Not only can credit cards make it possible for you to add positive history to your credit reports, they can also help you relearn positive money habits. But you should only take this step if you’re ready to use a credit card like a debit card. That is, only use your credit card for purchases you can afford right away—no financing.

If you’re not ready for the responsibility of open-ended debt, a personal loan is another credit-building option. Instead of a credit line that renews each time you pay down your balance, you’ll be approved for one lump of cash, which you’ll pay back over a set number of months. Read our full comparison to decide between a credit card and a personal loan.

Best credit cards to get after bankruptcy

Best overall: Discover it Secured Credit Card

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is our top recommendation among bankruptcy credit cards due to the limited fees you’ll face and the rewards you can earn. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, nor does it charge foreign transaction fees. You’ll also avoid late fees on your first late payment (after that it is up to $41), and you’ll receive free access to your FICO score on your monthly credit card statement each month.

In terms of rewards, this card doles out 2 percent cash back on up to $1,000 in combined spending at gas stations and restaurants each quarter (then 1 percent), as well as 1 percent back on all other purchases. Discover will also match all the rewards you earn after the first year.

Best starter card: Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is another secured credit card without an annual fee, and it’s easy to get started with an initial deposit as low as $49, $99 or $200, but it can be paid in ($20 minimum) installments within the first 35 days of your application. Also, note that Capital One will automatically consider you for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with on-time monthly payments.

This card doesn’t offer any rewards, but you do get to avoid paying foreign transaction fees. Cardholder perks include fraud coverage, Emergency Card Services and Mastercard ID Theft Protection.

Best with no credit check: OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card

If you’re worried about not being approved for bankruptcy credit cards, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card should give you plenty of peace of mind. This secured credit card doesn’t even check your credit when you apply, which means that almost anyone can get approved.

This card does come with a $35 annual fee, and you will pay a 3 percent foreign transaction fee on purchases made outside the United States. However, you can get started with an initial deposit as low as $200 and your credit movements will be reported to all three credit bureaus.

Best for balance transfers: UNITY Visa Secured Credit Card

This card charges a $39 annual fee, yet you can qualify for an initial credit limit starting at $250 and your payments will be reported to all three credit bureaus. What makes this card stand out is its ongoing interest rate and introductory balance transfer offer, which could be a lifesaver if you need to escape high interest debt.

Once you get approved for the UNITY® Visa Secured Credit Card, you’ll qualify for a fixed APR of 17.99 percent on purchases. However, balance transfers qualify for an introductory APR of 9.95 percent for six months, followed by the standard fixed interest rate of 17.99 percent. Note that a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $10) applies.

How to choose the best credit card after bankruptcy

For the most part, you’ll be limited in terms of credit card options after you declare bankruptcy. Most credit cards you’ll be able to qualify for will be secured credit cards, meaning you’ll have to put down a cash deposit to get started.

However, credit cards for bad credit don’t have to be forever. The purpose of a post-bankruptcy credit card is to give you an opportunity to prove your creditworthiness once again. Eventually, you should be able to improve your credit score and upgrade to a credit card with better perks and rewards.

As you consider all the card options available to you right now, here are the main factors you should weigh and compare:

  • How much you can afford for an initial deposit? Some secured credit cards require a higher initial deposit than others. Make sure you consider how much you can afford to put down as collateral, then compare cards that offer reasonable initial deposit requirements.
  • Do you want to earn rewards? Some secured credit cards offer rewards as a percentage of your purchases, but these rewards often entice consumers to spend more than they planned. Our advice? Only sign up for a card that lets you earn rewards if you are certain you can pay your balance in full each month.
  • What is the ongoing APR? Know and understand the ongoing APR you’ll be charged if you carry a balance. Also, note that some secured credit cards charge considerably higher interest rates than others.
  • What fees will you have to pay? Finally, watch out for annual fees, monthly maintenance fees and other hidden fees that credit cards for bad credit often charge. Ideally, you’ll opt for a card with minimal fees, or better yet none.

Frequently asked questions

Will you get approved for a credit card following a bankruptcy?

The two types of bankruptcy affect your credit differently. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for 10 years, whereas a Chapter 13 bankruptcy typically stays on your credit report for 7 years. During this time, it can be difficult (but not impossible) to get approved for a credit card.

You’ll have the best shot at getting approved for a credit card after bankruptcy if you spend some time working on improving your credit score before you apply. If you’re able to move the needle and get your FICO score into the “fair” range (580 to 669), for example, lenders and card issuers may be more willing to approve you for their products. Want to see if you pre-qualify without affecting your credit score? Check out our CardMatch tool and get matched with a card that best fits your needs with no impact to your credit score.

How soon after bankruptcy should you apply for a credit card?

You can apply for a credit card after your bankruptcy is discharged, but you’ll need to be realistic about the type of credit card you can qualify for. Generally, you’ll have a better shot at getting approved for a credit card for bad credit after a bankruptcy. You may also want to consider a secured credit card that requires a cash deposit as collateral since this card is considerably easier to get approved for.

How can a credit card help you build your credit

A credit card helps you build credit based on the simple fact all your movements are reported to the credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Once you’re approved, you will slowly improve your credit score if you use your credit card responsibly. For example, make sure you pay your credit card bill early or on time each month. In the meantime, strive to keep your credit utilization below 30 percent for the best results. This means maintaining a balance of $3,000 or less for every $10,000 in available credit you have.