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Best unsecured credit cards for bad credit in 2022

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A low credit score, or any score below 579, can put a wrinkle in nearly any financial plan, including if you want to get a credit card. Like it or not, most credit card issuers require good or excellent credit to qualify for their best offers.

There are credit cards for fair credit, or FICO scores from 580 to 669, but these offers are few and far between. Secured credit cards are a popular option for people with bad credit, but these cards require a security deposit upfront.

If that doesn’t sound appealing, there are some unsecured credit cards for bad credit to consider, all of which let you borrow money without a security deposit.

The best unsecured credit cards for bad credit in 2022

If you’re hoping for an unsecured credit card, but you have a bad credit score, read on to find out which cards we recommend.

Petal® 1 ‘No Annual Fee’ Visa® Credit Card: Best for no annual fee

The Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card (issued by WebBank) lets you build credit with no security deposit and no annual fee required. Your credit limit can range from $300 to $5,000, and you can qualify for a credit limit increase when you make on-time payments for at least six months. Best of all, the Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card may consider alternate data like banking history for approvals, so credit mistakes from the past don’t hold as much weight.

Pros:

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Helps build credit by reporting to the three credit bureaus
  • Get prequalified without a hard inquiry on your credit report

Cons:

  • Potential for high interest rate (variable APRs range from 22.24 percent to 31.74 percent)
  • Credit limit can be as low as $300
  • Rewards limited to special offers with specific retailers

Read our Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card review for more details.

*Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit: Best for earning cash back

The Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit is another popular unsecured credit card available for consumers with imperfect credit. This card lets you earn 1 percent in cash rewards on eligible gas, groceries, your mobile phone bill, internet, cable and satellite TV services. You also get access to a free credit score, which can help you track your progress to better credit.

Don’t let the cash back distract you from a significant downside, though. The card comes with a $99 annual fee ($75 for the first year). You would have to spend $9,900 within the 1 percent cash back categories to make that $99 up, so it probably doesn’t make sense to choose this card for the cash back over a no-annual-fee card.

Pros:

  • 1 percent cash back within popular spending categories
  • Free credit score
  • Get prequalified without a hard inquiry on your credit report

Cons:

  • High variable APR of 25.49 percent
  • Credit limit can be as low as $300
  • Charges a $75 annual fee the first year, then $99 annually ($8.25 per month)

Read our Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for rebuilding credit review for more details.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card: Best for fair credit

You might put yourself in the “bad credit” bucket because you know your score isn’t ideal, but there’s a big difference between having bad credit and fair credit in terms of which cards you qualify for. The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is available for consumers with fair credit, which includes FICO scores from 580 to 669.

While this card doesn’t offer any rewards, you can get prequalified without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and you can qualify for a higher credit limit in as little as six months. Best of all, there’s no annual fee.

Pros:

  • Get prequalified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report
  • Potential for a higher credit limit in as little as six months
  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

Cons:

  • High variable APR of 26.99 percent
  • No rewards for spending

Read our Capital One Platinum review for more details.

Discover it® Student Cash Back: Best for no credit history

If you’re a student with no credit history, the Discover it Student Cash Back could help you build credit. This card offers 5 percent back in rewards on up to $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent back, activation required) as well as 1 percent back on everything else you buy. Discover will even double all the rewards you have earned after the first year, and there is no annual fee.

Pros:

  • No credit score required to apply
  • Generous rewards for spending
  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • First-year Cashback Match

Cons:

  • Potential for a high interest rate after the introductory offer ends (variable APRs range from 14.49 percent to 23.49 percent)
  • Created specifically for students

Read our Discover it® Student Cash Back review for more details.

What to look for in an unsecured credit card

Unsecured credit cards for bad credit aren’t all the same, so you’ll want to compare cards and all their details to find the right fit.

What you want:

  • Automatic review for a credit line increase. Unsecured cards for bad credit are likely to start you out with a low credit limit. However, many give you the chance to qualify for a higher credit limit in as little as six months, which could boost your credit score in addition to expanding your purchasing power.
  • An application process that reviews factors other than your credit score. Some cards for bad credit, including the Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Card, look at factors such as your banking history to see if they can approve you. This can be useful if your credit score is really low or if you have no credit score at all.
  • Reporting to the major credit bureaus. You want to make sure cards you consider report balances and payments to the three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Ultimately, this reporting is what will help you build credit over time.
  • Rewards. Keep your eye out for cards that offer rewards, but only when it makes sense. For example, you should never sacrifice a better interest rate for rewards if you know you’ll be carrying a balance.

What you don’t want:

  • Expensive annual fees. You should strive to pick a new credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee if you can. If you do decide to pay an annual fee, be sure you’re getting something you want in return (and that the math works out in your favor). For example, a card that doesn’t earn rewards and charges no annual fee won’t cost you anything unless you carry a balance. On the other hand, until you spend $9,900 on a card that earns 1 percent cash back and charges a $99 annual fee, you’ll be losing money.
  • Hidden fees. In addition to looking for cards that don’t charge high annual fees, watch out for hidden charges such as application fees or monthly account fees. If you travel internationally, you should also find a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
  • High interest rates. Look for a card with a reasonable interest rate if you plan to carry a balance from time to time.

How to repair your credit with a credit card

Repairing your credit with a credit card can take some time, but the steps are the same for everyone. The following tips can help you get the best results in the shortest amount of time.

  • Always pay your bill on time. The most important factor that makes up your FICO score is your payment history, so you should strive to pay all your bills early or on time each month. Where on-time payments can be a boon to your score, late payments can have disastrous effects.
  • Keep debt levels at a minimum. The second most important factor that makes up your FICO score is how much you owe in relation to your credit limits. Try to keep your balance below 30 percent of your available credit. For the best results, pay it off in full each month.
  • Ask for a higher credit limit as soon as you can. If you carry a balance, getting a higher credit limit can lower your utilization rate by default. If you are eligible for a credit line increase at any time, you should take one. However, make sure to avoid racking up more debt or you won’t be any better off.

When a secured credit card might make more sense

If your credit score is poor and you can’t get approved for an unsecured credit card, don’t be afraid to sign up for a secured credit card. While putting down a cash deposit may not seem ideal, secured credit cards give you the chance to build credit when other cards won’t. Plus, many secured credit cards offer rewards with no annual fee, and you can upgrade to an unsecured credit card once your score has improved.

Finally, remember that your security deposit isn’t lost. When you close or upgrade a secured credit card in good standing, you’ll get your entire security deposit back.

The bottom line

The best unsecured credit cards for bad credit may not be exactly what you want, but they do let you borrow money and some even offer rewards. More importantly, cards in this niche give you the chance to build credit so you can get a better credit card later on.

The cards we highlight on this page are worth checking out, but make sure to compare other credit cards for bad credit and fair credit before you decide.

 

*The information about Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
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