Advertiser Disclosure
X

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card and banking offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies and banks from which MoneyCrashers.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site, including, for example, the order in which they appear on category pages. MoneyCrashers.com does not include all banks, credit card companies or all available credit card offers, although best efforts are made to include a comprehensive list of offers regardless of compensation. Advertiser partners include American Express, Chase, U.S. Bank, and Barclaycard, among others.

  • Date

By

Dig Deeper

27,236FansLike
26,491FollowersFollow
43,740FollowersFollow

Become a Money Crasher!
Join our community.

9 Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit – Reviews & Comparison

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

According to Experian’s 2019 State of Credit study, the average U.S. consumer’s FICO score – a popular consumer credit score – hit a record high of 703 in 2019, measured on a scale of 300 to 850. Fewer than 100 points separate the cities with the country’s highest and lowest average FICO scores, indicating that many consumers’ scores cluster tightly around the national mean.

You shouldn’t feel discouraged or ashamed by a credit score that’s significantly below the national average due to high credit utilization or late payments in the past, nor a credit report that reflects past financial difficulties. However, fair or poor credit often has real-world consequences.

If you don’t take steps to build your credit over time and boost your credit score, you could find yourself face to face with some of the negative consequences of bad credit.

Fortunately, credit card issuers are willing to lend to people with less-than-perfect credit or thin credit histories. If your credit is fair or poor, you shouldn’t expect a gilt-edged credit card with an astronomical spending limit, lavish rewards, and VIP benefits. But you certainly could qualify for a credit card designed to help you build credit and raise your credit score.


Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

The credit card offers on this list are all designed to build credit history and improve credit overall. Many are secured credit cards that require an initial deposit, often equal to the card’s credit limit, before first use.

Others are unsecured cards that come with high APRs (interest rates) and low credit limits (available credit). Some boast student-friendly card perks, such as cash-back rewards for good grades.

In general, cards for people with bad credit don’t offer amazing rewards or high spending limits. What they do offer is a manageable means to improve credit over time.

In fact, most of the cards on this list report monthly payments to all three major consumer credit bureaus, and many automatically consider customers for credit line increases after several consecutive on-time, in-full payments.

When used responsibly and paid on time, these cards serve as stepping stones to credit cards with higher spending limits, lower APRs, and better cash back, travel rewards, or hotel rewards. Other lenders are sure to take notice of your improved credit performance too.


1. Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on All Eligible Purchases

capital one quicksilver one credit card

Learn More

The Capital One QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is the only unsecured credit card on this list. It’s intended to be a “bridge” card that may open you up to other cards with greater rewards – two very attractive features that are worth seeking out.

It’s also one of the only cash-back rewards credit cards featured here. It earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, all the time, and allows you to redeem for statement credits or bank account deposits once you accumulate $25 in cash-back rewards.

This card is for users with average, fair, or limited credit, so applicants who’ve recently declared bankruptcy or have very low credit scores aren’t likely to qualify.

Also, if this is your first unsecured credit card, you probably won’t qualify for a high credit limit right out of the gate. Expect your limit to start at or near the card’s minimum of $300.

If you make on-time payments for five consecutive months, Capital One automatically approves you for a higher credit line. Capital One doesn’t disclose QuicksilverOne’s maximum credit limit, but it’s reasonable to expect a limit of $1,500 or more after two to three years of responsible card use and on-time payments.

  • Rewards and Redemption: All eligible purchases earn unlimited 1.5% cash back, with no caps or restrictions on how much you can earn. You can redeem for statement credits and other cash equivalents in any amount or schedule recurring redemptions starting at $25.
  • Key Fees: There’s a $39 annual fee, but no foreign transaction fees. You can’t make balance transfers with this card.
  • Intro APR: None.
  • Other Perks: Get free monthly access to your FICO score via Capital One’s Credit Tracker feature.

Read our Capital One Quicksilver One Cash Rewards Credit Card review for more information. Learn more about this card and find out how to apply here.

Learn More


2. Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Minimal Fees; Possibility of Credit Limit Greater Than Initial Deposit; Credit Limit Increases Without Additional Deposits

capital one secured mastercard

Learn More

Before you can start using the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, you need to make a refundable security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, depending on your credit profile.

Your initial credit limit ranges from $200 to $3,000, depending on your creditworthiness, and may be raised after several months of timely payments at Capital One’s sole discretion.

If you want to get a higher credit limit without waiting this long, you can make additional deposits in $20 increments, up to the $1,000 maximum. Regardless of whether you pay on time or not, Capital One reports all payments (or lack thereof) to the three major credit reporting bureaus.

The Capital One Secured Mastercard is attractive to borrowers with bad credit because it’s one of the few secured cards that offer credit limits greater than the initial deposits.

Also, cardholders in good standing can eventually graduate to unsecured status, recouping their security deposits in full and continuing to use the card without depositing additional funds.

This card’s fees are also lower than many other secured cards, and its nonexistent annual fee is a rarity in the space.

  • Rewards and Redemption: None.
  • Key Fees: There’s no annual fee. Balance transfers aren’t allowed.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Other Perks: Get free unlimited access to your FICO score and credit-building help via Capital One Credit Tracker.

Read our Capital One® Secured Mastercard® review for more information. Learn more about this card and find out how to apply here.

Learn More


3. OpenSky® Secured Visa® Card

No Credit Check Necessary With Application; Low APR and Reasonable Fees

Opensky Secured Visa Card

Learn More

The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card requires an upfront refundable deposit of at least $200 and as much as $3,000. Your credit limit is always equal to your deposited amount. Like most other secured card issuers, OpenSky reports your payment patterns to all three major credit reporting bureaus.

Importantly, this card doesn’t require a credit check with your application, which makes it a strong choice for people with poor or nonexistent credit. However, you do need to watch out for the relatively low maximum credit limit.

Unlike some other secured cards designed for rebuilding credit, the OpenSky Secured Visa doesn’t have an unsecured version. If you want to get your security deposit back, you need to request to cancel the card and pay any outstanding balance.

  • Rewards and Redemption: None.
  • Key Fees: There’s a $35 annual fee. Foreign transactions cost 3% of the total transaction amount.
  • Introductory APR: Enjoy 0% APR on purchases for three months from account opening. After that, variable regular APR applies.
  • Other Perks: OpenSky has lots of credit education material for inexperienced credit users. If you need a home loan or consumer bank account, you can apply through Capital Bank, OpenSky’s parent company.

Check out our OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card review for more information.

Learn More


4. Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Reasonable APR; No Annual Fee

Citi Secured Mastercard 12 4 19

Learn More

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® requires an opening deposit of little as $200 or as much as $2,500, the card’s maximum credit limit. Your funds are held for at least 18 months, though you can make additional deposits to raise your credit limit at any time. Your credit limit is always equal to the amount on deposit.

If you make timely payments for the entire 18-month hold period, Citi may return your deposit and let you continue using your card in unsecured form.

Unlike some more lenient card issuers, Citi automatically denies applicants who’ve filed for bankruptcy within 24 months of applying. However, Citi does report your payment patterns to all three credit reporting bureaus.

  • Rewards and Redemption: None.
  • Key Fees: There is no annual fee. Foreign transactions cost 3%.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Other Perks: You get zero-liability fraud protection for unauthorized purchases and complimentary identity theft protection in the event that your personal data is compromised.

Check out our Citi® Secured Mastercard® review for more information. Learn more about this card and find out how to apply here.

Learn More


5. DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

Minimal Fees & Low APR; Intro Balance Transfer Promotion

The DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card, offered by Digital Federal Credit Union, has a low APR and minimal fees relative to most secured credit cards.

To qualify, you need to open a savings account with Digital Federal Credit Union and deposit at least $5, in addition to whatever you deposit to secure your Platinum card’s credit line. DCU membership is open to U.S. residents, with no special restrictions or limitations.

The DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card’s minimum credit line is $500, meaning that you have to deposit at least $500 on top of the $5 savings deposit to get started.

DCU doesn’t specify the maximum credit line, but you can request an increase at any time and make a corresponding deposit if approved. Your deposit is held in an interest-bearing savings account (current yield: 0.05%).

Though there’s no unsecured analog to this card, you can keep your account open as long as you’d like and apply for a DCU Platinum Rewards Card – the credit union’s most popular unsecured card – at any time.

In the meantime, enjoy one of the lowest regular APRs on any secured credit card: just 11.50% APR as of May 2020.

  • Rewards and Redemption: None.
  • Key Fees: There are no annual, balance transfer, or cash advance fees. The foreign transaction fee ranges from 0.80% to 2%, depending on how the transaction is denominated.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Other Perks: You get up to $500,000 in complimentary trip protection coverage (a form of travel insurance) when you charge the entirety of an airfare, hotel, car rental, vacation package, or other travel purchase to your DCU Visa Platinum card. Other perks include optional overdraft protection, extended warranty protection for most purchases, and complimentary rental car insurance when you pay for the rental in full with your card.

Learn More


6. Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Credit Card

Low APR; 1% Cash-Back Rewards

If you’re a current or former member of the U.S. military, closely related to someone who is, work for the U.S. Department of Defense, or contribute to a qualifying nonprofit organization, you likely qualify for the Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card.

This popular no-annual-fee card has a relatively low APR and fees relative to other secured cards, plus a nice rewards program for those serious about building credit.

The Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card earns the equivalent of 1% cash back on all eligible purchases – 1 point per $1 spent, with no caps or restrictions. This is a rare perk for a secured credit card.

You can redeem your rewards for general merchandise purchases at Navy Federal’s Member Mall or gift cards from major merchants such as Best Buy and Macy’s.

To get started, you need to open a Navy Federal Credit Union savings account with an opening deposit of at least $5. Once your card application is approved, you must make a deposit of at least $500 and as much as $5,000 into your account.

This second deposit is equal to your credit line. You can request a credit line increase at any time, provided you make a corresponding deposit upon approval.

If you demonstrate responsible credit use and timely payment patterns over time, NFCU may approve you for an unsecured card, such as the cashRewards card.

  • Rewards and Redemption: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all eligible purchases. Redeem your rewards for general merchandise purchases or gift cards from participating merchants.
  • Key Fees: There is no annual fee, balance transfer fee, or foreign transaction fees. Cash advance fees range up to $1 per transaction, depending on how it’s executed.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Other Perks: This card comes with a complimentary collision damage waiver on all car rentals of 15 days or less.

Check out our Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card review for more information.

Learn More


7. BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card

Low Regular APR; High Maximum Credit Limit

bankamericard secured card

Learn More

The BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card requires a minimum refundable deposit between $300 and $4,900. Your credit limit is always equal to your deposit, and you can make additional deposits at any time to raise your limit.

If you make timely, in-full payments for 12 months, you’re eligible for an automatic upgrade to an unsecured version of this card, along with a full refund of your security deposit.

For the duration of your tenure as a cardholder, Bank of America shares your payment information with credit reporting bureaus.

  • Rewards and Redemption: None.
  • Key Fees: The annual fee is $39, while foreign transactions cost 3% of the total amount.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Other Perks: This card comes with overdraft protection for all Bank of America deposit account holders. When you overdraft your checking account, you can automatically draw on this card to cover the cost. Each overdraft cash advance is made for the exact amount of the overdraft and costs $12. You’re also entitled to a free FICO score each month.

Check out our BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card review for more information.

Learn More


8. U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card

Relatively High Credit Limit; Lax Underwriting Requirements; Earn Interest on Your Deposit

The U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card requires a refundable deposit of anywhere from $300 to $5,000, depending on your creditworthiness. Your credit limit is always equal to your deposit amount.

Unlike many secured card issuers, U.S. Bank holds your deposit is held in an FDIC-insured, interest-bearing savings account, not an interest-free escrow account.

U.S. Bank has fairly relaxed underwriting standards, making this a solid card for people who’ve recently suffered major hits to their credit. After paying on time for at least 12 months, during which U.S. Bank reports payment patterns to all three major credit bureaus, many cardholders qualify for unsecured credit cards from U.S. Bank.

If you successfully make this transition, you receive your deposit back in full, with interest.

  • Rewards and Redemption: None.
  • Key Fees: This card has no annual fee. Foreign transaction fees are 2% to 3% of the transaction amount, depending on how they’re denominated.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Other Perks: You’ll enjoy complimentary auto insurance when you charge any car rental purchase in full to your card and get a complimentary TransUnion credit score with email alerts about significant credit score changes.

Learn More


9. Merrick Bank Secured Visa® Card

Relatively Low APR; Lax Underwriting Requirements

merrick bank secured visa card

Learn More

The Merrick Bank Secured Visa® Card requires an upfront refundable deposit of $200 to $3,000, depending on how high you want your credit limit to be. Your limit is always equal to your deposit.

Notably, Merrick Bank doesn’t run a credit check when you apply for your card. As such, its Secured Visa is a great option if you recently experienced a major hit to your credit, even if you’ve been denied by other secured card issuers.

As long as you don’t have a pending bankruptcy and can meet some other fairly basic requirements, your application is likely to be approved. The trade-off for these lax underwriting requirements is a moderately high fee schedule.

Like most other secured card issuers, Merrick Bank reports your payment patterns to the credit reporting bureaus. However, it doesn’t offer an automatic upgrade to an unsecured version of the Secured Visa Card.

When you’re ready to graduate to an unsecured card, you need to apply for an unsecured card, either with Merrick Bank or another issue. To get your deposit back, you then need to close your Secured Visa Card account.

  • Rewards and Redemption: None.
  • Key Fees: The annual fee is $36 for the first year and $3 per month after the first year after that. Foreign transactions cost 2% of the total transaction amount.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Other Perks: You can look up your FICO score for free every month your account is active. Merrick Bank also offers RV loans, which aren’t available everywhere.

Learn More


Final Word

These credit cards are useful for building your credit history and improving credit over time, but they’re not cure-alls.

If you already have a large debt load and are struggling to pay your bills each month, adding another line of credit to your balance sheet likely isn’t a smart move. Credit counseling or debt management may be a better fit for your situation.

Likewise, if you’ve recently declared bankruptcy or have a truly abysmal credit score, you’re unlikely to be approved for any of the cards on this list. It’s better to focus on making timely payments on your current obligations, such as utility bills and monthly rent, and reducing your credit utilization ratio.

Ultimately, you want your credit report to reflect a longer period of good credit habits. Once you prove to future creditors that you’re capable of responsible borrowing, these credit cards await.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

What Do You Want To Do
With Your Money?

Make
Money

Explore

Manage
Money

Explore

Save
Money

Explore

Borrow
Money

Explore

Protect
Money

Explore

Invest
Money

Explore