How to Apply for a Credit Card (With Bad Credit)

How to Apply for a Credit Card (With Bad Credit)
Lauren Keys
By: Lauren Keys
Posted: March 28, 2016's popular "How-To" series is for those who seek to improve, rebuild or better understand their subprime credit rating.

When applying for credit cards, especially if you have subprime or bad credit, you should start by checking your credit score yourself. This is considered a soft inquiry — and soft inquiries do not affect your credit score.

Taking this first step will help ensure you don’t waste your time applying for a credit card you won’t get approved for if your score is below average; not to mention that application can cost you a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can affect your credit score.

Once you know your score and determine what you’re likely to be approved for, you can apply for a credit card with bad credit by selecting and applying for one online in as little as 10 minutes. Approval time for an online credit card application can be instantaneous or take as much as 2 weeks.

The Best Credit Cards to Apply for if You Have a Low Score

There’s more to choosing a credit card than finding the best option among bad credit credit cards. Every person has a different situation, so there’s no one best card. You’ll want to determine what credit card suits you.

A score of less than 630 typically means you’ll have a harder time finding a lender, limiting your choices to cards that may have high interest rates or even an annual fee.

Regardless of interest rates and other fees, almost all credit cards are considered unsecured loans, meaning the loan isn’t tied to anything the creditor can seize upon non-payment, such as property or your own funds in the case of a secured credit card.

Unsecured Cards for People with Bad Credit

On the other hand, a secured credit card basically acts as a pre-paid card in that you must deposit funds with the creditor up front in order to use a credit limit equal to what you deposited. These cards can be easier to obtain with really low credit scores, and for some people, may be the best option.

Secured Cards for People with Bad Credit


These are our top recommendations of the cards available when figuring out how to choose a credit card with bad credit. While bad credit is not ideal, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a credit card, and when used responsibly, bad credit credit cards can even help you rebuild your credit.

Apply for a Credit Card Online – And Be Patient for Approval

Once you’ve identified the credit card you want to apply for, it takes about 10 minutes to apply for credit cards by filling out an application online. You will need some personal information including your social security number and a physical address, but make sure you’re on the secure web page for the credit card issuer before entering sensitive information.

Approval can be instantaneous, or it may take up to two weeks — a longer review process is typical when applying for a credit card with bad credit. If your application is denied, it is best to wait at least six months before submitting another hard credit inquiry.

Once you’re approved, a new card takes about two weeks to arrive at the address you provided in your application and will arrive with instructions for activation and typically includes how to set up an account online for easy transaction tracking and bill payment.

If you can afford to do so, consider creating an automatic bill payment drafting from a bank account so you never miss a payment, as on-time payments are the most heavily weighted factor in determining your credit score.

Final Thoughts

Whatever your situation, don’t be discouraged. All of the cards mentioned can help rebuild your credit as long as you spend responsibly and plan for timely monthly payments.

In as little as six months’ time, your credit score can begin to improve, which can bump you up into the realm of better cards with lower interest rates and fewer fees.