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11 Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit with No Fee in 2018

Brittney Mayer 3/6/18

Whenever someone expects a seemingly good deal to have an inevitable downside, they often describe it as, “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Like renting the perfect apartment at the perfect price — then finding out about the ghost in the attic. Shoe dropped.

For those with poor credit, the consumer finance world is full of other shoes dropping. And credit cards are some of the worst, with those dropped shoes often representing costly fees that can turn credit-building into an expensive task.

However, not every card on the market has a pricey gravity-driven shoe coming in for a landing. Like a one-legged pirate, some of the best credit-building cards have only one shoe — so to speak — offering transparent rates and few surprise fees.

No Application Fees | No Processing Fees | No Interest Fees | No Annual Fees

Best Cards for Bad Credit with No Application Fees

While some dropped shoes seem to be on a time delay, waiting to drop on you when you least expect it, other shoes aren’t so crafty. No, some shoes — and the fees they represent — land right away. Like credit card application fees, which don’t even wait to see if you’ll be approved before raining down on your unprotected noggin.

But what use is paying a fee for a card you may not even get? Instead of forking over funds for a potential rejection, you can avoid application fees altogether by selecting a credit card that simply doesn’t charge them. Save your cash for better things — or, at least, better fees — by skipping the application fee with one of our top-rated picks.

4.8 /5.0 Stars
  • Checking account required
  • We may approve those currently building their credit history
  • No security deposit required
  • Application response in 30 seconds
  • Know the score! Quarterly FICO score on your monthly billing statement
  • All credit types welcome to apply
  • Your First PREMIER Bank credit card activity is reported to the Consumer Reporting Agencies each month. Making your payment on time and keeping your balances low relative to the credit limit will result in positive marks on your credit report
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See issuer website
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 6 minutes
4.6 /5.0 Stars
  • Checking account required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • If approved, simply pay a Processing Fee to open your account and access your available credit
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See terms
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 9 Minutes
4.6 /5.0 Stars
  • Reporting monthly to all three major credit reporting agencies
  • You may be eligible for a Credit Line Increase after six months
  • Easy and secure online application
  • Receive your card more quickly with optional Expedited Processing (additional fee applies)
  • Get a result in as little as 60 seconds upon completion of the online application
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See Terms
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 10 Minutes

Of course, not needing to pay application fees does not mean you should go off and apply for every credit card you see. While you won’t pay a monetary fee, you’ll still find a dropped shoe in the form of a hard credit inquiry showing up on your credit reports.

By themselves or in pairs, hard credit inquiries won’t typically do much damage to your credit score but, like a teenage party gone awry, the more inquiries that show up on your report, the more damage you’ll likely see. Since hard inquiries can remain on your credit report for up to two years, it’s wise to spread out new credit applications to minimize potential damage to your score.

Best Cards for Bad Credit with No Processing/Program Fees

One of the more unfortunate realities of obtaining a credit card with a low credit score is that you’ll likely run into some costs and fees simply not charged by prime credit cards, like program and/or processing fees. In contrast to application fees, program/processing fees are typically paid after you’re approved — but before you can start using your card.

While avoiding program or processing fees can be difficult when you’re limited to the subprime credit card market, it isn’t impossible. That being said, most of the credit-building cards without program or processing fees will be secured credit cards that require a deposit. Start your search with our expert picks below.

4.7 /5.0 Stars
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • Initial Credit Limit of $500.00! (subject to available credit)
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Use your card at locations everywhere that Mastercard® is accepted
  • Free online account access 24/7
  • Checking Account Required
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See terms
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 9 Minutes
4.0 /5.0 Stars
  • Credit lines available from $200 to $5,000. Super Low Fixed 9.99% interest rate on purchases - with no penalty rate.
  • No minimum credit score requirements. We invite all credit types to apply. No processing or application fees.
  • Helps strengthen your credit with responsible card use. Reports to three national bureaus.
  • Fast, easy application process. Choose your credit line and open your Personal Savings Deposit Account to secure your line.
  • See additional primor® Secured Visa Gold Card details
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate 9.99%
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 8 minutes
3.0 /5.0 Stars
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 -- $2,000 Submitted with Application
  • Just Pay Off Your Balance and Get Your Deposit Back at Any Time
  • Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
  • Not available in: NY, IA, AR, or WI
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate 19.99% (V)
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 9 minutes

The fact that secured credit cards require a deposit to open can seem a little like a dropped shoe at first glance — but it’s more like a dropped sock (alright, so that’s straining the metaphor a bit). In other words, that deposit isn’t gone forever like a typical fee.

Instead, you can get your deposit back at any time simply by closing your credit card account. The only exception to your deposit being fully refundable is if you default on your balance (i.e., you don’t pay your bill), in which case the issuing bank will use your deposit to pay off your delinquent debt.

Best Cards for Bad Credit with No Interest Fees

Fees from interest charges are the universal bane of all credit cardholders, regardless of credit score. But interest fees can be particularly painful for those with poor credit who are likely paying significantly higher APRs than their good-credit kin.

While a simple way to avoid paying interest fees is to pay off your balance before the end of your grace period (if you have one — some subprime cards may not), the easiest way may be to get a card without interest fees. When you have bad credit, however, the only cards likely available that won’t charge interest fees are prepaid debit cards, like our options below.

3.8 /5.0 Stars
  • Get paid up to 2 days faster with free Direct Deposit
  • No CreditCheck to Get a Card. No ChexSystems Check. No Existing Bank Account Required.
  • $0 Activation fee. No Minimum Balance. No risk of Overdraft fees.
  • $15 Bonus with qualifying Direct Deposit. Never pay to cash your paychecks and get your pay faster.
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate N/A (Prepaid)
Reports Monthly No
Application Length 10 Minutes
3.6 /5.0 Stars
  • Easy to sign up. Set up your secure PIN and load money to your card with cash or checks or enroll in Direct Deposit.
  • Enroll in Direct Deposit and get your pay up to two days early. Certain restrictions apply. See card site for details.
  • Easy Online Bill Pay to practically anyone — pay your rent, utilities or a friend.
  • Shop online and in stores - everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
  • Your funds are FDIC-Insured through MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card accounts are subject to ID Verification.
  • Access to over 23,000 fee-free MoneyPass® ATMs from coast-to-coast. Get cash or check your balance at no additional cost.
  • Click on "Apply Now" to learn more about Midnight Prepaid Visa RushCard.
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate N/A (Prepaid)
Reports Monthly No
Application Length 10 Minutes

When adorned with a logo from a credit card network — e.g., Visa, Mastercard, Amex, or Discover — prepaid cards generally operate just like a regular credit or debit card, and they can be used to make purchases wherever the network is accepted. Unlike credit cards, however, prepaid cards aren’t a line of credit and will need to be “loaded” with funds before you can make purchases.

Additionally, since prepaid cards aren’t actual credit lines they won’t require a credit check to qualify — which can be a double-edged sword. That’s because it also means the cards won’t report to the credit bureaus and, therefore, can’t be used to build or establish credit.

Best Cards for Bad Credit with No Annual Fees

Annual fees are another common cardholder cost, though the reasons for the fee will vary based on the type of credit card you’re after. For example, frequent travelers with excellent credit may pick up a card with a $95 annual fee, but they’ll receive a ton of perks and benefits for the expense.

On the other hand, credit-builders with poor credit may also end up with a card with a $95 annual fee, but the only perks they’ll receive is the pleasure of getting a card at all. Thankfully, high annual fees aren’t your only options for a credit card to build your credit score. A range of store and secured credit cards offer fee-free credit to a variety of scores.

4.8 /5.0 Stars
  • Holiday gifts they'll like, payments you'll love! Use your line of credit to shop over 550,000 items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Take advantage of low monthly payments if you apply and are accepted for a Fingerhut Credit Account issued by WebBank, who determines eligibility and qualifications for the terms of credit
  • Fast, easy online application process and a quick decision
  • Not an access card
  • See official site, terms, and details »
Interest Rate See issuer website
Reports Monthly Yes
Application Length 5 Minutes

The Fingerhut Credit Account gives you the ability to make purchases from Fingerhut.com, which has thousands of items across dozens of categories, including everything from apparel and electronics to furniture and tools. That being said, your Fingerhut Credit Account is limited to purchases made at Fingerhut.com, so keep that in mind when applying.

10. Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® has no annual fee and a variable deposit size based on your creditworthiness. All new cardholders will receive an initial $200 credit limit, with the necessary deposit amount varying based on your individual credit profile.

  • Get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • 24.99% APR (variable)
  • Pay no annual fee

Similar to the Discover it® Secured Card, you may be able to upgrade your Capital One® Secured Mastercard® to an unsecured Capital One card but it isn’t guaranteed. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that only newer cardholders are eligible to upgrade their secured Capital One card to an unsecured card.

11. Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee

The Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee comes with no annual fee and a competitive APR, plus it has no penalty APR charged for late payments. Additionally, approved applicants can enjoy an introductory balance transfer offer providing 10.99% on qualifying transferred balances for six months.

  • Earn 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • 24.24% APR (variable)
  • Pay no annual fee

The minimum deposit amount required to open a Discover it® Secured Card is $200, and the size of your deposit will determine your credit limit. Your maximum credit limit will be set by Discover based on your income and ability to pay, but will not exceed $2,500.

Perhaps one of the best reasons to build credit with a Discover it® Secured Card — besides the fact that it has rewards and no annual fee, which is kind of a big deal — is that your Discover it® Secured Card can be upgraded to an unsecured Discover it® credit card when your credit history improves. Even better, it will likely happen automatically, as Discover periodically reviews your account to see if you qualify.

Don’t Let Your Bad Credit Impact Your Bottom Line

When you’re stuck with bad credit, it can often feel as though you need a hard hat to protect you against a falling shoe landing on your head. Between the extra fees and high rates, most credit-building cards seem to be more expensive than they’re worth. With a little research, however, you can find some one-shoed wonders that allow you — and your pocketbook — to stop looking for the other shoe.

Brittney is a Contributing Editor for Digital Brands, Inc., where she uses her extensive research background to develop comprehensive guides and in-depth company profiles for BadCredit.org and CardRates.com. Brittney specializes in translating complex ideas into readable, engaging content for B2C and B2B audiences.
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