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

How To Apply For A Credit Card
GUIDE
Lauren Keys
By: Lauren Keys
Updated: March 26, 2020
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Maybe you’ve had some detours on your journey to good credit — life happens — but if you’re ready to turn things around, it’s important to know how to apply for a credit card with bad credit. 

The first step is to check your own credit score so you know where you stand.

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 bring your credit score down even more.

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 two 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.

Let’s take a look at some top offerings for unsecured cards for people with bad credit.

  • Choose which account management options are right for you.
  • Build credit with First PREMIER‡
  • Fill out an application and know in 60 seconds if you’re approved!
  • YOU’RE NOT ALONE - As the 12th largest issuer of Mastercard credit cards, First PREMIER Bank understands customer needs and is there for those who may be denied by other issuers.
  • Manageable credit limit, manageable payment, meant to fit your budget
  • ‡Build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
4 minutes See Issuer Website Yes 9.0/10
  • Choose which account management options are right for you.
  • Build credit with First PREMIER‡
  • Fill out an application and know in 60 seconds if you’re approved!
  • YOU’RE NOT ALONE - As the 12th largest issuer of Mastercard credit cards, First PREMIER Bank understands customer needs and is there for those who may be denied by other issuers.
  • Manageable credit limit, manageable payment, meant to fit your budget
  • ‡Build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
4 minutes See Issuer Website Yes 9.0/10
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified with no impact to your credit score
  • All credit types welcome to apply
  • Up to $1,000 credit limit doubles up to $2,000! (Simply make your first 6 monthly minimum payments on time)
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Experian* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Use your card at locations everywhere Mastercard® is accepted
  • Mastercard Zero Fraud Liability Protection (subject to Mastercard guidelines)
  • Checking Account Required
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.7

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 24.99% - 29.99% (Variable) Yes 8.5/10

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.

Here are top offerings for secured cards for people with bad credit.

  • Earn 2% cash back on everyday purchases at Amazon, Uber, Uber Eats, Whole Foods, Netflix, Spotify, and more! And 1% cashback on everything else.
  • No credit check or U.S. credit history required. No SSN required for non-US citizens.
  • Build U.S. credit history from day 1 at major credit bureaus (get $25 when you build your credit score to a 700+ credit score within 12 months of use).
  • Get unsecured in as little as 4 months!
  • No annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no minimum security deposit.
  • Premium benefits like Cell Phone Protection (including cracked screens) and Car Rental Insurance coverage.
  • Click here for terms and conditions.
  • Click here for official site and application.
   
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
10 minutes 10.24% (Variable) Yes 7.0/10
  • If approved, fund your Security Deposit to open your account.  Once open, you will have the opportunity to build your credit limit up to $5,000.
  • Opportunity to build your credit card limit over time by adding funds to your Security Deposit.
  • Reports to consumer reporting agencies help you monitor your financial progress to begin your credit building journey (build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month)
  • You don't need perfect credit for a First PREMIER® Bank Secured Credit Card
  • Make your payments on time each month, and keep your balance low relative to the credit limit, for positive marks on your credit report.
  • If approved, make your first six monthly minimum payments on time and we may send you an offer to apply for an unsecured credit card. Some restrictions apply.‡
  • ‡If you apply for the second account, which is unsecured, you will be approved if you can demonstrate the ability to pay your bills, meet our minimum income requirements, do not reside in New York or Wisconsin and are not covered under the Military Lending Act.
  • FICO scores are used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any First PREMIER® Bank product.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
4 minutes See Issuer Website Yes 9.0/10
  • Better than prepaid...Go with a secured card! Load one time - keep on using
  • Absolutely no credit check or minimum credit score required
  • Automatic reporting to all three national credit bureaus
  • 9.99% low fixed APR - Your rate won’t go up even if you are late
  • Activate today with a $200 minimum deposit - maximum $1,000.
  • Increase your credit limit up to $5,000 by adding additional deposits anytime
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★

4.4

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
10 minutes 9.99% Fixed Yes 7.5/10

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. Building — and sometimes rebuilding — credit is truly a journey with unexpected twists and turns. As consumers, we must remain diligent on our journey and we have a few missteps along the way, it’s usually not too late to turn things around.

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.

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