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

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

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Lauren Keys
By: Lauren Keys
Updated: August 22, 2019
Our popular “How-To” series is for those who seek to improve their subprime credit rating. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines.

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.

  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Not an access card
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
5 Minutes See issuer website Yes 9.0/10
  • Checking account required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine Visa card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • If approved, simply pay a program fee to open your account and access your available credit
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.7

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 Minutes See terms Yes 8.5/10
  • Get the security and convenience of a full-feature, unsecured Visa® Credit Card – accepted at millions of merchant and ATM locations nationwide and online
  • Reporting monthly to all three major credit reporting agencies
  • Perfect credit not required for approval; we may approve you when others won’t
  • Easy and secure online application
  • If approved, pay a Program Fee and you can access the $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.7

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
10 Minutes See Terms Yes 8.0/10

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.

  • 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 Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card details
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details
★★★★

4.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 9.99% Yes 9.0/10
  • Receive Your Card More Quickly with New Expedited Processing Option
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Quick and Complete Online Application
  • Full-Feature Platinum Mastercard® Secured Credit Card
  • Good for Car Rental, Hotels; Anywhere Credit Cards Are Accepted!
  • Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 -- $2,000 Submitted with Application
  • Just Pay Off Your Balance and Receive Your Deposit Back at Any Time
  • 24/7 Online Access to Your Account
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI* See Card Terms.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★

3.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 20.74% (V) Yes 7.5/10
  • Receive Your Card More Quickly with New Expedited Processing Option
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Quick and Complete Online Application
  • Full-Feature Platinum Mastercard® Secured Credit Card
  • Good for Car Rental, Hotels; Anywhere Credit Cards Are Accepted!
  • Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 -- $2,000 Submitted with Application
  • Just Pay Off Your Balance and Receive Your Deposit Back at Any Time
  • 24/7 Online Access to Your Account
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI *See Card Terms.
  • Click for for official site, terms, and details.
★★★

3.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 10.74% (V) 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. 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.