Best Credit Cards for Low Credit Scores

Best Credit Cards For Low Credit Score

The Doors told us that people are strange when you’re a stranger. Well, perhaps. But we do know that credit card issuers can be strange when you’re a stranger to good credit. It seems that compassion only goes so far nowadays, but that’s not to say you don’t have options, even if your credit score is oddly low.

Our experts have researched the very best credit cards for those with credit issues. And frankly, that covers a lot of consumers. Typically, a credit score below 580 on the FICO scale is considered poor. What we discovered is that there should be at least one credit card (and probably a bunch) that will suit your needs despite a troubled or non-existent credit history.

So, let’s dive into our picks for the best credit cards for low credit scores, including the overall top choices, great reward cards, retail cards, secured cards, student cards, cards with no annual fee, and more.

Overall | Rewards | Secured | Students | No Annual Fee | Balance Transfers | Retail | FAQs

Best Overall Cards for a Low Credit Score

The following cards have received our editor’s highest rankings, based on factors that include your ability to get approved with a low credit score. You may abe able to prequalify on the issuer’s website before you officially apply to see your approval odds.

  • Don’t let a low FICO score stop you from applying – we approve applications others may not.
  • You don’t need good credit to apply.
  • Just complete the short application and find out in 60 seconds if you’re approved.
  • When you need assistance our award-winning US-based Customer Service agents are there to help.
  • 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 PREMIER Bankcard® product.
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
4 minutes See Provider Website Yes 9.0/10
  • You don’t need good credit to apply.
  • We help people with bad credit, every day.
  • Just complete the short application and find out in 60 seconds if you’re approved.
  • You can build* or rebuild your credit: apply for a PREMIER Bankcard credit card, keep your balance low, and pay all your monthly bills on time.
  • Don’t let a low FICO score stop you from applying – we approve applications others may not.
  • 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 PREMIER Bankcard® product.
  • *Build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month.
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
4 minutes See Provider Website Yes 9.0/10
  • Up to $1,000 credit limit doubles up to $2,000! (Simply make your first 6 monthly minimum payments on time)
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From Experian* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Initial Credit Limit of $300 – $1,000* (subject to available credit)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7
  • Checking Account Required
★★★★★

4.7

Overall Rating

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

Credit cards for poor credit don’t come cheap — you’re likely to be charged an annual fee and possibly other fees such as monthly fees and a one-time set-up fee. We encourage you to read the terms and conditions before applying.

However, these cards can help rebuild your credit score and eventually graduate to a better credit card when you keep your unpaid balance low and maintain on-time payments.

Best Rewards Cards for a Low Credit Score

Rewards cards are hard to come by when you have bad credit, but not impossible to find. The following cards all offer cash back rewards for bad credit borrowers.

  • Initial refundable deposit of $300 becomes your credit limit
  • 1% Cash Back rewards on every purchase
  • 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 Liability Protection (subject to Mastercard guidelines)
  • Checking Account Required
★★★★★

4.6

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 19.99% Variable Yes 8.5/10
  • With the Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card, you earn up to a 3% cash back reward
  • Make contactless payments through Mobile Wallet
  • Periodic Credit Increase Reviews
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Equifax†
  • † Your credit score will be available in your online account 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required) The free VantageScore 3.0 credit score provided by Equifax is for educational purposes only and may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.

★★★★★

4.7

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
7 minutes 29.99% OR 36% (V) Yes 8.0/10
 
  • With the Aspire® Mastercard® Credit Card, you earn a 3% cash back reward on Gas, Groceries and Utility Payments
  • Earn a 1% cash back reward on all other purchases
  • Up to $1,000 credit limit subject to credit approval
  • Pre-qualify without affecting your credit score
  • No deposits or program fee
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Equifax†
  • † Your credit score will be available in your online account 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required) The free VantageScore 3.0 credit score provided by Equifax is for educational purposes only and may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.

★★★★★

4.7

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
7 minutes 29.99% OR 36% (V) Yes 8.0/10

Remember that if you carry a balance, the interest fees will eat away at the rewards you earn, so be sure to charge wisely when choosing a rewards card for bad credit.

Best Secured Cards for a Low Credit Score

Secured cards are your best bet if your credit score is really low. Secured credit cards require a security deposit to get approved for the account, but when used responsibly, they can be a great tool for improving a credit score.

  • Initial refundable deposit of $300 becomes your credit limit
  • 1% Cash Back rewards on every purchase
  • 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 Liability Protection (subject to Mastercard guidelines)
  • Checking Account Required
★★★★★

4.6

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 19.99% Variable Yes 8.5/10
  • No credit check to apply and find out instantly if you are approved
  • OpenSky gives everyone an opportunity to improve their credit with an 85% average approval rate for the past 5 years
  • Get considered for a credit line increase after 6 months, with no additional deposit required
  • You could be eligible for the OpenSky Gold Unsecured Card after as few as 6 months
  • Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus monthly, unlike a prepaid or debit card
  • View your FICO® Score through your OpenSky account, an easy way to stay on top of your credit
  • Nearly half of OpenSky cardholders who make on-time payments improve their FICO score 30+ points in the first 3 months
  • Your refundable* deposit, as low as $200, becomes your OpenSky Visa credit limit
  • Easy application, apply in less than 5 minutes right from your mobile device
  • Offer flexible payment due dates which allow you to choose any available due date that fits your payment schedule
  • *View the cardholder agreement
★★★★★

4.6

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 20.39% (variable) Yes 7.0/10
  • 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; No credit inquiry required!
  • Includes Free Real-Time Access to Your Credit Score and Ongoing Credit Monitoring powered by Experian
  • Full-Feature Platinum Mastercard® Secured Credit Card; Try our new Mobile App for Android users!
  • 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; available in all 50 US states *See Card Terms.
  • Get a fresh start! A discharged bankruptcy still in your credit bureau file will not cause you to be declined.
  • ¡Hablamos Español! Nuestros representantes de servicio al cliente hablan Español con fluidez para su conveniencia.
  • Make 6-months of on-time payments & you’ll be invited to apply for an unsecured First Digital Mastercard!
★★★★★

4.5

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 17.74% (V) Yes 7.5/10

Some secured cards don’t even require a credit check for approval, which is about as close to a guaranteed approval credit card as you can get. As long as you can provide the security deposit and meet the general eligibility criteria, i.e., at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you should have no trouble getting a card no matter how low your score.

Best Student Cards for a Low Credit Score

The Discover it Student Cash Back Credit Card is our expert’s pick for students with limited credit history or a low credit score.

10. Discover it® Student Cash Back

This no-annual-fee card provides 5% cash back at quarterly rotating merchant types (1% on all others) and automatic first-year Cashback Match.

Discover it® Student Cash Back
  • Earn 5% cash back rewards for purchases up to $1,500 in qualifying category purchases each activated quarter
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Pay no annual fee

The card offers several security and convenience features, such as free monthly FICO credit scores. The Freeze it feature lets you prevent activity on the card should you misplace it. You also get $0 fraud liability coverage for unauthorized purchases and around-the-clock monitoring of suspicious activity.

11. Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

The Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One pays 1% cash back on all purchases. But it offers an unusual twist — you get 1.25% cash back every month you pay on time. The card has no annual fee and you can increase your credit line by making your first six monthly payments on time.

Capital One Journey
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Build your credit with responsible use
  • $0 Fraud liability if the card is lost or stolen

The card gives you free access to credit management tools and information from CreditWise. If you plan to travel, the card provides travel accident insurance, an auto rental collision damage waiver, 24-hour travel assistance services, and no foreign transaction fees. You also get many security, account management, and digital service benefits with this card.

12. Deserve Edu Mastercard

The Deserve Edu Mastercard is our favorite card for international students with poor credit, as it waives their Social Security number requirement. You don’t need a credit history, deposit or cosigner to qualify for this card.

Deserve® Edu Mastercard

  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Credit limits up to $5,000
  • No annual fee

You’ll be reimbursed up to a $59 lifetime total if you use the card to purchase Amazon Prime Student, your gateway to free two-day shipping. The card has no annual fee and no penalty fees if you exceed the credit limit. You cannot perform balance transfers or cash advances with this card.

Best Cards for a Low Credit Score with No Annual Fee

The Discover it® Secured is our top recommendation for a credit card for building credit with no annual fee:

13. Discover it® Secured

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is aimed at consumers who need to establish or rebuild their credit and who don’t want to pay an annual fee. The card is secured by your refundable deposit up to your approved credit limit. Your credit line will equal your deposit amount of at least $200, the minimum amount.

Discover it® Secured

  • Earn 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • Minimum deposit requirement of $200
  • Pay no annual fee

Late payments won’t increase the APR and the card waives the late fee altogether on your first late payment. Discover will periodically review your payment history to see if you can qualify for an unsecured card. The issuer reports your account activity to the three major credit bureaus. The card offers a reduced APR for six months on balance transfers.

14. Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

The Capital One Platinum Secured Mastercard requires a refundable security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, but you’ll pay no annual fee. You can get a higher credit limit if you deposit more money before the account opens.

  • Boost your credit limit by making your first five monthly payments on time
  • Minimum deposit requirement varies by creditworthiness
  • Pay no annual fee

Card benefits include the ability to set up automatic payments, add an authorized user, transfer balances from other cards, and track monthly recurring transactions. The Capital One Mobile App lets you manage your account anytime and any place, monitor your credit, and receive activity alerts.

Best Balance Transfer Cards for a Low Credit Score

A low credit score need not stop you from transferring high credit card balances, like the Discover it Student Chrome proves. You’ll pay a 3% fee on each balance transfer, and there is a reduced transfer APR for six months from the first transfer. There is no annual fee.

15. Discover it® Student chrome

The card will please fee-haters, with no fees for exceeding your credit limit, executing a foreign transaction, or making your first late payment. What’s more, a late payment won’t increase your APR.

Discover it® Student chrome
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter)
  • Good Grades Rewards
  • No annual fee

Discover will match all of the cash back you earn at the end of the first year with no limits to how much is matched. New cardholders will also receive a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first six months from opening the account.

16. Discover it® Secured

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card bats a triple: A secured card with no annual fee that permits balance transfers. Actually, make it a home run, thanks to its low introductory rate for balance transfers. Add the fact that it never charges a penalty APR, and you have a grand slam.

Discover it® Secured
  • Earn 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • Minimum deposit requirement of $200
  • Pay no annual fee

Discover automatically reviews your account every month after eight months to see if you qualify for an unsecured credit card. The minimum deposit is $200, and it’s refundable. Your card activity is reported to all three of the national credit bureaus. This can help raise your credit score if you maintain a low balance and always pay on time.

Best Retail Cards for a Low Credit Score

The Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account lets shoppers charge purchases from the online merchant. When you apply for this account, you also automatically apply for the Fingerhut Fresh Start Installment Loan, and Fingerhut will then inform you which one was approved, if either. The Advantage Credit Account reports your transactions to the three credit bureaus, allowing you to build a new credit history.

  • 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.
★★★★

4.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
5 Minutes See issuer website Yes 9.0/10

The grace period before payment is due is at least 24 days after the close of the billing cycle. There is no annual account fee and your maximum liability is $50 if your account number is stolen or used without authorization.

Fingerhut periodically offers promotions that allow you to defer your account payments, although interest will continue to accrue on your balance.

18. Amazon Secured Card

The Amazon Secured Card, issued by Synchrony Bank, can be used for online purchases at Amazon.com. You apply using a dual application form that also covers the Amazon.com Store Card for customers with better credit. The Secured Card requires a security deposit of at least $100. Your security deposit is your credit limit.

Amazon Secured Card
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Earn 2% cash back at Amazon.com for Prime members
  • Low ongoing APR and late fee

You’ll also receive free credit score monitoring and be automatically considered for an upgrade to the Store Card in 12 months. The card issuer reports your transactions to the major credit bureaus, which can help you build credit.

19. Target RedCard

The Target RedCard™ can be used at Target stores and Target.com. To qualify, you’ll need a Social Security number and other identification, be at least 18 years old, and reside in the United States. The RedCard has no annual fee, and you have at least 25 days to make a payment following the close of a billing cycle.

  • Save 5% every day on Target purchases in-store and online
  • Receive early access to special products and promotions
  • Receive 30 extra days for returns

The 5% savings can be combined with savings from Target Subscription and Cartwheel offers. You also get access to exclusive promotions, a 10%-off coupon on your account anniversary, and free shipping from Target.com.

What Credit Score is Needed for Most Credit Cards?

It’s important to remember that your credit score is just one of the criteria banks use when evaluating credit card applications. Other key factors include your credit history, your income, and your monthly housing costs.

It’s generally harder to get a credit card if your FICO score is below 580. Scores in the 600-850 range are most likely to be approved. Bear in mind that you have three credit scores — one from each credit bureau — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Some credit card companies restrict their inquiries to just one credit bureau, while others use information from multiple sources.

Consumers with credit scores below 580 still have a few options:

  • Almost everyone can be approved for a secured credit card because these cards are backed by collateral — your cash, deposited into a special account.
  • You can become an authorized user of someone else’s credit card, with the cardholder’s permission, of course. This will help you create a credit history if you have none and should help you rebuild your credit score if the card is used responsibly.
  • You can establish a credit history through a credit-builder loan, in which you deposit the loan proceeds into a special account and then repay the loan in monthly installments. When you’ve repaid the loan, the special account refunds your money. By paying your loan on time, you should establish a solid credit history and earn an average or better credit score.

Another consideration is the target audience for each credit card. The ones we review in this article are aimed at consumers with poor or no credit.

The credit cards available for this audience generally have modest rewards at best, charge higher APRs, and often require a security deposit. At the other end of the spectrum, premium credit cards offer a huge array of benefits, may have high annual fees, and require excellent credit scores.

Which Credit Card is Easiest to Get?

Secured credit cards are available to almost everyone and are, therefore, the easiest to get. Some have credit lines as low as $49 to $200. You must be able to deposit an amount equal to your initial credit line into a special account controlled by the card issuer.

The credit cards of retailers are well-known in the industry for their high acceptance rates. Our highest-rated secured retail credit card is the Amazon Secured Card, which charges no annual fee.

Fingerhut Credit Account

The Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account is a great unsecured option with high-approval odds, but it isn’t a full-blown credit card because it can only be used at Fingerhut. Nonetheless, if you shop at Fingerhut, the Advantage Credit Account does report your activity to the three credit bureaus and can help you establish or rebuild your credit.

Like the Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account, the Amazon Secured Card is meant for purchases at the namesake retailer, Amazon.com. However, the Amazon.com card can be used with other merchants who have enabled the card as a payment option on the Amazon Pay app.

Amazon Secured Card

The Amazon Secured Card is issued by Synchrony Bank. The bank will begin evaluating an upgrade to the Amazon.com Store Card in as little as 12 months. The bank will want to see that you made consecutive card payments on time and that you’ve paid all your other bills on time during that period.

The bank will also verify that your credit history doesn’t include any recent delinquent accounts, repossessions, foreclosures, or bankruptcies. Finally, Synchrony requires your current credit score to meet its internal criteria.

If Synchrony approves the upgrade, it will automatically issue you the Amazon Store Card, refund your security deposit, and update your Amazon Wallet with the new card number. The upgrade will not hurt your credit score with a new credit inquiry, nor will it affect the age of the account.

Note that Amazon.com has versions of these secured and unsecured credit cards for Amazon.com Prime customers. The Prime cards provide 5% cash back on all your Amazon.com purchases.

Can I Earn Miles or Travel Rewards with a Low Credit Score?

It’s virtually impossible to earn miles or travel rewards from a credit card available to folks with bad credit. However, the Deserve Edu Mastercard does offer 3% cash back on travel and entertainment. Additionally, there are several travel credit cards accessible to bad-credit consumers that offer travel benefits rather than rewards.

Standouts from the group reviewed in this article are the Capital One® Secured Mastercard and the Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One®, which provide several travel-friendly benefits:

  • Travel Accident Insurance: When you charge your travel fare on the card, you get automatic insurance at no extra charge that covers losses associated with travel accidents. Coverage is $100,000 for travel on a licensed common carrier by you and your family, anywhere in the world.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: You receive Master Rental® coverage when you rent a vehicle for 15 or fewer consecutive days using your Capital One card. If the car is totaled, your coverage limit is $50,000.
  • 24-Hour Travel Assistance Services: A lost or stolen credit card will be replaced on an emergency basis when traveling anywhere in the world. You also will be able to get an emergency cash advance.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: You won’t be saddled with transaction fees when you make a purchase outside of the United States.

Which Credit Card is Best for Rebuilding Your FICO Score?

Any credit card that reports your transactions to the three major credit bureaus will help rebuild your FICO score. If your credit score is only slightly below average, any of the unsecured credit cards in this article will help you increase your credit score.

However, “rebuilding” connotes a much more fundamental problem and a poor credit score. In this case, it is far easier to get a secured credit card, and often it’s your only alternative.

Unsecured vs. Secured Credit

If you are a student, your problem is most likely not having a credit history at all. Therefore, you need to build your credit score from scratch rather than rebuild a bad score.

Responsible Use Can Improve Your Score and Future Options

No matter which credit card you choose, the key to improving your credit score is to use the card responsibly. The single most important item is to make all your payments on time.

You should also strive to pay back more than the minimum each month. You don’t have to keep zero balances, but you shouldn’t let the balances get too high. Mind your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit you’re currently using divided by the total amount of credit you have available. It’s best to keep the ratio below 30%. In addition, don’t close old accounts just because you don’t use them anymore. The older your average account age, the better.

If you did a balance transfer to resolve high credit balances, don’t use any more credit until you pay off the transfer balance. And don’t confine your use of credit to credit cards. Perhaps you could benefit from a home equity line of credit? The credit bureaus like to see a variety of credit accounts.

We urge you: Don’t be overly discouraged if you have had a foreclosure or bankruptcy in the past. The damage to your credit score was done immediately and slowly remediates over time. Your exemplary use of credit now will help reduce the impact of past problems. With responsible credit habits and a little time, you’ll no longer be a stranger to good credit.

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