9 Best Credit Card Companies for Bad Credit

9 Best Credit Card Companies for Bad Credit
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Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: May 7, 2018
BadCredit.org's popular "How-To" series is for those who seek to improve, rebuild or better understand their subprime credit rating.

When a low budget means cutting costs, many of us go from brand name products to generics. But while some generic products are actually interchangeable with (or, in rare cases, better than) the branded stuff, others, well, leave something to be desired.

When you’re looking for a credit card to rebuild bad credit, your credit score likely won’t get you a card from the major issuing banks that are household names. No, you’re often looking at the equivalent of the lesser-known discount brands.

Indeed, many bad-credit card issuers are small banks, most with innocuous names the likes of which you’ve probably never heard. And, as with most off-brand products, what you  get from these companies will vary quite a bit.

Unsecured | Secured | Prepaid

Best Unsecured Credit Card Companies for Bad Credit

Although you should look into any company with which you intend to enter into a financial contract (and yes, credit cards come with financial contracts), unsecured credit should get an extra-good going-over.

Unsecured credit cards, in particular, tend to have the high interest rates and fees that mean a little scrutiny can save you a lot of money. Our top-rated picks for unsecured credit cards come from several small-bank issuers that have flexible credit requirements.

  • 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
  • All credit types welcome to apply
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 processing 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

+See More Unsecured Cards for Bad Credit

Since unsecured credit cards don’t require a deposit, they present the highest risk to the issuing bank. Combining a high-risk product with high-risk consumers means a lot of default, which is why many mainstream issuers won’t offer unsecured credit to people with bad credit.

Subprime issuers operate on a profit model with a much higher risk tolerance, which means they can offer unsecured credit to consumers with bad credit. That’s because subprime issuers usually charge more fees and higher interest rates to offset the losses from the greater rate of default.

In fact, the typical subprime unsecured credit card will charge a one-time program or processing fee as well as an annual or monthly maintenance fee, with APRs above 20% — and as high as 35.99%.

The credit limits available on subprime unsecured credit cards are also kept quite low to minimize losses, which is another reason to keep your credit card balance low. A high utilization ratio (how much credit you’re using over how much you have available) can negatively impact your credit score.

Best Secured Credit Card Companies for Bad Credit

Secured credit cards are credit lines that require a deposit to open, and that deposit acts as security against cardholder default. Because secured credit cards have what amounts to collateral associated with them, they represent a much lower risk for the issuer.

While secured cards typically have more flexible credit requirements than unsecured cards, many mainstream issuers will still require a credit check for secured cards and may turn down applicants with poor credit. All of our expert-rated secured credit card issuers have low or no credit requirements for approval.

  • 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
  • Credit line secured by your fully-refundable deposit of $200-$2,000 submitted with application
  • Good for car rental, hotels; Anywhere credit cards are accepted
  • Monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus to establish credit history
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI
  • Just pay off your balance and receive your deposit back at any time
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★

3.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 20.49% (V) Yes 7.5/10
  • Credit line secured by your fully-refundable deposit of $200-$2,000 submitted with application
  • Good for car rental, hotels; Anywhere credit cards are accepted
  • Monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus to establish credit history.
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI
  • Just pay off your balance and receive your deposit back at any time
  • Click for for official site, terms, and details.
★★★

3.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 10.49% (V) Yes 7.5/10

+See More Secured Cards for Bad Credit

The size of the deposit you make when you open your card will generally determine your secured card’s credit limit. For example, a $200 deposit will typically equate to a $200 credit line on a completely secured card. Some semi-secured cards may offer limits higher than the deposit amount for qualified applicants.

Some issuers will allow you to add to your deposit over time to increase your credit limit (check your cardholder agreement to see if this is the case). Secured credit card companies will rarely provide credit limit increases without an additional deposit.

Perhaps the best part of secured credit cards is that your security deposit is completely refundable. So long as you maintain your account in good standing, you’ll receive your full deposit back when you close your credit card account.

In the event that you default on your secured credit card account (are more than 180 days past due) and the account is charged off, however, your deposit will be used to cover any outstanding balance. Additionally, you will be responsible for any remaining balance beyond that covered by your deposit, including accrued interest and/or late payment fees.

Best Prepaid Card Companies for Bad Credit

The simplest way to keep poor credit from stopping you from obtaining a plastic payment method is to use a prepaid card. Prepaid cards with a credit card network logo — e.g., Visa or Mastercard — can be used just like credit cards to make purchases wherever the network is accepted.

But, unlike a credit card, prepaid cards are “loaded” before use and aren’t tied to a line of credit, so they won’t require a credit check to obtain. Our top picks for prepaid cards even accept direct deposits.

  • Trust Brink's with your money. Securing cash and valuables since 1859.
  • Get paid up to 2 days faster with Direct Deposit.
  • Access your money whenever, wherever you are. Use your mobile phone and online Account Center to check your balance, send money, find reload/ATM locations and much more.
  • Let alerts help you stay connected to your money. Know when your card is used, direct deposit arrives, transaction details and your available balance.
  • Shop securely Online with a Virtual Account so you don't have to use your card number.
  • Add extra protection for shopping in stores by putting your photo on your card.
  • Earn Cash Back via the PayBack Rewards program from restaurants, shops and more.
  • $10 Purchase Cushion When You're A Little Short.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★

4.0

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
10 Minutes N/A (Prepaid) No 8.0/10
  • 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*
  • Easy Online Bill Pay - 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.*
  • * Certain restrictions apply. See card site for details. Click on "Apply Now" to learn more about Midnight Prepaid Visa RushCard.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★

3.6

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
10 Minutes N/A (Prepaid) No 8.0/10

+See More Prepaid Cards for Bad Credit

Another upside to the fact that prepaid cards aren’t tied to credit lines is that you won’t be charged interest on your purchases. Once the card is loaded, that money is used to fund purchases made with the card — not money borrowed from the issuing bank — so there are no interest fees.

The downside to prepaid card companies is that, because the cards aren’t tied to credit lines, they won’t report your payment behaviors to the credit bureaus. This means prepaid cards can’t be used to establish credit or improve credit scores (but they can’t hurt your credit scores, either).

Build Credit with the Right Credit Card Company

When you’re on a tight budget — or have a low credit score — you don’t always have the luxury of choice. The mainstream brand names are rarely an option, so you’re left with unknown companies.

Sometimes, the unknown brand is unknown for a reason — one you only discover when you’re spitting out the mouthful of cardboard-flavored cereal. Other times, however, that generic brand presents a pretty decent product — especially for the price.

Subprime credit card companies aren’t usually household names, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re indistinguishable from each other.

While all subprime credit cards are going to have high rates, copious fees, and/or limitations, some companies are definitely better than others. Make sure to do your research before you obtain a new credit card to ensure the company you choose is the right fit for your needs.