Rewards Cards For Bad Credit in 2022

Rewards Cards For Bad Credit

If you are among the 16% of Americans with FICO scores below 580, you’ll want to read about rewards cards for bad credit. Many folks with poor credit are stuck with credit cards that charge high fees yet deliver no rewards. As you’ll soon learn, you can do better.

We’ve identified nine rewards cards specifically designed for consumers with poor credit. And rewards, even modest ones, can help stretch your budget and reduce the costs of shopping, dining out, and traveling. It’s nice to know that you can get a piece of the action, even if your credit score is way less than perfect. 

Best Unsecured Rewards Cards For Bad Credit

You can obtain these four cards without the need for any security deposits. Approval depends on your personal credit, not collateral. Each card addresses the concerns of subprime consumers who want a slice of the credit card rewards pie.

We’ve omitted business credit card options for bad credit in this article, but they do exist and can be helpful when you want to improve your business credit. 

  • 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

The Aspire® Cash Back Reward Card offers tiered rewards on all eligible purchases, as well as transaction alerts and free credit scores. The application process is secure and straightforward, and you get online access 24/7 on any device.

You can use the Aspire card wherever merchants accept Mastercard. The card charges an annual fee, but it waives its account maintenance fee for the first year. 

  • 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

The Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card offers bonus cash back on eligible gas, grocery, and utility payments and standard cash back on all other eligible purchases. You can prequalify for a moderately high credit limit without affecting your credit score.

The card offers $0 fraud liability and an instant credit decision. It doesn’t charge an initial deposit or program fee, and it sets your annual and maintenance costs based on your credit limit. 

3. Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit

This offer is currently not available.

N/A

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
N/A N/A N/A N/A

The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit offers cash back on select purchases. The card does not charge setup or maintenance fees and reduces the annual fee for the first year.

This Credit One card features a grace period and support for cash advances (fee applies). Its APR is relatively moderate for this card type, and it doesn’t impose a penalty APR for late or returned payments.

  • Revvi active cardholders get exclusive access to free Credit Monitoring powered by TransUnion!
  • Earn 1% cash back rewards^^ on payments made to your Revvi Credit Card
  • Fast and easy application; response provided in seconds
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • Build your credit score with on-time payments and keeping your balance below the credit limit
  • Opportunity to request credit limit increase after twelve months, fee applies
  • Checking account required
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • Perfect credit not required
  • Easy-to-use mobile app for management on the go!
  • *See rates, fees, costs & limitations, and rewards for complete offer and Revvi Rewards details^^
★★★★★

4.7

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 34.99%* Yes 8.0/10

The Revvi Card is a Visa credit card from MRV Banks that offers cash back rewards in the form of a statement credit. There are limitations as far as how rewards are redeemed as well as a time frame for when you are eligible to redeem your rewards during which your account must remain in good standing.

The card charges program and annual fees but waives the monthly servicing charge for the first year. You can use the accompanying user-friendly mobile app to check balances and make payments.

Best Secured Rewards Cards For Bad Credit

In many ways, secured cards suit the needs of subprime consumers better than their unsecured cousins by offering better benefits and lower costs. Your security deposit is refundable when you close the account or graduate to an unsecured card.

5. Secured Sable ONE Credit Card

This offer is currently not available.

N/A

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
N/A N/A N/A N/A

The Secured Sable ONE Credit Card differs from the competition by not imposing a minimum deposit amount. It offers an accelerated graduation path to an unsecured credit card. 

This glow-in-the-dark Mastercard provides price protection and purchase assurance. The combination of premium benefits, cash back rewards, and no late payment fees make this a secured card deserving of serious consideration.

  • 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

The Surge Secured Mastercard® offers cash back on all purchases. The card may increase your credit limit after six months of on-time payments.

The card waives setup and monthly maintenance fees, but it does charge an annual fee. You can elect to receive credit protection that will cover your credit card bill under specific conditions.

7. Quicksilver Secured Rewards from Capital One

The Quicksilver Secured Rewards from Capital One offers unlimited cash back on all eligible purchases. You can raise your initial credit line by depositing more money before activating your card. 

  • Earn 1.5% cash back rewards on all eligible purchases
  • Reports to all three major credit bureaus
  • Pay $0 annual fee

The maximum permitted deposit depends on your creditworthiness. Capital One periodically considers upgrading responsible customers to unsecured cards. 

8. Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card lets you choose a merchant category for its top rewards tier. This secured Visa credit card packs solid features that attract consumers who don’t necessarily bank at BoA.

  • Earn up to 3% cash back on eligible purchases
  • Security deposits range from $300 to $4,900
  • Pay $0 annual fee

BoA will consider refunding your deposit if you make timely payments. But if you miss a payment, you’ll be subject to a higher penalty APR.

9. Discover it® Secured Credit Card

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card provides an unlimited Cashback Match, one of the best credit card deals, to new cardmembers for all cash back posted in the first year after opening the account. 

  • Earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • Minimum $200 deposit required, maximum $2,500
  • Pay $0 annual fee

Discover waives the penalty fee the first time you pay late. You can freeze the card at any time, and its 100% US-based customer service is unsurpassed.

What Is Bad Credit?

Bad credit is shorthand for consumers with risky credit habits – that is, those who are most likely to default on their debts. In the FICO system, scores below 580 are considered “very poor,” whereas VantageScores below 650 are “poor.” 

VantageScore and FICO Score Models

When your credit is poor, your access to loans and credit cards is limited. The rewards credit card you can get usually offers few benefits and charges high fees and interest rates. 

Remarkably, the subprime cards reviewed in this article all offer rewards, making them somewhat unusual for this credit category.

The road to a poor FICO score contains five potential potholes:

FICO Factors

Payment History (35% of FICO Score)

The three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) keep track of your debt payments — it is the single most significant factor affecting your credit score. Nearly all credit cards report your payments to at least one credit bureau each month, and sometimes all three. Each bureau uses this information to update your credit report and recalculate your credit score.

If you consistently pay your bills on time, you have an excellent chance of rebuilding credit. But if you miss a few payments, your credit score will tank. Most creditors report payments at least 30 days late, and as time passes, the damage to your credit score worsens. 

After 90 days, a credit card company may write off your account or send it into collection. Late payments and defaults remain on your credit report for seven years, and bankruptcies may linger for up to 10 years.

Time Items Remain on Credit Reports

Card issuers design subprime cards to collect hefty upfront fees, charge high interest rates, and (with some exceptions) offer few benefits. These measures help issuers reduce their losses from late payments and write-offs. 

Amounts Owed (30%)

Creditors get nervous when you owe a lot of money relative to your income and assets. FICO bases 30% of your score on your credit utilization ratio (CUR), which is equal to your outstanding credit card balances divided by the credit amount available to you. 

As your CUR increases, your credit score decreases.

Length of Credit History (15%)

FICO likes you to have a long history of managing credit. Newbies are, by definition, risky bets since the card issuers have no information to judge their creditworthiness. Many consumers obtain their first credit cards while attending college, and indeed, an entire credit card segment specializes in student credit cards.

Your credit history never disappears, even when you close accounts. The sooner you get your first credit card, the earlier you’ll benefit from the age of your accounts.

Credit Mix (10%)

Credit mix is a relatively minor factor that rewards you for having a diversified portfolio of loans and credit accounts. FICO has found that folks who successfully juggle multiple credit account types tend to be more creditworthy. 

But don’t open various accounts in the hope of building credit. It’s much more important to apply only for the loans and credit you need.

New Credit (10%)

FICO penalizes you when you apply for multiple credit accounts within a short period. It keeps track of your hard inquiries (or “hard pulls” of your credit reports) to measure how often you apply for credit. 

A creditor or lender does a hard pull of your credit when you apply for a new unsecured account or a credit line increase. Only you can authorize a hard pull – all other inquiries are soft and have no impact on your credit score.

Hard vs. Soft Inquiries

Each hard inquiry can lower your FICO score by one to eight points for up to one year. Frequent hard pulls (that is, more than one within six months) can cause cumulative damage. The reason behind this policy is the assumption that many requests for new credit may indicate possible financial distress.

What Are the Different Types of Rewards Cards For Bad Credit?

As noted earlier, a significant number of Americans have bad credit. It can happen to anyone throughout a lifetime, and it need not be a permanent condition or even long-lived. 

When you find yourself carting a low credit score, you must adjust to the reality of having fewer good rewards credit card options. 

This is not to say that you must choose among a handful of credit cards. On the contrary – the card industry floods the marketplace with all sorts of credit cards geared to consumers with subprime credit. 

Let’s pick over the fruits of the credit card industry to see which subprime cards are rotten and which are barely bruised.

Unsecured Credit Cards

Unsecured credit cards do not require you to deposit collateral to be approved, and they compose the largest segment of the credit card marketplace. The fate of your card application depends on your creditworthiness, as judged by your credit score, income, and debts. 

Unsecured cards for poor credit typically suffer from several defects, including:

  • Meager credit limits: You will face initial credit limits as low as $200. Over time, your credit line can grow if you pay your bills on time and keep your unpaid balances relatively low.
  • High interest rates: Expect APRs in the 25% to 36% range. These rates are pretty high and can punish your budget if you don’t pay your entire balance on time each month. 
  • Many fees: Cards for bad credit share the same types of fees charged by cards for good credit, but they also add on a few fees unique to their segment. These include one-time setup (or program) fees, monthly maintenance charges, a fee for extra cards, and even fees for credit limit increases. Add to these the usual charges for foreign transactions, cash advances, balance transfers, late payment charges, and the annual cost for using the card, and you have the potential for fee overload. 
  • Few perks: Except for the cards in this review, most unsecured credit cards do not pay rewards on purchases or offer signup bonuses or 0% introductory APRs. Don’t expect much more than fraud protection and free access to credit scores in terms of benefits. 
  • Hidden costs: A few bad-credit cards reveal sour sugar plums in the fine print. For example, we know of two that do not provide a grace period for purchases. This policy means you start accruing interest from the transaction date rather than the payment due date. Another stinker is the fee for credit limit increases. Cards of this type celebrate your higher credit line by confiscating a fee as high as 25% of the increase. 

I can think of many reasons consumers want to avoid low credit scores. But the deficiencies of unsecured credit cards targeting this segment have got to be near the top of the list. 

Secured Credit Cards

Secured cards also target subprime consumers, but usually with roses rather than guns. They offer lower APRs, fewer fees, credit limits based on your security deposit, and better perks. 

One feature most secured cards share is the promise to upgrade you to an unsecured card after a set period of timely payments. You may want to refuse this honor until your credit score rises enough to access better credit cards. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a card sporting higher costs and fewer perks. 

The five secured cards featured in this article offer rewards and benefits you’d find in unsecured cards for fair credit or better. The catch is the requirement for a security deposit to match your credit line. However, I don’t consider that much of a negative because:

  1. The deposit is refundable: As long as you pay your bills on time, you will receive a full refund. Many secured cards start you off with deposits as low as $200. Compare that to an unsecured card with a $200 credit limit, a $99 setup fee, and a $79 annual fee. You’ll never again see the $178 in upfront fees, whereas the secured card likely carries no such fees and will eventually return your $200. Which sounds better to you?
  2. Lower costs: Because secured cards are, by definition, less risky, issuers can afford to charge lower APRs and fees. Virtually no secured cards impose a setup or monthly maintenance fee. You can expect interest rates to top out around 25%, and a few have APRs lower than 20%.
  3. Higher credit limits: Several secured cards mandate a starting credit limit (and security deposit) of $200 to $300. But almost all secured cards let you deposit additional funds to increase your credit line. In this review, the top credit limit allowed by a secured card is $10,000, which is pretty high for a consumer with bad credit. Some secured cards may increase your credit limit without an additional deposit, converting your card to semi-secured. 
  4. Good perks: Some secured cards offer bonus rewards of 3% or higher on select purchases, and the Discover card offers a balance transfer promotion. The Secured Sable ONE Credit Card provides premium benefits, including rental car insurance and cellphone protection.
  5. No credit check: Many secured cards boast about not checking applicants’ credit. After all, cardmembers collateralize their credit lines with cash, rendering credit scores irrelevant. Not only do you avoid declined applications due to your bad credit, but you also sidestep a hard inquiry that can hurt your already low credit score. 

Secured cards make a lot of sense for those times when your credit score is underwater. And importantly, they report your payments to all three credit bureaus, giving you the chance to build credit by responsibly handling your debt. 

Cash Back Cards

You earn cash back, the most popular type of credit card reward, as a percentage of the amount you spend on eligible purchases. You can redeem the rewards in one or more ways, including for a statement credit, a check, or a gift card, among other options, depending on your card’s specific terms.

Typically, cash back rewards range from 1% to 5% and can accrue in one of three ways:

  • Flat rewards: You earn a fixed percentage on all eligible purchases, typically 1% to 1.5%. Flat rewards are unlimited – the more you spend, the more you get. You may favor flat rewards if you prefer a simple reward scheme covering all your purchases without singling out any particular merchant types.
  • Tiered rewards: Two or more cash back rates apply, based on merchant types. For example, a card may pay 3% on gasoline and groceries and 1% on all other purchases. Cards often limit the rewards available at the higher tiers to a specific amount spent per quarter. These cards are handy if you purchase a lot from the favored merchant types.
  • Rotating rewards: A new merchant category receives the top reward rate each quarter. For example, groceries may earn 3% in the first quarter, replaced by restaurants in the second quarter, gas stations in the third quarter, and so forth. You must activate your card each quarter to receive the bonus rate. These rewards are usually capped and may work in conjunction with non-rotating bonus tiers. All purchases that don’t qualify for a bonus reward receive a standard, unlimited cash back rate, typically 1%. 

Cash back, and indeed all types of rewards, usually doesn’t expire unless you close the account. 

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is unique in this group due to its Cashback Match available to new cardmembers. Discover will match all of the cash back you earn in Year One with the card, which may make this the best credit card in the group. You will earn the match after your account anniversary. 

Points Rewards Cards

Points are a flexible alternative to cash back. You can use points to pay for purchases or convert them to cash. Some cards allow you to transfer points to other types of loyalty programs, such as those for airlines and hotels. 

Cards express point rates as 1x, 2x, etc., usually up to 5x. For example, a 1x rewards rate pays you one point for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases, whereas 2x provides two points per dollar. Credit card points usually have a cash value of a penny each.

Most points cards use flat or tiered reward schemes. Some credit cards offer rewards in the form of miles, but few, if any, cards for subprime credit issue rewards in points or miles.

Student Credit Cards

Student credit cards are the best credit card deals in the industry. Undergraduates who attend post-secondary school on at least a half-time basis can get one even if they have no credit history.

Student Credit Cards
Student credit cards offer rewards and other perks for young adults with no or limited credit history.

These cards offer generous rewards and other benefits usually reserved for consumers with good credit scores. 

What Should I Look For in a Credit Card For Bad Credit?

The most important factor influencing your choice of the best credit card for bad credit is whether the credit card issuer will approve your application. Virtually all cards allow you to prequalify, but this doesn’t guarantee final approval. 

Secured cards are easy to get since they don’t rely on your credit profile. Issuers of unsecured cards may set a minimum acceptable credit score, albeit a low one.

The other factors that may influence your choice of a subprime card include:

  • Rewards: The cards in this review are unusual in that most cards for lousy credit don’t offer rewards. As you build credit, you’ll become eligible for better rewards credit cards. Nonetheless, the ability to collect rewards despite a poor credit history is remarkable. 
  • Low fees: Look for cards that waive annual, setup, and maintenance fees. Some cards don’t charge a fee on the first late payment. 
  • Low APRs: Cards for bad credit usually charge an APR of 25% or more. Think of anything below 20% as a bargain. If you are interested in rebuilding credit, consider paying your entire balance each month, as this will minimize your credit utilization ratio and let you avoid interest charges. Be careful to avoid cards that offer very low interest rates but don’t provide a grace period, as these can end up being very expensive.
  • Higher credit limits: You can control your credit limit by getting a secured card. The secured cards in this review offer credit limits of up to $10,000 (Sable ONE).
  • Good perks: Look for cards that offer extra benefits, like purchase protection or rental car insurance.

Secured cards may advertise how quickly they will promote you to an unsecured card by refunding your security deposit. However, you will want to clarify in advance whether this will change other terms and conditions, such as being charged additional fees or a higher APR. 

What Do I Need to Apply For a Credit Card For Bad Credit?

It takes a few minutes to prequalify for a credit card, and you can quickly complete the application process if you pass this initial hurdle. The information you must provide to get an unsecured card includes your income, debt, and employment. 

Completing a credit card application will require personal information that includes your contact and income details.

Certain items may cause a credit card issuer to reject your application. You must be at least 18 to apply unless you are an authorized user of your parent’s card. You may have to be a US citizen with a Social Security number and a checking account. 

Issuers often limit how many of their cards you can own. You will need to pay any setup fees before receiving final approval.

Applying for a secured card is more straightforward, as the application may require less information. You must submit your security deposit before the credit card company sends you the card.

You’ll have to sign (or electronically check the box agreeing to the terms) a cardmember agreement to close the deal if you receive approval. Be sure you read it thoroughly to avoid surprises. Your card should arrive within 10 days, although some issuers expedite shipments for free or for a nominal fee.

Can I Earn Rewards With Bad Credit?

The nine reviewed cards for bad credit let you earn rewards on your purchases. Each one has its own reward requirements and payouts, and it’s up to you to select the cards that offer the most attractive rewards. 

Can I Rebuild My Credit With a Subprime Rewards Card?

Credit cards for subprime consumers offer several ways to build your credit, including:

  • Establish your credit history: If you are a young person or just someone who never dealt with credit or debt, secured credit cards offer a straightforward way to initiate your credit file. You don’t need a credit score to obtain a secured credit card. The same is true for student credit cards. It takes up to six months for the credit bureaus to assign you credit scores after you get your first credit card.

    You can also establish your credit by becoming an authorized user of someone else’s credit card. The credit bureaus jointly apply a card’s activity to the owner and authorized users. Your credit reports will reflect the card’s activity, even if you never actually use it.
  • Benefit from creditworthy behavior: Rewards credit cards for poor credit almost always report card activity to all three credit bureaus. You should see your credit score slowly begin to recover by paying your bills on time and keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30%. It may take six to 12 months to see meaningful progress, but it will come over time. Of course, any missteps will cost you dearly, so your fate is truly in your own hands.
  • Increase your credit mix: Perhaps you have a credit file despite never owning a credit card. For instance, the file may have come about because you took out a loan on a car or house. By adding your first credit card, you increase your credit mix and may get a slight boost to your FICO score.
  • Benefit from old accounts: Your credit score benefits when you have old accounts. In the FICO scoring system, 15% of your score is based on the length of your credit history. So the sooner you get your first card, the sooner you can reap this benefit. 
  • Consolidate your credit card debt: You can consolidate your outstanding balances from several credit cards. You can then concentrate on paying down the remaining balance without the distraction of multiple minimum payments coming due each month. Your credit score will benefit as your CUR drops below 30%. You’ll also be lowering your debt-to-income ratio, which should make it easier for you to obtain loans.

When used responsibly, credit cards are excellent tools you can use to build credit, no matter how low your score is. 

Choose the Right Rewards Cards For Bad Credit

The universe of rewards cards for bad credit isn’t that large, and we’ve helped you by identifying nine of the best examples. You can afford to take the time to research this small group and find the card that best fits your needs. 

Click on the APPLY HERE links in the summary boxes to research, prequalify, and apply for a rewards card. Be sure to read the Schumer Box and the fine print that accompanies each card offer. By exhibiting responsible credit behavior, you’ll reach a point where you can access better credit cards with more generous rewards. 

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