Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Having a good credit score is imperative if you want the freedom to travel, pass a rental application, buy a house, and even purchase a car. But sometimes life hands us circumstances we weren’t prepared for, and when this happens your finances – and your credit – can hit rock bottom.

If this sounds familiar, first of all – You’re not alone.

Second – There are ways you can keep moving forward despite financial hardships, and even repair bad credit.

If you focus on what you can control and make smart decisions, you can even use a credit card to reverse a bad credit score.

What is a “Bad” Credit Score?

best credit card for bad creditJust what is considered a “bad” credit score? Put simply, a FICO score from 300-639.

Scores this low would damage your chances of having a competitive rental or loan application. If you are able to obtain credit at all, a score in this range would also jack up your interest rates on any loans or credit cards.

Fortunately, it may still be possible to obtain a certain kind of credit card even if you have bad credit. And, if you begin to use a credit card responsibly, you can improve your score over time.

Despite what it feels like, credit scores are not set in stone and actually change all the time.

Here’s a list of such credit cards that may be available to you, even with bad credit.

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit in October 2019

Petal Cash Back Visa® Card

petal cash back visa card
Talk about incentives! If you’re looking to get back your spending power fast and earn money while you do it, this is the card for you.

This unsecured credit card starts out with a generous 1% cashback on purchases, and after 6 months of on-time payments you’ll be rewarded with 1.25% cashback –and 1.5% after 12 months.

Why It Stands Out

Petal is here to grow with you, with credit limits ranging from $500 for a credit builder up to $10,000 with 1.5% cash back once you get your act together. There are literally no fees and lower APRs than the average credit builder card.

That’s because Petal’s lending bank relies on an algorithm that looks at other indicators of creditworthiness like income, savings, and spending.

Other Benefits

Some VISA protections like theft coverage, rental car insurance, and roadside assistance. Your regular payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus so you can watch your score improve every month.

This card also comes with a helpful budgeting app for managing your payments.

  • Fees: None (seriously…not even foreign transaction fees)
  • Minimum Credit Score Needed: Bad Credit

Merrick Bank Double Your Line™ Visa® Credit Card

merrick bank double your line visa credit card
This card was designed for people with limited choices who are motivated to make some changes – and fast. With a $75 set up fee, a high annual fee in the first year, and $8 per month after that, this card is a motivating force if nothing else.

We recommend this card if you find yourself without many good options and need something – anything – to get you started on the path to credit repair. Use it strategically, and it can be the shovel to help dig you out of a hole. But it’s an expensive one.

Keep your focus on the day you’ll no longer need it. Use the Merrick Bank Double Your Line Visa to build your credit score and double your credit limit. Once your score is more competitive you can apply for less expensive cards for long-term use.

Why It Stands Out

Your credit line will double after you make on-time minimum payments for the first 7 months.

Other Benefits

Your regular payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus so you can watch your score improve every month.

  • Fees: $75 set up fee, up to $96 for the first year, then up to $8 per month
  • Minimum Credit Score Needed: Bad Credit

Milestone® Unsecured Mastercard®

milestone unsecured mastercard
This unsecured credit card treats you like the adult that you are by requiring no security deposit and ensuring a fast and efficient application process. You can be qualified instantly.

While it’s not the fanciest or most exciting card, it’s reasonable and fair. Plus you can still be approved with previous bankruptcy on your record.

Other Benefits

Zero liability for unauthorized charges, plus free customized card designs.

  • Fees: $35-99 annual fee, 1% foreign transaction fee
  • Minimum Credit Score Needed: Bad Credit

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

capital one secured mastercard
This secured credit card starts with an initial security deposit of $49. You can also opt for $99 or $200.You can increase this by increasing your security deposit or by making your first 5 payments on time.

Why It Stands Out

Super accessible – Start building credit even with a limit as low as $49.

Other Benefits

Pick your own due date to make payments when it’s best for your cash flow.

  • Fees: $0 annual fee
  • Minimum Credit Score Needed: Bad Credit

Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard®

indigo unsecured mastercard
Here’s an unsecured card for people with low credit, and it’s also an option for people with a history of bankruptcy.

If you’re not careful the fees and higher-than-average APR can quickly outgrow your credit limit, which maxes out at $300. Use it wisely and avoid carrying a balance.

Why It Stands Out

Super accessible – Start building credit even with a limit as low as $49.

Other Benefits

Free customized card designs let you select a card that fits your personality.  Fraud protection and mobile-optimized ways to access your account. Your regular payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus so you can watch your score improve every month.

  • Fees: $0-99 annual fee
  • Minimum Credit Score Needed: Bad Credit

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

opensky secured visa credit card
This secured card boasts a reasonable, fixed annual fee so you’ll always know what to expect. Unlike the Capital One Secured Mastercard, the OpenSky card has a minimum deposit of $200.

Why It Stands Out

First and foremost – there is no credit check required. Plus, we love this card’s straightforward and fair fee structure + lower than average APR.

Other Benefits

Your regular payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus so you can watch your score improve every month.

Watch Out For

This card does have an inactivity fee if you don’t use your account for 12 months or longer. First, your deposit will be returned to you, but if it is unsuccessful a $10 per month charge will be deducted from your balance.

  • Fees: $35 annual fee, 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Minimum Credit Score Needed: Bad Credit

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®

credit one bank unsecured platinum visa
Here’s another perfect solution for credit card users looking to build their credit score without missing out on cashback rewards. The best part? You can out if you pre-qualify without damaging your credit score further with a credit inquiry hit.

Why It Stands Out

You can earn 1% cashback into your bank account automatically, plus your account is automatically evaluated for credit line increases as your score improves.

Other Benefits

Comprehensive fraud liability to protect you from unauthorized charges. Your regular payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus so you can watch your score improve every month. Plus, enjoy free credit education to help you focus on financial milestones.

  • Fees: $0 annual fee
  • Minimum Credit Score Needed: Bad Credit

Surge Mastercard® Credit Card

surge mastercard
Though it’s somewhat of a gamble, it might be worth applying to the Surge Mastercard if you’re interested in finding out if you could qualify for an unsecured credit card with a $500. If you don’t, chances are you’ll qualify for the secured line with a deposit of $50-500.

That said, there are better starter cards available, but the Surge Mastercard might be a good last resort. Similar to the Merrick Bank Double Your Line Credit Card, we recommend you use this card and move on to greener pastures once you can afford it.

Why It Stands Out

Instant and easy application process.

Other Benefits

Your regular payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus so you can watch your score improve every month. Enjoy the same free online account access that comes standard with mostly all credit cards.

  • Fees: $125 in the first year, $96 after that, $10 monthly maintenance fee in the second year
  • Minimum Credit Score Needed: Bad Credit

How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit

There are a few options for people who want to improve their credit score with a credit card.

Most people with damaged credit turn to secured credit cards when they want to repair their finances. That’s because secured credit cards are linked to what is essentially a refundable security deposit. Because there is less risk for the banks, they are more likely to approve applicants even if they have a terrible credit score.

The amount you deposit into your account becomes your credit limit, letting you borrow up to that amount and establish a history of making regular, on-time payments.

Your credit card company will report your good habits to the credit bureaus every month and in time you’ll be able to qualify for a higher limit on an unsecured card.

Another option is to go for an unsecured credit card right away, and there are a few choices we think can help you get back on your feet.

The main things to do, whether you are applying for a secured or unsecured credit card are:

  • Fees: Look for credit cards with low or $0 annual fees. Credit cards for people with low credit scores usually have high APRs. Don’t make it harder on yourself by tacking on mega fees you might not be able to afford.
  • Rewards: Try to find cards with cashback rewards that can be applied to your balance. This will help you make your payments every month. Even though your credit is low, you may still qualify for these kinds of cards, and hey – You deserve it.
  • Credit Reporting: Make sure the card you sign up for reports your good behavior to the credit bureaus. That’s the only way to document your hard work and make sure it’s raising your score higher and higher.

All of this said, here is your most important reminder –Be honest with yourself and only apply for cards that approve scores in your range. Otherwise, you could rack up credit rejections on your history, which will hurt you more than help.

David Weliver

David Weliver

David Weliver is the Credit Cards Editor at Millennial Money. He is the Founder of Money Under 30 and is widely regarded as one of the top credit card rewards experts in the world. David has been writing about personal finance and credit cards since 2006 and been featured in The New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and many others.
David Weliver

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Millennial Money has partnered with CardRatings and creditcards.com for our coverage of credit card products. Millennial Money, CardRatings and creditcards.com may receive a commission from card issuers. This site does not include all financial companies or financial offers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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