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Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit of September 2021

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated August 30, 2021 . Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

If you have bad credit, which is a credit score that’s less than 580, there are credit cards designed specifically to help rebuild your credit.

However, most of the best cards for bad credit are secured cards, which require you to put down a security deposit as collateral for your card’s credit line. That deposit is refundable when you pay the card off in full and close it, so once your credit score has improved, you can get your money back.

Based on our research of cards available through LendingTree, as well as top cards offered by major issuers, we selected some of the best secured cards and one unsecured card for bad credit, and categorized them according to different requirements.

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit of September 2021
Best overall credit card for bad credit Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Best for bad credit with no deposit AvantCard Credit Card
Best for bad credit with a low deposit Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Best for bad credit with no credit check OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Best for bad credit with low interest DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

Best For Overall credit card for bad credit

Discover it<sup>®</sup> Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Apply Now
on Discover's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 22.99% Variable APR

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is designed for applicants with limited/bad/poor credit. It requires at least a $200 minimum deposit (and up to $2,500) and charges a $0 annual fee.

What makes this card stand above the rest is that cardholders can earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Plus, for new cardmembers, Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card also a great card in that you can transition from a secured card to an unsecured card after demonstrating good behavior.

Discover starts monthly reviews of your account after eight months of having the card to see whether you’re eligible to make the switch. If you’re eligible, you’ll get your deposit refunded and graduate to a Discover it® chrome. Note that you’re not guaranteed an upgrade, and Discover considers your history across all your credit products.

Finally, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card has no late fee for the first late payment and no penalty APR. However, you should always pay on time as late payments are reported to the credit bureaus and negatively impact your credit score.

  • No overlimit fees
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Free FICO Score
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion)

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is designed for applicants with limited/bad/poor credit. It requires at least a $200 minimum deposit (and up to $2,500) and charges a $0 annual fee.

What makes this card stand above the rest is that cardholders can earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Plus, for new cardmembers, Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card also a great card in that you can transition from a secured card to an unsecured card after demonstrating good behavior.

Discover starts monthly reviews of your account after eight months of having the card to see whether you’re eligible to make the switch. If you’re eligible, you’ll get your deposit refunded and graduate to a Discover it® chrome. Note that you’re not guaranteed an upgrade, and Discover considers your history across all your credit products.

Finally, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card has no late fee for the first late payment and no penalty APR. However, you should always pay on time as late payments are reported to the credit bureaus and negatively impact your credit score.

  • No overlimit fees
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Free FICO Score
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion)

Best For Bad credit with no deposit

AvantCard Credit Card

AvantCard Credit Card

Apply Now
on Avant's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $59
Regular Purchase APR 24.99%* Variable APR

Many unsecured credit cards for bad credit are subprime cards, laden with numerous fees that can take cardholders by surprise. But the AvantCard Credit Card is a straightforward card aimed at applicants with fair/limited/bad/poor credit.

It charges an annual fee of $59 and doesn’t require a deposit. Plus, you can check to see if you’re eligible to apply without impacting your credit score. Your credit limit will range from $300 to $1,000, depending on your application review.

While the AvantCard Credit Card charges a low annual fee, in return, you don’t have to submit a deposit. The only big drawback is that the card is not available to residents of Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin.

  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Regular purchase APR: 24.99%* Variable APR
  • Reports card account activity to the credit bureaus

Many unsecured credit cards for bad credit are subprime cards, laden with numerous fees that can take cardholders by surprise. But the AvantCard Credit Card is a straightforward card aimed at applicants with fair/limited/bad/poor credit.

It charges an annual fee of $59 and doesn’t require a deposit. Plus, you can check to see if you’re eligible to apply without impacting your credit score. Your credit limit will range from $300 to $1,000, depending on your application review.

While the AvantCard Credit Card charges a low annual fee, in return, you don’t have to submit a deposit. The only big drawback is that the card is not available to residents of Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin.

  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Regular purchase APR: 24.99%* Variable APR
  • Reports card account activity to the credit bureaus

Best For Bad credit with a low deposit

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Apply Now
on Capital One's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 26.99% (Variable)

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card has no major pitfalls other than a high APR of 26.99% (variable), but that is in line with other cards for limited/bad credit. You can avoid paying interest charges if you stick to a budget and make sure to pay off the card in full every month. Plus, you’ll get considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months.

If you’d like the opportunity to submit a lower deposit, you can take your chances with the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card. Once you apply, Capital One will set your minimum deposit at either $49, $99 or $200, although you won’t know which deposit you’ll qualify for until after you are approved for the card. Regardless of the deposit you’ll be required to make, you’ll be issued starting credit limit of $200.

  • Virtual card numbers from Eno
  • Card lock if card is lost, stolen or misplaced
  • Monitor your credit score through CreditWise

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card has no major pitfalls other than a high APR of 26.99% (variable), but that is in line with other cards for limited/bad credit. You can avoid paying interest charges if you stick to a budget and make sure to pay off the card in full every month. Plus, you’ll get considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months.

If you’d like the opportunity to submit a lower deposit, you can take your chances with the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card. Once you apply, Capital One will set your minimum deposit at either $49, $99 or $200, although you won’t know which deposit you’ll qualify for until after you are approved for the card. Regardless of the deposit you’ll be required to make, you’ll be issued starting credit limit of $200.

  • Virtual card numbers from Eno
  • Card lock if card is lost, stolen or misplaced
  • Monitor your credit score through CreditWise

Best For Bad credit with no credit check

OpenSky<sup>®</sup> Secured Visa<sup>®</sup> Credit Card

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Apply Now
on OpenSky's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $35
Regular Purchase APR 17.39% (variable)

If you’re worried about your credit score taking a hit when applying for a new credit card when you already have bad credit, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card could give you a way around that. The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card comes with a $35 annual fee. While reasonable, know that there are cards available to help with rebuilding credit that charge no annual fee. However, if you want a card with no credit check, the annual fee may be worth it.

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is aimed at applicants with limited/bad/poor credit and doesn’t require a credit check, though you will have to provide financial information, such as income and monthly housing payment.

  • Reports to all three credit bureaus every month
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3% of each Transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Regular purchase APR: 17.39% (variable)

If you’re worried about your credit score taking a hit when applying for a new credit card when you already have bad credit, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card could give you a way around that. The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card comes with a $35 annual fee. While reasonable, know that there are cards available to help with rebuilding credit that charge no annual fee. However, if you want a card with no credit check, the annual fee may be worth it.

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is aimed at applicants with limited/bad/poor credit and doesn’t require a credit check, though you will have to provide financial information, such as income and monthly housing payment.

  • Reports to all three credit bureaus every month
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3% of each Transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Regular purchase APR: 17.39% (variable)

Best For Bad credit with low interest

DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

Highlights
  • APR as low as 11.50%
  • No annual fee
  • No balance transfer fee
  • No cash advance fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Many secured credit cards have high interest rates, but not the DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card. Its regular purchase APR is 11.50% variable*, which is one of the lowest we’ve found for a secured card. However, the minimum security deposit of $500 for this card is rather high. Many secured cards have a $200 minimum deposit. The DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card comes with an annual fee of $0.

Though we recommend paying your card off in full every month to avoid interest charges, sometimes that might not be possible. For times when you have to carry a balance, a card with a low interest rate can help you save money. You’ll have to join Digital Federal Credit Union to get this card, and you must have a savings account with DCU, too (which requires at least $5 to open).

  • Reports to all three credit bureaus
  • Works with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay
  • Foreign transaction fee: $0

Many secured credit cards have high interest rates, but not the DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card. Its regular purchase APR is 11.50% variable*, which is one of the lowest we’ve found for a secured card. However, the minimum security deposit of $500 for this card is rather high. Many secured cards have a $200 minimum deposit. The DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card comes with an annual fee of $0.

Though we recommend paying your card off in full every month to avoid interest charges, sometimes that might not be possible. For times when you have to carry a balance, a card with a low interest rate can help you save money. You’ll have to join Digital Federal Credit Union to get this card, and you must have a savings account with DCU, too (which requires at least $5 to open).

  • Reports to all three credit bureaus
  • Works with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay
  • Foreign transaction fee: $0
The information related to the DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card has been collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

FAQs for people with bad credit

The most commonly used scoring method for credit scores is the FICO Score, which ranges from 300 to 850. A score that’s less than 580 is considered poor.

When you have a bad credit score, using a credit card responsibly is one way to help rebuild your credit. And since your credit is not in the best shape, getting a credit card to rebuild your credit is one of the few affordable options you have since lenders will likely not consider you for a loan until your credit score rebounds. Lenders want to see that if they extend you credit, you’ll pay back what you borrow, and payment history is the most important factor affecting your credit score. To build a solid payment history, put a small recurring charge on your credit card (a Netflix or Spotify subscription, for example) and pay it off in full as soon as it posts to your account each month.

A good credit card for bad credit is one that will help you build credit without charging you expensive fees. That’s why it’s important to research a card thoroughly before you apply so you understand how the card works. Most card issuers have a rates and fees link that lists all the fees associated with the card. Some fees you’ll want to try to avoid are annual fees, withdrawal fees, etc. Know that your initial credit limit will tend to be just a few hundred dollars to start, so don’t max out the card every month. To build a credit history, the card should report your payment history and utilization to the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

You’ll need to provide the same information you would provide on any credit card application — your name, address, Social Security number, income, etc. Some issuers may allow you to check if you’re prequalified before you apply. Prequalification doesn’t guarantee approval, but it does mean you have a better chance at approval. And it’s a soft pull, which doesn’t ding your credit score. (Be aware that once you actually apply, there will generally be a hard pull on your credit history.)

No credit card has a guaranteed approval. However, the recommended cards in this guide can help people with bad credit rebuild their credit. Most are secured cards, which require a deposit, and one is an unsecured card with an annual fee. Other cards that may be easier to qualify for are store cards, which often come with high APRs and low credit limits, but if used responsibly, can help build your credit score.

Credit cards are a useful tool that can help you rebuild from bad credit. However, if you don’t want a credit card — or can’t get a credit card — another option to consider is a credit builder loan. You may be able to apply for a credit builder loan from credit unions, smaller banks and online lenders. Though it’s called a “loan,” you don’t get money upfront. You’ll make payments of a set amount over a certain period of time, and when you’ve paid in full you’ll get your money back (minus any fees the financial institution charges). Your payment history gets reported to the credit bureaus, which helps you build credit.

How to repair your credit

Check your credit score and your credit reports

You have numerous options for checking your credit score for free. And checking your credit score doesn’t hurt it. Ways to get your credit score include LendingTree, the Discover Credit Scorecard and signing up directly with the credit bureau Experian. When it comes to your credit report, you’re entitled to a copy of your report every year at no cost from each of the three bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get it from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Get a credit card and use it responsibly

Used wisely, a credit card is a tool that can help you rebuild your credit. Here are some practices you should follow to build a good credit score and avoid piling up debt:

  • Pay your credit card bill on time and in full. Paying on time is the most important thing you can do for a good credit score, and paying in full helps you avoid interest charges and prevent racking up debt by allowing your balance to creep up.
  • Keep your credit utilization low. A good rule is not to use more than 30% of your available credit. For example, with a $500 credit limit, don’t use more than $150 of it.
  • Don’t apply for too much new credit. Hard inquiries temporarily hurt your credit score, and multiple inquiries in a short timespan can cause issuers to reject your application.

Avoid predatory credit products and scams

You’ve likely come across subprime credit credit cards in your search for credit cards for bad credit. That’s especially true if you’re looking for a credit card for bad credit with no deposit. Examples include cards from Credit One, First Premier, Horizon Card Services and Total Visa. The credit cards offered by these companies have numerous fees, which may include:

  • A monthly service fee
  • An account validation fee
  • An authorized user fee
  • An express payment fee

In addition to expensive fees, cards such as these may not be clearly disclosed before you apply. For example, Credit One’s website lists multiple cards on its website as meant for applicants who are rebuilding credit. The annual fee for these cards can range from $0 to $99 — and you won’t know what fee to expect until after you submit a prequalification request.

Even though it may be tempting to go with a card like one of these should you want an unsecured card for bad credit, we recommend against it. If you need an unsecured card and you’re willing to pay an annual fee, consider the AvantCard Credit Card. And if you can put together $200 for a deposit, consider a secured card like the Discover it® Secured Credit Card.

Finally, don’t believe anyone who says they can fix your credit quickly. Rebuilding credit takes time. Anyone who promises a quick fix is likely trying to take advantage of you.

Glen Luke Flanagan

Overview

Glen Luke Flanagan covers credit card news for LendingTree.com. He joined the team in June 2019. His work ranges from reviews of new cards to in-depth pieces on protecting your financial information, and his background is in journalism and government communications. 

Experience

As a journalist in North Carolina and South Carolina, Glen covered topics including city government, state government, local businesses, public safety and more. During his time at The State newspaper, Glen’s work appeared on the websites of newspapers across the United States owned by The McClatchy Company. His reporting at The News Herald and The State newspaper won awards from the North Carolina Press Association and the South Carolina Press Association, respectively.

Education

Glen earned his B.A. in media studies with a concentration in journalism from Radford University, graduating summa cum laude in May 2014. After graduation, he participated in a Dow Jones News Fund training and internship. Out of more than 600 applicants, only 86 were accepted into the DJNF program that summer. He was later one of approximately two dozen fellows selected from journalists across the country to participate in the University of South Carolina’s 2016 Media Law School, which was sponsored by the American Board of Trial Advocates. This program gave fellows an intensive crash course in public records, bankruptcy law, podcasts and more.

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