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Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit in 2021

Getting approved for a credit card is never guaranteed, even if you have a spotless financial record. Your chances are worse if you’ve got a FICO score below 580 and a troubled or non-existent credit history.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a credit card. In fact, getting a card and using it responsibly can be a great way to start rebuilding your credit. Just make sure you’re starting with one of the market’s best credit cards for bad credit.

Luckily, there are plenty of cards that can help you achieve your credit-building goals. To assist you in making a smart decision, we’ve made a list of the top-rated secured and unsecured cards. Choose one of these cards, use it responsibly, and your credit score will start to improve in no time.

Let’s take a look at some of the market’s best credit cards for people whose credit histories are less than stellar. We subject each of these cards to our unique five-factor evaluation so you can determine which best meets your needs.

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Best-Rated Credit Cards for Low Credit: Top Picks

Top Picks

First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card

No credit history required

Low APR

Monthly reporting to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion

Learn More READ REVIEW

First Access Visa® Card

Widely accepted

Fast application process

No foreign transaction fees

Learn More READ REVIEW

The First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card

Fast approval process

No credit check

Nationwide acceptance

Learn More READ REVIEW

1. First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card

No credit history required

Low APR

Monthly reporting to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion

Recommended credit score:

300-629

Learn More

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As one of the market’s most popular credit-building secured credit cards, the First Progress Platinum Prestige card is for applicants of all credit scores. Although there is an annual membership fee, there’s no “hard” credit check and the card has one of the industry’s lowest APRs.

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Credit limit:

$200-$2,000

APR:

9.99% (variable)

Annual fee:

$49

Other fees:

Cash advance, foreign transaction, late payment, returned payment

Card network:

Mastercard

2. First Access Visa® Card

Widely accepted

Fast application process

No foreign transaction fees

Recommended credit score:

300-689

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Issued by the Bank of Missouri, the First Access Visa Card is a good option if you’ve been having trouble qualifying for an unsecured card because you lack an established credit history. It charges high rates and fees, but it comes with the convenience and security typical of Visa cards.

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Credit limit:

$300 (initial)

APR:

34.99% (variable)

Annual fee:

$75 for the first year, then $48

Other fees:

Monthly service fee and one-time program charge plus cash advance, late payment, and returned payment fees

Card network:

Visa

3. The First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card

Fast approval process

No credit check

Nationwide acceptance

Recommended credit score:

300-629

Learn More

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If you are looking for a card that will help you build your credit history without negatively affecting your score during the approval process, consider the First Progress Platinum Elite secured Mastercard. This card offers a credit line of up to $2,000 and reports your payments to the three major credit bureaus.

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Credit limit:

$200-$2,000

APR:

19.99% (variable)

Annual fee:

$29

Other fees:

Cash advance, foreign transaction, late payment, returned payment

Card network:

Mastercard

4. OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

No credit history required

No bank account required

Relatively low APR

Recommended credit score:

300-689

Learn More

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The OpenSky Secured Visa is an excellent choice for consumers who have struggled to get approved for a credit card because they lack a bank account or an established credit history. Thanks to its relatively low fees and the lack of a credit check, this secured card will serve you well on your credit-building journey.

Read full review

Credit limit:

$200-$3,000

APR:

18.89% (variable)

Annual fee:

$35

Other fees:

Cash advance, foreign transaction, late payment, returned payment

Card network:

Visa

Finding the Best Credit Cards for Bad-Credit Applicants: Our Methodology

Credit cards that accept bad-credit applicants usually come with relatively high interest rates and low credit limits. At least, that’s what consumers expect. In reality, cards that help you establish or rebuild your credit profile come in many different flavors. When shopping around for a suitable solution, make sure to compare the essential elements of each offer. We recommend a five-factor evaluation that takes into account fees, APR, credit limits, credit bureau reporting, and credit score requirements.

Fees

You can’t apply for a credit card with bad credit and expect not to be charged anything. Fees and interest payments are how credit card companies make money, after all. Still, you should keep in mind that not all cards impose the same fees.

As a cardholder, some of the most common costs you’ll face include annual membership fees, transaction fees such as cash-advance charges and foreign-transaction costs, and penalties for late and returned payments. Note that some or all of these fees are often waived, if only for the first year, as part of a card issuer’s introductory offer.

APR

Most low-credit-score credit cards charge a variable annual percentage rate. The APR is typically high on bad-credit cards.

The interest rate may not matter, however. If you’re using this card primarily as a way to help build or rebuild a favorable credit score, you should try to pay the full balance every month anyway – so the interest rate is purely academic. This strategy simultaneously limits your costs and helps boost your credit rating.

Credit Limit

A credit limit is the maximum amount a credit card issuer will let you spend in a month. Credit limits on unsecured cards are based on your credit score and the card issuer’s policies.

Secured bad-credit credit cards typically come with limits equivalent to the amount of the security deposit.

High initial credit limits on poor-credit cards are rare. However, there are banks that offer secured cards with a credit limit as high as $3,000 as long as you can afford to put down a matching deposit.

Credit Bureau Reporting

Getting a credit card to help you build your credit profile and qualify for opportunities that are reserved for people with a higher credit score range is a solid plan. However, you won’t improve your credit history unless the card issuer reports information about your on-time monthly payments to the three major credit bureaus. The best credit cards for a bad credit score are the ones whose issuers send reports to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion on a monthly basis.

Credit Score

Most of the cards offered to poor-credit applicants don’t come with fixed credit-score qualification requirements. Still, keep in mind that most credit card banks will perform a “hard” credit check before issuing a card. Each credit check costs your FICO score a few points.

This is especially important if you plan on applying for several cards in a short time, which we don’t advise. Boosting your credit score is one of the main reasons to sign up for the best cards for bad credit. Reducing your score by applying to a whole bunch of cards is contrary to the whole point.

Further Reading

2021’s Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Reviews of the Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

At a Glance

  • Recommended credit score: 300-629
  • Credit limit: $200-$2,000
  • APR: 9.99% (variable)
  • Annual fee: $49
  • Other fees: Cash advance, foreign transaction, late payment, and returned payment fees
  • Card network: Mastercard

The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard is a low-APR secured card that not only lacks minimum credit score requirements, but also doesn’t subject prospective cardmembers to “hard” credit inquiries. This poor-credit credit card may not offer a sign-up bonus or a rewards program, but it’s a solid option for consumers who are in the market for a simple credit-building solution.

Credit Limit, APR, and Fees

First Progress offers three secured options for low-credit applicants. Each of them requires a refundable security deposit of $200 to $2,000. The deposit effectively determines the cardholder’s credit limit. The only real difference distinguishing the three First Progress cards are their annual fees and APRs.

The Platinum Prestige charges an annual membership fee of $49 and a variable-rate APR that is currently 9.99%. When it comes to other costs, you’ll find them moderate. This bad-credit credit card comes with a 3% foreign-transaction fee and a cash-advance fee of $10 or 3%, whichever is greater. There’s also a late-payment charge that can go up to $40 and a maximum returned-payment penalty of $29.

Reasons to Choose the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard

One of the things that make this secured credit card one of the most popular options among consumers on a mission to build or rebuild their credit profiles is that it regularly reports payment information to the three major credit bureaus.

Additionally, applying for the Platinum Prestige Mastercard won’t have a negative effect on your credit profile. As long as you use this credit-builder card responsibly, you’ll be a step closer to qualifying for an unsecured solution, a mortgage, or a personal loan.

Another advantage of this card is its low APR – a novelty in the secured-card market. Still, carrying a balance from month to month isn’t a good idea: It essentially means that you’ll be paying interest on a loan you’ve given to yourself.

Reasons to Explore Other Options

When it comes to drawbacks, here’s a big one: The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard secured card isn’t available nationwide. If you are a resident of Arkansas, New York, Iowa, or Wisconsin, you aren’t eligible for this secured credit card for bad credit.

This card’s low APR is offset by the $49 annual fee, which is posted to your account automatically, reducing your effective limit until it’s paid. This is especially important if you have made a low security deposit.

Highlights

No credit history required

Low APR

Monthly reporting to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion

READ FULL REVIEW

At a Glance

  • Recommended credit score: 300-689
  • Credit limit: $300 (initial)
  • APR: 34.99% (variable)
  • Annual fee: $75 for the first year, $48 after that
  • Other fees: Monthly service fee, one-time program charge, cash advance fee, late payment cost, and returned payment fee
  • Card network: Visa

Issued by the Bank of Missouri, the First Access Visa card accepts applicants of all credit scores and is therefore considered one of the best unsecured credit cards for bad-credit consumers. While the nationwide acceptance and the lack of a security deposit make this financial instrument appealing to those hoping to qualify for credit-building unsecured credit cards, the First Access account does entail several one-time and ongoing fees.

Credit Limit, APR, and Fees

As a new First Access Visa credit card user, you get an initial credit limit of $300. The limit is assigned by the credit card issuer, and if you use the card responsibly it may increase over time.

First Access has an attention-getting APR, one of the highest we have seen for any credit-building credit card. The rate is 34.99% for both purchases and cash advances.

The First Access Visa credit card comes with a long list of fees. In addition to the annual membership charge, which will set you back $75 in the first year and $48 in the years that follow, there’s also a one-time non-refundable $95 program fee. And you should keep in mind that this account also obligates you to pay a monthly service fee. It’s waived the first year, and it costs cardholders $6.25 per month after that.

Like other credit cards for bad credit we’ve included in this review, the First Access Visa comes with a cash-advance fee. The fee is waived during your first year as a cardholder and rises to $10 or %3 of the advance after that. Late and returned payments will subject you to a $40 per item penalty. These fees aren’t particularly high, but combined with the other charges, they make the First Access Visa an expensive card to have and use.

Reasons to Choose the First Access Visa Credit Card

One of the things that put the First Access Visa among the best credit cards to apply for with bad credit is the fast and secure application process. You won’t need to wait more than 60 seconds to find out whether you have met the requirements and you’re approved for a card. In addition to not requiring a perfect credit score, this card can help you build a positive history by reporting your monthly payments to the three major credit reporting agencies.

It’s also important to mention that although this is a credit-building card, it still comes with the convenience and security of an unsecured Visa credit card – you can use it at millions of merchant locations and ATMs worldwide and online without paying a foreign transaction fee.

Reasons to Explore Other Options

Although it is one of the most popular instant-approval credit cards for bad credit, the First Access Visa comes with several drawbacks. It’s one of the most expensive unsecured credit cards we’ve seen. Not only does it have a high APR, but it also charges uncommonly high processing and program fees. The card’s issuer requires you to have a checking account in your name. And given that the starting credit limit is just $300 (reduced to $225 the first month by the first-year annual fee), the First Access Visa is unlikely to be a good solution if you need an emergency loan.

Highlights

Widely accepted

Fast application process

No foreign transaction fees

READ FULL REVIEW

At a Glance

  • Recommended credit score: 300-629
  • Credit limit: $200-$2,000
  • APR: 19.99% (variable)
  • Annual fee: $29
  • Other fees: Cash advance, foreign transaction, late payment, and returned payment fees
  • Card network: Mastercard

Here’s another secured credit card from First Progress. The Platinum Elite Mastercard is a popular choice among consumers on the hunt for credit cards for rebuilding credit. Out of the three secured options offered by First Progress, this one has the highest APR and the lowest annual membership fee. Since prospective cardholders don’t have to meet defined credit score minimums, the Platinum Elite Mastercard is one of the easiest credit cards to get.

Credit Limit, APR, and Fees

The Platinum Elite Mastercard comes with a credit limit of $200 to $2,000. The amount depends on the size of your security deposit, and in general, you can decide how much that is depending on your monthly needs and budget. The deposit on this credit card for bad credit is fully refundable – all you have to do to get it back is pay off your balance.

The Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard secured credit card charges a variable APR (currently 19.99%) and a $29 annual membership fee. The other charges are much the same as those you’ll find with other cards: a 3% foreign-transaction fee, a cash-advance fee of $10 or 3% of the advance, a late-payment charge of up to $40, and a returned-payment penalty of up to $29.

Reasons to Choose the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard

To qualify for the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard, you won’t need to meet a specific credit score requirement. An eligible applicant for this credit card for bad-credit consumers must be at least 18 years old (19 in Nebraska and Alabama) and have a valid Social Security number. Additionally, you’ll need to make a security deposit, be a first-time First Progress cardmember, and have enough income to make monthly payments.

Another reason we consider this solution one of the best credit card offers on the market is that the issuer shares your monthly payment information with the three major credit reporting agencies. Provided that you pay your bills on time and keep your credit utilization ratio low, you’ll see your credit score improve in no time.

Reasons to Explore Other Options

Although it’s one of the market’s best credit-rebuilding credit cards, the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard still comes with a few disadvantages. While it charges the lowest annual fee among the cards offered by First Progress, it’s important to remember that some secured credit cards don’t impose such fees at all. Additionally, the Platinum Elite Mastercard comes with an above-average annual percentage rate. If you don’t pay off your balance every month, that could cost you.

You should also keep in mind that the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard isn’t available to all US residents. If you are located in Arkansas, New York, Iowa, or Wisconsin, you’ll need to look into other no-credit-check credit cards.

Highlights

Fast approval process

No credit check

Nationwide acceptance

At a Glance

  • Recommended credit score: 300-689
  • Credit limit: $200-$3,000
  • APR: 18.89% (variable)
  • Annual fee: $35
  • Other fees: Cash advance, foreign transaction, late payment, and returned payment fees
  • Card network: Visa

The OpenSky secured Visa credit card prospectus stands out among credit card offers for bad-credit applicants because of its low annual fee and APR. While this card won’t earn you any rewards, you’ll reap the benefits of avoiding high charges and “hard” credit inquiries. If you’ve been having trouble getting approved for a credit card because you don’t have a bank account, you’ll be happy to hear that you won’t face that obstacle with the OpenSky secured Visa card.

Credit Limit, APR, and Fees

Your security deposit can range from $200 to $3,000. The amount you put down will determine your credit limit. A higher deposit doesn’t always assure you a higher limit, however; credit limits are subject to approval.

This credit card for no-credit applicants doesn’t provide an introductory APR. Cardholders are subject to a variable rate that currently stands at 18.89% for purchases and cash advances.

The OpenSky secured Visa card comes with a $35 annual fee. Additional costs are relatively low and include a 3% foreign-transaction fee and a cash-advance fee of $6 or 5% of the amount. Late payments incur a fee of up to $38 and you can be charged up to $25 each time your payment is returned.

Reasons to Choose the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card

As one of the best credit cards for people with bad credit, OpenSky’s secured Visa card has a simple five-step application process that won’t affect your credit score. Additionally, OpenSky doesn’t require you to have a bank account – you can make your security deposit with a money order or Western Union transfer. Because it reports to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion every month, this is an excellent card for consumers who need to establish or rebuild their credit rating.

Another great thing about this OpenSky option is that it comes with all the benefits of a Visa credit card, including fraud protection and worldwide acceptance. As one of the best credit cards for low-credit consumers, it also lets you set up email alerts to remind you about payment deadlines. Better yet, you can set up automatic payments using the website or free mobile app.

Reasons to Explore Other Options

The OpenSky secured Visa card has two main drawbacks. First, it charges an annual fee. Although some cards have higher membership fees, some don’t impose such charges at all.

Second, it doesn’t offer an option to upgrade to an unsecured credit card after establishing a history of responsible use. In other words, as your credit score rises enough to make you eligible for unsecured credit-building credit cards, you’ll need to close your OpenSky secured Visa account, which could hurt your credit, or keep it open and pay the annual fee.

Highlights

No credit history required

No bank account required

Relatively low APR

How to Build or Rebuild Your Credit Score

Acquiring one of the best credit cards for bad credit won’t make much sense if that’s the only step you take toward building good credit. Whether you’re establishing your credit profile for the first time or correcting existing problems, the process is likely to take lots of time and require careful decision-making.

These four tips will help you put your FICO score on the road to gradual improvement.

Check Your Credit Reports

Make sure to request a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus once a year. Check your history thoroughly and if you find any items that seem inaccurate or incorrect, be sure to send a dispute letter.

Pay Off Your Debts

You shouldn’t even consider applying for credit cards for building credit until you’ve at least made a plan on how to sort out your debts. We suggest you prioritize the payments and stick to a realistic repayment schedule. While we agree that this is easier said than done, finding the right debt management strategy will be a crucial step on your credit-building journey.

Don’t Overspend

It’s important for everyone to avoid impulse purchases – and it’s essential for those who are committed to improving their credit. Even if you manage to find a low-APR option among the best credit cards for rebuilding credit, make sure to pay your balance in full every month – on time. The deal is simple: If you manage to keep your balances low and you don’t spend beyond your means in any way, your credit utilization ratio will decrease and your credit score will rise.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

Building a healthy credit history takes time – and a single mistake can destroy all of your hard work. Choose a credit card that meets your needs and stop there. Avoid opening and closing accounts unless you absolutely need to. Both the length of your credit history and recent activity play important roles when it comes to establishing your score and offsetting past mistakes.

FAQ

How to get a credit card with bad credit?

Bad credit cards are intended for people who haven’t yet established a credit history and those whose histories are less than stellar. If you find yourself in one of those categories, don’t despair. Everyone starts somewhere, and you can qualify for a decent credit card that will help you build a solid history. The market is brimming with credit-building solutions, and all you have to do is identify the most suitable card. To narrow down your options, we suggest you decide whether you want a secured or an unsecured credit card. Then shop around for credit cards for people with poor credit. Look for low fees, low security deposits, and high approval rates. When submitting credit card applications, make sure not to waste any time and credit score points on options that aren’t meant for your credit situation.

What is the easiest credit card to get with bad credit?

If you have poor credit or no credit history at all, we suggest you look into secured credit cards. While there are unsecured options available to poor-credit applicants - including such easy-to-recommend cards as the First Access Visa - you’ll enjoy a broader selection of bad-credit cards if you start your credit-building journey with a secured solution.

What credit cards can I get with a 500 credit score?

Although credit cards are typically much easier to qualify for if you have a credit score of at least 600, there are lots of options for consumers with imperfect credit histories. When looking for a credit card for a 500 credit score, make sure that you opt for a card whose issuer reports your payments to all three credit bureaus. It’s also a fine thing to choose a card that doesn’t require high fees.