If there’s one thing we all have in common when it comes to money, it’s that we all want good credit. Having a stellar credit score isn’t just something to brag about over drinks with your friends (though by all means, if you have it, shout it out!). Good credit can get you lower interest rates when you’re buying a house or car, secure your approval for independent loans, and can even make your auto insurance cheaper.
Bank lenders tend to see those with higher credit scores as lower risk borrowers, making them more willing to take a chance on you. And they’re not the only ones: Some employers will even ask for your credit history, since good credit can be a sign of responsibility and work ethic.
If your credit score is less than amazing, don’t fret: The great thing about credit is that it can always be improved. One tactic to stop letting your poor credit define you and start improving it is to sign up for one of the best credit cards for bad credit below. With responsible use, by this time next year, you could be well on your way to a smile-worthy score!
Best Credit Cards for Poor Credit
If you currently have poor credit, a secured credit card is going to be one of your best options for improving it. Essentially, a secured credit card requires you to make a deposit before obtaining a line of credit. The deposit acts as insurance for the credit card company in the event that you’re unable to pay your bill.
Even so, a secured credit card offers more value than a debit card, because it allows you to build up your credit score, with on-time payments being reported to credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Read on for our top card picks for poor credit.
$49, $99, or $200 security deposit with equal credit line, no annual fee
The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® requires a deposit of $49, $99 or $200, all of which are refundable. The deposit amount is equal to your credit limit, meaning you’ll only be able to spend as much as you put down as a deposit — but remember, you’re building up your credit! And, once you make your first five monthly payments on time, you will gain a higher credit line with no further deposit needed. This card has no annual fee.
$200 deposit or more with equal credit line, no credit check necessary
Another great secured card option is the OpenSky Secured Visa credit card. This credit card has deposit amounts that start at $200 (equal to your credit line), and the deposit is refundable. Plus, OpenSky reports to all three credit bureaus, bringing tangible results: 99 percent of customers starting off with no credit earned a score within six months of opening this card. There is no credit check necessary to apply.
Double your credit line after seven months of on-time payments, free FICO update report, no overage fees
This card’s main benefit is right in its name: the Merrick Bank Double Your Line Visa credit card. When you meet your minimum payment on time for the first seven months following signup, you’ll automatically double the amount on your line of credit. Plus, you’ll get an updated FICO score every month, so you can see how your credit is improving. Better yet, there are no penalties or overage fees, so you won’t be charged if you hit a financial snag.
Credit line equal to savings account balance up to $5,000, low, fixed 9.99% interest rate, no minimum score required for approval
The Green Dot primor is unique in the fact that it allows you to match your credit line (from $200 up to $5,000) to the amount in your FDIC-insured savings deposit account. It also has a fixed interest rate of 9.99 percent that’s relatively low when compared to many secured credit cards, which can run well over 20 percent. You’re also practically guaranteed to be approved, since they’re no minimum score required. This card reports to all three credit main bureaus.
$300 credit limit, quick pre-qualification
Have bad credit with no funds for a deposit? Check out the Indigo Unsecured Mastercard. It offers a $300 credit limit so that you can up your poor credit score with on-time payments with no security required. Quick pre-qualification is available, and you can also choose a custom design for your card. There is a $75 annual fee the first year, which goes up to $99 thereafter.
Best Credit Cards for Average Credit
If you have average credit, or a secured card isn’t quite what you’re after, there are many other types of credit cards you can use that will allow you to take baby steps toward building credit.
If you’ve got an average credit score, many cards will not require a deposit from you for access to credit. And, as you begin making consistent monthly payments, thereby building up trust with the credit card company, your credit line is likely increase over time. You can even earn cash back bonuses on some of the options below!
No annual fee, automatic credit limit increases, fraud protection
The Capital One® Platinum credit card has no annual fee, allowing you to focus solely on working to increase your credit score. This pick won’t hold your hand quite as tightly as a secured card, and it doesn’t require a deposit, but it’s got a bit more structure than a traditional card, with a limit that automatically increases when you make your first five monthly payments on time.
Up to $10,000 credit limit, 3% cash back on travel & entertainment, 2% cash back on restaurants, 1% cash back on all other purchases
Credit card users looking to build upon an average credit score can look to the Deserve Pro credit card for its awesome cash-back offers. Users will earn 3 percent cash back on travel, 2 percent back on entertainment, and 1 percent back on everything else. Plus, you’ll get complimentary cell phone insurance up to $600 and other Mastercard platinum benefits. Credit limits of up to $10,000 are available, and there is no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
1.5% cash back on all purchases, $0 fraud liability, free credit monitoring
You don’t have to have amazing credit to reap rewards from your credit card. The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards, which is rated for those with fair to average credit, offers up 1.5 percent cash back on each and every single purchase. And that’s not all! You’ll also have free credit monitoring available to you, and, should a thief manage to make off with your wallet, there’s a $0 fraud liability clause. The annual fee is just $39.
$300 credit limit, fast pre-application, annual fee from $35, fraud protection
The Milestone Gold Mastercard is a great pick for those with fair credit, even if a previous bankruptcy has been filed. Not sure you’ll make the cut? The company has a super easy pre-qualification process that has no bearing on your score to can let you know if you’ll be accepted within minutes. While there is an annual fee ($35 to $75, depending on your score), you’ll have access to protection features, such as credit card monitoring, that make it worth your while, plus, you’ll get to choose your card design — a fun little extra, to be sure!
$300 credit limit, $89.99 program fee
Once you pay Total Visa‘s $89.99 program fee, approved customers with a checking account will have $300 of credit with which to start building their credit score. The application process is fast and easy (think seconds-long approval), and interest on new purchases will not be charged if you pay your balance in full by the due date each month. There is a $75 annual fee the first year, which will drop to $48 in subsequent years.
The Upgrade card is a personal credit line that can be used anywhere where Visa cards are accepted. It gives you access to a higher credit line ($500 to $50,000, depending on credit) to begin with than many secured credit cards, but is more like a loan than your traditional plastic. You’ll pay off your balance in set payoff amounts, so the interest will be lower, and you can check your credit line as often as you’d like without impacting your credit score. There is no annual fee.
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Woman’s World has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Woman’s World and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.