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CNET Money's mission is to help you maximize your financial potential. Our recommendations are based on our editors' independent research and analysis, and we continuously update our content to reflect current partner offers. How we rate credit cards

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit in October 2022

Secured credit cards will be the easiest route for most people with bad credit, though some unsecured credit cards are available.

Credit cards for people with bad credit won't provide the high limits and great rewards found among the very best credit cards, and that's OK. The goal of these cards is to help repair credit ratings so that consumers can move on to those better credit card offers in the future.

Poor credit -- usually defined as a FICO score under 580 -- will definitely reduce the number of available credit cards, but there are still plenty of good options for consumers hoping to rebuild their credit. Secured credit cards require a deposit to open your account and usually provide lower rates and fees than unsecured cards designed for those with bad credit. Traditional cards that are available to those with low credit scores will usually set credit limits based on income and housing payments.

Read on to discover our best partner offers for credit cards specifically designed for those with bad credit. Find a card that works for you to start rebuilding your credit.

Best secured credit card with rewards

7.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferIntro Offer: 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.
APR25.99% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit New/Rebuilding Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR10.99% for 6 months
Balance Transfer APR25.99% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Late Payment Fee None the first time you pay late. After that, up to $41.
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

Our Take

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card* offers the best value when you're looking to rebuild your credit score. This card has no annual fee, no credit requirement and rewards potential. It's secured, meaning you'll need to provide a security deposit that will be held as collateral. Unlike other secured cards, your deposit of $200 or more is refundable after a track record of on-time payments. 

When rebuilding credit using secured cards, you'll find that your card's credit limit typically matches the deposit. It may be low at first, but Discover will automatically review your account starting at seven months to see if you can transition to an unsecured line of credit and have your deposit returned.

In addition to credit building and the opportunity to get upgraded to an unsecured card, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a great cash-back rewards card for this credit level. You'll receive 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%) and 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. Discover will also give you a Cashback Match at the end of your first year, which could essentially double the rewards you earned.

You can read our full review of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card for more details.

Best card for secured leverage

4/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR28.49% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Limited, Bad
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A
Balance Transfer APR28.49% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee $0 at this Transfer APR
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None

Our Take

Most secured cards will require you to pay a security deposit equivalent to your credit limit. The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card will give you a starting credit limit of $200 but has three deposit tiers of $49, $99 or $200. This card doesn't come with a lot of other frills -- no rewards or welcome bonus -- but it's a great option for rebuilding your credit with responsible use.

In addition to potentially low deposit requirements, Capital One performs an automatic review of your account after the first six months to determine whether to increase your credit limit. And, you can receive your secured deposit back as a statement credit after a steady history of on-time payments.

You can also read our full review of the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card.

Best traditional credit card for bad credit

6.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR26.24% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Bad Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Terms apply.
Annual Fee$75 for the first year. After that, $99 annually ($8.25 per month)
Additional Details
Foreign Transaction Fees Either $1 or 3% of each purchase in U.S. dollars, whichever is greater.
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Terms apply.

Our Take

The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit* is known to approve applicants with average or below average FICO scores. There is no need to set aside part of your savings to serve as collateral. While the annual fee is definitely a cost you should weigh carefully, if you're able to maximize your cash-back rewards, you could make up for this fee in rewards earned.

Credit One Bank reports your payment history to the three credit bureaus and automatically reviews your payment history regularly to potentially increase your credit limit. A higher credit limit can improve your credit utilization ratio, an important part of your FICO score. The more unused credit available to you, the faster you can work toward rebuilding credit. For the concept to work, avoid the temptation of spending more.

Best secured card with no credit check

7.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APRN/A
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward RatesN/A
Annual FeeNone

Our Take

Chime may be best known for its free online checking account, known as a Spending Account, which offers no overdraft fees, account minimums or other hidden charges. But wait -- why are we even talking about a checking account here? Well, Chime offers a Chime Credit Builder Visa Credit Card that's fairly unique and pairs up with its checking account. The Chime Credit Builder Visa is technically a secured card -- it requires a deposit and reports payment activity to the credit bureaus -- but functions like a prepaid debit card, in that you load money onto your card through your Chime checking account and there's no interest to worry about.

While most credit-building accounts lock up a certain amount of your funds as a security deposit, Chime's Visa works differently. You can move money from your Spending account into your Credit Builder account and the balance will serve as your credit limit. When your monthly bill arrives, you can use the funds in the account to pay off your card's balance. There's also no credit check involved in the application process.

Chime will report your payment activity to the three credit bureaus but not your credit utilization, so you don't need to worry about getting penalized for having a low-limit card with a high balance. To get started, you will need to open a Chime Spending Account -- don't worry, it's free -- and have a direct deposit of at least $200 within the last year.

Best secured card for travel

6/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR9.00% to 18.00% (Variable) when you open your account, based on your credit worthiness
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1 rewards point for every dollar spent on your everyday purchases. There’s no maximum and your points never expire.
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee None
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 1 rewards point for every dollar spent on your everyday purchases. There’s no maximum and your points never expire.

Our Take

Most cards designed to rebuild credit offer minimum rewards. The First Tech Platinum Secured Mastercard* is one of the rare cards that doesn't demand a high FICO score to deliver premium travel perks. Despite its secured nature, it's a Mastercard, which means there are no foreign transaction fees to worry about when you travel overseas. You'll also have access to rental coverage and travel insurance for lost/damaged luggage and trip cancellation.

The purchases you make can earn up to one point for every dollar spent. As with a typical rewards card, the points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise and more. And if you keep up the responsible spending and payment habits, your security deposit could be refunded.

How to get a credit card if you have bad credit

If you have bad credit, you have two choices to get a credit card: You can choose a card that's designed for those with bad credit -- like the ones above -- or you can work to improve your credit so that you can qualify for a card with better benefits. There are cards for those with fair credit or good credit that offer cash-back rewards, introductory APRs, welcome bonuses and travel perks.

To reach "fair" credit, you'll need to have a credit score of at least 580. You reach "good credit" when you maintain at least a 670 score, which unlocks even better credit card options. There are a few techniques you can apply to your credit card usage that will help grow your score.

  • Make your credit card payments on time, every time. Even if you can't pay the full amount, make sure to pay at least the minimum payment by the due date. The minimum payment will be noted on your monthly bill.
  • Keep your credit card balances below 30% of your available credit. Your credit line is the full amount of credit that a card issuer is willing to let you use. It's determined by your income and credit history, and may increase over time. It's best to pay your bill in full every month, and you'll want to make sure you're not using too much of the credit line given to you.
  • Don't close accounts that you're not actively using. If you have open credit card accounts with no annual fee, don't let them close due to inactivity. The length of your credit history is a factor in your credit score, so older accounts can be very valuable. Use the card every few months -- even if just for a small purchase -- so that the issuer doesn't cut you off.

By adhering to these simple rules, your credit score may start climbing in a matter of a few months. This can open new financial opportunities, even beyond credit cards.

FAQs

What credit score is considered 'bad credit'?

According to FICO, anyone with a score below 580 is considered to have poor credit (also sometimes labeled "bad" credit). There are many reasons why someone would fall below the threshold of fair to good credit. A bankruptcy or unpaid bills that went into collections are among the more common reasons. Some individuals are classified as having a below-average score after falling victim to identity theft.

What's the difference between secured and unsecured cards?

Most traditional credit cards fall into the unsecured card category. They're issued based on your credit score and often come with perks or rewards. Secured credit cards are designed for anyone looking to rebuild their credit. They typically require a deposit for the amount of the credit limit, which will be kept in an account that can't be accessed until the card is closed. This deposit is typically refundable.

Can you get a credit card after bankruptcy?

Although a bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years, you may be able to qualify for a secured credit card. It's important to understand the timing before you get started. In most cases, you can't apply for a new credit card until bankruptcy proceedings are over. Once you're ready, look for a credit-rebuilding card that offers limit increases, or even returns your security deposit after a few months of on-time payments. 

You may have to start out small, with an initial limit as low as $200, but with patience and responsible money habits you can improve your credit standing.

Our methodology

CNET reviews credit cards by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each major category, including cash-back, welcome bonus, travel rewards and balance transfer. We take into consideration the typical spending behavior of a range of consumer profiles -- with the understanding that everyone's financial situation is different -- and the designated function of a card. 

For cash-back credit cards, for example, key factors include the annual fee, the "welcome bonus" and the cash-back rate (or rates, if they differ by spending category). For rewards and miles cards, we calculate and weigh the net monetary value of a card's respective perks. And with balance transfer credit cards, we analyze specs such as the duration of the introductory 0% APR period and the balance transfer fee, while acknowledging secondary factors such as the standard APR and the length of time you have to make a balance transfer after you open the account.

*All information about the Discover it Secured Credit Card, Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit, and First Tech Federal Credit Union Platinum Secured Mastercard has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.