You certainly do not have to have pristine credit in order to qualify for a credit card. There are easy approval credit cards for those with bad to fair credit. While great credit will definitely get you better perks, you can still get a card that will help you to rebuild your credit, and the card may even have some attractive benefits itself.
For those wishing to qualify for a traditional credit card (as opposed to having to go with the less-desirable secured credit card options), here are some options to consider.
If You Have Fair Credit
Generally speaking, if you have fair credit then you can qualify for a regular credit card. This is definitely the best option as you try to rebuild your credit, and this should be your first choice. A fair credit score often comes from more of a limited credit history than a history of not paying your bills (or a bad credit history). Cards aimed toward those with fair credit often have some perks associated with them, including no annual fees and even cash back rewards programs. The interest rate will generally be higher than for other cards with a target market of those with good to excellent credit, but you have to start somewhere! The Barclaycard Rewards for Average Credit has some of the best options for those with “fair” credit. You probably won’t qualify for this card if you have “bad” credit. Find out your credit score before you apply, so you know your odds. This card will allow you to earn 1% cash back on every dollar spent, and 2% cash back when your purchases qualify in the categories of groceries, gas and utilities.
NFL Extra Points Credit Card
Another great option for those trying to rebuild their credit is the NFL Extra Points Rewards card, also offered by Barclays, and available to those with limited credit histories. Even if you are not a die-hard NFL fan, this card has no annual fee and does offer some rewards (that you can redeem in the form of statement credit, if you’d prefer that instead of game tickets), and will allow you to beef up your credit history until you qualify for the big leagues yourself. Earn a great sign-on bonus, which will give your cash back rewards a nice boost.
If You Have Bad Credit
All is not lost if you have bad credit! You can always work toward improving your credit, and you should. There are even unsecured credit cards that you can get, often at a premium interest rate and higher fees, to help you get back on track. Of course, it should go without saying (but it won’t), that you have to truly be disciplined and committed to improving your credit—especially if the reason for your poor credit is unpaid credit card bills or bankruptcy due to credit card debt.
Secured Credit Cards
Another option for those with bad credit is the secured credit card. This type of credit card requires you to put down a security deposit that is held by the bank, to be used in the event that you do not pay your bills on time. Typically you can get about 150% of your deposit as your spending limit (for a $300 deposit, you would get a $450 spending limit).
One example of such a card is the US Bank Harley-Davidson Secured credit card, which has no annual fee and even offers some perks like 1% cash back on all purchases. Another great option is the Capital One Secured MasterCard, which does have a lower security deposit (ranging from $49-200, based on your credit-worthiness). This card is perfect for people who don’t have a lot of cash to use for a security deposit. It does come with an annual fee of $29, which is not terrible, especially for a secured credit card. If you make your payments responsibly, you’ll be able to move up to a traditional credit card fairly quickly.
For more options, check out our post on the Best Secured Credit Cards.
Are Unsecured Credit Cards a Good Choice?
There are numerous unsecured credit cards available for people with bad credit, but, in general, these cards may end up costing you more in the long run with higher annual fees, higher interest rates, and stiff penalties. If you have bad credit, you are probably better off choosing a respectable secured credit card and rebuilding your credit this way.