Credit Cards
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Advertiser Disclosure

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the card offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.

Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. For a full list of our advertisers, see our disclosure page.

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page.

What Are The Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit of 2018?

We reviewed hundreds of offers to track down the best credit cards for bad credit. If you have a FICO score below 600 or no credit whatsoever, these are some of the best offers for your situation. We divided the cards into categories that should fit a variety of consumer needs—everything from cash back to low interest rates. If you're unsure how to pick the best credit card, check out our guide below.

2018 Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Best Bad Credit Credit Card for Cash-Back Rewards: Discover it® Secured Card ­- No Annual Fee

The Discover it® Secured Card ­- No Annual Fee is best for individuals with bad credit who want to work on improving their credit score while earning cash back along the way. The card earns users cash back on everyday purchases, just like credit cards available to individuals with average or better credit scores. Cardholders receive 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and an unlimited 1% on other purchases.

After your account has been opened for eight months, it will be considered for an upgrade to one of the other Discover products—some of which are the most attractive cash-back credit cards on the market. As long as you continue to make all your payments on time and keep credit utilization low, your credit score will increase over time. Keep in mind, this is not a credit card that you want to carry a balance on. It has an extremely high APR, so you should always pay off your bill in full.

Highlights
Annual Fee$0
APR24.49% Variable
Minimum Deposit$200
Credit LimitEqual to security deposit

Best Bad Credit Credit Card With Low Interest: State Department Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card

The Savings Secured Visa Platinum is a good option if you have a credit score below 600 and need to carry a balance from month to month. With a minimum APR of 13.24%, this card has one of the lowest interest rates we've seen on a secured card. Most cards of this type, including the ones on this list, frequently charge users an APR around 20%. Even when you compare it to ordinary cards, interest rates below 15% are a rare sight to behold. The Savings Secured Visa Platinum card also doesn't charge its users an annual fee, allowing cardholders to put that bit of extra cash toward the security deposit, paying down a balance or simply keeping a few extra bucks in their pockets.

You don't need to be a State Department employee to qualify. A membership with the American Consumer Council, a one-time fee of $15, makes you eligible.

Highlights
Annual FeeNone
APR13.24%
Minimum Deposit$250
Credit LimitEqual to deposit

Best Credit Card for Students With Thin/No Credit (No Deposit Needed): Discover it® for Students

This card is excellent for students with little to no credit. If you don't have any bad marks on your credit history and you've simply never had a credit card before, this one is worth applying for. The Discover it® for Students provides 5% cash back on purchases in rotating quarterly categories, such as Amazon.com, restaurants, ground transportation and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. You'll earn 1% cash back on everything else. Currently, new cardmembers get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back they've earned at the end of the first year. That makes this card all the more powerful during the first 12 months. These rewards make this card our favorite student credit card of 2018.

Because this is a student credit card, and not a secured card like others on this list, users don't need to put down a security deposit. You can read more about the Discover it® for Students in our review.

Highlights

Annual Fee$0
APR14.49% - 23.49% Variable
Minimum DepositNone (not a secured card)
Credit LimitVaries

Flexible Credit Limits: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is great for those who want a high credit limit, without having to put down too much money. With this card, your security deposit gets you extra bang for the buck. A security deposit of $49 can get you an initial credit line of $200, depending on your credit. That's considerably better than most other secured cards, which may charge a deposit that's equal to your credit limit. Note, this can also be the case for the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, if you're creditworthiness is extremely low.

On top of offering a higher credit line, Capital One provides cardmembers with the ability to monitor their credit score free of charge. This is a vital tool for anyone looking to rebuild their credit history, as it will allow you to see exactly how your spending and payment habits impact your credit score.

Highlights
Annual Fee$0
APR24.99% Variable
Minimum Deposit$49
Credit Limit$200+

Best Bad Credit Credit Card for Earning Miles: AeroMexico Visa Secured Card

Individuals who have no trouble paying off their monthly balance and have a firm handle on their finances should use the AeroMexico Visa Secured Card to earn miles. This card comes with an annual $99 companion certificate, which acts as a "buy one, get one for $99" on AeroMexico airline tickets. Cardholders also get 3,500 bonus One Club Premier Miles the first time they use their card. By all standards, the AeroMexico Visa Secured Card is structured like a regular travel rewards credit card with a fairly decent rewards rate. That rate can range from 1.3% to 2.8% depending on how you redeem your flights, or twice that if you spend exclusively on gas and groceries.

This is the only card on our list that charges an annual fee, which is $25. Therefore, we don't recommend this card to anyone who would charge less than $1,923 per year on the card. That's the breakeven point at which this card pays for itself.

Highlights
Annual Fee$25
APR22.9% Variable
Minimum Deposit$300
Credit Limit$300+

Other Credit Cards for Bad Credit Worth Considering

We recognize that our recommendations might not suit everyone. That's why we also want to include a few other secured credit cards in case you want other options to explore.

Card

Annual FeeAPRMinimum Deposit
Citi® Secured Mastercard®$023.74% Variable$200
Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card$2520.24% Variable$300
U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card$2920.24% Variable$300
LATAM Visa® Secured Card$25 (waived the first year)24.24% VariableNot available.
SKYPASS Visa® Secured Card$5017.49% VariableNot available
BankAmericard® Secured credit card$3921.49% Variable$300

Comparison Tool

Custom fitting a credit card rewards program requires a lot of math and calculations. Our tool does all the heavy lifting for you. Simply enter your estimated monthly spending into the categories, and we'll figure out which credit cards will provide you with the highest yield.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Discover it® for Students
$0 1.50%
$171
Discover gives a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. (New cardmembers only)
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 14.49% - 23.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.49% - 23.49%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Discover it® Secured Card ­- No Annual Fee
$0 1.50%
$171
Discover gives a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. (New cardmembers only)
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 24.49% Variable

Card Details

  • No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
  • Your Secured Credit Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line. You will need to provide your bank information when submitting your security deposit.
  • We will automatically begin reviewing your account starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
AeroMexico Visa Secured Card
$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $25 1.44%
$50
5,000 First Use Bonus Miles plus Complimentary Companion Certificate
$495
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 47,040 x $0.01 = $470
Bonuses
5,000 x $0.01 = $50
Less Annual Fees -$25
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 495

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $25
APR 22.99%

Card Details

  • 5,000 First Use Bonus Miles plus Complimentary Companion Certificate
  • 1 Club Premier Mile per $1 spent
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on Gas & Groceries
  • Complimentary Baggage
Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card
No Annual Fee 1.00%
$0
$343
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.01 = $343
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 343

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 6.99%

Card Details

  • Earn 1 Flexpoint reward for each dollar you spend
  • Flexpoints can be earned on any net purchases at the rate of 1 per dollar
Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card
No Annual Fee 0.50%
$0
$172
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.005 = $172
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 172

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 8.99%

Card Details

  • Earn 1 nRewards point for each dollar you spend
  • nRewards can be earned on any net purchases at the rate of 1 per dollar
DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card
No Annual Fee 0.00%
$0
$0
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 0 - $0
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 0

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 11.5%

Card Details

US Bank College Visa® Card
No Annual Fee 0.00%
$0
$0
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 0 - $0
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 0

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 11.99% - 20.99% Variable

Card Details

Citi® Secured Mastercard®
No Annual Fee 0.00%
$0
$0
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 0 - $0
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 0

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 21.99%

Card Details

U.S. Bank Secured Visa Card
$35 -0.20%
$0
$-70
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 0 - $0
Less Annual Fees -$70
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months -70

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $35
APR 20.99%

Card Details

BankAmericard Secured Credit Card
Image of BankAmericard Secured Credit Card $39 -0.23%
$0
$-78
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 0 - $0
Less Annual Fees -$78
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months -78

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $39
APR 20.24%

Card Details

Summary 2018 Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

For those who want a quick recap of the best credit cards for bad credit, you can find the most relevant information in the table below.

CardBest Bad-Credit Credit Card for…
Discover it® Secured Card ­- No Annual FeeCash Back
Savings Secured Visa Platinum CardLow Interest
Discover it® for StudentsStudents With No Credit
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®Flexible Credit Limits
AeroMexico Visa Secured CardTravel Miles

How To Find the Best Credit Card When You Have Bad Credit

If you have bad credit, your best credit card options are limited largely to secured credit cards that require up-front security deposits. It's important to research cards carefully and compare fees and APRs, which generally are high for people with low credit scores. Here's how to find the best secured card for you.

Pick the Right Type of Credit Card

Issuers consider "bad credit" as having a FICO score below 600 and a credit history that includes negative items such as bankruptcies, collections and many late payments. Having no credit history typically is not considered the same as having bad credit. If you lack credit history, you may have more card options, especially if you're also a college student. We've pulled together several credit card recommendations for those with no credit. But for those with bad credit, most issuers will offer only secured credit cards.

A secured credit card requires an up-front security deposit to guarantee the card's credit line. The line of credit is generally equal to the deposit, so you'd get a $500 credit line if you deposit $500. A few secured cards require only a nominal security deposit for a higher credit line. If you want to increase your credit line, you can make additional deposits. The deposit is returned if you close the account with a positive payment record and a paid balance. If you become delinquent, the issuer can close your account and confiscate the deposit.

If you don't carry a balance month to month, look for a card with rewards. There are cards that offer cash back and airline miles with generally low rewards rates between 1% and 2%. If you do carry a balance, find a secured card with the lowest interest rate available. Secured cards typically come with very high interest rates, so your best bet is to consider secured cards from credit unions.

Some banks advertise credit cards for people with bad credit that don't require a security deposit, or unsecured credit cards. Avoid these offers. We've examine dozens of these cards and found they always come with many fees that often cost more than a security deposit. With secured cards, you can get your deposit back if you close the account. But you won't be reimbursed any fees on one of these unsecured cards.

Compare Key Features

Secured credit cards come with four main features that can help you differentiate your choices. Consider which features you prioritize most based on your financial needs and habits.

Security Deposit: Most credit cards for bad credit require a minimum security deposit of $200 to $250. Many banks also don't allow deposits of more than $3,000. Some banks will simply hold the deposit, while others place it in a certificate of deposit (CD) or savings account that offers a return. If you're comparing otherwise equal cards, we recommend picking the one that invests your security deposit.

Interest Rate: You should avoid carrying a balance, but that's not always possible. If you have a tendency to roll your balance from one month to the next, carefully consider a card's APR. This is even more important for secured credit cards that have rates above 24%. Cards with the lowest rates generally are issued by credit unions.

Annual Fees: Most secured cards we recommend don't come with an annual fee, but others do. If you're considering a card with an annual fee, make sure you get enough value—such as through rewards—to justify the fee.

Rewards Rate: Some secured credit cards offer cash back or airline mile rewards on each dollar you spend. How much you get back with every dollar is the "rewards rate" that can be used to compare cards. Consider what you spend your money on—such as groceries, gas or travel—to help you determine the best rewards card for you.

Alternatives to Secured Credit Cards

There are two ways to get an unsecured credit card even if you have bad credit—without resorting to those high-fee offers we mentioned earlier.

Authorized User: You can ask a trusted family member or friend to add you as authorized user on a credit card—ideally with a high limit, low balance and positive payment history. As an authorized user, you'll receive a card of your own, but you aren't legally responsible for making payments. The card's payment history is added to your credit report, helping rebuild your own credit history. To maintain a good relationship between you and the primary cardholder, discuss how much you can charge each month and what type of purchases can be made.

Joint Account: You can also ask that trusted friend or family member to open a joint credit card account with you. In this case, you'll share the responsibility of making monthly payments on the card. You also can't be removed from the account very easily, which is a risk for both cardholders. But any good payment history from this card will be a bigger boost to your credit history versus an authorized user account. Again, it's important to agree on parameters of the card: How much you can spend each month, what purchases you can make and who is responsible for making the monthly payments.

What You Should Do If You Have Bad Credit

A secured credit card can be the first step to improving your bad credit. If you manage your new card responsibly, with time, your credit score will increase enough that you will eventually qualify for an unsecured card. Here are four simple practices to get you on track to better credit.

Pay Off Your Balance. Paying off your entire balance every month shows your lender that you are responsible with handling debt. It also builds good payment history on your credit report. Set up a monthly reminder or establish automatic recurring payments from your bank account. Avoid paying just the minimum, because you will end up paying interest charges. On secured credit cards with high interest rates, these costs can add up quickly.

Avoid Late Payments. Make sure your monthly payments are made on time, even if it's just the minimum. Missing a payment has several consequences. The issuer will report late payments to the credit bureau, which will appear on your credit report and may hurt your credit score. The issuer may also charge a late fee and increase your APR.

Charge Wisely. Running up your credit card balance will generally hurt your credit score. A good rule of thumb is to use only 30% or less of your credit limit. That means if you have a secured card with a $250 credit line, you should charge only $75 (or less) every month.

Don't Apply for Too Many Cards. Each time you apply for a credit card, the lender will pull a copy of your credit report as part of the approval process. If you apply for multiple cards in a short amount of time, a corresponding number of credit pulls will show up on your credit report, hurting your credit score. That's because FICO has found that consumers who apply for credit many times in a short period tend to overextend themselves and are more likely to default.

Last updated January 29, 2018

Comments and Questions

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. 

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.