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The best credit cards for bad credit — updated for May 2020

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This article is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. It has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the issuers listed. Some of the offers you see on this page are from our partners, like Citi, but our coverage is always independent.

Having a low credit score makes it harder to get approved for a new credit card and other types of loans, and it means that when you do get approved for, say, a mortgage, you’ll generally get less-favorable terms like the highest variable interest rates.

A bad credit score is defined as anything below 580, according to the FICO scoring model, and anything below 601 according to VantageScore. If you currently find yourself in this credit score range, you probably won’t get approved for popular rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, but you do have some credit card options. Secured credit cards are particularly easy to get approved for, because you put up a cash deposit as collateral to get started, and there are also non-secured cards tailored to those looking to repair or build their credit.

Using a card responsibly will help boost your credit over time, since keeping your credit utilization low and making on-time payments are the two biggest factors that determine your credit score. Once you have your finances on track and your credit score keeps climbing, it’s only a matter of time before you can get a rewards credit card offering bonus points and other enticing perks. 

  • Best secured card with rewards: Discover it® Secured
  • Best secured card with purchase and travel protection: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
  • If you can qualify for a non-secured credit card: Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
  • Best for building credit: Petal Visa
  • For students building credit: Discover it® Student Cash Back
  • A secured credit card for businesses: Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

Best secured card with rewards: Discover it® Secured

The Discover it® Secured is easily the top secured credit card on the market today, because not only is there no annual fee, but you also get the opportunity to earn rewards. You’ll need to put down a cash deposit to get started, and you’ll secure a line of credit equal to that amount that you can use to begin building a responsible credit history. If you use your card responsibly, you can also get your deposit back when you close or upgrade your account in good standing.

In terms of rewards, the Discover it® Secured lets you rack up 2% cash back on up to $1,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants each quarter you activate (then 1%), plus 1% back on all other purchases. Even better, Discover will double all the rewards you earn after the first year.

The Discover it® Secured also gives you a free FICO score on your monthly credit card bill, and you can use this information to monitor your score as you improve your credit over time.

Regular APR

26.99% variable APR

Credit Score

Bad or No Credit

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Offers you an opportunity to build or rebuild your credit with responsible use
    • $49, $99 or $200 refundable minimum security deposit
    • Make the minimum required security deposit and you’ll get an initial credit line of $200
    • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
    • Pick your own monthly due date and payment method
    • Add an authorized user to your account, and track spending by user
    Pros
    • Minimum deposit ($49) is lower than with some other secured cards
    • You can access a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time
    Cons

    Secured card with purchase and travel protection: Capital One Secured Mastercard

    The Capital One Secured Mastercard is another popular secured credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. This card starts you out with a low line of credit (possibly as low as $200) when you make the minimum deposit amount of $49, $99, or $200 depending on your application details.

    From there, you can begin building good credit by using the card for small purchases and paying your bill on time each month. Capital One will consider you for a higher line of credit after you’ve paid your credit card bill early or on time for six consecutive months.

    You can pick your payment due date with the Capital One Secured Mastercard, and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees if you use it for purchases made outside the United States. This card also comes with travel accident insurance and extended warranties on eligible items that already come with a manufacturer’s warranty.

    Regular APR

    26.99% variable APR

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Access to a higher credit line with Credit Steps after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
    • Unlimited access to your credit score and tools to help you monitor your credit profile with CreditWise from Capital One®
    • Add an authorized user to your account, and track spending by user
    • Personalized email or text reminders to help you stay on top of your account
    Pros
    • Access to a higher credit line after you make your first five monthly payments on time
    • No annual fee
    Cons
    • No extra benefits and no rewards

    If your credit’s on the higher side of low: Capital One Platinum Card

    Unlike most other card issuers, Capital One indicates what type of credit score you need to get approved for each of its cards. The Capital One Platinum Card is for “average credit,” which Capital One defines as having defaulted on a loan in the past five years or “limited credit history” (defined as having a credit card or other credit for less than three years).

    This card doesn’t offer any rewards, but it is an unsecured credit card, meaning you don’t have to put down a cash deposit as collateral. There’s also no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, travel accident insurance, and extended warranties. 

    You may have to start out with a relatively low line of credit, but Capital One promises to reevaluate your credit line after you’ve made six on-time monthly payments.

    Credit Score

    No Credit History

    Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 6 months from date of account opening

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • The information related to the Discover it® Student Cash Back has been collected by Business Insider and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
    • Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
    • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. 1% after that.
    • $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
    • 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.
    • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.
    Pros
    • Earns 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories
    • $20 statement credit each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher
    • Discover matches your cash back after the first year
    Cons
    • Not the most rewarding cash-back card for non-bonus purchases

    For students building credit: Discover it® Student Cash Back

    The Discover it® Student Cash Back is specifically geared to students with limited credit history, so it may be considerably easier to qualify for when compared to other unsecured credit cards. You won’t pay an annual fee for this card, and you won’t pay a late fee on your first late payment.

    You can also earn rewards with the Discover it® Student Cash Back by enrolling each quarter to earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly rotating bonus categories (then 1%), and 1% back on all other purchases. Like with its other cash-back credit cards, Discover will also match all the rewards you earn the first year.

    As a bonus, you can qualify for a $20 statement credit each year you maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher (for up to five years).

    Best for building credit: Petal Visa card

    Unfortunately, this card is currently only available to those with an offer code, but you can add your name to the list here to be notified when you’re able to apply.

    The Petal Visa was designed for consumers with limited credit histories who need help building credit from scratch. This credit card comes with no annual fee and no hidden fees, yet it’s a Visa credit card that can be used anywhere Visa is accepted worldwide. Not only that, but you may be able to qualify for a credit limit up to $10,000, and you’ll earn rewards on your spending.

    Cash back is initially offered at 1%, but you’ll graduate to earning 1.25% back after six on-time payments then 1.5% back once you’ve made 12 on-time payments on your card. This credit card also works in conjunction with a handy app that helps you track your spending and set a budget for the month, and usage of the app is also free.

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

  • Pros
    • Earns 1.5% cash back on every dollar you spend, or choose to earn rewards points instead
    • If you choose to earn points instead of cash back, you can earn 1,000 bonus rewards points when you spend $1,000 or more in a billing period
    • You can get up to a $25,000 credit line
    Cons
    • Unlike many other secured cards, it has an annual fee (of $25)

    A secured credit card for businesses: Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

    Business owners who want to improve bad credit may need to get started with a secured credit card for business, and the Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card is a good option. This option only requires a $25 annual fee per card, yet you can qualify for a line of credit between $500 and $25,000.

    You’ll also earn 1.5% cash back for each dollar you spend, or you can decide to earn rewards “points” instead and redeem them for gift cards, merchandise, and flights. You’ll earn 1 point on every dollar spent and receive 1,000 bonus points when your company spends $1,000 or more during a monthly billing period. Cash back is received automatically as a deposit into an eligible checking or savings account each quarter.

    This card won’t charge any foreign transaction fees, and you can log in for business spending reports from Wells Fargo. 

    If your credit is in poor shape, picking up a credit card can help if you use it to your advantage. These questions and answers can help you get approved for a credit card for bad credit, then use it to boost your credit score over time.

    How do I know if I have bad credit?

    According to myFICO.com, poor credit is typically considered any FICO score below 580. Meanwhile, “fair credit” is considered any FICO score between 580 and 669.

    The best way to find out if you have bad credit is to check your credit score for free online. Fortunately, a variety of platforms let you get a free look at your credit score, including Credit Sesame and Credit Karma.

    How can a credit card help me build credit?

    Credit cards help you build credit by reporting your credit movements to the three credit bureaus. To build credit with a credit card, all you have to do is use your card for purchases you can afford to pay off. From there, pay your credit card bill early or on time each month. Over time, your positive credit usage will help boost your score.

    What is a secured credit card?

    A secured credit card is a type of credit card that requires a cash deposit as collateral. The cash deposit you put down is typically equal or close to the line of credit you qualify for, meaning you’ll get a $500 line of credit if you put down $500 in cash to get started. While putting down collateral may not seem ideal, secured credit cards are considerably easier to get approved for when you have bad credit or a limited credit history.

    How do I avoid credit card interest?

    To avoid paying interest on purchases made with a credit card, you need to pay your credit card statement balance in full each month. You’ll only be charged interest on balances you carry from one month to the next, so you should strive to avoid this.

    Which credit card fees should I watch out for?

    Try to pick a credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. Other credit card fees to watch out for include application fees, late fees, balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, and over-the-limit fees.

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    Evicted California renters at greater risk of getting COVID-19

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    After 70 years in Monterey County, 87-year-old Mary Martinez moved in the middle of a pandemic, evicted from her modest one-bedroom, second-floor apartment at 1118 Parkside St. in north Salinas.

    According to her former landlord, Martinez was evicted because she allowed a “violent man” to live with her, violating the conditions of her lease. Martinez said the man is her epileptic nephew.

    Advocates say that while evictions like Martinez’s are rarer during the pandemic, landlords are feeling the financial squeeze. Some have sold rental properties to make up for lack of income. That can leave renters out in the cold when their new landlord raises the rent by hundreds of dollars or requires all renters move out before they take over the building.

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    New program to help Black-owned online businesses | Technology

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    ATLANTA _ Many Black entrepreneurs struggle to get bank loans and professional help to launch new businesses. A new program aims to remove those stumbling blocks.

    An Atlanta nonprofit and another business have committed $150 million to the 1 Million Black Businesses effort, which will make loans and provide financial and business advice to Black-owned startups and established small businesses. Atlanta-based nonprofit Operation Hope, which helps consumers improve credit scores, is kicking in $20 million, and Shopify, the online e-commerce is adding another $130 million for the loans and website-hosting services.

    Other services firms providing expertise or help include Aprio, an Atlanta-based accounting firm, and First Horizon Bank.

    It’s a package of products that many Black entrepreneurs couldn’t get through a bank or credit union, said John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope.

    “A bank won’t lend you money unless you can prove that you don’t need it,” Bryant said. “That’s especially true with minority-owned small businesses.”

    Small businesses with Black owners were half as likely to obtain business loans as whites, according to a Federal Reserve survey published earlier this year.

    The initiative is the latest effort to help Black consumers and businesses enter the financial mainstream. Earlier this month, a group that includes rapper Killer Mike opened a digital bank aimed at Black and Latino consumers.

    Banks and credit unions have tried for years to help Black consumers open checking and savings accounts. The efforts helped, as the number of U.S. households without bank accounts fell to 5.4% in 2019 from 6.5% in 2017, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Monday.

    Consumers who own checking and savings accounts typically have access loans with better rates and a wider variety of financial services.

    The federal government’s $660 billion loan initiative for businesses hit by COVID-19, the Paycheck Protection Program, also helped few Black-owned businesses, Bryant said. PPP loans were based on a company’s number of employees and its rent obligations. many Black-owned small businesses typically didn’t have enough workers to qualify and are based out of the owner’s residence.

    Bryant said a bad credit history may not prevent applicants from receiving a loan.

    He hopes more companies will contribute services such as insurance advice or software typically available only to well-established businesses.

    Bryant noted that 1MBB is not a charitable organization, as participating companies like Shopify will likely get a pipeline of new business customers through the program.

    “This is not pure philanthropy,” he said. “Shopify believes that Black-owned businesses are good businesses if they’re properly supported.”

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    This Week’s Top Car Deals & Analysis – October 30, 2020

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    The final days of October offer a chance to take advantage of outstanding model year-end deals. Most offers end November 2, which means there isn’t much time left to enjoy this month’s best lease deals and deepest new car discounts. We even found incentives that can help those with bad credit buy a new or used car.

    2021 car deals. Interestingly, 2021 new car incentives are showing some surprises. For example, Audi is already offering up to $12,000 in savings when leasing the 2021 e-tron all-electric crossover. We even learned that the new Genesis GV80 SUV will debut with a $589/month lease deal plus special financing rates.

    Believe it or not, the 2021 Hyundai Veloster N could prove to be a great value despite a nearly $4,700 price increase compared to the previous year. That’s because our analysis finds that better incentives can make it just $10/month more expensive to lease than the 2020 model. Talk about getting more for your money.

    Why are small cars bad to lease? Even though smaller cars typically come with lower price tags, that isn’t always the case when leasing. A mix of lower discounts, worse residual values, and smaller discounts can actually make a Nissan Altima cheaper than a Versa despite having an almost $10,000 difference in MSRP.

    Shorter-mileage leases. More brands are offering shorter mileage allowances on car leases. Although this is typically used to offer consumers more flexibility, we’ve found cases in which you can end up getting less for your money. If you don’t read all the fine print, this could make comparison-shopping difficult.

    Bad credit car deals. If you have subprime credit, you may find it harder to get financed. However, some manufacturers are offering special incentives to help make cars & trucks more affordable. For example, Chevy is offering $2,000 in down payment assistance plus 9.9% APR for 72 months on the 2020 Trax.

    $0 down leases. If you’re adamant about now putting down any money on a lease, you’ll love Sign & Drive leases. In addition to requiring no money down, $0 down lease deals can cover your first month’s payment. Even hot sellers like the Honda CR-V Hybrid offer $0 down and as little as $330/month on a lease.

    The high cost of safety? Even though most major automakers are offering more safety features than ever before, our analysis finds that the highest IIHS safety ratings still require costly options in 2020. That’s starting to change, but the cost of buying a car with the most bragging rights is still very high.

    Disaster relief. Those affected by some of this year’s natural disasters should be aware that automakers are offering assistance. California wildfire assistance programs like Ford Employee Pricing can save thousands when replacing a car. Similarly, a 2020 hurricane relief program from GM offers $1,000 in savings.

    Spooky loan situations. There are some scary scenarios you can avoid when getting a car loan. However, boosting your credit score is possible with some determination because negative items on your credit report fall off after 7 years. Our network of dealers is specially equipped to help those with bad credit.

    Upcoming vehicles. Genesis finally revealed the new GV70, a small luxury crossover based on the highly-rated G70 sedan. Whether it’s a redesigned car, truck, or SUV, odds are you’ll find it on our Previews page. That said, as we reported last week, discounts ahead of a redesign can result in substantial savings.

    This Month’s Cheapest Lease Deals »



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