Best credit cards for after bankruptcy
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Though the total number of individuals filing for bankruptcy each year is generally declining, there are still a staggering number of people who must deal with the repercussions of bankruptcy each year (according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, there were 757,634 filings in 2019). That means there are still a lot of people out there looking for the best credit cards to use after bankruptcy.
The thing is, sometimes, often even, the circumstances leading to a bankruptcy aren't fully in the control of the person filing. A Texas A&M University research team found that more than four out of five bankruptcies resulted from "adverse events" outside the control of those filing, and according to studies published in The American Journal of Medicine, more than half our country's bankruptcies involved significant medical debt of more than $5,000.
- Discover it® Secured - Rewards Cards
- Capital One® Secured Mastercard® - Secured Cards
- Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® for Rebuilding Credit - Unsecured Cards
The good news is that many lenders understand that a bankruptcy rarely reflects your true relationship with money. That means if you managed credit cards effectively before you were forced to declare bankruptcy, you don't have to give up their security or convenience for long. In fact, using a credit card after declaring bankruptcy is actually one of the best steps you can take to start improving your credit score, since your credit score is based upon several factors including your payment history, credit utilization (the ratio of your available credit to the amount you're using) as well as how long your accounts have been open. Therefore, it can make sense to apply for a credit card soon after bankruptcy to begin re-establishing your creditworthiness. Just be sure you wait until after your discharge is complete before submitting any applications.
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
Why We Like It: If it weren't for the security deposit (which could be returned in as little as eight months), it'd be easy to mistake this card for an unsecured credit card because of its rewards. Not only can you earn 2% cash back on select purchases, but you'll also have all of your cash back rewards matched at the end of your first year as a cardholder, which is a great perk for a secured credit card.
The Annual Fee: See Terms
Security Deposit: Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
You choose the deposit amount with a minimum security deposit of $200 required. You can deposit more to secure a higher line of credit if you want (up to the amount Discover will approve). Your security deposit is refundable if you pay your balance in full and close your credit card account. Discover will also automatically review your credit card account monthly starting at eight months to see if your security deposit can be returned and your account can be transitioned to an unsecured account.
The Rewards: Cardholders earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases. Plus, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
Credit Management Tools: Discover will monitor and alert you if they find your Social Security number on a risky website, and it also provides you with your FICO Credit Score on your monthly statements, as well as online, for free – that's a number you'll no doubt be keeping an eye on as you work toward rebuilding your financial profile after a bankruptcy.
- No weird fees. It isn't just a matter of there being no annual fee, but some secured credit cards have processing fees, application fees, membership fees (stay away from those). This doesn't have those. We aren't saying that there aren't some fees. There are (see: cons) but nothing crazy.
- No foreign transaction fee. So, if you travel abroad, this is a credit card worth packing.
- Try to make your payments on time, since that's the best way to eventually graduate from a secured credit card to an unsecured one, but you won't be charged a penalty APR if you miss a payment.
- The $200 minimum security deposit could be a stretch for some people. However, there is no annual fee to worry about.
- Cash advances on any credit card is costly, and this one's no exception. You'll pay a hefty cash advance APR and a cash advance fee should you do this, so only do it if it's an absolute emergency and you have no other options.
Read our full Discover it® Secured review.
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
Why We Like It: If you're worried about attaining a higher level of credit but don't have a huge deposit to put down, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® might be a good option for you. With this card, a deposit as low as $49 (and up to $200, see below) can establish your line of credit. Plus, cardholders will also have access to many of the great rewards unsecured Capital One credit cards offer, like extended warranty and price protection, as well as auto rental and travel accident insurance.
The Annual Fee: $0
Security Deposit: A $49, $99 or $200 refundable deposit. If your application is approved and you provide the minimum required security deposit prior to the expiration date, your account will be opened and you will receive the minimum initial credit line of $200. To increase your initial credit line, simply deposit more than your minimum required security deposit before your account opens. You can then raise your initial credit line by the amount of your additional deposit, up to $1,000. If you make your first five monthly payments on time, you'll get access to a higher credit line with no additional deposit needed. You may also earn credit line increases based on your payment history and creditworthiness.
The Rewards: None; however, cardholders will have access to a number of shopping and travel benefits, such as extended warranty and price protection on purchases made with the card, auto rental and travel accident insurance, and 24-hour travel and roadside assistance.
Credit Management Tools: CreditWise from Capital One gives you unlimited access to your credit score, as well as free financial tools and information from the issuer's Financial Education site.
- No foreign transaction fee.
- You'll get the benefits of a Platinum Mastercard, such as auto rental insurance, price protection and 24/7 roadside assistance.
- You can use this card with Apple Pay.
- The card has a fairly high APR (26.99% (Variable)), but the whole point of getting this card is to build credit, which should mean you don't carry a balance.
- There is a late fee if you pay late, but this is a pretty standard thing with credit cards.
Read our full Capital One® Secured Mastercard® review.
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
Why We Like It: Unlike the other secured credit cards featured here, your USAA® Secured Visa Platinum® Card security deposit will actually earn you money since it's made in the form of a two-year certificate of deposit (CD).
The Annual Fee: $35
Security Deposit: When you apply, you'll be able to determine your own credit limit by opening a two-year certificate of deposit (CD) in the amount of your choosing from $250 to $5,000. The balance of your CD is your credit limit.
The Rewards: Unlike with most other cards, with the USAA® Secured Visa Platinum® Card , your security deposit will earn variable interest. Additionally, this card offers users no foreign transaction fees, collision damage waiver coverage, identity theft resolution services, and extended warranty and price protection on purchases made with the card.
Credit Management Tools: Text message alerts and easy online and mobile account management tools.
- You'll get some nice perks that don't always come with secured credit cards, such as extended warranty, baggage delay insurance and car rental insurance.
- There are no foreign transaction fees charged with this card. If you are late with a payment, there's no penalty APR (a late fee of up to $35, but your APR doesn't change).
- The usual gripes, such as no rewards, which isn't unusual for a secured credit card.
- There's a balance transfer fee of 3%, and so this really isn't a card that you'd want to put revolving debt on.
Read our full USAA® Secured Visa Platinum® Card review.
Why We Like It: With the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card, no credit check is required to qualify, meaning the amount of your security deposit doesn't depend on your creditworthiness, but instead, you have total control over the amount of your deposit from $200 to $3,000 (with approval). That also means your credit won't take a hit when you apply.
The Annual Fee: $35
Security Deposit: A refundable deposit as low as $200 and up to $3,000 will determine your credit limit. Since no credit check is required to apply for this card, the amount of your deposit is up to you (with approval).
The Rewards: OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card members have access to a number of shopping and travel benefits, such as extended warranty and price protection on purchases made with the card, auto rental and travel accident insurance, and 24-hour travel and roadside assistance.
Credit Management Tools: Easy online access to OpenSky's tips for rebuilding your credit as well as to stories from real OpenSky customers on what they're doing to get where they want to be financially. Sign up for email alerts that remind you when your bill is due or when you're nearing your credit limit. Take advantage of automatic payments so you pay your bill on time, every time.
- Relatively low 17.39% (Variable) APR. You can definitely find secured credit cards with significantly higher APRs. So in that sense, this card is a keeper.
- While low on the perks, the card comes with $0 fraud liability and auto rental insurance.
- You can add authorized users to the card, if you want, and as long as they use the card responsibly, you may end up rebuilding your credit faster.
- This isn't the best card to travel abroad with as it charges a 3% fee on foreign transactions.
- No introductory bonus, which is often the case with a secured credit card. But, still, it's a minor bummer.
- This isn't a credit card that you can stop using and forget about. Well, you can, but you'd be well advised not to. If you don't use the card for 12 months, you'll get a $10 inactivity fee.
Read our full OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card review.
Why We Like It: If it's an unsecured credit card that you're after, the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® for Rebuilding Credit card is a good card to consider as it's designed specifically for people looking to rebuild their credit. There's no security deposit with this one; however, there is potential for an annual fee (depending on your creditworthiness), but we think the 1% cash back that can be earned on qualifying purchases helps to outweigh this cost, especially since unsecured credit cards that offer good rewards can be harder to qualify for.
The Annual Fee: $0 - $99
Security Deposit: Not required as this is an unsecured card.
The Rewards: Based on your creditworthiness you could qualify for one of four cash-back rewards programs which could include 1% cash back on eligible gas, groceries, dining purchases, mobile phone services, internet services, and/or cable and satellite TV services or even just a flat 1% cash back on all your purchases, among other possibilities.
Credit Management Tools: Free credit score tracking and customizable account notifications.
- Obviously, this is a card to rebuild credit, but if your credit isn't too bad, you may be able to avoid any annual fee whatsoever.
- The free credit score tracking is appreciated.
- As with an unsecured credit card, you'll receive zero fraud liability, and so if your card is stolen (hey, it happens), you won't be liable for the charges.
- There's a chance for no annual fee at all, but there's also a chance for a fairly high one.
- There really aren't many extra extras, like, say, cell phone insurance. That would be nice. But this doesn't card doesn't have that.
CAN I GET A CREDIT CARD AFTER BANKRUPTCY?
Yes, although your options may be limited.
Credit card issuers may be more than happy to issue you a new card since they know you'll be unable to file for bankruptcy again for seven years. However, they aren't likely to approve an unsecured card with a large line of credit. Instead, companies may limit you to a small credit line and charge a high interest rate on any balance you carry.
Depending on your particular financial situation and credit score, you may find only secured cards are available to you as well. Regardless of why you declared bankruptcy, the fact you couldn't pay back your debt is a red flag for businesses. Credit card issuers may want a deposit to ensure that they won't be out any money if you can't pay your bills again.
If you do have trouble getting approved for a credit card, see if someone you know well would be willing to add you as an authorized user on their card. This can be excellent way to build credit and boost your score, so long as the primary accountholder has good credit themselves and makes timely payments. Once your score increases, you may then qualify for a card on your own.
HOW LONG AFTER BANKRUPTCY CAN I GET A CREDIT CARD?
You'll need to wait until your bankruptcy is discharged before you can expect to be approved for any type of credit card. If you filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it may only be 3-5 months before discharge. However, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may take years to complete.
While it's a good idea to apply for credit after a bankruptcy so you can rebuild your credit, be smart about it. Before you apply for any card, be sure to have a written budget and a plan for exactly what you will charge each month and how you will pay it off. Remember, you don't need to carry a balance to build credit. Making a purchase with a card and then paying it off immediately is just as helpful, if not more so, when it comes to improving your score.
It is also helpful to understand what led to your bankruptcy in the first place. Was it a medical event or lost job combined with no savings or did you simply spend beyond your means? Once you know the cause of your bankruptcy, you can put into place safeguards to ensure the same situation doesn't occur again.
WHAT IS THE EASIEST CREDIT CARD TO GET AFTER BANKRUPTCY?
A secured card will be, by far, the easiest credit card to get after bankruptcy. These cards are designed specifically for those with bad credit who want to rebuild their score.
If you're hoping to get an unsecured card, we like the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® mentioned above. It is one of the easier unsecured cards to get for those coming out of a bankruptcy.
As you get further out from your discharge date, other unsecured cards from Discover, MasterCard and Visa should become available to you. These won't be lucrative rewards cards but some may come with nice benefits such as no annual fee.
SECURED VS. UNSECURED CREDIT CARDS
Your options after bankruptcy will likely include mostly secured credit cards, which provide excellent opportunities to rebuild your credit just like traditional (ie. unsecured) cards do. With a secured card, you'll be required to supply a security deposit up front, usually ranging from $49 up to $200 depending on the issuer. The deposit will secure your line of credit and will generally be equal to your credit limit. Assuming you keep your account in good standing and pay all your bills, that deposit will be returned to you in full when you either close the account or are upgraded to a non-secured card.
Though the terms of a secured credit card might not be as appealing as those offered with unsecured cards, don't discount them completely. Issuers of secured credit cards will report your payments to credit bureaus and help boost your credit score the same as other cards. However, as with other credit cards, compare several options to be sure you are getting the lowest fees and interest possible. And although they may appear similar, don't confuse secured credit cards with prepaid cards. Except in rare instances, prepaid cards don't report to the credit bureaus and won't help your score.
If an unsecured credit card is really what you're after, it's still an option, but proceed with caution.
If you filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may find it relatively difficult to qualify for an unsecured credit card. Depending on your trustee's plan, you may be making partial payments on existing credit card accounts, making it tough for new banks to accept your application. However, if you filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may notice a near flood of pre-qualified credit card applications in your mailbox a few months after your discharge posts to your credit reports.
Banks know that you're unable to file for bankruptcy again for another seven years, reducing the risk of default. While you might not hear from a bank that you included in your bankruptcy filing, you could hear from their biggest competitors. Just be sure to watch out for subprime lenders and scam offers during the first few years after your discharge. They'll send ads for credit cards for poor credit that actually only entitle you to heavily marked-up retail goods, and some subprime Visa and Mastercard issuers charge exorbitant application fees and monthly service charges in addition to high APRs. Their marketing pitches suggest that you won't find a better deal after bankruptcy, but in reality, you could save up what you'd otherwise pay in fees, park that cash in a secured credit card's linked deposit account, and get that money back after you've graduated to a stronger, unsecured card.
While some credit cards are harder to qualify for than others (American Express, for example, is a particularly tough one to break into after bankruptcy), not all hope is lost when it comes to applying for new cards after bankruptcy. When it comes to rebuilding credit after bankruptcy, consider the cards above as building blocks to improving your financial future.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.
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