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Best credit cards for bad credit from our partners

Updated, October 5, 2018

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From qualifying for the best credit card reward offers to receiving favorable rates on auto loans and mortgages, your credit score can have a major impact on your life.

Information about you and your credit experiences, like your bill-paying history; the number, age, and types of accounts you have; outstanding debt; and collection actions is used to develop your credit score. If you have a long history of effectively managing your credit, you're likely to have a decent credit score, but if you've never used a credit card or have negative information on your credit report, such as a history of missing payments, you may struggle to secure a loan, rent an apartment, get a job, or qualify for good credit card offers.

If you don't know your credit score, sign up for a free credit score, credit report card, as well as a personal credit analysis with our preferred partner, Credit Sesame.

If your credit score needs improvement, responsibly using a credit card is a good way to help you build (or rebuild) your credit. While those with a low credit score might not yet be eligible for great rewards or cash-back credit card offers, there are a number of cards out there designed with low credit scores in mind. Below you'll find our expert's top picks for credit cards to rebuild credit.

Best secured cards for bad credit

Discover it® Secured

Why We Like It: Why not earn a little while working on rebuilding your credit? Not only does this card report to the three major credit bureaus and include your FICO credit score on your monthly statements, but this no-annual-fee card will also allow you to earn cash back on your purchases. AND, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, which is a great perk for even the best rewards cards!

The Bonus: Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.

The Annual Fee: $0. A security deposit of at least $200 will be required to establish your line of credit.

The Rewards: Earn 2 percent cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter; additionally, earn 1 percent back on all your other purchases. Read our full Discover it® Secured review.


Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Why We Like It: Not only does this card come with some of the same benefits of the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card, like extended warranty, auto rental insurance, travel accident insurance, 24/7 travel and roadside assistance, and price protection, this no-annual-fee card also requires the lowest minimum security deposit out of all of the credit cards that we reviewed. Depending on your creditworthiness you could qualify for an account with a deposit of just $49.

The Bonus: Get access to a higher line of credit after making your first five monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed.

The Annual Fee: $0, plus a minimum $49 security deposit depending on credit worthiness.

The Rewards: In addition to fraud coverage and 24/7 customer service, cardholders have access to extended warranty offers, auto rental insurance, travel accident insurance, 24/7 travel and roadside assistance, and price protection services. Read our full Capital One® Secured Mastercard® review..


Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Why We Like It: When working on your credit, it's nice to know that your card comes along with some protection perks. In addition to Citi Identity Theft Solutions, which helps you resolve cases of fraud, this card offers worldwide travel accident insurance, extended warranty purchase protection and $0 liability on unauthorized charges.

The Annual Fee: $0. A minimum security deposit of $200 is required to establish your line of credit.

The Rewards: Again, no traditional rewards with this card, but the fraud resolution with Citi Identity Theft Solutions, worldwide travel accident insurance, extended warranty purchase protection, and $0 liability on unauthorized charges are nice perks, especially for a secured card. Read our full Citi® Secured Mastercard® review.


OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Why We Like It: Like other cards on this list, this card also reports monthly to the three major credit bureaus, as well as provides online credit education and an e-newsletter to help cardholders proactively work on improving credit. Plus, it also offers a worry-free application that doesn't require a credit check, so you don't have to worry about your application affecting your credit score.

The Annual Fee: $35, plus a minimum security deposit of $200.

The Rewards: There are no specific rewards with this card, but consider the "rewards" to be your chance to use the card responsibly and qualify for a traditional rewards card in the future. Read our full OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card review.


Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card

Why We Like It: The right credit card used responsibly is a great early step in building your credit, but sometimes you can't even get to that step. With this card, all credit types are invited to apply and the low fixed APR on purchases could go a long way to helping you stay out of interest debt.

The Annual Fee: $49, plus a security deposit of at least $200 (fully refundable) and as much as $5,000 to establish your credit line.

The Rewards: Reporting to the three major credit bureaus and access to a super low fixed APR of just 9.99% (F) on purchases could be considered reward enough. Read our full Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card review.


USAA® Secured Card Visa Platinum® Card

Why We Like It: Instead of paying a refundable deposit to set your line of credit like the other mentioned secured credit cards, this card lets you determine your credit limit (up to $5,000) by opening a two-year certificate of deposit (CD), with the balance of your CD being your credit limit. The benefit of this is that you can earn variable interest on the balance of the CD, which is a nice way to earn a little cash back while working on your credit.

The Bonus: Earn variable interest on the balance of the CD.

The Annual Fee: $35, plus a minimum security deposit of $250 to establish you line of credit.

The Rewards: Enjoy no foreign transaction fees, collision waiver damage protection and identify theft resolution services in addition to that interest accruing on your security deposit. Not bad for a card designed primarily to help you build/rebuild your credit. Read our full USAA® Secured Card Visa Platinum® Card review.


Best unsecured cards for bad credit

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®

Why We Like It: If you, like so many people, get anxious waiting on card approval, the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa® might be for you. With the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®, you can find out if you're approved for the card in less than a minute, without affecting your credit score. Plus, this card offers free credit score tracking and 1 percent cash back on eligible purchases.

The Annual Fee: $0 - $99

The Rewards: In addition to free credit score tracking and fraud liability protection against unauthorized charges, cardholders can earn 1 percent cash back on eligible purchases like gas, groceries and dining out. Read our full Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa® review.


Milestone® Unsecured Mastercard®

Why We Like It: Another good option for those looking for an immediate answer about approval (without worrying about a denied application hurting your credit score), the Milestone® Unsecured Mastercard® can help you work toward better credit while also providing you with great benefits such as MasterRental insurance, extended warranty coverage and travel assistance benefits.

The Annual Fee: $35 - $99 (Dependent on credit worthiness).

The Rewards: Once again, there are no traditional rewards, but you can build your credit while enjoying the benefits of MasterRental insurance, extended warranty coverage and travel assistance. Read our full Milestone® Unsecured Mastercard® review.


Secured vs. unsecured credit cards

A little different than traditional credit cards, many of the cards on the list above are "secured cards" that require a refundable deposit in order for you to qualify. Most of the time, the structuring is easy. The higher the deposit you put down, the higher the line of credit. If you put down a $500 deposit, you then have a $500 line of credit. It's as easy as that.

Sometimes a card will have a limit on how much of a deposit you can put down, but almost always, there will be a minimum deposit amount; usually around $200 (but not always that high!)

You can generally add to your deposit to increase your line of credit (within limitations), and sometimes, as with the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, you can be considered for a higher credit line just for making payments on time, with no additional deposit needed.

Whether secured or unsecured, most of these cards offer credit building tips, credit score tracking and reporting to the three major credit bureaus, so with responsible spending and bill paying, you could be on the road to a higher credit score (or a more rewarding credit card) in no time!

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