Can I apply for a credit card with no income?

Written by
Maryalene Laponsie
Terms apply; see the online credit card application for full terms and conditions of offers and rewards.

Credit cards are powerful financial tools, and companies don’t issue them to just anyone. Applicants generally need to have an acceptable credit history and access to money to make monthly payments.

So it might surprise you to learn that you can, in fact, get a credit card if you don’t have any earned income. It all depends on what other money you have access to and which card you’re applying for.

Here’s what you need to know about applying for a credit card with no income and some alternative strategies to try if you aren’t approved.

Can I get a credit card with no job?

You don’t need a job to be approved for a credit card, but you do need to have access to money. That could be money earned by others in your household or cash that comes from sources outside a regular job.

For instance, on a card application, you can include the following:

  • Income from a spouse
  • Retirement benefits, including Social Security
  • Money earned from a side gig or self-employment
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Public assistance
  • Child support or alimony

In this way, stay-at-home parents, retirees and even students can be approved for a credit card.

Applying for a credit card with no income

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, commonly called the Credit CARD Act, lays out requirements for companies when considering the ability of applicants to pay off their debt.

Specifically, the law states card issuers should consider any income or assets a person has reasonable access to as their own income and assets. For example, a non-working spouse can reasonably be expected to have access to their working spouse’s income, and so they can list their spouse’s income on a credit card application.

Credit card applications often don’t ask for details of your income. Instead, they may simply ask you to fill in the annual amount for your household.

You are also under no obligation to include forms of income such as child support, alimony and public benefits. Including them may improve your chances of approval, but if this income is irregular, it may be prudent to leave it off an application.

How to get a credit card with no job

If you don’t have other sources of income – or if your income is not enough for approval – you still have other options available. Try one of the following strategies to gain access to a credit card.

1. Use a co-signer

Getting someone to co-sign a credit card application is a common piece of advice. It allows you to be approved based on another person’s guarantee that they will cover the balance if you can’t repay your debt.

The problem is, no major credit card issuer allows co-signers anymore. Joint accounts with co-applicants are typically not an option either.

However, you may have better luck with smaller banks or credit unions. Ask your local institutions if they will allow a co-signer or issue cards to joint owners. If they do, look for someone whom you trust – preferably a person with good credit – to co-sign on the account.

2. Become an authorized user

While co-signers are no longer allowed by major credit card issuers, most welcome – and even encourage – authorized users.

An authorized user is someone given permission to use a credit card without being an owner on the account. In other words, an authorized user can charge purchases to an account but is not legally responsible for paying off the debt.

Becoming an authorized user can boost your credit score assuming the account owner is making timely payments. Some people become authorized users for this reason and never use the card.

But if you want to become an authorized user so you can purchase things conveniently with a credit card, be sure you have a clear understanding with the account owner of how much you expect to spend and how it will be paid off. Otherwise, you run the risk of causing hurt feelings and possibly damaging beyond repair your relationship with the account owner.

3. Apply for a secured credit card

A secured credit card is one that requires an upfront security deposit equal to the amount of your credit limit. For instance, if you pay a $200 deposit, your credit limit will be $200. Since there is virtually no risk to the card issuer, almost anyone can be approved for a secured card.

Secured credit cards offer several benefits for those who can’t get a traditional card. Most notably, they can boost your credit score so long as you make payments on time. Using a secured card can also be more convenient than paying with cash, and they are a safe way to pay for purchases online.

Some secured cards will also automatically transition to unsecured cards after a specified period. For instance, with the CardName, Discover will automatically review your account starting at seven months to see if you are eligible to be transitioned to an unsecured line of credit and have your deposit returned.

4. Apply for a student credit card

If you are in college, consider applying for a student credit card. While these accounts still require income for approval, they are generally much more flexible than other credit cards.

Many of these cards come with rewards and extra perks as well. The CardName, for example, offers $50 bonus cash back after you make your first purchase within three months of opening an account, and 1% cash back on all purchases. Meanwhile, the CardName is currently offering its cardholders statement credits for a complimentary Uber One membership through 11/14/24, among other rewards and perks.

Regardless of how you get a credit card, be sure to use it wisely. That advice is especially important for those without a job or with limited income. While credit cards are convenient tools that can magnify your purchasing power, they can lead to expensive debt and sleepless nights if you charge more than you can afford to repay.

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