Obtaining a credit card when you have poor credit can be quite the challenge. Often times, credit card issuers want nothing to do with your 600 FICO score because you’re seen as a risk. Fortunately, if you look hard enough, there are a few unsecured credit cards tailored to consumers on the lower end of the FICO score ladder.
However, while you may be able to obtain unsecured credit, it will come at a price. To compensate for the risk involved, card issuers generally charge high interest rates as well as mandatory annual fees. You’ll find several credit cards for individuals with poor credit below. If you own a card with a low interest rate and low fees that hasn’t made our list, please let us know and we’ll gladly add it.
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Best Credit Cards for Poor Credit
Self Visa® – The Self Visa card is another secured card option that can help you build or rebuild your credit score. Like most secured cards, it’s much easier to qualify for than an unsecured card, but this particular card is unique among secured credit cards.
The Self Visa card comes from Self, a company dedicated to helping people build their credit. To get the card, the first thing you have to do is open a Self Credit Builder Account. The account is like a forced savings plan. When you apply for an account, Self opens a CD for you and deposits the amount of your savings plan. You then have to make minimum monthly payments to Self. You can choose the payment, but they must be at least $25 per month. When you finish making payments (after at least one year), Self unlocks the balance of your CD for you, plus interest.
If you open a Self Credit Builder Account and make at least three monthly payments and build a balance of at least $100, you can qualify for a Self Visa Card. You can choose your own credit limit, up to the savings balance you’ve built with the Credit Builder Account.
One nice perk is that the card has no penalty APR and waives your first late payment fee, (subsequent late payments cost $15) making it more forgiving than many cards designed for people with poor credit.
Processing Fee – $15 to open the Self Credit Builder Account
Annual Fee – $25 for the Self Visa
Capital One® Secured Mastercard® – There may be a temptation to own an unsecured credit card to build your credit but I believe the best option for those with poor credit is the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®. There is $0 annual fee to own this card; a very reasonable 26.99% (Variable) purchase APR and a handful of other perks that make this card an attractive option to improve your credit.
Your initial deposit needs to be $49, $99 or $200 based on your creditworthiness and after you receive your initial credit line, you can deposit more money for a higher credit limit. After you make five successful monthly payments on time, you’ll have access to yet another higher credit limit.
The late payment fee is up to $39 and this card reports to all three major credit bureaus. After owning the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® for a long period of time, you may be eligible to convert this card to an unsecured Capital One credit card.
- Processing Fee – $0
- Annual Fee – $0
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards – Our favorite unsecured line of credit comes from Credit One Bank. The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards has a reasonable annual fee with a rewards program that provides cash back on your purchases.
The ongoing APR is a high – 17.99%-23.99% Variable – but that shouldn’t be a problem if you’re paying off your balance on time. The annual fee to own this card is $0 – $99. The actual annual fee you receive will be based on your credit profile, but if you have bad credit, you can expect to see the high end of that scale. As you improve your credit and make timely monthly payments, you can apply to have the annual fee reduced (or removed completely). When you apply for the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards, you’ll receive one of five cash back rewards programs. Each program is a touch different, but they all offer 1% cash back on select everyday categories, OR 1% cash back on all purchases. A nice incentive that credit cards for those with poor credit rarely offer.
- Processing Fee – $0
- Annual Fee – $0 – $99
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card – Another great secured credit card option is the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card. While you will find a small annual fee (of $35), there is no initial processing fee or other fees you have to worry about. The variable purchase APR is a strong 17.39% (which is the best on our list) and this secured card reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus.
This card is perfect for those with poor credit or no credit, as the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card requires no credit check and no checking account. It’s important to note that this card does charge an inactive fee and dormant fee. If you’re account is inactive for 12 consecutive months, you will be charged $10 per month after that. After 36 months of no activity, an additional $10 dormant fee is applied. Make sure if you own this card, you’re using it routinely.
- Processing Fee – $0
- Annual Fee – $35
Milestone Gold Mastercard® – Getting a little higher on the annual fee scale, the Milestone® Gold Mastercard® is likely the best unsecured card for the worst credit situations. Milestone notes that previous bankruptcies are OK so improving your very poor credit is likely worth the $35 – $99 annual fee (based on creditworthiness).
The current purchase APR is 24.9%. There is a $40 late payment fee, $40 over limit fee and $40 returned payment fee. The Milestone Gold Mastercard® reports to all three major credit bureaus and it also has a surprising cash advance feature. For the first year you own this card, there no fee for a cash advance. After the first year, the cash advance fee is a more standard $5 or 5% (whichever is greater).
- Processing Fee – Up to $50
- Annual Fee – $35 – $99
The Worst Bad Credit Credit Cards
First PREMIER® Bank MasterCard® Credit Card – This unsecured line of credit is going to show you just how expensive building your credit can be without using a secured credit card. The First PREMIER® Bank MasterCard® Credit Card includes a whopping 36% interest rate on purchases. Anyone with poor credit that is able to obtain an unsecured line of credit should NEVER carry a balance. There is also a $95 one time program fee and an annual fee that varies between $75 and $125 for the first year and $45 to $49 every year after that.
The higher your initial credit limit, the higher your initial annual fee. Late payment fees are up to $38 and any return payment fees are up to $35. In addition to the annual fee, would you believe this card charges you a monthly fee as well? That fee is waived during the first year but after year one, the monthly fee is $6.25 per month – $10.40 per month. So on top of a big interest rate, a processing fee and an annual fee, First PREMIER hits you with a recurring monthly fee.
- Processing Fee – $95
- Annual Fee – $75-$125 the first year; $45-$49 every year after that
- Monthly Fee – Waived the first year, then $75 or $124.80 annually (broken into 12 months).
Total VISA® Unsecured Credit Card – We’re in a similar position with the Total VISA® Unsecured Credit Card. This is an unsecured credit card that charges a processing fee, annual fee and monthly maintenance fee after the first year. The APR isn’t quite as bad as the First PREMIER above … just 29.99% but you can still see the difference between a card like this and one of the better options above.
The late payment fee is $38 and the return payment fee is $38. There is a $29 card fee for each additional card requested (for an authorized user). This card has no rewards program but does report to the 3 major credit bureaus monthly. The Total VISA® Unsecured Credit Card also includes the rare cash advance feature of no fee for the first year.
- Processing Fee – $89
- Annual Fee $75 the first year, $49 every year after that
- Monthly Fee – Waived the first year, then $75 annually (brown down to $6.25 per month)