A Quick Guide to Best Instant Approval Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Last Updated on November 24, 2020

This page covers six of the best instant approval credit cards for bad credit. Here you will also learn what is considered a bad credit, causes of bad credit, easiest credit cards to get approved, how to apply for credit cards for bad credit, and all other information you might need to get the best credit cards for bad credit and build your credit score.

Credit cards are a convenient way to shop, pay bills, and book trips. Plus, many credit cards offer cash back, points, or miles to cover your expenses, which can save you money. But unfortunately, a credit score or FICO score of 599 or less is considered poor or bad credit and does not meet the criteria for most traditional credit cards, so it’s not easy. However, it’s hardly impossible!

We’ve prepared this guide to help you do just that. We’ve even picked six of the best credit cards if your FICO Score is below 599 that will help you rebuild your damaged credit score, and someday qualify for credit card offers mostly marketed to consumers with good credit.

What Is Considered a Bad Credit Score?

Bad credit is typically defined by FICO® as a credit score lower than 579. Major credit bureaus determine your credit score by measuring your ability to keep up with credit agreements such as credit card bills, loans and utility bills.

The factors that determine your credit score include:

  • Payment history (35%): Your track record of consistent, on-time payments is the most important factor credit bureaus look at to calculate your score. Tools like autopay and account alerts can nip late payments in the bud. If you’re new to credit, becoming an authorized user on a responsible cardholders’ account could give you a solid head start in this department.
  • Credit utilization (30%): How much of your available credit you’re using counts for a third of your credit score. The amount you owe won’t automatically hurt your score, but the lower your utilization ratio is, the better. A higher credit limit could help reduce your ratio below the recommended 30% threshold.
  • Credit history (15%): FICO considers the age of your oldest and newest accounts, the age of your other credit accounts, the average length of your accounts and how long it’s been since you’ve used them. Instead of canceling cards, people with limited history can build credit by keeping their oldest account occasionally active.
  • Credit mix (10%): You can bump up your score a bit by successfully maintaining different types of credit — like mortgage or car installment loans — on top of your card. Although FICO doesn’t require multiple credit lines, a credit builder loan may be an option if you need the boost.
  • New credit (10%): This fraction of your score is reserved for new credit inquiries you’ve made over the past 12 months. Be careful since each credit application could temporarily shave around five points off your score for a few months.

It’s important to keep in mind that credit scores are flexible and can change often depending on your individual credit activity.

What Causes Bad Credit?

Here are the main factors in your credit score and how they can add up to bad credit:

  • Payment History: This is the single biggest factor in your score. Paying a bill a couple of days late might not affect your credit score at all (although you might get hit with a late fee). But once a bill is more than 30 days late, expect it to show up on your credit report and affect your score. Even a single late payment can make a major dent in your score. That damage lessens with time, but if you’re repeatedly missing payments, it gets much worse.
  • Amounts you owe: Your overall debt load matters, but scoring systems pay special attention to credit utilization — the amount of your credit limit you’re using. The closer someone is to “maxing out” a line of credit, the more likely it is that they’re in a bad financial position. A $190 balance on a card with a $2,000 limit isn’t going to raise a lot of red flags, but a $190 balance against a $200 credit line suggests someone pushing the limits of their means.
  • Length of Credit History: If you haven’t had credit very long, that can be reflected in low scores. A common mistake people make is closing old accounts that they’re not using, which affects this portion of their score. A 10-year-old credit card account is valuable from a scoring perspective, even if the card is just sitting in a drawer. If it doesn’t have an annual fee, keep it open and use it once a year so the issuer doesn’t shut it for inactivity.
  • Types of Credit: Scoring formulas like to see a mix of different types accounts — credit cards, loans and so on. Obviously, you have to start somewhere, but it’s best not to let a single account be your entire credit history.
  • New credit applications: Expect every application to knock a few points off your score temporarily. However, if you’re applying for multiple cards at once, the effect is multiplied, because that can suggest someone desperate for money. This is why it’s important to “call your shots” and apply only for cards when you have a good chance of approval.

What’s the Easiest Credit Card to Get Approved For?

Approval for any credit card is never guaranteed. In addition to your credit history, issuers look at your income and other factors. Still, some cards have standards that are not as difficult to meet as others’.

The lower the risk to the credit card issuer, the easier it is to get approved. That’s why secured credit cards are a recommended starting point for people working to build or mend credit. These cards require you to put down a cash security deposit, which the issuer holds as collateral in case you don’t pay your bill (and which you get back when you close or upgrade your account). The deposit reduces the risk, so issuers can make these cards available to more people. The cards on this page are all secured cards.

Store credit cards are also generally easier to qualify for than bank cards. They tend to have low credit limits and high interest rates, but they’re a viable credit-building tool provided you keep your balances low relative to the limit and pay them off each month.

RELATED: Find the Best Credit Card Debt Relief Programs with this Guide

Generally, we do not recommend unsecured cards for bad credit. An unsecured card is one that does not require a security deposit. All “regular” credit cards are unsecured. But unsecured cards marketed to people with bad credit are notorious for high fees and confusing terms. Further, issuers of such cards usually don’t have good cards to upgrade to, meaning you’re stuck with either keeping a high-fee card open (which costs you money) or closing it (which could hurt your credit score).

If you’ve begun to build credit and have a score in the mid-600s, look at credit cards for fair credit. These provide more benefits but don’t require a top-tier credit score.

Best Instant Approval Credit Cards for Bad Credit

1. Capital One® Secured MasterCard®

The Capital One Secured Mastercard is one of the only secured cards with a deposit requirement that could be lower than your limit. This card also comes with an option to pay the opening deposit in installments over a 35-day period.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Card Type: Secured card for bad credit
  • Best For: Rebuilding credit with responsible use
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • APR: Variable 26.99%

2. Discover it® Secured

If you don’t have a robust credit history, finding a card that offers a substantial rewards program can be difficult. With the Discover it® Secured card, you’ll earn 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter. Plus, you’ll earn 1 percent cash back on all other purchases, and Discover will match all of the cash back that you earned at the end of your first year — automatically.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Discover
  • Card Type: Secured card for bad credit
  • Best For: Secured card with rewards

3. OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

If you have zero credit history or just very little, the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card doesn’t care. In fact, they won’t do a credit check at all or even require you to have a checking account. This makes it one of the few cards to basically grant access to anyone who is willing to fork over a deposit. This can be a lifeline for someone in a credit jam who is trying to get a card.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: OpenSky
  • Card Type: Secured card for bad credit
  • Best For: Credit educational support
  • Annual Fee: $35
  • APR: Variable 17.39%

4. Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa Credit Card

Improving bad credit doesn’t happen overnight. However, the Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa Credit Card could help you get on the right track in a matter of 12 to 24 months. The first step is starting a credit-building savings account with self and paying it off gradually until you qualify for the Secured Visa Credit Card.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Visa
  • Card Type: Combination savings account/secured credit card
  • Best For: Building credit with savings
  • Annual Fee: One Time $9 + Secured Card $25
  • APR: 21.74% variable

5. The Jasper Mastercard®

Starting a career can be challenging, especially if your credit is less than perfect. The Jasper® MasterCard aims to help you build your credit history, manage your account effectively and monitor your credit utilization. You can also use a credit limit of up to $5,000 for personal and professional expenses while paying no annual fee.* Earn 1% cash back on every eligible purchase. Receive your cash back automatically every month as a credit to your account, as long as your account is active and in good standing.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Mastercard
  • Card Type: Unsecured
  • Best For: New professionals
  • Annual Fee: $0*
  • APR: 15.49% -24.99% variable

6. Total Visa® Unsecured Credit Card

If fast approval is the most important factor in selecting an unsecured card, then the Total Visa Unsecured Credit Card delivers. It clearly states on the card application page that even those with less-than-stellar credit are likely to get approved.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Visa
  • Card Type: Unsecured card for bad credit
  • Best For: Unsecured card for rebuilding bad credit
  • Annual Fee: See terms
  • APR: See rates and fees

How to Apply For a Credit Card for Bad Credit?

1. Know Your Credit Score

One of the biggest mistakes people make when applying for a credit card is choosing cards they are not eligible for. Applying for a card that requires good credit with your 580 score is a guaranteed rejection. That wouldn’t be too bad, except that every application ends up in your credit report and can hurt your score. Know where you stand before you apply.

2. Find a Card That Suits Your Score

The three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) sell credit scores. Find out what credit card offers you might be eligible for by checking your credit score. The better your score, the greater your chance of being approved for cards with better perks. If the number isn’t what you expected, check your credit reports to see what’s causing the problem. You can then start figuring out ways to improve it, from changing your spending habits to disputing an error on your reports, if you need to.

3. Apply

Clicking the “apply now” button for a card takes you to the application. You’ll usually have to provide your name, address, phone number and email address. Your Social Security number is necessary to check your credit and for government financial reporting rules. The application will usually ask about your income as well.

4. Fund Your Security Deposit

With a secured credit card, the issuer won’t open your account until you’re provided your security deposit. Most cards have a minimum in the range of $200 to $300. Your deposit typically determines your credit limit, so if you deposit $500, you’ll have a credit limit of $500; deposit $1,000, and you’ll get a credit line equal to that amount. Issuers let you fund the deposit with a direct transfer from a checking account; some allow you to pay by money order if you don’t have a bank account.

5. Get Your Card

Once you fund your deposit, you’ll get your card. Start using it to build a positive credit history.

How to Build Your Credit Score with a Credit Card?

Using a credit card responsibly is one of the fastest ways to build credit. With time and smart decisions, you can improve your credit score and create a healthy financial environment. Follow these five tips for improving your bad credit score:

  • Check your credit report: Obtain your credit report and check it thoroughly for any errors. If you see any, be sure to submit a dispute.
  • Clear debts: Catalog all of your debts and create a plan of attack to clear them. Prioritize your debts and stick to a payment schedule to pay everything down. Of course, this is easier said than done, but managing debt is a big step forward in improving your score.
  • Spend smart: Ensure you’re making all of your payments on time and in full. Try to keep your balances low, and do your best not to spend beyond your means.
  • Stick to a plan: Although you can quickly find yourself with a low score, building a positive score takes time. Stick to your financial plan, and don’t start aggressively opening and closing accounts unless it makes sense.
  • Keep climbing: Length of credit history plays into your score, but recent activity also carries weight. Your continued good credit behavior can help offset historical mistakes.

Frequently Asked Questions about Credit Cards for Bad Credit

What does bad credit mean in terms of credit cards?

Bad credit is generally defined as a credit score below 630 on a scale of 300 to 850. Credit scores measure how safe or risky it is to lend to someone. The higher the risk, the lower the score. If you’ve made mistakes with credit — missing multiple payments, maxing out accounts, having bills turned over to collection agencies, your score can drop into the bad-credit range. Also, if you’re new to credit, you might not have a credit score at all, which in many ways is functionally equivalent to bad credit — you’re considered a higher risk because you haven’t yet demonstrated your ability to handle borrowed money.

Can I get a credit card if I have bad credit?

Multiple credit card issuers have cards specifically designed for people with bad credit. (They’re often advertised as ideal for “rebuilding” credit.) These are generally “starter cards” — they don’t offer rewards or perks, they charge high interest rates, and some of them come with steep fees. We generally recommend secured credit cards to people with bad credit. Secured cards require you to put down a cash deposit that the card issuer holds as collateral in case you don’t pay your bill. You get that money back when you close your account in good standing or upgrade to a regular card.

What is the difference between secured and unsecured credit cards?

Secured credit cards require an initial deposit, which serves as a layer of protection for the card issuer in case you miss payments. The deposit you make often becomes your credit limit. But you may receive a credit line that is greater than the initial deposit.

A secured credit card otherwise operates in a way that is similar to a regular, unsecured credit card. You’ll be able to purchase items with the card and then make payments. Interest is charged on balances carried month-to-month.

Unlike secured credit cards, unsecured credit cards don’t require a deposit. They allow you to buy items, charge them to the account, and then pay off the balance. However, unsecured credit cards for bad credit tend to include additional fees and higher-than-average interest rates.

Is a secured credit card my only option if I have bad credit?

A secured card isn’t your only option for bad credit — but it’s usually your best option. Some card issuers offer regular “unsecured” cards for people with bad credit. These don’t require a cash deposit, but they tend to come loaded with high fees. That’s money you can’t get back, unlike the deposit on a secured card.

What do I need to apply for a credit card for bad credit?

You generally need to be at least 18 years old and have a Social Security number to be considered for a credit card. You’ll need to show that you have income, and in most cases (but not all), you must have a bank account. While “bad credit” by itself is obviously not a dis-qualifier when it comes to cards for bad credit, some issuers might still deny your application if your credit report shows serious problems such as a bankruptcy, a civil judgment or liens against you.

Leave a Comment