Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit of January 2023

If used wisely, these credit cards can help you dig out of bad credit; you may even earn 2% cash back.

A young woman sits cross-legged in an apartment looking at her computer and credit card
(Image credit: Getty Images)

 Rates checked as of January 2, 2023.

If your credit score is in the doldrums, you won’t qualify for a lot of standard credit cards–especially the best rewards credit cards. But some cards are targeted toward those who have bad credit. Many of the strongest options are among secured credit cards, which require the cardholder to make a security deposit as collateral. If you deposit $200, for example, you may have a $200 spending limit on a secured card. Some unsecured credit cards are available to those with bad credit, but they often come with high interest rates and fees, and you won’t be able to fall back on a security deposit if you miss payments. 

To help you choose a card that you may qualify for even with bad credit, we’ve rounded up top options here. All of our selections are secured credit cards with reasonable deposit requirements. They report to the three major credit bureaus–Equifax, Experian and TransUnion–giving cardholders the opportunity to build a positive credit history by making on-time payments. One of them even offers cash back rewards (opens in new tab). 

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Our best credit cards for bad credit are selected based on securitization, credit bureau reporting terms, and deposit requirements. Interest rates, fees, rewards and other terms listed in this article are subject to change. Before you apply for a credit card, check its current terms and conditions with the issuer.

Discover It Secured Credit Card

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 Discover It Secured Credit Card (opens in new tab) - 2% cash back

Earn 2% cash back rewards on everyday spending plus a cash back bonus after a year of card membership. The card charges no late-payment fee the first time you miss a payment and no penalty APR. (But late payments can damage your credit score, so it’s wise to pay on time.)

  • Interest rate: 27.24% 
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Deposit and credit-line information: Your deposit matches your credit limit, and you must deposit a minimum $200; your deposit and credit line may go as high as $2,500, depending on your income and ability to pay; once you’ve made six consecutive months of on-time payments and are in good status on your other credit accounts (including those that are not Discover accounts), you qualify to get your deposit back and convert to an unsecured card  
  • Late-payment fee: None the first time you pay late; up to $41 for subsequent late payments 
  • Perks: 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined quarterly spending at gas stations and restaurants and 1% on all other spending; you also get a match of cash back earned after one year, doubling your rewards 

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card - Low Deposit

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 Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card (opens in new tab) - Low Deposit Amount Availabe

If you prefer a secured credit card with a low deposit requirement, this card is a good choice. With responsible card use–including on-time payments–you can eventually get your deposit back and graduate to an unsecured card. 

  • Interest rate: 29.74%
  • Annual fee: None
  • Deposit and credit-line information: With a refundable deposit of $49, $99 or $200, you get a $200 credit line; pay it all at once or in installments over 35 days; plus you can increase your initial credit line by making a larger deposit, with a maximum credit limit of $1,000
  • Late-payment fee: Up to $40

Chime Credit Builder Secured Credit Card

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Chime Credit Builder Secured Credit Card (opens in new tab) - No interest

Created by financial-technology Chime, this card is a little different from typical secured cards. You can use the security deposit itself to pay your credit-card bill–and because you can’t spend more than the deposit amount, you won’t be able to carry a balance and rack up interest charges. You must have a Chime checking account that has received a direct deposit of at least $200 to be eligible to apply for the Credit Builder card.  

  • Interest rate: 0% (you can’t spend more than the deposit in your Credit Builder account)
  • Annual fee: None
  • Deposit and credit-line information: You choose how much money to transfer from your Chime checking account to your Credit Builder secured account and how often to make transfers (one option is to have money automatically transferred into Credit Builder after each paycheck).; the balance in your Credit Builder account is the amount you can spend with the credit card, and you can use the money in the Credit Builder account to pay your credit-card bill
  • Late-payment fee: None

How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit

Before you apply for one of these credit cards, take a few minutes to go over your application information and strategy. Doing so can save you time and protect your credit score from falling even further. For a detailed explanation, see How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit

Follow these steps to apply.

  • Be honest with yourself. Are you ready for a credit card? If you have trouble paying your bills, or often pay them late, a credit card may exacerbate your financial situation.
  • Check your credit score, which may be a FICO score or VantageScore and is measured on a scale from 300 to 850. A score below 580 is considered “bad.” If your score is 580 or higher, you may have more cards to choose from.
  • Review the card’s terms and conditions, including fees and interest rates. The cards we recommend here are all secured. Ensure you understand how secured credit cards work and that you can afford the upfront deposit. 
  • Fill out the credit card application. The easiest way to apply is usually online.

 If you feel you still need more guidance, see How to Get Approved for a Credit Card

Lisa Gerstner
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Lisa has spent more than15 years with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and heads up the magazine’s annual rankings of the best banks, best rewards credit cards, and financial-services firms with the best customer service. She reports on a variety of other topics, too, from retirement to health care to money concerns for millennials. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.