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Key takeaways

  • Unsecured credit cards for bad credit with no deposit provide an opportunity for individuals with poor credit to improve their scores without the initial financial burden of a security deposit.
  • Responsible use is crucial. Whether you have a secured or unsecured card, keep your balances low, pay your bills on time, and apply for new cards sparingly. Gradually your score will improve.
  • Prequalify before you apply to assess your eligibility without negatively impacting your score.

Credit cards for bad credit no deposit offer a glimmer of hope for individuals struggling to rebuild their credit. Like it or not, your score is important. It affects what interest rate you’re offered, fees lenders charge, and even if you can get the apartment you have your eye on.

Secured cards are a great way to improve your score, but not everyone wants one or has the cash on hand to make a deposit. That’s where no deposit credit cards for bad credit come in. These cards have minimal requirements for approval making them easy to qualify for.

Best unsecured credit cards for bad credit comparison

Unsecured cards for low scores are easy to qualify for and do not require a security deposit, but they do come with high costs and meager benefits. Before you accept an offer, be sure you understand the APRs and fees these cards charge.

Here are our top picks for credit cards for bad credit with no deposit.

What is an unsecured credit card for bad credit?

An unsecured card for bad credit is one that accepts applicants with poor or fair scores and does not require a cash deposit. Secured credit cards require a refundable security deposit as collateral but tend to accept applicants with lower scores.

The marketing phrase “guaranteed approval unsecured credit cards for bad credit no deposit” often refers to these types of cards, suggesting a higher chance of approval without the need for upfront cash.

However, it’s important to understand that guaranteed approval does not actually exist. No issuer approves every single applicant. The cards we’ve selected have minimal requirements making them very easy to qualify for no matter your score.

What separates unsecured cards for poor scores from other unsecured cards is their fee structure. Due to the higher risk issuers take on lending to people with less-than-perfect scores they will often charge higher interest rates and additional fees.

Tacked-on fees you’ll only find on subprime cards include:

  • Signup fees or processing fees
  • Monthly maintenance fees
  • Credit limit increase fees
  • Extra card fees

All the fees make it hard for the issuer to lose money if the consumer doesn’t pay their bill.

Carefully consider these costs when applying for unsecured credit cards for bad credit with no deposit. While these cards offer a valuable opportunity to improve your score, the associated fees and interest rates can make them unaffordable.

Types of unsecured credit cards

An unsecured credit card is any card that does not require a security deposit. Traditional credit cards are unsecured. There are plenty of types of cards each offering its own benefits. Some credit cards for bad credit with no deposit even offer instant approval. Here’s a look at a few types on the market:

Credit Union Cards

Credit unions are friendlier than banks and many offer cards with different requirements. They typically have more favorable terms compared to traditional banks including relatively low APRs and costs. The rewards may not be as robust but then it’s hard to find a card for low scores with lucrative rewards.

Cash Back Cards

Cash back rewards cards are a popular choice for many. These cards give a percentage of the amount spent back to the cardholder, usually in cash though some offer statement credit.

Most rewards cards are geared towards consumers with good scores, but a few will consider applicants with poor ratings. In general, rewards cards tend to have higher APRs to offset the rewards. The issuer is still trying to make money. Pay your bill in full every month, and you can keep your cash back without any interest payments.

Credit Builder Cards

Most subprime cards focus on building your score. They report payments to all three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and give consumers access to their score for free every month. Many of these cards – like the ones we’ve listed above – have lenient requirements and will approve applicants with poor or fair scores.

How to select the best unsecured credit card for bad credit

When selecting the best unsecured card for poor scores, it’s crucial to consider several key factors. This will help you choose the card that best suits your financial needs and will improve your score.

Interest Rates and Fees: Unsecured cards for low ratings typically come with higher interest rates and fees. Carefully compare the Annual Percentage Rates (APR) of different cards. A lower APR can save you money if you carry a balance. Additionally, scrutinize the fee structure, including annual fees, late payment fees, and foreign transaction fees. Some cards may waive the annual fee for the first year, which can be a cost-saving feature.

Credit Limit: Evaluate the initial limit offered by the card. While these cards generally have lower limits, some issuers may increase your limit after a period of responsible use, such as six months to a year of on-time payments. A higher limit can improve your utilization ratio, positively impacting your score.

Credit Reporting: Ensure that the card issuer reports your payment history and usage to all three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Consistent reporting to these bureaus is essential for rebuilding your score, as it helps to establish a positive payment history over time.

Rewards and Benefits: Some unsecured cards offer rewards programs, such as cash back or points for certain purchases. Although these rewards might not be as generous as those from prime cards, they can still provide added value. Consider cards that offer rewards for everyday spending like gas or groceries, which can make managing your finances a bit more rewarding.

Customer Service: Research the issuer’s reputation for customer service. Read reviews and check ratings to ensure that the issuer provides reliable and helpful customer support. Good customer service can be crucial if you encounter issues or need assistance managing your account.

Approval Odds: Look for card issuers that provide prequalification options. Prequalification allows you to see your approval odds without impacting your score, as it involves a soft credit inquiry rather than a hard one. This can help you avoid unnecessary hard inquiries, which can temporarily lower your rating.

By carefully considering these factors, you can find an unsecured card that helps you rebuild your score while offering manageable terms and useful benefits. Selecting the right card can set you on a path to improved financial health and better credit opportunities in the future.

Are secured or unsecured credit cards best for rebuilding credit?

Secured and unsecured cards are both good for increasing your score as long as the issuer reports your payments to all three major credit bureaus. Your score is mainly determined by your payment history and utilization. It does not matter if you’re using a secured or unsecured card.

Both secured and unsecured cards are: 

  • Issued by major financial institutions
  • Can be used to make in-store purchases
  • Can be used to make online purchases
  • Will impact your score
  • Let you carry a balance

The only difference is that secured cards require a refundable security deposit. The deposit serves as collateral and typically sets your limit. They are often recommended for individuals with very poor scores or no credit history at all. When you have a secured card you still have to pay your bill on time every month, will still be charged interest on purchases, and utilization still counts.

Both secured cards and unsecured cards will help you boost your score with responsible use.

Can a secured credit card become unsecured?

Yes, a secured card can become unsecured. Many secured card issuers allow cardholders to graduate to an unsecured card after demonstrating responsible card use over a period, typically ranging from six months to a year. Here’s how the process generally works:

  1. Consistent Payments: Make all your payments on time. This demonstrates to the issuer that you are reliable and capable of borrowing responsibly.
  2. Low Utilization: Keep your utilization low, ideally below 30% of your limit. This helps improve your score and shows responsible usage.
  3. Account Review: Some issuers periodically review your account to assess your eligibility for transitioning to an unsecured card. If you meet their criteria, they may automatically upgrade your account.
  4. Request an Upgrade: If your issuer does not automatically review your account, you can proactively request an upgrade after a period of responsible use. Contact customer service to inquire about your eligibility for an unsecured card.
  5. Refund of Deposit: Once your secured card is upgraded, your security deposit is typically refunded, assuming your account is in good standing.

Transitioning from a secured to an unsecured card can further improve your score and provide access to better terms, including higher limits and potential rewards programs.

How to make the most of second-chance cards with no security deposit

Owning a card is enough to establish your credit history but to build your score you have to use your card responsibly.

Factors that contribute to your score are:

  • Payment History 35%
  • Amount Owed 30%
  • Age of Accounts 15%
  • Credit Mix 10%
  • New Credit 10%

Let’s go over practical ways to improve your score.

Maintain Low Balances

Keeping your card balances low is crucial. Aim to use less than 30% of your available credit. A low utilization rate demonstrates responsible habits and that you’re not overly reliant on borrowing money.

To keep your balances low, make multiple payments throughout the month. This can be an especially helpful practice if you have a low limit like $300. An alternative is to request a limit increase. Your issuer may approve a higher credit line if you’ve made consistent monthly payments.

Make Payments On Time

The best thing you can do is pay your credit card bill on time every month. You need to make at least the minimum payment to be considered on time but it’s even better to pay in full and avoid interest. Set up automatic payments each month or request an alert when the bill is due to ensure timely payments.

Late or missed payments incur late fees and potentially a penalty APR – a few points higher than your regular APR. Payments that are more than 30 days late will be reported to the credit bureaus and cause your score to drop by dozens of points. Late payments stay on your report for up to seven years, though the damage they do lessens over time.

Conversely, consistently paying on time will establish a positive payment history – the most important factor in determining your score – and significantly improve your score over time.

Refrain from Too Many Applications

Each application triggers a hard inquiry on your credit report and will lower your score by 5 to 10 points. Occasionally applying is fine and won’t do too much damage. Your score will bounce back within a few months to a year.

Too many applications within a short period will ding your score and are considered a red flag by lenders. Wait at least six months between applications to avoid these negative impacts.

Don’t Close Old Accounts

The age of your accounts plays a role in determining your score. Lenders want to see that you have a long history of borrowing responsibly. Closing old accounts decreases the average account age so it’s better to keep your cards open and active. Aim to use them once a year so that the issuer won’t close them. The exception to the rule is if one of your cards has a lot of fees, it may be worth closing.

Have a Mix of Credit

A diverse mix of accounts (both cards and loans) reflects well on your score since it demonstrates your ability to manage different types of borrowing responsibly. That said, never take on debt simply to improve your score. It is possible to get a very good or excellent score with only cards.

Improving your score takes time but if your score was very low, you may see big improvements fast.

Learn more about how to improve your score on MoneyFor.

Can you get an unsecured credit card after bankruptcy?

When you have a recent bankruptcy it can be hard to qualify for any card, but not impossible. There are subprime cards that will consider applicants as long as their bankruptcy has been discharged. If you do qualify, you’ll get higher interest rates and fees to offset the risk to the issuer.

Do your research, compare options, and try to prequalify. Prequalifying does not guarantee approval but it does show your approval odds without impacting your score.

Once you’re approved, be sure to use your card responsibly. Make payments on time, keep your balances low, and you’ll gradually improve your score post-bankruptcy.

Read more about debt.

Can I get an unsecured credit card with a 500 credit score?

Obtaining an unsecured card with a 500 score is challenging, but not impossible. Many traditional card issuers consider a 500 score to be in the poor range, making it difficult to qualify for their standard unsecured cards.

However, certain issuers specialize in offering unsecured cards to individuals with low scores. These cards are generally considered subprime and are often made with improving your score in mind. They often come with higher interest rates and fees to offset the possibility of default. This makes them more expensive overall, but do not require a security deposit, and not everyone has money for a deposit lying around.

Subprime cards have more lenient approval criteria. They have a lower minimum score requirement and many will consider other factors such as your income, employment status, and recent credit history. Demonstrating a stable income and reducing existing debt can improve your chances of approval. It can also help to apply with a financial institution you already have a good relationship with.

Before applying, look for issuers that offer prequalification. This process allows you to check your chances of approval without a hard inquiry, which can temporarily lower your score. Prequalification can help you identify cards that you are more likely to be approved for, reducing the risk of further damaging your score with multiple hard inquiries.

While options are limited, obtaining an unsecured card with a 500 rating is feasible. Careful research and responsible financial management can increase your chances of approval and help you rebuild your score over time.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, most issues let consumers transition from an secured card to an unsecured one. This typically occurs when the cardholder demonstrates consistent, responsible behavior over time, such as making timely payments and maintaining low balances. Many card issuers review accounts periodically and may offer to refund the security deposit and convert the card to an unsecured line of credit, effectively recognizing and rewarding the cardholder’s improved creditworthiness.

Obtaining an unsecured card with a 500 credit score is challenging but not impossible. All the cards we’ve mentioned target consumers with poor scores – anything below 580. Some reviewed cards will likely accept scores as low as 500. While it’s possible to find an unsecured card, you will get a higher interest rate and additional fees. Carefully review the terms to decide whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Once you get your score to 600 your chances of approval increase.

Yes, you can prequalify for cards even no matter your score and it’s a good idea to do so. Prequalifying is a helpful tool that allows you to check your eligibility for a card without impacting your score, as it involves only a soft pull. Only hard inquiries on your report ding your score. Many issuers offer this feature, giving individuals with poor scores a glimpse into their potential approval chances before they formally apply.

Yes, you can get a credit card without depositing money by applying for unsecured cards designed for individuals with bad ratings. These cards typically have higher interest rates and lower limits but do not require an upfront security deposit.

Cards with no credit check and guaranteed approval are very rare. Certain secured cards and merchandise cards fit this criterion. Even then, approval is not 100% guaranteed but extremely likely. Secured cards and merchandise cards often don’t require a credit check and are easy to qualify for. Secured cards instead, it require a refundable security deposit. These cards can help individuals raise their rating by reporting to major credit bureaus.

Bottom line

While there is no such thing as a credit card with guaranteed approval, several unsecured cards are relatively easy to obtain, even for individuals with poor scores. If your score is low, focus on feasible choices that cater specifically to those with bad ratings.

Before applying, try to prequalify to see your chances of approval without impacting your score. Prequalification involves a soft inquiry, which does not affect your rating, and can give you a better idea of your likelihood of being approved. Limiting the number of applications you submit is crucial because multiple hard inquiries can further lower your score and make you look desperate to lenders.

Once you obtain your card, it is essential to use it responsibly. Consistently make payments on time, as payment history is a significant factor in your score. Additionally, keep your balances low relative to your limit, ideally below 30%, to maintain a good utilization ratio. 

By following these practices, your score should improve within a year. As your score improves, you will gain access to better card options with lower interest rates, higher limits, and more attractive rewards programs. Responsible card use is a stepping stone to better financial health and more opportunities in the future.

About the author

Rachel Alulis

Rachel Alulis has been the lead editor for Moneyfor’s credit cards team since 2015 and for the financial rewards team since 2023. Before joining Moneyfor, Rachel worked at USA Today and the Des Moines Register. She then established a successful freelance writing and editing business specializing in personal finance. Rachel holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA.