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Having a credit score in the bad credit range can make life more difficult and expensive. This can lead to problems you may not have even thought about, such as having to pay higher interest rates and higher insurance premiums. In addition, credit card options for people with bad credit are limited.
However, there are a few strategies you can use to improve your chances of getting a credit card, even if it’s not the one you’re dreaming of. If you have bad credit but need a credit card to get you back on track, consider these tips before you apply.
Check your credit score first
First, make sure you check your credit score to see where you really are. After all, it may not be as low as you think, and having a “fair” credit score (FICO score between 580 and 669) can help you qualify for many additional cards.
There are many ways to check your credit score, including several free resources such as Capital One CreditWise, Chase Credit Journey, and Discover Credit Scorecard.
You can also get a free FICO assessment through Experian.
Compare Credit Cards Based on Your Credit Score
Once you know where your credit score is falling, you can look for cards you can qualify for. For example, there are cards for those with all types of credit, as well as student credit cards for credit newbies hoping to get credit while in college.
You can also look at credit cards for people with limited or no credit history, which are often much easier to qualify for.
Consider secured credit cards
If you have really bad credit or no credit at all, you might also consider applying for a secured credit card. This type of card requires you to make a cash deposit as a security deposit, but at the very least, you will almost always get approved if you apply.
Making a cash deposit as collateral may not sound like much, but these cards can help you get a loan when others won’t. Not only do most secured credit cards report to credit bureaus, but some even offer rewards.
Take, for example, the Discover it® Secure Credit Card. This requires a security deposit of at least $200, but does not charge an annual fee. Cardholders can also earn 2 percent cashback for every quarterly amount up to $1,000 they spend at gas stations and restaurants (then 1 percent back), plus 1 percent back on all other purchases. Discover will also double all rewards you earn during the first 12 months of the Cashback Match program.
Look at cards that consider alternative data for claims.
Also consider credit cards that use information other than credit score for approval, including Visa® Petal® 1 No Annual Fee Credit Card and Visa® Petal® 2 Cash Back No Fee Credit Card. This card issuer (WebBank) looks at details like your banking history to get approved, so a bad credit score may not hold you back. WebBank even lets you check your chances of getting approved for any card without having to make hard requests on your credit report.
Measure your chances of getting approved online
Speaking of assessing your chances of being approved, you can see what other cards you might qualify for with our CardMatch tool. This allows you to enter basic information such as your name, address, employment status, annual income, and email address to see your card’s prequalified offers.
The best part? The CardMatch tool is completely free to use and there is no obligation to apply if you don’t match the card you like.
Take steps to improve your credit before you apply
The wait can pay off if you don’t have to apply for a credit card right away. You may be able to improve your credit score more than you think in a few months, which can help you get approved for a much wider range of cards.
Steps you can take to improve your credit score include:
A low credit score may leave you with limited options when it comes to credit cards, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options at all. You can take steps to improve your credit score before you apply, but you can also consider a range of credit cards designed for bad credit.
Whatever you do, make sure you use your new credit card carefully and wisely. Never pay bills late and always try to keep your usage below 30 percent of your available credit. With time and more responsible use of credit, you are sure to see your credit score improve.