Looking for an instant approval credit card? Watch out! Most people will send you directly to an expensive prepaid debit card – which isn’t a credit card at all! Before you apply, read through how to get approved for a credit card, and how to choose one that won’t bankrupt you in the process. Just because you have bad credit doesn’t mean you deserve a bad credit card.
4 steps to rehabbing your credit
First, let’s look at how to improve your credit so that you can qualify for a decent credit card. If your FICO score’s in the dumps, don’t despair: here are four simple steps you can take to get your score back on track.
- Pay off your credit card balances. Before you apply for a new credit card, try to pay off as much of your existing balance as you can. Even if you always pay off your bill every month and don’t accrue interest, lenders will look at how much of your credit line you’re using. It’s important to have as small of a balance as possible before you apply.
- Make your payments on time. Even if you have a spotty history, recent behavior is weighted more heavily than past behavior, so on-time payments will go a long way towards bringing your FICO score back up.
- Look for a secured credit card. These cards are easier to qualify for than regular (unsecured) credit cards, because you post an upfront deposit that guarantees your loan. Nevertheless, the card will still help you raise your credit score and build a good history.
- Check your credit report. Sometimes the credit reporting agencies make mistakes, and catching an inaccuracy is a quick and easy way to get your score up. You can get your report free from AnnualCreditReport.com, or check out this blog post for more ways to check your score.
Your options if you have bad credit
If you can’t qualify for a regular credit card, you have a few options:
- Secured credit cards, which are easier to qualify for because they require an upfront deposit that guarantees the loan. If you can get this card and make timely payments, you can “graduate” to an unsecured card.
- Co-signers with good credit can put their names on the loan with you, using their established history to guarantee your debt. Contrary to popular belief, you can still build credit on a card with a co-signer.
- Debit and prepaid debit cards are a way to store your cash, but they don’t help build up your credit score, no matter what you might hear!
In general, we recommend a good secured credit card as an alternative to instant approval credit cards. Our favorite is the Capital One Secured MasterCard, which lets you pay the security deposit over time, up to 80 days. Note that it does come with an annual fee, but the fee’s lower than most other secured cards.
|Capital One® Secured MasterCard®|
on Capital One's
|Annual Fee||Signup Bonus||APR , Variable*||APR Promotions|
|$29||You may qualify for a credit line increase based on your payment history and creditworthiness||22.9% (V)||Purchase: None
Beware! “Instant approval” cards to watch out for
If you search for “instant approval credit cards,” you might come up with sites recommending cards that simply aren’t good, like:
- First Premier Aventium and Centennial. These cards come with a $300 initial credit limit and an ongoing $123 in fees a year.
- Net First Platinum. It’s not actually a credit card!
- Matrix Credit Card. It’s really sketchy – the First Premier by any other name still smells as fishy.