NerdWallet’s Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit in 2015 - NerdWallet
Advertiser Disclosure

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit in 2015

You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved. Here's how we make money.

Having a poor or very limited credit history makes it tough to get approved for a credit card. But secured credit cards are generally easier to get, and in some cases, they can help you improve your FICO score enough to qualify for unsecured cards.

Here are the Nerds’ favorite credit cards for bad credit:

Best if you’re low on cash for a deposit: Capital One® Secured MasterCard®

Can make collateral deposit over time; reports to the major credit bureaus; comes with access to Credit Tracker tool; annual fee is $0.

Capital One Secured MasterCard Credit Card
Apply Now

on Capital One's
secure website

Benefits of the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®:

  • You don’t have to make your collateral deposit right away, as long as the deposit requirement is met within 80 days of account opening.
  • Over time you may be given a higher credit line without putting down an additional deposit, a rare quality among secured cards.
  • This card provides access to Capital One’s Credit Tracker tool, so you can see how your responsible habits are helping your credit.
  • The card’s $0 annual fee is low compared with other secured cards.

Drawbacks of the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®:

  • This card has a high interest rate: The ongoing APR is 24.9% (Variable).
  • The Capital One® Secured MasterCard® card doesn’t offer a rewards program. This is common for secured cards, but it’s possible to find those perks elsewhere.

The bottom line:

The Capital One® Secured MasterCard® is an excellent choice for people who are short on cash, but want to work on building or rebuilding their credit. It offers flexibility when it comes to making a collateral deposit, and responsible use of the card could score you a higher credit limit without having to cough up additional funds. Also, since the card is issued by a major bank, it may be easier to upgrade to another one of the bank’s unsecured cards later.

Best if you have extra cash to deposit: Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card

Access a credit line of up to $10,000, based on your deposit; reports to the major credit bureaus; comes with free online credit education; annual fee is $25.

Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card Credit Card
Apply Now

on Wells Fargo's
secure website

Benefits of the Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card:

  • You can get a credit line of up to $10,000 if you can make a collateral deposit equal to that amount. This is a very high credit limit for a secured card, which makes it easier to keep your credit utilization ratio low.
  • The Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card’s annual fee is $25, which is very low for a secured card.
  • Your account will be reviewed periodically, and if you show responsible use, you may be upgraded to an unsecured credit card from Wells Fargo.

Drawbacks of the Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card:

  • As of April 2015, Wells Fargo doesn’t offer free credit score access to its credit card customers. This can make it hard to track your progress toward a healthier score.
  • The Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card doesn’t offer a rewards program.
  • The interest rate on the Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card is high: The ongoing APR is 18.99% Variable

The bottom line:

The Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card should be your first choice if you have cash handy you can commit to the collateral deposit. A higher credit limit means that you won’t have to keep making payments to keep your credit utilization ratio down, and it provides a bigger safety net in the event of an emergency. Also, this card’s annual fee is low given its benefits, another factor that makes it one of the Nerds’ top picks.

Best for military members, Department of Defense employees, and their families: Navy Federal nRewards Secured

Earn 1 point for every $1 you spend; points are worth as much as 1 cent each; reports to major credit bureaus; annual fee is $0.

Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card
Apply Now

on Navy Federal Credit Union's
secure website

Benefits of the Navy Federal nRewards Secured:

  • The Navy Federal nRewards Secured earns rewards, which is very rare among secured credit cards.
  • The card’s annual fee is $0 — another unusual benefit for a secured credit card.
  • The Navy Federal nRewards Secured charges a comparatively low interest rate. The ongoing APR is 8.99% - 18% Variable

Drawbacks of the Navy Federal nRewards Secured:

  • You must be a Department of Defense employee (including military members) or the family member of a Department of Defense employee to join Navy Federal Credit Union. Without membership, you can’t get the Navy Federal nRewards Secured.
  • The card’s minimum collateral deposit is $500, which is high compared with other cards.

The bottom line:

The Navy Federal nRewards Secured is undoubtedly the Nerds’ secured credit card of choice — if you meet the eligibility criteria for Navy Federal Credit Union membership. It has a low cost, offers rewards, and reports activity to the major credit bureaus. This is a rare trifecta of qualities that shouldn’t be ignored.

Best if you want to upgrade to an unsecured card quickly: US Bank Secured Card

Reports to major credit bureaus; provides access to a credit limit of up to $5,000, based on your deposit; you may be eligible for an upgrade to an unsecured card in as little as 12 months.

US Bank Secured Visa Credit Card
Apply Now

on US Bank's
secure website

Benefits of the US Bank Secured Card:

  • The US Bank Secured Card will allow you a credit limit of up to $5,000, if you’re able to provide that amount for a collateral deposit.
  • U.S. Bank will evaluate your account after 12 months. If you’ve been responsible with your card, you may be eligible to upgrade to an unsecured card. This is a faster opportunity to transition to unsecured credit than many other cards provide.
  • The card’s annual fee is $29, which is low compared with many secured credit cards.

Drawbacks of the US Bank Secured Card:

  • As of April 2015, U.S. Bank doesn’t offer free FICO score access to secured credit card holders. This could make it hard to track your credit progress over time.
  • 0% for 9 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 23.99% Variable — a pretty steep interest rate compared with some other options.

The bottom line:

This card is a first-rate choice if your main goal is to switch from a secured card to an unsecured card as quickly as possible. Since many secured cards force you to wait 18 months or more to transition, the US Bank Secured Card’s evaluation at 12 months could be a great opportunity for responsible cardholders.

Best if you can’t afford an annual fee: Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card

The annual fee is $0; has comparatively low interest rate; reports to major credit bureaus; can join Digital Federal Credit Union with a one-time donation to an eligible charity.

Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card Credit Card
Apply Now

on Digital Federal Credit Union's
secure website

Benefits of the Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card:

  • The card’s annual fee is $0. This is hard to find in secured credit cards. This credit union’s membership requirements are relaxed, which means nearly everyone can apply for the card.
  • The Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card charges a comparatively low interest rate: The ongoing APR is 11.5% Variable

Drawbacks of the Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card:

  • This card doesn’t offer a rewards program.

The bottom line:

The Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card is a primo choice if you don’t want to pay an annual fee, but also don’t qualify for membership in Navy Federal Credit Union (see above). It’s very cost-effective and will help you pump up your credit score because it reports to all three major credit bureaus. There’s not much more we could ask for in a secured card!

Last updated April 6, 2015.

Lindsay Konsko is a staff writer covering credit cards and consumer credit for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @lkonsko and on Google+.

Image via iStock.

  • natalie

    I am glad I didn’t pay the fee for first premier. I understand when u hv bad credit u will hv to pay for credit, but my friend got two capital one secured cards at $200 each about 4 months ago and his credit score sky rocketed. I got one and mine is barely moving. So I would suggest 2 capital one secured, or I just got approved for a $400 limit with credit one. so, in my opinion I think 2 cards will help more than one. And pay the payments on time everytime. Don’t over use the cards either bc that affects the score too.

  • Theresa

    I got the First Premier Card years ago… I have the Capital One Card but want to consolidate to get rid of the First Premier Card. I hate it! Any recommendations?

  • ism

    For a secured card, does the deposit amount mean you can only use the credit card that much? Like if I have to deposit $200 for a secured credit card, can I use the card to pay a $250 expense? Or will it deny me the use of the card?

  • Sarah James

    Find top lenders offering Low Interest Bad Credit loans with easy online approval. Helpful to 186 out of 198 people. If you are in a similar situation to me, you’re a low income earner, in financial trouble or have a bad credit history and are looking for low interest loans then visit >>>>LowInterestBadCreditLoans(dot)com (Just replace the (dot) with the actual . )

  • Daylenis Santana

    Okay hi, I have a question! So I am 20 years old, I have a credit score of 515 … Unfortunately. I had a credit card, that I have not yet paid the full amount which I am planning to .. I did lose my job for a couple of months I recently got a new job that is part time and does not pay much! I had a debit card with capital one, I have a overdraft of $310 that I also have to pay. How can I fix my credit? Do I have to pay them off first? But when I do what happens? Does that repair my credit score or not? I am willing to do anything to fix my credit score. Thank you. Btw, i am not eligible for the capital one credit card.

  • spencer

    No…my card is unsecured from first premier bank. .oh I did got approved from capital one quicksilver creditcard and I have a auto loan with capital one as well so I’m pretty sure I’m on a right track. ..

  • Katie Short

    This article fails to mention that if you keep your NFCU card for a year, making regular payments, it will automatically switch to an unsecured card and your limit raised to the $1000 minimum if your secured limit was lower. Maybe they all do that, but it wasn’t something I was expecting. This card, plus paying off a few small debts (under $300 in total) helped raise a credit score over 100 points in one year. No, it’s not magic, but it’s been very helpful! Plus, the website is awesome and online payments are easy, even from an outside bank! Also, the terms were far superior to anything offered by USAA, if you’re in the position to look at those options.

  • Sophia Hall

    Find top lenders offering Low Interest Bad Credit loans with easy online approval. Helpful to 186 out of 198 people. If you are in a similar situation to me, you’re a low income earner, in financial trouble then visit >>>>> LowInterestBadCreditLoans(dot)com (Just replace the (dot) with the actual . )

  • NerdWallet

    It’s pretty decent, though it requires good credit. In terms of rewards, the big downside is that it has no signup bonus. In its place, I’d recommend a 5% cash back card that will actually give you a bonus – don’t settle for less than $100 upon signup.

  • heavyw8t

    Barclaycard denied me stating that I had a Transunion score of 540. I sent them a copy of my credit report showing that my Transunion score was 601. Why would their information be 60 points off?

  • NerdWallet

    You should demand a more thorough explanation. It’s not enough to say that your credit score is too low – they need to say what factors influenced them:

  • Josh

    You can hook paypal up to your bank account. That might be the best for the mean time

  • NerdWallet

    Hi Chantel, you can check out our picks for the best easy-to-obtain credit cards and find a no-fee card that suits your needs!

  • NerdWallet

    Hi Chantel, you can check out our picks for the best easy-to-obtain credit cards and find a no-fee card that suits your needs!

  • NerdWallet

    That’s a hard one. You can try a secured credit card from a credit union (this list might help), and you can also check out our articles on what to do if you’re denied a secured credit card and how to build credit without a credit card.

    You also get helped out quite a bit by making on-time payments and getting your credit back in shape. Your score is more heavily influenced by recent activity than past, so paying your bills on time now means more than mistakes made in the past.

  • Rose Mills-Arabia

    If you are in debt with student loans, like I am, contact the agency that has them and ask for either a deferment of forebearance. Which one you get really depends on your circumstances, but it stops payments on your loans until you can get on your feet and you can work to have the payments lowered as well. The problem with school loans are that most of them are through the goverment which means if you go a long period of time without payment and don’t contact them to work out what to do, they can take money from your bank account, take your tax return funds, in even harsher cases suspend your driver’s license, etc. This is not to scare you, but you MUST stay in contact with them even if you can’t pay.

  • darren22

    You should try capital one silver non secured persons with credit score of 580 + are usually approved.

  • Sayde Adams

    Apply for a Credit One Card They have approved a lot of ppl I know that have rough credit

  • darren22

    Instead of contacting a “credit repair” company you should call the creditors yourself enter into a monthly payment plan *use the $99.00 as good faith payment. Request that company delete collection from credit report.

  • KJ Always

    You are right about First Premier. Anybody can scroll up and read the advice about those credit cards to know you are right. It is obvious Josh did not read the free helpful information in the top area of this page. I know to avoid these cards in the face of temptation! Thanks for bringing it to my attention before reading they are not helpful to rebuilding credit. :-)

  • Tim Burchett

    I hope you are not serious!! this is a scam!

  • Adri

    yup sounds totally legit

  • Dawn Willis

    Jess can open a car loan, but just because a company says they report to the bureau does not mean they really do. They may only report when she is late or repossessed. She may even be able to clean her credit herself. She can contact the companies that she owes money to, not the bill collectors, and work out a plan with them or even ask them to remove the item if it has been a while. Sometimes they will go ahead and remove it just because it has been so long ago. I think overall your advice is great, just a little tweaking if it were my situation.

  • Eric

    The BK isn’t really holding you back that much because it’s over 2 years old. The more recent the information, the more it hurts your credit score. After 2 years, it still hurts your credit, but it’s not that severe. 682 isn’t a bad score. If that card provider won’t approve you for 5 more years, I’d find another. 5 more years doesn’t make any sense. Most mortgage companies only have a 3 year penalty after BK and that begins from the date you complete the BK. Do your homework before applying. You don’t want to rack up a lot of inquiries. Don’t apply for cards that require excellent credit. Look for options that approve people that have had credit problems.

  • Eric

    You can’t get a home mortgage out of your name during a divorce preceding. He would have to have it refinanced. A judge may say one or the other is responsible for the loan, but that doesn’t absolve them from the original home loan.

  • Penny’sarcade

    Thanks. My local branch of a national bank has agreed to let me have a secured credit card through them for $300. If I maintain that for six months, that will help me build some credit back. I’m more concerned with what N Korea has done to Sony and the free world right now because it was a Cyber Attack and we have no real recourse. God help us.

  • Mallory

    Whats this insurance program you speak of?

  • Josh Brody

    Totally unrelated to this post, but I sincerely hope this year is better for you.

  • Crystal

    Capital One’s secured card, they are very honest and offer a variety of cards ranging from bad credit to excellent credit. Check em out!

    Not to be confused with Credit One, those people are a-holes.

  • DarlinNikki

    It is horrible that those things can be used against you….. because bad credit can keep you from having a place to live, a car to drive, utilities… and now…the kicker… a JOB…w/o which you can never pay for anything NOT on credit. I hope you are healing nicely. I’m sorry your a-hole couldn’t handle what YOU went through… you are better off w/o them!

  • Marcus Edwards

    Yes, having two or three credit cards used correctly will increase your credit score higher than just one

  • spencer

    Hi there. I’m spencer. I’m trying to rebuild my credit, I was approved for a cl with first premier bank with a 400 limit and u know how that works. …long story short. ..i have 12 medical bills collection on my account. I’m so confused and don’t know what to do, I was alo approved for a car loan from capital one which I’m making payments on time. It’s 4 months old now….my question is, will both capital one and first premier credit card be enough to rebuild my credit even though I have 12 medical bills collection on my credit file. ….will my scores even increased …Please email me any help. so desperate to rebuild my credit. ..

  • Tralesser

    Hey Spencer! Are both of your cards secured or unsecured? I feel you on the medical bills. Capital one is a great card to rebuild your credit. They report every month, they communicate with you very well. The great thing is as long as you make your payments on time for the first five months, they increase your line. I no longer have first premier. I hated the fees and they rarely give more credit limit. I’d say you’re on the right track. Just make sure you pay your bills on time and only use no more than 30% of your limit. As for the medical bill collections, try to contact them and make payment arrangements. Collections are the worst to be on one’s credit. It’ll stay too. I would recommend writing a letter to them after you pay each one off to talk about your situation and see if they will remove it from your credit. Most people go to Lexington Law or to get things off of their credit. Don’t get me wrong, they do help and are great, but all they do is write letters and contact the companies. I mean we can do that ourselves. I hope I helped. If you have anymore questions, feel free to respond.

  • Rhonda Dowdy

    Hi Spencer! If you have “old” medical bills that are in collection of a third party, I may possibly be able to help you get those deleted off your credit reports legally. This will help boost your credit score! I am a paralegal and have experience doing this the correct way. If you are interested in proceeding further reply with your personal email address. Thanks!

  • spencer

    My email address is

  • Hanyxvr

    Rhonda Dowdy, could you help me with my old hospital collections? my email is

  • Jacqueline Edwards

    Hi my email is…I would like help With my hospital bills as well.

  • Nicole Danielle

    I’d like help as well!! I have a lot of old medical bills on my credit. My email is

  • Katie Short

    Making regular payments, however small, will help your credit. Common advice would say to pay off the debit card debt, then pay DOWN other credit cards. Your first financial step should be to start a savings account so that if you should have time between jobs again, you have a little bit of a cushion. This “emergency fund” will be there if the car breaks or you need new clothes for a new job. Put away 10-20% of your take-home pay in this account until you have saved at least 3 months worth of expenses. That’s real expenses, like food and housing. Once you have that in place, you can start looking at the possibility of using some of it to fund a secured card, which you then use ONLY for a few things each month, carrying a small balance but making regular payments. Remember, if you’ve used any of your emergency fund to do this, you still need that card open for emergencies. Then you keep going. Keep saving little bits, and they will add up. Don’t worry too much about getting more cards, since you spend that 20% in interest, rather than saving that money for when you need it. I waited until I had a year of expenses saved to begin applying for new cards, although not everyone is able to do that. You’d likely benefit from Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Freedom” course – you don’t have to pay for the actual course, though. Most of the info can be found online. It’s Christian-based, but whether you are religious or not (I’m atheist), the financial info is sound. Good luck!

  • Hanyxvr

    spencer, by any chance were you able to get help with your old hospital collections? I need that same help.

  • NerdWallet

    Hi Jacqueline! Feel free to post your question/question details on our Ask and Advisor platform ( and our professional financial advisors can answer it. You should receive an answer within a few days.