Credit cards are a convenient way to make purchases, pay bills, and book travel arrangements. As an added benefit, many credit cards offer cash back, points, or miles on your spending, which can save you money. A credit card can also help with establishing and building a good credit score.
But what is the easiest credit card to get when you have a limited credit history or poor credit? Here's a closer look at which cards may be within reach.
- Credit card companies focus largely on credit scores when making approval decisions.
- A credit card can be secured, meaning it requires a cash deposit, or unsecured, meaning you don't need to make a deposit.
- It's possible to get approved for a credit card with no credit or poor credit, but you may pay a higher APR and/or fees.
- Secured cards are a great way to build up a thin credit file, provided that you have enough cash for the deposit.
- Unsecured credit cards typically offer better interest rates, rewards programs, and features compared with secured credit cards.
Credit Card Approval Requirements
Credit card issuers differ in terms of what it takes to be approved. But generally, these factors are considered when you apply for a card:
- Your credit score
- Your income
- Your employment
- Your monthly rent or mortgage payment
These things give card issuers an idea of your ability and likelihood to pay back what you spend with a credit card. Credit card companies can also perform a hard inquiry of your credit report to learn more about your credit history. That can trim a few points off your credit score.
Checking your own credit reports before applying for a credit card won't affect your credit score.
What Is the Easiest Credit Card to Be Approved For?
The easiest credit card to get is different for everyone since it will depend on your credit score and the other factors listed above. The credit cards that are available to you may also depend on whether:
- You're a student
- You have no credit or a thin credit file
- You have bad or poor credit
If any of those apply to you, there are some specialized types of credit cards that will be easier to get than others. They include student credit cards, starter credit cards, and secured credit cards.
Student Credit Cards
Student credit cards are designed for college students who are just beginning to establish their credit history. These cards can offer rewards, and if they do, they're typically geared toward purchases students spend the most money on, such as dining out or gas.
A student credit card can be easier to get than a regular one if you have no credit history at all or a limited one. The federal CARD Act requires you to be at least 21 to get a student credit card in your name, although you can apply as young as 18 if you have sufficient income or a cosigner who is at least 21.
Starter Credit Cards
Starter credit cards are also designed for people who are just starting out with credit but who aren't necessarily students. These types of cards are more likely to charge annual fees and carry a higher annual percentage rate (APR).
Secured Credit Cards
Secured credit cards work just like unsecured credit cards except that they require a cash deposit to open. This deposit typically doubles as your credit limit. The difference is that a standard secured credit card will usually require a hard check of your credit to get approved. Once you have had a secured card for a period of time, and demonstrated that you use credit responsibly, you may be eligible to graduate to a regular, unsecured card.
Before you apply for a starter or secured card, make sure the credit card company reports your activity to at least one of the major credit bureaus. Otherwise, using the card won't help you to build credit.
What Is the Easiest Credit Card to Get With No Credit or Thin Credit?
Having no credit means you don't have any credit history at all. A thin credit file means you have some credit history, but it's not enough to generate a credit score. In either case, you could be "invisible" to credit card companies when trying to apply for new credit.
In that case, the easiest credit card to get may be a starter card or secured credit card. Examples of cards you might qualify for include:
- OpenSky Secured Visa: The OpenSky Secured Visa is a no credit check card that's also a secured credit card. You can set your credit limit by making a cash deposit of $200 to $3,000, and your account activity will be reported to all of the three major credit bureaus.
- First Progress Platinum Elite Secured Mastercard: The First Progress Platinum Elite Secured Mastercard requires no credit history or minimum credit score for approval. Your security deposit is refundable, and the card is accepted nationwide.
- Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students: The Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students doesn't require a Social Security number to apply, so it could be good for international students.
What Is the Easiest Credit Card to Get With Fair Credit?
If you have fair credit, rather than no credit or bad credit, then you might have a different range of credit card options to choose from. Fair credit on the FICO credit scoring scale generally means a score between 580 and 669.
Here are some of the easiest credit cards to get with fair credit:
- Capital One Platinum Mastercard: The Capital One Platinum Mastercard is geared toward people with fair credit who are interested in improving their credit. This card has a $0 annual fee and includes access to CreditWise credit monitoring.
- Discover it Secured Card: The Discover it Secured Card can help with building or rebuilding credit. A security deposit is required, but it's refundable. This card also has a cash-back rewards program.
- Credit One Platinum Rewards Visa: The Credit One Platinum Rewards Visa is designed for people with fair credit who are interested in earning rewards on purchases. Keep in mind this card does have an annual fee and a higher APR, which could make carrying a balance expensive.
If you're considering a credit card that offers rewards, be sure to balance the rewards you're likely to earn against the card's annual fee (if any).
What Is the Easiest Unsecured Credit Card to Get Approved for?
Unsecured credit cards require no cash deposit to open. It's possible to get some unsecured cards if your credit is in the fair, or even bad, range.
If you have poor credit or no credit, consider these unsecured card options:
- Credit One Bank Platinum Visa: The Credit One Bank Platinum Visa offers cash-back with no security deposit required. This card does have an annual fee, however.
- Total Visa: The Total Visa is an unsecured credit card designed for people who don't have perfect credit. The card reports to all three credit bureaus, which can help in building a better credit history. Note that there's an initial program fee for opening an account.
- Petal 2 Visa: The Petal 2 Visa is a cash-back rewards card that offers higher credit limits with no fees. There's no deposit required at sign-up, and you can use the card to build or rebuild credit.
How Long Does It Take to Approve a Credit Card?
It is possible to get approved instantly, but most companies take a week or two to approve a credit card application. During this time, the credit card company will check your borrowing history to determine if you are creditworthy.
What Credit Score Do I Need to Get Approved for a Credit Card?
A FICO credit score of 750 or higher will get you approved for almost any credit card on the market. A "fair" credit score of 620 or higher may also get you approved with some cards, but you may face higher interest rates or a lower credit limit. For scores of 580 or below, your best bet is to get a secured credit card. These cards require you to provide a certain amount of collateral that may be forfeited if you fail to make the required payments.
What Are Instant Approval Credit Cards?
An instant approval credit card is a credit card where applications are evaluated immediately. These usually consist of an online application with basic questions about the applicant's identity and income situation. Once submitted, the applicant immediately receives a decision of approval or denial.