How to qualify for the credit card you want

Secured credit cards are one way people with lower credit scores can obtain cards.

Consumers with a bad credit history or a credit score lower than 580 can still qualify and get approved for credit cards they are seeking — whether it's cards with rewards programs (like travel rewards or cash back rewards), student credit cards, secured cards, one with a signup bonus or beyond.

People who were denied a credit card or loan because they have a low or bad credit score can continue building credit and reverse their situation over time. Consumers find themselves with a lower credit score when they do not pay their bills on time or went over the recommended credit utilization ratio because the amount of debt they had compared to their income was too high.

Improving your credit score can take a while, but earning rewards, such as paying lower interest rates, are worth it. You can eventually have a good credit score where you can qualify and receive 0% APR balance transfer cards. To learn more about 0% APR credit cards — which enables you to avoid paying interest charges for up to 18 months in some cases, check out Credible's breakdown of vendors and what they have to offer.

How to get approved for a credit card — 5 steps you need to take

1. Shop around for credit cards or loans

There are credit cards geared for people who have a low credit score because they are first-time credit card users (lenders require you to be at least 18 years old). Other credit card lenders market their card for people with lower or bad credit scores.


You can start by doing researching different types of credit cards through Credible to compare lenders and save more money for your bank account.

If you are trying to build your credit score, look for cards without annual fees and consider ones that offer higher percentages for cash back for daily purchases such as food and other necessities. Consider which cards rewards and perks fit your lifestyle best.

2. Build up your credit score

If you are just starting out, you can build your credit score by using your card on a regular basis, paying your bills on time (not piling up credit card debt) and paying more than the minimum required amount. Make sure you pay your other bills, such as student loans, on time because that will help lead to a better credit record. A secured credit card can also boost your credit score.


3. Obtain a secured credit card

secured credit card can help boost your credit score over time. Secured cards aren't hard to find — most major credit card companies offer them, so you'll have plenty of options to pick from.

Consumers are required to put cash on the card (essentially a security deposit) before being approved. The deposit is usually the same amount of your credit limit—your deposit will be $500 in order to get a $500 credit limit. It can take several months for your credit score to rise, but it shows the card issuer you are using the card responsibly.


4. Use your credit cards on a regular basis

Your credit score is based partly on using debt wisely. Lenders are looking to see if you have a pattern of paying your credit card debt down and paying your monthly bill on time. If you are hesitant to use your credit card often, use it sparingly for a small bill like your cable or cell phone bill or for inexpensive purchases such as buying gasoline or for the toll road. Pay your monthly credit card bill on time.

5. Avoid closing your other credit cards 

If you have credit cards that you have paid off or do not use anymore, do not close the accounts. Credit card issuers look at the total amount of money you can borrow. If one of your credit cards has a credit limit of $1,500, closing the account lowers the total amount you are able to borrow and will increase your credit utilization ratio or the amount of money you can borrow compared to what you have spent on your credit card already. If you have three credit cards all with credit limits of $1,500 each, closing one card will lower your overall credit limit by 33%. Unless you are paying a high annual fee, keep the card open until your credit score improves.

Check your credit score on a regular basis to make sure no mistakes were made. You can check your credit score without penalties and many credit cards now provide your credit score for free also.