Best Credit Cards For Credit Score Under 599 (Bad Credit)
Unfortunately, a credit score or FICO score of 599 or under is considered poor or bad credit and will not qualify for most traditional credit cards, so it isn’t easy – but it’s hardly impossible either!.

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

Owning a secured credit card can be a necessary step in bring your credit profile out of the gutter and the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the strongest secured credit cards on the market today. It’s rare to find one that doesn’t charge an annual fee and Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • Start off with an initial credit line of $200 w/ a minimum deposit of $49, $99 or $200

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

  • No annual fee
  • Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
  • Access to an ized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , N/A
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , N/A

Apply Now >>

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

Apply Now On the Secure Website Rates & Fees

In A Nutshell

Designed for consumers with modest credit histories, The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards offers 1% cash rewards on eligible purchases, zero fraud liability and no annual fee. Terms Apply.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • 1% cash back on all eligible purchases

  • No annual fee. Terms Apply

  • No security deposit required; and your credit score is not affected when you pre-qualify

  • See if you Pre-Qualify in less than 60 seconds–without affecting your credit score. It's fast, easy, and secure.
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV. Terms apply.
  • This is a fully functional, unsecured credit card–not a debit card, prepaid card, or secured credit card with deposit requirements.
  • Credit One Bank evaluates every account for credit line increase opportunities. We'll let you know as soon as you're eligible for a higher credit line.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
  • Zero Fraud Liability protects you if your card is ever lost or stolen. Rest easy knowing you won't be held responsible for unized charges.
  • Access your account easily from your computer, smartphone, or tablet at CreditOneBank.com or the Credit One Bank Mobile App. You can make payments, see recent transactions, and update your account preferences all at the click of a button.
  • Carry a card that makes you smile by choosing from over 20 unique card designs in Credit One Bank's card gallery. A fee may apply.
Annual Fee
$0 - $99
Regular APR
17.99% to 23.99% Variable
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , 0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , 0 months

Apply Now >>

Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

Apply Now On the Credit One Secure Website Rates & Fees

In A Nutshell

The Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card is a credit card designed for people with poor credit who are looking for a way to make everyday purchases. 1% cash back is earned on all eligible purchases and Credit One will routinely monitor your account for credit line increases. For qualified applicants, there is no annual fee. Terms Apply.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases

  • Choose the credit card that fits your needs without it affecting your credit score

  • Build your credit with responsible credit card use

  • Find the card that's right for you without affecting your credit score.
  • Show off your personality by selecting from a variety of card designs, a fee may apply.
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV, terms apply.
  • Set up custom email or text alerts so you'll always be aware of your payment due date, when your payment posts, or if your available credit runs low.
  • Don't get stuck with a payment date that doesn't work with your schedule. Credit One Bank allows you to choose your monthly payment due date. Terms apply.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
  • Credit One Bank evaluates every account for credit line increase opportunities. We'll let you know as soon as you're eligible for a higher credit line.
  • Know you're protected from unized charges with Zero Fraud Liability—included with every Credit One Bank account.
Annual Fee
$0 - $99
Regular APR
17.99% to 23.99% Variable
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , 0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , 0 months

Apply Now >>

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® offers consumers with poor credit the opportunity to use a credit card for everyday spending. Pre-qualification is quick and easy and if you have the credit profile needed, you might be able to secure a credit card with no annual fee. ($0 – $99 annual fee).

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • $0 – $99 annual fee

  • Easy pre-qualification process

  • Previous bankruptcy is OK

  • Pre-qualification available with no impact to your credit score
  • Previous bankruptcy OK
  • Easy pre-qualification process with fast response
  • Free online account access (mobile friendly)
  • Protection from fraud, if your card happens to be lost or stolen
  • Accepted at over 35 Million Locations Worldwide!
Annual Fee
$0-$99
Regular APR
24.90% (Fixed)
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , 0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , 0 months

Apply Now >>

Milestone® Gold Mastercard®

Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

If you have lousy credit and are looking for a way to build it back; the Milestone® Gold Mastercard® is a strong option. There’s a quick pre-qualification process with no impact to your credit score, modest interest rate and an annual fee of $35 – $99.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • $35 – $99 annual fee

  • Easy pre-qualification process

  • Previous bankruptcy is OK

  • Quick pre-qualification available with no impact to your credit score
  • Easy pre-qualification process with fast response
  • Choose your custom card design - Free
  • Free online account access
  • Protection from fraud, if your card happens to be lost or stolen
  • Accepted at over 35 Million Locations Worldwide!
  • Previous bankruptcy OK
Annual Fee
$35-$99
Regular APR
24.90% (Fixed)
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , 0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , 0 months

Apply Now >>

In-depth analysis of our top credit cards for people with credit scores under 599

Discover it® Secured – Best cash back credit card

Card features

  • Annual fee: $0
  • APR range: See Terms
  • Rewards: 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter; 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Other features: Discover will match all cashback earned in the first year

Why Discover it® Secured is a good option for those with poor credit

The size of your credit line will be determined by the amount of your security deposit (which is refundable). The minimum initial credit line is $200.

Discover it® Secured® enables you to earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. That alone can reach $20 per quarter, or $80 per year. You’ll also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

In addition, Discover will match all cashback earned in the first year. And if that isn’t enough, the card has no annual fee!

Discover will also begin automatically reviewing your account after eight months to consider moving you over to an unsecured line.

How to use Discover it® Secured

By paying off your card each month, you’ll build better credit. But just as important, you’ll avoid the interest charges on open balances, which can be as high as See Terms. If you can avoid the interest payments, the generous cashback rewards will be a total win.

This card won’t raise your APR if you make a late payment, and there is no late fee for your first late payment. But don’t make a late payment anyway – it WILL be reported to the credit bureaus!

Why you might not want to consider Discover it® Secured

The rewards are comparable to credit cards offered for consumers with better credit. That may create an incentive to spend more money than you would otherwise. See card details or read our full Discover it® Secured review.

Capital One® Secured MasterCard® – Best low deposit credit card

Apply Now
  • Annual fee: $0
  • APR range: 26.99% (Variable)
  • Rewards: N/A
  • Other features: Access to Credit Wise, a free credit monitoring service

Why the Capital One® Secured MasterCard® is a good option for those with poor credit

With the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®, you will get an initial credit line of $200, with the security deposit of $49, $99, or $200.

How to use the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®

If you make each and every payment on time, you’ll be eligible for a higher credit limit after making your first six monthly payments on time.

No additional deposit will be required if your credit line is increased.

Why you might not want to consider the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®

The increasing credit line might tempt you to also increase your indebtedness. If you have poor credit, getting deeper into debt is the last thing you need. Take this card only if you are able to pay off the balance each month. See card details or read our full Capital One® Secured Mastercard® review.

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards – Best unsecured credit cards for people with credit scores under 599

Apply Now Rates & Fees
  • Annual fee: $0 - $99
  • APR range: 17.99% to 23.99% Variable
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on eligible purchases, including gas, groceries, and select services, like mobile phone, Internet, cable and satellite TV
  • Other features: Your account will be monitored every month to see if you can raise your limit

Why Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards is a good option for those with poor credit

The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® is one of the very few unsecured credit cards available for people credit scores below 600. The minimum credit line is $300. What’s more, your account will be monitored each month for a potential increase in your credit line.

You can be approved in as little as 60 seconds, without affecting your credit score. But the card also comes with 1% cash back on eligible purchases, including gas, groceries, and select services, like mobile phone, Internet, cable and satellite TV.

How to use the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

Pay your credit card balance each month and on time. It will give you an opportunity to increase your credit line almost from the very beginning, without having to put up additional security.

Why you might not want to consider the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

The annual fee on this card can be as high as $75 in the first year, and it’s deducted from your credit line up front. After that, the annual fee can be as high as $99. See card details or read our full Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® review.

Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

Apply Now Rates & Fees
  • Annual fee: $0 - $99
  • APR range: 17.99% to 23.99% Variable
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on eligible purchases, including gas, groceries, and select services, like mobile phone, Internet, cable and satellite TV.
  • Other features: You can be approved in as little as 60 seconds

Why the Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card is a good option for those with poor credit

The Credit One Bank® Visa® offers:

  • Unsecured credit card for people with poor credit.
  • The minimum credit line is $300.
  • Your account will be monitored each month for a potential increase in your credit line.
  • You can be approved in as little as 60 seconds, without affecting your credit score.
  • You get 1% cash back on eligible purchases, including gas, groceries, and select services, like mobile phone, Internet, cable and satellite TV.

How to use the Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

Pay your credit card balance each month and on time. It will give you an opportunity to increase your credit line almost from the very beginning, without having to put up security.

Why you might not want to consider the Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

The annual fee arrangement is the same as it is on the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards. It will take a big chunk out of a small credit line. See card details or read our full Credit One Bank® Visa® review.

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® – Best credit card for recent bankruptcy

Apply Now
  • Annual fee: $0-$99
  • APR range: 24.90% (Fixed)
  • Rewards: N/A
  • Other features: You won’t need to pay a security deposit

Why the Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® is a good option for those with poor credit

If a recent bankruptcy is the reason for your poor credit score, the Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® is the card to start your rebuilding effort with. They report to all three major credit bureaus, so you’ll be able to begin building a new credit reference quickly.

The card is also unsecured, so you won’t have to worry about a security deposit.

How to use the Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

Make your payments on time each month, and you’ll begin to develop a good credit reference with each of the three major credit bureaus.

Even better, pay off your balance each month to avoid any chance of either owing more than you can pay, or risking a late payment.

Why you might not want to consider the Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

This is another credit card with a steep annual fee. It can go all the way up to $99. See card details or read our full Indigo® Platinum review.

Milestone® Gold Mastercard® – Best for no credit

Apply Now
  • Annual fee: $35-$99
  • APR range: 24.90% (Fixed)
  • Rewards: N/A
  • Other features: No security deposit required

Why the Milestone® Gold Mastercard® is a good option for those with poor credit

The Milestone® Gold reports to all three major credit bureaus. Your initial credit line will be no less than $300, with no security deposit required.

How to use the Milestone® Gold Mastercard®

As is the case with all credit cards for people with bad credit, it’s critical to make your monthly payments on time. You should also make every effort to pay your balance in full each month.

Why you might not want to consider the Milestone® Gold Mastercard®

Depending on your credit profile, the annual fee will be $35, $59, or $75 (the latter switches to a $99 annual fee after the first year for subsequent years). See card details or read our full Milestone® Gold review.

How we came up with this list

Credit cards for FICO scores below 599 is a very specialized credit card category. We started by identifying those cards that do service this market sector. We then looked for certain specific factors we felt made these cards particularly suitable for this credit score range.

Those factors include:

  • Cards that are available to those with the lowest credit scores.
  • The issuer reports to all three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – giving you an opportunity raise your credit score with all three.
  • Secured or unsecured credit cards – secured may be necessary for those with the worst credit profiles.
  • Cards with small, but reasonable initial credit limits. They must be high enough to be usable, but not so high as to put you deep in debt.
  • Low or no annual fee (maximum under $100)
  • Offering the ability to increase your credit line as your payment history warrants.
  • Card features, like rewards and other benefits, if offered.

We’ve assembled a list of seven cards that meet at least the first six criteria. (#7 is nice to have, but not critical.)

What is bad credit?

The definition of bad credit depends on the lending institution. There are general credit score ranges that are considered to represent, excellent, good, fair, and bad credit. But each lending institution sets its own standards.

For example, one lender may consider bad credit to be a score of less than 580. Another may see it as beginning at 620 and below. But in the vast majority of cases, a credit score of 599 or below will be considered bad credit. That will limit your options as to where you can apply for credit, and especially credit cards.

The specific issue with credit cards is that they are generally unsecured loans. If you’re unable to pay your debt, there’s no collateral the lender can go after to satisfy the unpaid balance. This is the reason lenders are so selective with credit cards, and especially with those that have the best terms and benefits.

How to find the best credit cards if your FICO score is 599 or below

If your credit score is 599 or below, you won’t be able to find credit cards in the places people typically look. A credit score that low is determined to be bad credit. Options for credit cards will be extremely limited.

To find a credit card for you, you’ll have to do two things:

  • Ignore the many advertisements for low interest rate cards, with perks like rewards and 0% introductory APR’s. You won’t qualify for those, but you can get seriously distracted trying.
  • Focus on the card providers who specifically offer cards for people with bad credit. They are available, and we have them listed in this article.

The most important features of credit cards if your FICO score is below 599

Searching for a credit card when your credit score is below 599 is different than shopping for credit cards for good credit. The emphasis is far less on more typical factors, like the size of the credit limit, rewards points or cash back, travel perks, or a 0% introductory balance transfer offer.

With a score below 599, your objective is entirely to get a credit card with the most basic features. The primary purpose is to enable you to either establish or improve your credit score. Only when you can do that will the more attractive credit cards be available to you.

When shopping for a credit card when your FICO score is below 599, the following features are more relevant:

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

If you have bad credit, a high interest rate will be a fact of life. You can easily be assigned an APR of 30% or higher. (In our list, we focused on those with rates no higher than the mid-20s – not great, but much better than the worst!)

Since your interest rate will be high, you’ll need to focus on paying off your balance every month. That will lower the cost of keeping the card, since you’ll at least remove interest expense from the equation.

The annual fee

In a perfect world, your credit card will have no annual fee. And we’ve got a few included on our list.

The annual fee, though common in the credit card world, has a much more negative impact on credit cards for bad credit. Since your credit limit will be low – usually no more than a few hundred dollars – an annual fee of $75 can eat up a lot of that credit limit. A fee in excess of $100 will make matters even worse.

If you have a choice, go with a card that has no annual fee. But since your primary purpose is to improve your credit score, a card with an annual fee will still help you accomplish that goal – though at a higher cost.

Introductory offer

On credit cards with higher credit score requirements, a common feature is a 0% introductory offer on balance transfers or purchases for anywhere from 12 to 21 months. You won’t see these offers with credit cards for bad credit.

Additional card benefits

On the bright side, it is possible to get credit cards for bad credit that offer benefits like cash back rewards, or $0 liability for unized charges. Some of the cards on our list do offer these benefits.

Collision damage waivers on rental cars may be available, but credit limits are usually too low to take advantage of this benefit.

Secured vs. unsecured

Credit cards for bad credit can be either secured or unsecured. There are benefits in each case.

Secured cards

Typically, a secured credit card will provide a credit limit equal to the amount of the securing account. For example, if you place a deposit or fund a savings account for $500, your credit limit will be $500.

Even though your card is secured, you’ll have to make monthly payments on the balance owed, just as you would for an unsecured card. And of course, that payment performance is what will be reported to the credit bureaus.

The obvious disadvantage of a secured card is that your credit limit is determined by the amount of cash you have available for the deposit. And if you have no cash at all, you won’t be able to open a secured card.

But there are several advantages to having a secured card:

  • Secured cards work just like regular credit cards, and can be used in the same way.
  • They provide you with a credit card, in those circumstances where they may be required over cash or some other payment method.
  • If they report to all three credit bureaus, they will enable you to improve your credit score.
  • Because they’re secured, they may come with either a very low annual fee, or not at all.
  • Most will automatically increase your credit limit after a few months of favorable payment history.
  • Most secured cards will convert your account to unsecured once you develop a favorable payment history.

You may find a secured credit card will even work better for you than an unsecured one.

Unsecured cards

An unsecured card is preferred for the obvious reason that you’re not required to put up a security deposit. That will be a major advantage of you don’t have the money to do so.

They offer all the benefits of secured cards, without the security deposit. But the one negative – and it’s major on cards with low credit limits – is that unsecured credit cards charge high annual fees. These can be as high as $99 per year.

Some will charge the annual fee upfront. A typical arrangement is a $75 fee, which is deducted from your credit limit. If the initial credit limit is $300, once the fee is deducted, the limit will be lowered to $225. And if you don’t pay the fee immediately, you’ll also pay interest on the amount you owe.

The table below summarizes the difference between secured and unsecured credit cards:

 Secured CardsUnsecured Cards
Work like regular credit cardsYesYes
Report to all 3 credit bureausYesYes
Charge annual feeNone, or very low ($35) Yes, can be as high as $99
Interest rateMid-20% rangeMid-20% range
Automatic credit line increasesYesOn some only
Convert to unsecuredGenerally, yes N/A

How to properly use a credit card for bad credit

If you get approved for a credit card for bad credit – great! But please understand the card can either help you or hurt you. Use it the right way, and it will improve your situation. But use it the wrong way, and you’ll head in the opposite direction.

Here are some best use practices to implement:

Pay off your balance quickly and regularly

There are three basic problems with carrying a balance:

  • Balances incur interest, and that raises the cost of having the card.
  • Carrying a balance further reduces an already low credit limit.
  • Carrying a balance increases the chance of you defaulting.

Point #3 is particularly important. If you max-out your credit card limit, the card will no longer have value to you. In a tight financial situation, you may either miss a payment, or give up paying on it altogether.

Don’t get a card with an annual fee

If a card has a particularly large annual fee, in combination with a low credit limit, it will effectively reduce that credit limit. It will also increase the likelihood you’ll be carrying a balance and making interest payments.

You want to use a credit card to improve your credit. But a very high annual fee could make the cost of doing so too high.

Put small charges on your card

No matter what type of card you get, this is probably the single most important practice. Be sure any charges you incur can be easily repaid when the credit card bill comes in next month. Those should be small, routine charges.

A $10 charge here, and a $20 charge there – and no more than one or two per month – will enable you to improve your credit through small monthly payments. But at the same time, it won’t put you into a position where you’ll have a balance you can’t pay off completely.

Tips to improve your credit

We’ve already pointed out that the specific type of card you can get will depend on your credit worthiness. You’ll get a better card if your credit score is 585, verses 525. For that reason, you should take steps in advance to maximize your credit score before making application.

In addition to paying your bills on time and keeping your credit card balances low, you can also use a service like Experian Boost to achieve the score required to get the card you want. Experian consumers, on average, boosted their score by 13 points. So while it won’t completely transform your credit, it can be a great way to start moving those numbers in an upward direction.

Start out by getting your free credit score

As we noted earlier, this is the first most important step. You need to know exactly where your credit score is at before applying. You also need to be aware of the factors causing the score that you have.

Dispute any errors

If there is any information contained in your credit report that’s not accurate, you’ll have an opportunity to fix it. Contact the creditor, report the error, and provide written documentation proving it’s wrong.

Get written notification from the creditor acknowledging the error. Also, request the creditor report corrected information to all three credit bureaus. If they don’t, you’ll have to send the notification from the creditor acknowledging the error to all three bureaus yourself.

Allow at least 30 days after the successful dispute before pulling your credit score again, and making an application for a credit card.

Pay ALL your bills on time from now on

Whether you’re about to apply for a credit card, or you just got a brand-new one, resolve to pay all your bills on time from now on.

That applies not just to your credit card, but to all obligations. Though landlords and utility companies don’t report your good payment history to the credit bureaus, they will report delinquencies. This is particularly true of unpaid balances.

Make sure that doesn’t happen. Unpaid balances, like collections and judgments, will drive your credit score even lower.

Pay off any past due balances

If your credit report shows any unpaid balances, you should settle them as soon as possible. This includes collections, charge-offs, and judgments. Paying them off won’t remove the delinquency from your credit report, but a paid account always works better on your credit report than an open one.

Plan to open a new credit card every six months or so

We said earlier you shouldn’t apply for several credit cards at once, and that’s absolutely true. But once you have a credit card open, and you have a good pay history, it will then be time to apply for a second.

New applications should be at least six months apart. The purpose is so that you can begin building multiple positive credit references. Those will improve your credit score much more quickly than a single credit line.

But apply all the other rules we recommended. Keep your charges low, and pay off your balance each month. That’ll make sure your credit rebuilding efforts work exactly as they’re supposed to.

Alternative cards for people with credit scores under 599

Credit cards aren’t the only payment methods for people with credit scores under 599. There are several other payment types you can investigate.

Should I just use a debit card?

Debit cards have evolved to the point where they function very much like credit cards. You can generally use them anywhere credit cards are accepted.

But there are some factors you need to be aware of…

A debit card can’t help you build credit

A debit card doesn’t involve monthly payments. For that reason, the issuer doesn’t report your account information to the credit bureaus. That removes any possibility the debit card will help you to rebuild your credit.

But in addition to a credit card, a debit card can help you control spending

One of the big advantages of a debit card is that you can’t spend any more money than you have in the account it’s connected to. The account balance serves the same function as a credit limit on a credit card.

But it doesn’t actually provide you with credit – you won’t be able to spend money you don’t have. That’s a major positive if you’ve had trouble managing your finances in the past, and ended up spending more than you actually had.

Should I use a prepaid card?

Prepaid cards serve a purpose, but they’re even more limited than debit cards.

How do prepaid cards work?

Prepaid cards work similar to debit cards, except you don’t have a bank account connected to the card. Instead, you purchase the card, and the amount you pay for it serves as the credit limit. They often work just like credit and debit cards, except you have to pay the spending limit in advance.

After you purchase the card, you can “recharge it” by adding more money to it. You can continue using the card as long as it has money on it.

Are prepaid cards a good idea?

The basic function of prepaid cards is so that you’ll have a card to use in those situations where it’s required. There is an increasing number of merchants and vendors who don’t accept cash. A prepaid card can enable you to transact in such places.

This can be especially important if you want to make online purchases. You’ll absolutely need a card to do that, and a prepaid card will work in that situation.

On the downside, prepaid cards don’t provide a credit reference. If your goal is to increase your credit score, they’ll have zero effect.

Another negative is fees. You’ll have to pay a fee to purchase the card, and even a fee each time you recharge it. It’s an expensive way to gain use of a card for financial transactions.

What about store credit cards?

Store cards are best described as limited use credit cards.

How do store cards work

Store cards are actually credit cards issued by specific merchants. You’re provided with a credit limit, you’ll pay interest on any outstanding balance, and the merchant will generally report your payment history to the credit bureaus.

So far so good.

Are store cards a good idea?

Store cards have several downsides:

  • They’re not general usage credit cards – they can only be used with the issuing merchant.
  • They generally charge very high interest rates.
  • If you have bad credit, you probably won’t be approved.
  • Store cards are established to encourage you to spend money with the merchant. If you have bad credit, going deeper into debt is the last thing you need to do.

There’s one other factor you need to be aware of with store cards. Credit card operations are not a main line of business for merchants. For that reason, store credit card operations can be disorganized. That can lead to erroneous credit reporting, that will usually work against you.

For those reasons, they’re not recommended if you’re trying to rebuild credit.

The advantages and disadvantages of debit, prepaid, and store cards

 Debit CardsPrepaid CardsStore Cards
Require credit approval?LimitedNoYes
Report to credit bureaus?NoNoYes
Work like credit cards?YesYesLimited to issuing merchant only
Help you manage your finances?YesYesNo
Require security?YesYesNo
Will improve your credit score?NoNoPossibly
Provide buyer protection?LimitedNoNo

Types of cards to avoid if you have bad credit

If you have bad credit, you may assume getting approved for any card is a step in the right direction. While that might sometimes be true, there are situations you’ll definitely want to avoid.

Cards with high annual fees

We have several cards on our list with annual fees as high as $99 (the unsecured cards). Those fees are high enough, but there are credit card lenders charging much more. You certainly don’t want to get into a situation where you’ll have to pay $150 for $400 credit line. On a percentage basis, that annual fee is just too high.

Even worse, it increases the likelihood you’ll be carrying a balance on the card. And with interest rates in excess of 2% per month, that will make the annual fee even higher. <em>It will be interest on a charge that provided absolutely no benefit for you either.</em>

Cards with high fees in general

The annual fee isn’t the only one you need to be concerned with. There are others, and while they may be infrequent, they can really add up.

Some examples include:

  • Late payment fees. These are generally in the $35-$39 range, even on credit cards with good credit. But since your credit limit will be much lower, they’ll have a much bigger impact. Late payments must be avoided since you’re trying to improve your credit score.
  • Balance transfer fees. These are generally in the 3% to 5% range, but they often have flat fee minimums of $10. Again, these will eat into a small credit limit.
  • Cash advance fees. You may be tempted to take cash advances, but they’re costly. They can amount to 3% to 8%, with a minimum of $10.

All credit cards charge these fees, but it should be your plan to avoid having to pay any of them. Also, you should completely avoid any card that has fees in excess of those listed above.

High-spend credit cards

Yes, everyone wants a credit card with a high credit limit and generous rewards. But if your credit score is below 599, these are the exact type of cards you need to avoid!

High credit limits and generous rewards – which are specifically designed to get you to use the card more frequently – are a one-way ticket to a high credit card balance. If you struggled with credit in the past, this can leave you with a debt you can’t afford to pay. That will lead to late payments, and a further deterioration of your credit score.

Never forget your primary purpose in taking a credit card when your score is below 599 is to improve that score. You should specifically avoid doing anything that holds the potential to make matters worse. 

FAQs on best credit cards if your FICO score is below 599

What happens if I miss a payment?

A lot of bad things! You’ll be charged a late fee of between $35 and $39. Most cards will also increase your interest rate, to as high as 29.99% APR. Even worse, your effort to rebuild your credit will be stalled.Not only will the late payment be reported to the major credit bureaus, but the likelihood of having your credit limit increased or moved from secured to unsecured status will be impaired.

 

How do you prequalify for a credit card?

You’ll fill out a brief online application, that will let you know if you’re eligible before making full application. Since these cards are offered specifically for people with bad credit you will most likely qualify.

 

 

Can I make balance transfers?

On most credit cards for people with bad credit, you are able to make balance transfers. Those transfers are complicated by very low credit limits, and the higher interest rates that are typically charged on such transactions. In addition, there is usually a balance transfer fee of at least 3% of the amount transferred.

 

How long will it take before I can apply for a better credit card?

That depends on two things:

  • how bad your credit situation is now, and
  • how well you manage the bad credit card.

If your low credit score is mainly the result of very little credit in combination with a couple of late payments, you may see your score rise considerably after just a few months. But if you have a history of late payments, or a recent bankruptcy, you may need to use one of these cards for at least a couple of years before trading up.

 

How much use can I get out of a credit limit of just $200 or $300?

In truth, not much. But that’s not the point of these cards. They’re basically credit builder cards, and that has to be your main objective. The idea is to use them to make small charges, and then re-pay promptly. Your whole strategy needs to be to develop the kind of credit payment history that will increase your credit score, and make you eligible for better card offers. For this reason, the small size of the available credit limit isn’t a major factor.

 

Summary

We just covered a lot of information on the seven best credit cards if your FICO score is below 599. But to make it easier for you to identify the card of your choice, we’ve prepared a table summarizing the basic features and benefits of each card.

Card/Category
Initial Credit Limit
Annual Fee
APRSecured/ Unsecured?
Features
Discover it® Secured
$200 or more
$0
See Terms
Secured, matches credit limit
Cashback, credit alerts, $0 fraud liability, free FICO score
Capital One® Secured MasterCard®
$200
$0
26.99% (Variable)Secured, requires a deposit of  $49, $99, or $200
N/A
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards
$300 minimum
$0 to $9917.99% to 23.99% VariableUnsecured
Cashback, $0 fraud liability, Experian credit score
Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card
$300 minimum
$0 to $9917.99% to 23.99% VariableUnsecured
Cashback, $0 fraud liability, Experian credit score
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®
$300
$0 to $9924.90%
Unsecured
N/A
Milestone® Gold Mastercard®
$300 minimum
$35 to $99
24.90%
Unsecured
N/A

Compare more recommended credit cards

Is your credit score not under 599? Find more top credit cards for your credit score (FICO score) range:

Note: According to our research, these credit cards offer the best chance of approval for applicants with credit scores of under and up to 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 557, 558, 559, 560, 561, 562, 563, 564, 565, 566, 567, 568, 569, 570, 571, 572, 573, 574, 575, 576, 577, 578, 579, 580, 581, 582, 583, 584, 585, 586, 587, 588, 589, 590, 591, 592, 593, 594, 595, 596, 597, 598 and 599. This does not mean guaranteed approval as credit decisions take into factors other than FICO score.

About the

Total Articles: 352
David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited ity on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Article comments

We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their s; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30. Comments have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser, nor are they reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our partners. It is not our partner’s responsibility to ensure all posts or questions are answered.

Cancel reply