The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Sunday, May 26, 2024

12 Best Credit Cards for Low-Income Earners (May 2024)

Credit Cards For Low Income
Brittney Mayer

Written by: Brittney Mayer

Brittney Mayer
Brittney Mayer

Brittney is a Credit Strategist and Finance Expert who has spent years honing her knowledge of the credit industry both personally and professionally. Brittney applies her more than a decade of research experience to crafting in-depth consumer guides designed to help CardRates readers make better, more informed financial decisions.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Advertiser Disclosure

With seemingly endless options available, finding the best credit cards for low income may seem like a challenge. Thankfully, that broad range of card options means there are a number of credit cards suitable for those currently earning less than average.

Although the median household income in the U.S. is a respectable $57,617, that number doesn’t really tell the whole story. By its nature, a median number is simply the one in the middle — which means 50% of Americans take home less than the national median, including more than 40 million people who live below the poverty line.

For many struggling to make ends meet on a low income, it isn’t always a matter of sticking to a simple budget; in many cases, it really comes down to finding every last penny — and putting them to work. While this can mean cutting out unnecessary expenses, some things can’t always be cut. Credit cards, for instance, have become a virtual necessity in today’s digital world but, thankfully, they don’t have to be an expensive one.

Fair Credit | Bad Credit | No Annual Fee | Low Ongoing APR

Best “Fair Credit” Cards for People with Low Incomes

Those with fair credit are often consumers who are just starting to build a credit history or who are rebuilding their credit scores after a few mistakes — both situations that can be made more difficult by a low income. When it comes to unsecured credit cards, many fair-credit applicants will need to choose between a basic card with no annual fee or a rewards card with a fee.

Whether or not an annual fee is worth paying will depend mostly on how much value you’ll get out of the rewards and perks offered by the card. If you’ll earn enough cash back to break even (or better), the annual fee may not be a deal-breaker. Some of our top-rated fair-credit cards include unlimited cash back rewards and other popular perks.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking from your desktop or smartphone, with Capital One's mobile app
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 cash back into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 18.24% - 27.24% applies.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
18.24% - 27.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or limits to how much you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account. It's that simple
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Enjoy up to 6 months of complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited

+See More Cards for Fair Credit

With fair credit, you may be near the edge of the range of acceptable credit profiles, particularly if you’re applying for cards that tend to prefer applicants with good credit or better. If you’re on the fence about which card to apply for and want to get an idea of your chances of being approved for cards from a particular issuer, you can try checking for pre-qualification offers.

While not a guarantee of acceptance, pre-qualifying for a particular card can mean you have a decent chance of approval. Similarly, not being pre-approved for a card can indicate your chances of approval are low. The best part is that pre-qualification uses a soft credit inquiry to estimate your approval chances, so checking for pre-qualification offers won’t damage your credit score.

Keep in mind that signing up for pre-qualified offers can increase the number of pre-approval offers you receive in your mailbox at home. If you want to opt-out of pre-qualification or pre-approval credit card offers at any time, visit OptOutPrescreen.com.

Best “Bad Credit” Cards for People with Low Incomes

Perhaps one of the most difficult situations to find yourself in is trying to rebuild bad credit with a low income. Without the ability to put forward capital or down payments, new lines of credit are often hard to obtain when your credit has been damaged by things like late payments, defaulted accounts, or even bankruptcy discharges.

Besides paying down your outstanding debt as quickly as possible, one of the best things you can do for your credit is to start rebuilding a positive payment history. This may mean obtaining a credit card designed for bad-credit applicants and using it to make small purchases each month, always ensuring you pay in full and on time. You can start your card comparison with our picks below.

Milestone® Mastercard® Review

at Milestone Mastercard®'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Greater access to credit than before - $700 credit limit
  • Get a Mastercard accepted online, in store and in app
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
  • $0 liability* for unauthorized use
  • Access your account online or from your mobile device 24/7
  • *Fraud protection provided by Mastercard Zero Liability Protection. If approved, you'll receive the Mastercard Guide to Benefits that details the complete terms with your card.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See terms
See terms
Fair/Good
PREMIER Bankcard® Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at PREMIER Bankcard®'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • PREMIER Bankcard credit cards are for building credit.
  • Start building credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time each month.
  • When you need assistance our award-winning US-based Customer Service agents are there to help.
  • Credit Limit Increase Eligible after 12 months of consistent responsible account management.
  • We report monthly to the Consumer Reporting Agencies to help you build your credit.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Provider Website
See Provider Website
Fair/Poor
Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • No credit check to apply
  • Adjustable credit limit based on what you transfer from your Chime Checking account to the secured deposit account
  • No interest* or annual fees
  • Chime Checking Account and qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more required to apply. See official application, terms, and details link below.
  • The secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Card is issued by The Bankcorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa credit cards are accepted.
  • *Out-of-network ATM withdrawal and OTC advance fees may apply. View The Bancorp agreement or Stride agreement for details; see back of card for issuer.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
$0
None

+See More Cards for Bad Credit

When you need to build — or rebuild — your credit score, your credit card options will likely come down to an unsecured credit card with high fees, a closed-loop store card, or a secured credit card. Unsecured and store cards for bad credit will typically have high APRs, so you may want to consider a secured card with a lower APR if you are prone to carrying a balance.

Although some consumers are wary of the deposit required to open a secured credit card, most secured cards will allow you to make a smaller initial deposit, then add to your card over time to increase your limit. Plus, unlike the annual and processing fees from unsecured cards, your deposit will be returned to you when you close your secured credit card account.

Best “No Annual Fee” Cards for People with Low Incomes

One of the most common fees in the credit card world is the annual fee, usually charged by credit card issuers to cover the cost of special perks or particularly lucrative rewards. Given the number of superfluous credit cards on the market these days, however, a large number of issuers have started offering cards without annual fees as a way to entice new applicants.

While plenty of options are available for a wide range of credit types, if you want to earn rewards without paying an annual fee, you’ll likely need at least good credit. Many of our favorite annual-fee-free credit cards will provide solid rewards, including both bonus category and unlimited cash back options, as well as including introductory 0% APR offers for extra value.

7. Chase Freedom Flex℠

This card is currently not available.

Best Overall Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Additional Disclosure: The information related to Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card has been collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% to 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
  • No annual fee – You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
20.49% - 29.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More Cards with No Annual Fee

Although annual fees can be a pain, there are some cases in which they might be worth paying. One such case is when the rewards you can earn will pay for the annual fee — and add a little profit, too. A great example of this phenomenon is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which offers 6% cash back on groceries up to $6,000 a year. Spend more than $32 a week on groceries and you’ll come out ahead.

Another situation in which paying an annual fee might be worth the cost is in cases when you have an existing credit card that charges a fee. Depending on the age of the card and the size of its credit limit, canceling the card rather than paying the annual fee might actually hurt your credit score. Consider the possible implications before canceling any credit accounts.

Best “Low Ongoing APR” Cards for People with Low Incomes

It isn’t usually the annual fee that makes credit cards an expensive problem. With the average credit card charging an APR between 16% and 21%, the most expensive part of paying with plastic for many people will often be the compounding interest fees.

The easiest way to avoid interest fees is, of course, to pay your total balance before the end of the grace period, which extends to your bill’s due date each month. When you know you’re prone to carrying a balance, however, the better option is to find a card with a low ongoing APR. Our top-rated cards with low ongoing APRs offer rates in the low teens to those who qualify.

USAA Rate Advantage Visa® Platinum Credit Card Review

at Usaa Savings'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.4/5.0
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on Balance Transfers and Convenience Checks that post to your account within 90 days of account opening. After this time, the Variable Regular APR will apply to your balance.
  • Our lowest-rate card: Pay less in interest if you carry a balance from month to month
  • Travel benefits include Auto Rental Coverage, Travel Accident Insurance, Baggage Delay and Reimbursement, and Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • This offer is only open to members of military-affiliated groups and their families
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 15 Months
9.15% - 26.15% (Variable)
$0
Good to Excellent
Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% to 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
DCU Visa® Platinum Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Extended Warranty With Warranty Manager Service
  • No annual fee, balance transfer fee, or cash advance fees
  • Must meet eligibility criteria to join Digital Federal Credit Union
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
As low as 13.75%
$0
Average/Good

+See More Cards with Low Ongoing APRs

For the most part, each credit card has a predetermined range of potential APRs associated with that card based on its potential user demographics. Cards marketed toward lower-risk applicants will have lower APR ranges, while those marketed toward higher-risk applicants will have higher APR ranges. For example, a prime credit card might have a range from 12% to 18%, while a subprime card might go from 21% to 27%.

While the card’s range establishes the potential APRs available, your credit profile — usually represented by your credit score — will have the most impact on where in a given card’s APR range your offer falls. Those with the best credit scores will typically receive an offer at the lower end of the range, while those with lower scores will generally receive an offer at the higher end of the range.

Low-Income Cards Can Still Have Big Rewards

Depending on the size of your family and the area in which you live, even the nation’s median income of $57,617 might not be enough to provide more than a modest quality of life. For the millions of households making well below that median, making ends meet can be a daily struggle.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you tighten your budget, some of life’s expenses aren’t avoidable, and a credit card is increasingly becoming one of those unavoidable expenses. With a little research, however, you can often find credit card options for low-income applicants that won’t break your budget’s bottom line.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.