2019’s Best Second-Chance Credit Cards

2019’s Best Second-Chance Credit Cards

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Posted: July 23, 2019
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines and are updated regularly.

Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” That saying was true when it was written in 1711 and remains true today — though, in modern language, we’d probably say something less frilly, such as “Everyone deserves a second chance.”

That certainly rings true with credit cards. So many consumers lack proper financial education when they’re starting out, which often leads to mistakes with their first credit cards. But most of us learn from those mistakes and shouldn’t continue to be punished for them years later. Thankfully, some credit cards can give you that second chance toward a fresh financial start.

Overall | Unsecured | Secured | No Credit Check | Retail | FAQs

Best Overall Second-Chance Cards

If you’re looking for a second chance at building credit, look no further than the choices below. Our three top picks not only report all your payment behavior to the three credit reporting bureaus to help you rebuild your credit profile, but there’s also a mix of low fee, rewards, and flexible payment options — which you don’t often find on credit cards designed for consumers with less-than-perfect credit scores.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® ranks as our top secured credit card for several reasons. This card’s biggest perk is that you may not have to place a full cash deposit to match your credit limit (for example, a $500 deposit nets you a $500 credit limit). This card grants all new cardholders an initial $200 limit, but, depending on your credit history, you will have to pay a deposit of either $49, $99, or $200. You can qualify for a larger credit line with no additional deposit after making your first five monthly payments on time. Capital One refunds all deposits as long as you close the card with no remaining balance.

Discover it® Secured Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
3.7

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% for 6 months
25.24% Variable
$0
N/A

With the Discover it® Secured credit card, you can earn cash back rewards for every purchase you make using the card. This includes 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter. Plus, you can earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. A refundable security deposit between $200 and $2,500 establishes your credit line after approval.

Fingerhut Credit Account Review

at Fingerhut'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands
  • Take advantage of low monthly payments if you apply and are accepted for a Fingerhut Credit Account issued by WebBank, who determines eligibility and qualifications for the terms of credit
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuers Website
$0
Poor Credit

The Fingerhut Credit Account isn’t your typical credit card. In fact, it’s not a credit card at all. Instead, you can use this credit account to purchase name-brand merchandise at Fingerhut.com and all of its retail partners. This comes in especially handy if you need to buy new items or replace old or broken things in your home. And since Fingerhut reports your payment behavior to the three major credit reporting bureaus, you could get a credit score boost from on-time payments and make the most of your second chance.

Best Unsecured Second-Chance Cards

Damaged credit doesn’t have to be a life sentence. An unsecured credit card — which doesn’t require a security deposit to open — may come with lower credit limits. But with responsible use, you can find the cards below to be an affordable way to build your credit without sacrificing convenience.

Total Visa® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.5/5.0
  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine Visa credit card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • If approved, simply pay a Program Fee to open your account and access your available credit
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Terms
See Terms
Fair, Bad Credit

The Total Visa® Card is an unsecured credit card, which means it doesn’t require a deposit for approval. But the card does require a varying program enrollment fee that you must pay before using it. You may also have to pay an annual fee, which takes away from your initial available credit line — which typically starts at $300.

Milestone® Mastercard® - Less Than Perfect Credit Considered Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.9/5.0
  • Prequalify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Protection from fraud if your card is stolen
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
  • *Dependent on credit worthiness
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.9%
$35 - $99
Bad, Poor Credit

If you’re unsure whether you can qualify for the Milestone® Mastercard®, the issuer offers a pre-qualifying application to ease your fears. This means you can find out if you qualify for any of the five cards Milestone® offers with one application. This helps limit the number of hard inquiries you receive on your credit report that can potentially damage your credit score.

Indigo® Mastercard® for Less than Perfect Credit Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Pre-qualify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.9%
$0 - $99
Bad, Poor Credit

Qualified Indigo® Mastercard® applicants pay no annual, membership, or security fees to open their account. That’s a big plus if you’re looking for a second-chance credit card that doesn’t require a lot of up-front money. The card’s credit limit typically starts at $300, though some consumers with above-average credit scores report receiving slightly higher starting limits.

Best Secured Second-Chance Cards

A secured credit card requires a refundable cash deposit for approval, but that’s usually the biggest hurdle for acceptance. Some secured cards don’t require credit checks and can help to improve your credit score over time with responsible usage. Some of the cards listed below will automatically upgrade you to an unsecured offering if your credit history improves.

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

With the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, you pay a refundable security deposit of $49, $99, or $200 to establish your initial credit line of $200. The amount you pay depends on your credit history. New cardholders pay no annual fee, and, with responsible usage, you could, in time, receive an upgrade to an unsecured card.

Discover it® Secured Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% for 6 months
25.24% Variable
$0
N/A

The Discover it® Secured card provides the easiest path toward upgrading to an unsecured credit card. That’s because Discover periodically checks cardholders’ accounts and automatically upgrades them if they qualify. But in the meantime, the secured card lets you earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined gas and grocery purchases each year, plus an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. That’s a pretty big deal in the secured credit card space.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Capital Bank'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

2.9/5.0
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search "OpenSky Card" in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.64% (variable)
$35
No credit check

New OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card members must pay a refundable security deposit to establish their credit line. The amount of your deposit equals your initial credit limit, minus your annual fee. No other application or processing fees are required to open your card.

Best Second-Chance Cards with No Credit Check

If your credit history keeps you from getting approved for a credit card, you can try a secured or prepaid card — like the ones below — that don’t require a credit check at all. Instead, these cards depend on a refundable security deposit or monthly fee to secure your account against default or late payments.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Capital Bank'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

2.9/5.0
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search "OpenSky Card" in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.64% (variable)
$35
No credit check

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card only requires a refundable security deposit to approve applicants. That means you won’t have to endure a credit check, inquiries on your credit score, and possible denials. This card is a top choice for second-chance credit if your first chance went poorly and your credit is very bad. The minimum security deposit to secure a credit line is $200 and OpenSky® will deduct your first year’s annual fee from your initial credit balance.

Pink Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card Review

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.5/5.0
  • With Netspend Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • Card issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa Debit cards are accepted. "Apply Now" for full details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fee
No credit check

You can directly deposit your paychecks into the Pink Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card with no fees, and Netspend® claims you’ll get your money faster than you would if you receive a paper check. Also, cardholders can choose between two plans for their card. A monthly plan, where a single fee covers all your transactions, or a pay-as-you-go plan, where you’ll pay $1.00 for each signature transaction and $2.00 for each PIN transaction.

Brink

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • Brink’s gives you the peace of mind you deserve. Securing cash and valuables since 1859.
  • With Brink’s Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Brink’s Money Prepaid Mobile App to manage your Card Account on the go and enroll to get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply.)
  • Subject to card activation and ID verification. Terms and Costs Apply. Issued by Axos Bank®, Member FDIC. Click for full details.
  • See additional Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard® Details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fees
No credit check

With the Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard® you won’t pay a monthly fee on the pay-as-you-go plan as long as you keep your card active. Instead, you’ll pay a flat $1.00 fee for each signature transaction and $2.00 per PIN transaction.

Best Second-Chance Retail Cards

Some retail credit cards have easy thresholds for approval, such as those below, but can only be used at a specific retailer. They often feature rewards for regular shoppers and can be a great credit-building tool — just watch out for the high APRs some of these cards carry.

Fingerhut Credit Account Review

at Fingerhut'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands
  • Take advantage of low monthly payments if you apply and are accepted for a Fingerhut Credit Account issued by WebBank, who determines eligibility and qualifications for the terms of credit
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuers Website
$0
Poor Credit

With the Fingerhut Credit Account, you can shop at Fingerhut.com or any of its retail partners and purchase name-brand merchandise using your revolving credit account. You can reuse your credit line once you’ve paid off past purchases and monthly payments remain low for everything you buy. Fingerhut also reports your payment behaviors to the three major credit reporting bureaus, so responsible usage can improve your credit rating over time.

Target REDcard

You can use the Target REDcard online or at any of the more than 1,800 Target locations around the world. What’s even better, you can get 5% off all your purchases when you use the card in-store or online.

Target REDcard

  • Save an extra 5% at Target and Target.com
  • Free 2-day shipping on most items at Target.com
  • Extended 30-day return window for items purchased with your REDcard

The Target REDcard comes in both debit and credit options, depending on your credit history. The debit card links directly to your checking account and pays for purchases from the linked account. Just remember that only the credit card reports your payment history to the reporting bureaus to help your credit score.

Amazon Store Card

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t shop at Amazon? With the Amazon Store Card, you can stretch out the payments for your purchases and possibly receive 6-, 12-, or 24-month special financing offers while also potentially earning 5% cash back on all of your online buys.

Amazon.com Store Card

  • No annual fee
  • Join Prime and earn 5% back every day
  • Instant credit decision in as little as 15 seconds
  • $60 Amazon.com Gift Card credited upon approval

The Amazon Store Card increases its perks if you’re an Amazon Prime member — but keep in mind that membership includes a $149 annual, or $12.99 monthly, fee. But if you’re a regular shopper on the website, the membership fee pays for itself through free shipping and access to thousands of free TV shows, movies, books, and music choices.

Which Credit Cards Can I Get with a 500 Credit Score?

Secured credit cards are likely your best bet with a score in the 500s. That’s because a secured credit card requires a refundable cash deposit that often takes the place of a credit check for approval.

The amount of your deposit often matches the credit limit on your card, and you will receive your deposit back in the form of a check if you cancel your card in good standing with no balance.

Should You Get an Unsecured or Secured Card?

Other than the deposit, a secured credit card acts in many of the same ways as its unsecured sibling. You can use it at the same places as an unsecured card by the same issuer and some secured cards even offer cash back rewards.

And nearly every secured card issuer reports your payment history to the three major credit reporting bureaus, meaning responsible card use can improve your credit score over time and help you eventually upgrade to a traditional unsecured credit card.

Some secured cards, such as the Discover it® Secured and the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® will automatically check in on your account from time to time to see if you qualify for an unsecured offering. In the case of Discover, your account will get an immediate upgrade if you qualify. When that happens, the bank refunds your security deposit and sends you a new card.

Just remember secured cards often have lower credit limits and higher fees — including some with program and enrollment fees as well as annual charges. Many of these fees come directly out of your initial credit limit and can lower your purchasing power when you activate your new card. But for a second-chance credit card, many secured offerings will help you get the boost you need.

Which Unsecured Credit Card is the Easiest to Get?

Every credit card issuer has different standards and expectations for qualified applicants. No issuer, though, publishes their standards for everyone to see.

That’s why it’s important you extensively research any card that interests you before you apply for it. When you apply for multiple cards, you accrue multiple hard inquiries on your credit report. The more of those you get — and each one lives on your report for at least two years — the worse your score appears to lenders and credit card issuers.

Hard Credit Inquiry vs. Soft Credit Inquiry

While it may be difficult to get an unsecured card if you need a second chance at credit, you’ll improve your chances of approval by looking for pre-qualifying offers. Some cards, such as the Milestone® Mastercard®, allow consumers to submit an application that only draws a soft inquiry that won’t harm your credit score. Using the information from that credit check, the bank can potentially match you to a card.

A pre-qualifying approval nearly guarantees acceptance when you formally apply. When you decide to apply, the bank will pull your credit report — which will give you a hard inquiry — but only one instead of several that could come from multiple applications.

Keep in mind, though, that there’s a difference between being pre-qualified and pre-approved. Pre-qualification means your soft credit pull shows you meet the standards for approval, but the issuer can’t guarantee the card until you officially apply and submit all of your background financial information.

Pre-approval means you’ve already been approved by the issuer and all you have to do is formally apply to get the card.

So even a pre-qualified applicant can still receive a rejection when he or she applies. But, in most cases, pre-qualifying means you’re likely to get the card.

How Can I Rebuild My Credit Fast?

While we’ve often heard everything that’s worthwhile takes time, not everyone has the time to wait on their credit score to organically increase.

Some negative marks on your credit report will take time and patience to resolve. These include the age of your credit accounts and the time it takes for late payments or other negatives to fall off of your report. The good news, though, is that as negative items on your credit report get older, their impact on your credit score decreases — as long as you replace them with positive items.

So that late payment 14 months ago won’t be nearly as bad as a late payment two months ago. That means you can start your credit rebuilding journey by making all of your payments on time, every month.

A few other things can be done to boost your score without having to wait years to see the benefit. Start by pulling your free annual credit reports to see the information on them. You can request one from each bureau – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

If you see incorrectly reported information, you can file a simple dispute to remove those items and improve your score almost instantly. But be sure to dispute the item with all three credit bureaus if it’s appearing on all three reports. Each bureau requires a unique dispute.

Some people think closing credit cards with a zero balance will improve their credit score. This isn’t always the case. As much as 30% of your credit score relies on your total credit utilization.

To find your utilization, you divide your current balance on a credit card by the overall credit limit. For example, a card with a $1,000 credit limit, and a $200 balance, has utilized 20% of its available credit — or a 20% utilization ratio.

Credit card issuers want to see low credit utilization on an applicant’s credit report. A higher ratio means you’ve likely burned through your available credit and are looking for more — this sends a red flag to issuers, who generally prefer a credit utilization of 30% or less.

When you cancel a credit card with a zero balance, you remove that available credit from your overall utilization — which can cause a massive spike in your percentage and hurt your credit score instantly.

Instead of canceling the card, you should try contacting the issuer to ask for a credit line increase. If you’re approved, you will increase your available balance — and decrease your utilization — and see a quick boost to your credit score once the new credit limit is reported to the bureaus.

If you don’t currently have a credit card, adding one to your wallet will help improve your credit score as long as the balance on your card remains low and you make all of your monthly payments on time.

Get a Fresh Start on Your Credit Journey

Your credit score not only determines the likelihood of being approved for future credit cards, it can also lower your insurance premiums and the rates you pay. But the effects of past credit mistakes can make things much harder and expensive.

We all make mistakes, and thankfully, credit cards that specialize in second chances can offer you a fresh start on your credit journey. With responsible use, these cards can help you build up your credit score over time, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier credit profile.