Getting pre-qualified for a credit card can make it easier to get approved if you have bad credit or a limited credit history. That said, it's important to note pre-approval doesn't guarantee acceptance. With that in mind, we've listed the best pre-qualified credit cards as well as alternative options and advice.
The best pre-qualified credit cards of 2022
- American Express: Enter your name, address, and the last four digits of your Social Security number to get pre-approved for the top offers from American Express.
- Bank of America: Submit your full name, address, date of birth, and the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Capital One: Submit your full name, address, date of birth, and the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Chase: Enter your full name, your address, and the last four digits of your Social Security number to get pre-approved for a card with Chase.
- Citi: Enter your name, your address, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and your preferred card type.
- Discover: Enter your name, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and your preferred card type.
- US Bank: Enter your name, address, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and your preferred card type.
Credit cards for people with bad credit
Most card issuers offer at least one card for people with less-than-perfect credit. By seeing if you pre-qualify, you can get a good idea of what kind of card you should apply for based on your credit history.
Also: The best starter credit cards for no credit
Still, there are many different credit cards geared specifically toward people with bad credit. While some cards for people with bad credit come with fees and higher interest rates, they can help you improve your credit -- provided you use them responsibly.
Here are a couple suggestions:
- Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card: It carries no annual fee and doesn't require credit scores for approval; Petal will instead look at your banking history to determine creditworthiness. The card even offers cashback at select merchants.
- Capital One Platinum Credit Card: Designed for consumers with limited credit, it has no annual fee or rewards and offers a good opportunity to improve credit scores through responsible use.
Five ways to boost your credit score fast
Whether your credit is fair or poor, moving the needle upward should be at the top of your agenda. If you can't qualify for a credit card or are scared to try because your score is so low, use these four strategies to boost your credit score fast:
Try a secured credit card instead
While unsecured credit cards extend an actual line of credit, secured credit cards require a cash deposit you can borrow against. Because you must put down a cash deposit that is normally equal to your credit limit, secured cards are fairly easy to qualify for -- the bank has little to lose if you default since they'll just keep your deposit.
Since secured credit cards report your credit activity to the three major credit reporting agencies -- Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax -- using a secured credit card responsibly can help you improve your credit score month by month and most issuers will eventually let you "graduate" to a regular card. Plenty of security deposits are refundable after meeting certain criteria, too.
- Discover it® Secured Credit Card: One of the most rewarding secured cards available. Pay a deposit of at least $200 which will form cardholders starting credit line and earn 5% cash back (up to $1,500 spent per quarter, then 1%; activation required) in quarterly rotating categories. Discover will even double the rewards you earn for the first year with the card.
- Bank of America Customized Cash Secured Card: Earn rewards while building your credit. Following a one-time security deposit, choose one 3% cashback category for purchases like gas, dining, travel, or online purchases, plus earn 2% cash back for groceries and wholesale club purchases (3% and 2% rewards only up to $2,500 spent per quarter, then 1% cash back).
Check your credit report for errors
If you haven't checked your credit report recently, you'll want to do that right away. An error on your credit report can wreak havoc on your score without you even knowing. Fortunately, you can get a free copy of your actual credit report from all three credit reporting agencies for free once per year from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Clear up any debts in collections or default
Once you've scoured your credit report for details, you should make cleaning up any problems a priority. If you have debts in collections or default, you should focus on repaying those debts right away. In the meantime, make sure to keep all of your bills current as well.
Pay all of your bills on time
Most lenders rely on the FICO credit scoring method, in which your payment history makes up 35% of your score. If you want to make a big impact on your credit score, one of the best things to do is to pay all of your bills on time, every time. Never pay late, and you'll never ding your score for late payments or pay late fees.
Pay down balances
While paying your bills religiously is the best way to improve your credit score over the course of months or years, the second biggest factor influencing your credit score is the amount of debt you carry relative to your credit limit. If you have a maxed-out credit card (or any line of credit where you're using more than 20% to 30% of the available credit), paying down that balance will improve your credit score almost instantaneously.
[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in March 2022.]