There is no minimum credit score needed for a credit card. Even borrowers with poor credit (a score of 300) or no credit card at all can qualify for some credit cards. However, options for bad-credit borrowers are limited and usually come with a high annual percentage rate (APR) and fees. Borrowers with no credit or poor credit may also only qualify for secured credit cards.
By boosting your credit score, you’ll have more options for credit cards with better rates, fees, and even rewards, bonuses, and perks. In this piece, we’ll review:
• How your credit score affects credit card approval
• The minimum credit score for a credit card
• How your credit score is calculated — and how you can improve it
• Credit cards for borrowers with fair, bad, and no credit
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How Your Credit Score Affects Your Odds of Credit Card Approval
A good or excellent credit score increases your odds of credit card approval. But if you have a bad credit score, you’re not out of luck. Some credit card issuers have options for borrowers with no credit history or extremely low credit scores.
Before applying for a credit card, it’s a good idea to read the fine print for that specific card. Often, credit card companies will list their minimum credit score requirements for the card. If you’re at the bottom of the stated range, you may have a harder time qualifying.
To avoid getting declined (and having an unnecessary hard inquiry on your credit report), you may want to consider a less competitive credit card that you’re more likely to be approved for based on your credit score.
What Credit Score Do You Need to Get a Credit Card?
While there is no minimum credit score to get a credit card, you’ll need a higher credit score to qualify for the best credit cards available. Typically, travel credit cards and cash-back credit cards are reserved for borrowers with good to excellent credit (670 and above on the FICO scale).
If you have a fair credit score, you might be able to qualify for a decent credit card with a higher annual percentage rate (APR) and limited perks. Experts recommend having at least a 600 credit score to qualify for a standard credit card.
Borrowers with bad credit or no credit at all may be limited to secured credit cards (cards that require a security deposit as collateral), credit-building cards, or high-interest credit cards with high annual fees.
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Tips for Estimating the Credit Score You Need
How can you determine a credit card’s credit score requirements? Here are a few ways to estimate the minimum score you’ll need:
• Checking the website: Often, the credit card issuer will advertise in plain writing what credit score is required for each of its credit cards.
• Reading reviews: If the issuer’s website isn’t clear, you may want to check third-party review websites, which often print the recommended credit scores needed for credit cards.
• Using third-party services. Platforms like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma can predict which credit cards you’ll qualify for with your current credit score — but it’s never guaranteed. Such services also typically offer free credit score monitoring.
• Getting preapproved. Many credit card issuers offer preapproval for their cards. This means they only initiate a soft pull on your credit report (with no effect on your credit score). A preapproval is not a guaranteed yes; you still have to go through the process, but it can instill more confidence if you’re worried about your chances.
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Factors Affecting Your Credit Score
Boosting your credit score is a great way to qualify for more (and better) credit cards. But knowing how to increase your credit score requires that you know what affects your credit score in the first place.
FICO and VantageScore both constantly monitor consumers’ credit and assign them different credit scores based on a consumer’s activity. While the models are similar, each company uses its own proprietary scoring method to calculate credit scores. Both scores range from 300 to 850.
FICO Scoring Method
Your FICO credit score depends on five key factors:
• Payment history (35%): The largest factor impacting your credit score is your payment history. Making on-time payments not just for loans but for things like rent and utilities will boost your score. Late payments can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.
• Credit utilization (30%): Using less of the credit available to you can raise your score; on the other hand, maxing out each card in your name every month can lower your score.
• Credit history (15%): Everything’s better with age, so they say. The length of your credit history plays an important part in your credit score. Responsible credit users should see their scores increase over time.
• Credit mix (10%): Having a healthy mix of loan types (both installment credit and revolving credit) can boost your score — if managed properly. That means mortgages, auto loans, student loans, personal loans, and credit cards can all help your credit score.
• New credit applications (10%): When you apply for new credit, lenders will make a hard inquiry on your credit report. Even if you are denied the credit, this inquiry will temporarily lower your credit score, which is how applying for a credit card affects your credit score.
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VantageScore’s Scoring Method
VantageScore, on the other hand, assigns different factors a value of influence:
• The most influential factor affecting your VantageScore is payment history, as it is with FICO.
• Three highly influential factors include the age of credit, type of credit, and credit utilization.
• A moderately influential factor is the total debt balance you maintain across all loans.
• The least influential factor is your recent credit activity (opening new accounts, recent hard inquiries, etc.).
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Tips for Improving Your Credit Score
Wondering how to improve your credit score to increase your chances of credit card approval? Here are some tips:
• Understand your credit score: The first step to improving your credit score is knowing how it’s calculated — and knowing what your current credit score is.
• Make on-time bill payments: Paying bills on time is good for more than just avoiding late fees. It’s also the top factor in determining your FICO score and VantageScore.
• Decrease your credit utilization: By reducing the amount of purchases on your credit cards — and paying them off in full every month — you’ll decrease your credit utilization, which can boost your credit score.
• Become an authorized user: If you have no credit history or are repairing bad credit, you may benefit from becoming an authorized user on a loved one’s credit card. If they are responsible with the card, it’s an easy way for you to boost your score without applying for your own card.
• Keep old cards open: Once you qualify for better credit cards, you may be tempted to close out old accounts. But each of those cards has a credit limit. By keeping the card open but not using it, you decrease your overall credit utilization and keep the average age of your credit higher. The exception: If the card has an annual fee and you’re not using it for anything, it’s probably not worth keeping it open.
• Only apply for credit cards when you need them: Each time you apply for a credit card, the issuer enacts a hard inquiry on your credit report, which lowers your score. Because of this, it’s a good idea to wait at least six months between credit card applications — and only apply when you need to. Choose your credit card applications wisely.
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Getting a Credit Card with Bad Credit
Bad credit is not a death sentence on your chances of getting a credit card. In fact, you can find credit cards on the market designed specifically for people with bad credit. However, such cards typically have high fees and interest rates.
If you’re worried about high fees and rates, a secured credit card for bad credit may be the better option. Some secured credit cards even approve borrowers without conducting a credit check and have no APR. The big difference between a secured vs. unsecured credit card is that secured credit cards require a security deposit, which acts as the card’s credit limit.
Alternatively, bad-credit borrowers may be able to qualify for a retail credit card. While retail credit card credit score requirements vary, many are available to borrowers with limited or bad credit.
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Getting a Credit Card with Fair Credit
With a fair credit score (580 to 669 per FICO), you won’t qualify for the top rewards credit cards available. That being said, it’s still possible to get approved for an unsecured credit card with no annual fee and limited perks.
Interest rates tend to be higher for those within this credit score range, but if you can pay the card off in full every month, you won’t have to worry about racking up credit card debt. Eventually, you may even improve your credit score enough to graduate to a rewards credit card with a better rate and terms.
Getting a Credit Card with No Credit
What if you have no credit history at all? Believe it or not, you can still qualify for a credit card with no credit history — though your options may be more limited.
Like borrowers with bad credit, you can likely qualify for no-frills secured credit cards if you can come up with the security deposit. Alternatively, borrowers without an established credit history can ask a close friend or family member to be added as an authorized user on their card. There are also credit cards designed for those who are currently enrolled in school.
While there isn’t a minimum credit score for a credit card, having a good to excellent credit score improves your chances of approval for the top credit cards on the market. If you have a bad credit score or no credit history at all, you may be able to qualify for secured credit cards or credit cards. However, you’ll generally face higher fees and APRs.
If you have good to excellent credit and are looking for a credit card that rewards your purchases, consider the SoFi Credit Card.
The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1
Can you get a credit card with limited or no credit history?
Yes, you can get a credit card with limited or no credit history. Borrowers with no history can look for secured credit cards or consider becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit account. Without credit history, however, you likely will not qualify for low-APR credit cards or rewards credit cards.
Can I get a credit card with a score of 600?
Yes, with a credit score of 600 (in the fair credit range), you may qualify for basic credit cards that offer limited perks, if any. You likely will not be able to qualify for a rewards credit card. However, credit card issuers may at least approve you for an unsecured credit card, though likely with a higher APR.
What is the easiest card to get approved for?
If you have no credit history (or a limited credit history) or a bad credit score, the easiest card to get approved for is typically a secured credit card. Secured credit cards present lower risk to credit card issuers because borrowers must make a security deposit that serves as collateral.
Photo credit: iStock/Antonio_Diaz
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1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .