Scoring a Credit Card Without a Credit Score

Saturday, May 21st, 2016
Updated: May 21st, 2016
The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.

If you’ve never had a credit card before, or taken out a loan or a mortgage, you may find yourself in a tough situation when you do try to get a credit card, a loan, or a mortgage. It can be a Catch-22 situation, where no one will extend you credit because no one’s ever extended you credit before.

Likewise, if you have a very low credit score, you may find yourself in the same boat, unable to get a credit card or a loan because of your poor credit.

In either case, there are still ways to get a credit card, so don’t despair. Here’s what to do if you need a credit card but don’t have the credit score to score one.

Unsecured cards are the standard

Think about what you need. What are you planning to use your credit card for? Do you want to make a big purchase and pay it off over time, because you can’t afford it up front? You’ll need an unsecured card. You can look for a card meant for students, or for people with no credit and limited credit. Your credit limit may be low, and there may be some fees associated with the card, as well as an annual percentage rate on the higher side, but it will get the job done. Use it responsibly, and you’ll have the added bonus of improving or establishing your credit score while you’re at it.

Prepaid cards have pluses and minuses

If you just need a card to use while you’re out and about, for the sake of convenience, a prepaid card might do the trick. This is a type of card where you put money on it up front, rather than paying it off after you make a purchase. These cards can come with very low fees and handy features like bill payment and direct deposit. The thing about them is, you won’t build a credit score with one. They don’t report to credit bureaus, because technically they are not credit cards at all. So if your goal is to establish or rehabilitate your credit score, these won’t help you. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a very useful tool to have, though.

Secured cards are an option

You can always look into getting a secured credit card, if your credit is damaged or nonexistent. With this type of card, you’ll put down a lump sum as collateral, so the credit issuer is protected in case you default on the amount you owe. Secured cards do report to credit bureaus, so you’ll be able to build up your credit again. Watch for fees and high APRs, though.

Chances are, you’ll be able to get a credit card no matter what your credit score is. It’s just a matter of finding the right one. Know what you want, know what your credit score is now—get a free copy of your credit report—and don’t give up on improving or establishing your credit, and getting the card you need.

All rates and fees, and other terms and conditions of the products mentioned in this article/post are actual as of the last update date but are subject to change. See the current products' Terms & Conditions on the issuing banks' websites.

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