The best credit cards for unemployed people are ones with forgiving application requirements, that might also offer cash back for spending and rewards for responsible credit usage. Depending on your particular situation, this might mean a secured credit card with no income verification needed, or a cash back card that offers discounts at specific merchants.
In this post we’ll cover the best credit cards for unemployed people, including the requirements needed to qualify for each.
Best Credit Cards for Unemployed People
Here’s a summary of the credit cards we’ll cover, both secured credit cards and other options.
Secured credit cards (no income needed):
Best no or low income credit cards:
What’s a Secured Credit Card?
The difference between secured credit cards and regular credit cards is that secured credit cards require a small cash deposit. Since the bank isn’t requiring any income on your application, they want to make sure they hold at least some collateral before issuing you a line of credit.
After you put up the initial deposit, you can continue using the credit card like normal, within the deposit limits. Then as you demonstrate good history and credit responsibility over time, the credit card company will consider increasing your credit limit or returning the down payment.
1. Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards
The Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards is our favorite secured credit card. It requires a refundable deposit of $200, but offers a great cash back rate on everything you purchase.
Oh, and there’s no annual fee – in fact, ALL the credit cards for unemployed and low credit users we recommend have no annual fee to worry about!
Here are the summary features for Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards:
- $200 minimum deposit required
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Cap One Travel
- Automatic credit limit increase considered within ~6 months
Building a relationship with Capital One is a great thing long-term. They offer a number of excellent credit products you can eventually graduate into, as well as online checking accounts and other banking solutions.
2. Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card
The Self Secured Credit Card is one of the only secured credit cards that doesn’t require a security deposit in order to qualify. Instead, you just need to demonstrate a short track record of banking responsibility using a Self Credit Builder Account.
There is no credit check or hard pull on your credit report to apply for Self. You will, however, need to abide by these basic rules to get access to a Self Credit Card.
To access the Self credit card, you must:
- Open a Credit Builder Account with Self
- Pick a budget plan, and make at least 3 payments on time.
- Reach at least $100 in savings progress
- Have no outstanding fees
Here’s a quick 1 minute video overview of how Self works. All in all, Self is a great solution for those who are building up their credit responsibility and want a simple all-in-one banking solution.
3. Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card
Petal offers two different credit cards, both suited toward those with no/low income and fair to poor credit. The Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa card is the entry level card, but it still has great perks.
To be approved for the Petal 1 card, you just have to show some good banking history. They want to see you’ve paid bills on time, and have good financial habits. Your credit limit will be between $300 – $5,000, based on their determination after reviewing your bank history.
The Petal 1 perks are:
- No annual fee!
- No security deposit required
- 2-10% cash back at select merchants
- You can receive rewards as a statement credit, or check/money transfer
- Manage everything from the app (including locking/unlocking your card for security)
Also, Petal will automatically consider you for credit limit increases as you show good usage. They track everything in the app so you can easily see your progress.
4. Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card
Similar to its sister card above, the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa is great for credit builders and folks with low income. The perks are slightly different from the Petal 1 card, namely the cash back options.
Demonstration of banking history is still needed, and the credit limits can be a bit higher on this card, anywhere from $300 up to $10,000!
Petal 2 perks:
- No annual fee, no security deposit.
- 1-1.5% cash back on every purchase!
- Bonus cash back at some merchants
- Manage everything via the mobile app
Petal truly is a great banking partner to help people establish and build good credit. Their mobile tools make it really simple to keep track of your progress, and grow your credit line continually as you demonstrate good usage.
5. Capital One Platinum Credit Card
The Capital One Platinum Card is available for people with credit scores in the 580 – 650 range. Since the application requirements are quite low, so are the benefits and reward options.
As far as credit card companies go, Capital One is near the top of our list. One of the benefits all Capital One users have is access to CreditWise. This is a credit score monitoring tool that gives you insights into your current score, history, and how you might be able to improve it over time.
More Capital One Platinum benefits:
- $0 annual fee
- Quick application, approval happens in seconds
- Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
- $0 Fraud Liability for peace of mind
Unfortunately there are no cash back and reward opportunities with this Platinum card. But, with continued good usage and by building a relationship with Capital One, you can quickly migrate to another card after ~6 months.
6. Discover IT Student Cash Back
This one is specifically for all you students out there! The Discover IT Student Cash Back is one of the top recommended student cards due to its amazing cashback opportunities and no annual fee.
There’s even an intro offer for your first year. Discover will match all of your cash back for all the spending in year 1. So if you earn $100 in rewards, it suddenly becomes $200!
Discover IT Student Cash Back benefits:
- $0 annual fee
- Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases. (rotating categories each quarter for things like like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations)
- 0% APR on purchases for the first 6 months
- No credit score or history needed to apply
While Discover is a major credit card company, not all merchants accept Discover cards – unlike Visa and Mastercard which are accepted virtually everywhere. That’s worth keeping in mind as you may want to have a few different cards and options in your pocket!
Qualifying Income for Credit Card Applications
If you are unemployed, you may think you have to write “$0” for income when applying for a credit card. But, there are several income sources and streams you may be able to account for outside of a regular 9 to 5 job. These include:
- Spouse income, if married
- Side hustle income
- Dividends and or investment growth
- Child support or alimony you receive
- Social Security income
- Pensions, rental income, retirement distributions
- Unemployment compensation
The Credit Card Act of 2009 allows you to list any household income to which you have a “reasonable expectation of access”.
Keep this in mind as you’re going through the application process. Being unemployed doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting a new credit card – even one with income requirements!
Other Ways to Get Credit Cards for Unemployed People
Here are a few ways you can get access to a credit card and help build your credit:
Become an authorized user on someone else’s account. If you have someone you trust (and they trust you) ask if you can be added as a user to their existing credit card account. While the primary card holder remains overall responsible for paying any debts, with continued responsible usage you can build up a good track record that will boost your own credit too.
Apply with a co-signer. Some banks, for example Bank of America and US Bank, allow co-signers for credit card accounts. A co-signer will allow you to be a primary account holder, while sharing responsibility with the other party.
Get a debit card (that still has credit card benefits!) There are a handful of debit card options that offer cash back and some rewards. And since many of them are Visa backed, you get all the same benefits as a regular credit card. Debit cards are also highly recommended if you can’t responsibly handle credit – they keep you out of trouble!
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are multiple options for choosing the best credit cards for unemployed folks. The perfect match really depends on your individual situation, any qualified income outside a regular job, and your creditworthiness.
But no matter your reasoning for needing a credit card, it is absolutely paramount that you spend responsibly and always have a plan to pay off your debts.
- Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche
- Best Travel Rewards Cards for Beginners
- What’s in our Wallet? (the cc’s we use personally!)
- Ways to rebuild damaged credit
**Feature pic by Avery Evans on Unsplash
* Advertiser Disclosure: How to Money has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. How to Money and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
* User Generated Content Disclosure: Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
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