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Credit scores can be a tricky thing and getting a credit card when you have bad credit can be even trickier…

Getting a loan? Credit check. Need a cell phone plan? Credit check.

Sometimes, even landlords will check your credit ‒ before considering you as a potential tenant. And the list doesn’t end here.

These 3 digits follow you, and have a big say in different areas of your life.

The unfortunate thing is that bad credit scores aren’t always a product of your own poor decisions.

Identity theft, divorce, getting laid off, co-signing for someone else’s loan, even just forgetting to pay bills – all of these things can hurt your credit score.

But, what’s a credit card got to do with your credit score and can you still get a credit card even if you have a bad credit score?

But first, here are our best credit cards for bad credit:

Credit Card Card Type Noteworthy Features Card Details
Home Trust Secured Visa Card Secured
  • $0 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
Learn more
Home Trust Secured Visa (Low Rate) Card Low Interest
  • $59 annual fee
  • 14.9% purchase APR
  • Virtually everyone is approved – deposit matches credit limit
Learn more
KOHO Prepaid Visa Prepaid
  • $0 annual fee
  • 0.5% cash back on purchases
Learn more

Getting approved even when you have bad credit

Credit cards are convenient, secure, and can be helpful in your quest to build credit.

If used responsibly and always paid on time, you can establish a clean payment history.

The challenge? If you have had credit issues in the past, or you only just started working on your credit, credit cards are not always easy to get.

Related: How Credit Card Interest Works in Canada

That doesn’t mean you have no options. There are a few types of credit cards that can be obtained or help you out, even if you have bad credit or have a lot of credit card debt:

These are a good starting point for someone who is looking to get approved…

So, let’s break down these credit card types and give you some of the best credit cards in each category. That way, no matter where your credit score is sitting as you read this, you will hopefully be able to find a card that suits your needs.

Related: Best Canadian Credit Cards in 24 Categories

Secured and guaranteed credit cards for bad credit

Virtually everyone wants guaranteed approval, right?

Even more so if you’ve been struggling to get a credit card.

Typically credit cards will come with some sort of basic requirements, and that’s no different here. The good news is that guaranteed cards usually ask less from their cardholders.

Often, you only need to meet a few key requirements, such as:

  • being the age of majority, and
  • not having a credit card with the same company, especially one that is in bad standing.

Some cards may even require you to make a security deposit or a down payment, and for most of them you can apply online as well.

Secured credit cards

If you have a bad credit score, a secured credit card is an option.

Secured credit cards require you to make an upfront payment, often called a security deposit or a down payment, that matches the limit of your credit card.

In most cases, these funds will stay with your credit card issuer until your credit card account is closed and your balance is paid off in full.

The security funds that you pay are used as collateral. So if you max out your card and don’t pay it back, the bank has that money to put against your debt.

Many of the big banks offer secured credit cards, but they are not all for fixing poor credit. Banks like RBC and BMO offer secured credit cards that are targeted specifically for newcomers and immigrants, as well as international students who are looking to establish credit.

Then there’s CIBC, TD, and Scotiabank ‒ three banks that offer a few of the cards in their regular line-up as secured cards. This means that not only can you work towards restoring your credit, but in some cases, you can also earn valuable rewards and gain access to some pretty sweet perks. One thing to keep in mind? You cannot apply for these cards online, you’ll need to go into a local branch and apply in person.

One secured credit card that you are able to apply for online is the . It has no annual fee and there is no income requirement.

Possibly an even better option, the has a reduced interest rate of only 14.99%, for an annual fee of $59, or a monthly fee of $5.

The great thing about these cards is Home Trust will report back to Equifax and Transnion every month, helping you build your credit back up.

The deposit required ranges for these cards are anywhere from $500 to $10,000 and virtually everyone is approved, even if you have declared bankruptcy in the past (although a discharge certificate may be required). When you decide to close out your account, your deposit is returned to you.

One of the most notable things about Home Trust Secured Visa is that it’s one of the few credit cards in Canada that charges you a reduced rate of 2% on your foreign currency transactions. Most other cards charge you a higher fee of 2.5%, so so this feature ends up saving you 0.5% whenever you shop in another country or make a purchase in a foreign currency.

Related: Best Instant Approval Credit Cards In Canada ‒ From No Credit To Excellent Credit

Guaranteed credit cards

Guaranteed credit cards are some of the rarest cards on the market, and Capital One offers more than one:

  • Capital One Guaranteed Mastercard ‒ This card could require you to make a down payment anywhere between $75 and $300.
  • Capital One Low Rate Guaranteed Mastercard ‒ This card could require you to make a down payment anywhere between $75 and $300.
  • Capital One Guaranteed Secured Mastercard ‒ Depending on your credit score, you might be given the Capital One Guaranteed Secured Mastercard, even if you apply for one of the other two cards. The main difference is that this card will require you to make a down payment anywhere between $75 and $300.

Another guaranteed card that is on the Canadian Market right now is , with an annual fee of $49, an interest rate of 17.99% and no monthly income requirement.

Unsecured credit cards for bad credit

Credit cards that require you to make a down payment in order to get approved are not the only option if you have bad credit.

These unsecured credit cards could be for you if:

  • You’re unsure if you will be approved for a regular credit card.
  • You’d rather not have your money tied-up in a secured credit card’s security deposit.
  • You’re uncertain if you can trust yourself with a credit card.
  • You have pre-existing credit card debt that you would like to get rid of now, and work work towards getting your credit score back on track.

If you can relate to any of those statements, keep reading…

Prepaid credit cards

Prepaid credit cards are a great option if you need an instant approval credit card, but you’re not quite ready for the real thing.

Perhaps, you don’t trust yourself yet to have access to a credit card. Or maybe you don’t currently have the funds to give a credit card issuer a lump sum as a security deposit. If this is you, then a prepaid card could be a good starting point.

There are two different kinds of prepaid cards:

  • One time use prepaid gift card credit cards – These can often be purchased in a store or online at a set amount. These cards cannot be reloaded, often have attached fees, and if they aren’t used up within a certain amount of time, they can expire.
  • Reloadable credit cards ‒ These cards will be issued by a bank and can be preloaded with money as you need it. They can be linked to your bank account, for easy reloading, and work just like a normal credit card.

Prepaid cards are great for a lot of things, but one important thing to keep is that they do not help your credit score.

So, if you’re looking for a card that can help you get your bad credit score in order…these are not the cards for you. However, they will put time between all the negative things on your credit report, and this will slowly help improve your score over time.

If a prepaid card speaks to you, here’s a couple of great options to consider. As a bonus, they also offer some basic rewards.

KOHO card

A prepaid Visa, the offers rewards on all your purchases.

It has no fees, but does charge a 1.5% no foreign transaction fees, lower than most credit cards.

And it earns you rewards as well. You’ll earn 0.5% cash back on every purchase.

If you want more from your KOHO card, you can upgrade to .

For an annual fee of $84 (or $9 per month), you also get 2% back on a variety of categories, including:

  • Groceries,
  • Gas,
  • Restaurants, and
  • Transit.

Get 0.5% back on everything else. KOHO premium also comes with price protection. Find a cheaper price for an item you bought in the last 30 days, and KOHO will refund the difference to your account.

To top it off, it also charges no foreign exchange fees, saving money while you travel.

And if you decide KOHO Premium isn’t worth it, you can switch back to a regular card anytime you like.

Stack Mastercard

Another option is the . It too has no annual fee. And instead of offering rewards on all purchases, you can instead earn rewards on offers which change from time to time.

But where it really gets interesting? This card has no foreign exchange fees. You’ll save the standard 2.5% interest most other credit and prepaid cards charge.

You can also earn referral bonuses of up to $15 per friend you refer and gets a Stack Card for themselves.

A few things to remember…

Access to credit can be enticing, and it can even lift your credit score if used properly. But it may not be for everyone. (And that’s ok, because there’s also debit and cash.)

So, before you decide to apply, please keep these things in mind:

  • Credit cards are not extra income and should only be used to purchase things you were planning on purchasing anyway.
  • The goal here is to get into better habits. If you need to set reminders, do it. If you need to ask someone for help, do it. If you need to put your credit card in a block of ice in the freezer, do it.
  • Credit cards should be paid in FULL every month, or at the very least, you need to pay the minimum payment before the payment due date. (Only paying the minimum payment is going to get you nowhere…fast.)
  • Never miss a payment or your credit will suffer for a very LONG time.

Pay your balance in full each month

Frequently asked questions

How does a secured credit card differ from a regular credit?

In terms of how they’re used, they’re actually the same. However, to get a secured credit card you need to give the issuer a security deposit, which acts as collateral in case you don’t make a payment. This amount of your deposit is also your credit limit.

Assuming you make all your payments (helping improve your bad credit), the security deposit gets refunded to you when you close the account.

How can prepaid credit cards help my credit score?

Prepaid cards don’t actually help your credit score, as you’re not given any line of credit, you’re simply spending your own money when you use them.

However, if you need something that functions as a credit card, it’s a good alternative to a secured card, and using one will help put distance from the negative items on your credit file causing your bad credit score, which will slowly increase your credit score.

We would love to hear from you

Have you used a secured or unsecured credit card in the past to help you get your credit score moving in the right direction.

Let us know in the comments below.