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Best Ways to Build Credit in 2018

Don't let bad credit get you down. There are a number of financial products that have been created to help users build credit and work towards improving their credit score with responsible use and on time payments. Whether you are looking for a credit card for bad credit, a secured card, or a free credit score, there is a product that will help you re-establish your credit footing and build a stronger credit score in 2018.

Before you go down this journey, make sure you understand how credit scores are calculated. We have a breakdown here. You'll also want to make sure that the information on your credit profile is accurate. If you have any negative information on your credit report that does not belong to you, be sure to dispute those. You can find a how-to on how to dispute credit inquiries here.

Best Credit Builder Account for Bad Credit

Self Lender Logo

Self Lender

Self Lender offers a credit builder account that allows you to build a small amount of savings while adding positive reporting to your credit profile if you make on-time payments. When you open a credit builder account Self Lender will open a small certificate of deposit in your name.  You will make a small monthly payment to unlock the cash available in the certificate of deposit. There is a small fee required to open the account and you'll pay interest on the loan each month. Monthly payments start as low as $25 and there is no penalty for paying off your account early. 

Self Lender helps your credit score in 4 ways:

  • Your monthly payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus. On time payments will allow you to build a history of making timely payments. On time payments make up 35% of your total credit score!
  • If you don't currently have any open loans, you'll be adding a new type of account to your credit profile. The types of credit you have available to you make up 10% of your credit score.
  • Self Lender provides access to your credit score, as well as credit monitoring. You'll be able to monitor your credit score as you go!
  • When you complete your loan term, you'll receive a deposit for the amount of your certificate of deposit. You're now ready for the next stage of your credit building plan with cash in hand. You can use your cash for a security deposit on a secured card or park it in a high yield savings account!

Best Secured Credit Card for Bad Credit

Discover it Secured Card Image

Discover it Secured Card

Why do we love the Discover it Secured Card? Not only is Discover a reputable company, but they have one of the best secured cards in the banking world. Most secured cards will carry an annual fee ranging from $35 - $50 without offering any kind of rewards structure. Discover breaks all the rules with their $0 annual fee card that earns 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% cash back on everything else. Discover will also double all of the cash back you earn in your first year as a thank you for baking with them.

You'll need to be prepared to put up at least $200 in a security deposit in order to open this account. Your credit line will be equal to the amount of the security deposit you have. Discover will use this as a way to guarantee that you can pay your monthly balance. You'll get the deposit back when you close the account or when Discover upgrades your account to a non-secured account. Discover begins reviewing your account for conversion once you've been a card holder for eight months.

Discover it Highlights:

  • Get access to a free credit score and credit monitoring
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus
  • Earn cash back
  • Receive automatic account reviews to be upgraded to a non-secured card when eligible

Best Non-Secured Credit Card for Bad Credit

Indigo Mastercard card art

Indigo Platinum Mastercard

Indigo specializes in lending to users with bad credit. They make our #1 spot because of their user friendly approach to opening new accounts. Using Indigo's application page, you can see if you are pre-qualified for a card before applying. By supplyingIndigo with some basic information, they'll run a soft credit check (which doesn't impact your credit score) to see if you are eligible for one of their products. If you are they'll show you the APR and annual fee you qualify for. Indigo can have some high annual fees so you'll want to keep an eye on that. Fees range from $0 - $99 a year.

Indigo Highlights:

  • Protect your credit score by only applying for the card if you are pre-qualified.
  • Get access to a free credit score
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus
  • No security deposit required
  • See our full review
  • Apply Online

Best Personal Loan for Bad Credit

Marcus Logo


We love Marcus for it's simplicity. Marcus personal loans allow users to check to see if they are pre-qualified for applying using a soft credit inquiry that will not damage your credit score. Qualified borrowers can take out anywhere from $3,500 to $35,000 making this an attractive loan option for a number of life expenses. APRs start as low as 6.99% depending on your credit, so you may be able to use Marcus to consolidate existing credit card debt to save money on interest expenses. Marcus flaunts that it is a no fee ever product. You won't pay a fee to apply for the product, open your account, or get access to your funding. It's a loan designed to be simple and user friendly.

Marcus Highlights:

  • No Fees ever
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus
  • See your rates before you apply
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Flexible repayment plans from 36-72 months

Best Way to Minimize Application Rejection



Maybe you are almost ready to apply for a non-secured credit card, but you're not quite sure if you'll get approved. CardMatch is a tool from CreditCards.com that will allow you to see if multiple banks have any credit card offers that you are either pre-qualified for, or likely to be approved for. If you provide CreditCards.com with your name, address, and last 4 digits of your social security number they will run a soft credit inquiry, and match you to offers from Chase, American Express, Capital One, Bank of America, and First Premier all at the same time. This saves you the trouble of looking at multiple bank sites. While you won't be guaranteed for approval with results, you are more likely to be approved if the bank matches you to an offer based on your credit score. American Express runs bonus offers within the tool, so if you're luckily you may be matched to an exclusive AmEx offer!

CardMatch Highlights:

  • Get matched to offers from multiple banks with one soft credit inquiry
  • Qualified users may get matched to exclusive offers from American Express
  • Protect your credit score by knowing you have a credit profile a bank is looking for before applying.

Best Way to Save with Bad Credit

Acorns Logo


We love Acorns because it allows us to save extra cash each month without thinking about it. It can be hard for many people to set aside cash each month for savings, but Acorns takes the thinking out of the process. Simply sign-up for Acorns and link a checking account and debit or credit card to get started. Every time you swipe your credit card, Acorns will round the purchase up to the next dollar, and invest your spare change. Buy a Red Bull at 7/11 for $2.55? Acorns will round that up to $3.00 and set aside .45 cents for investing. Once Acorns gathers up $5 in change, they pull $5 out of your checking account for investing. The best part is that if Acorns detects that your checking account balance is low, it will stop pulling money out of your account to help avoid overdrafts. There is a $1 a month fee for accounts under $5,000, but if this is the only way to help you save money, it is a worthy investment. 

Acorns Highlights:

  • Work to build up savings for that next unexpected life event, or big purchase
  • Investing made simple, and at a low cost.
  • Automatic access to FoundMoney to make your savings grow faster.

Best Products for Bad Credit
Product Best for
Self Lender Credit Building
Discover it Secured Credit Card Best Secured Card for Bad Credit
Credit One Cash Back Credit Card Best Non-Secured Card for Bad Credit
Marcus Best Personal Loan for Bad Credit
CardMatch Best Way to Minimize Credit Card Rejection
Acorns Best Way to Save with Bad Credit