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What You Need to Qualify for a Credit Card for Bad Credit

When you have damaged credit, those “easy-to-get” credit cards aren’t always easy to get.

Even with credit cards for bad credit, issuers vet applicants carefully against several requirements, known as underwriting standards, to find customers who are less likely to default. In some cases, federal law also requires issuers to get certain information before extending credit to a borrower.

If you want to qualify for a secured credit card — that is, a card that requires a cash deposit — or an unsecured card for bad credit, here’s what you’ll need.

An identification number, an address and other personal information

Required for all U.S. credit cards.

No matter where you apply for a credit card, your issuer will always want to know who you are. Provisions of the USA Patriot Act designed to combat terrorism and money-laundering require issuers to get your personal information.

For most people, providing name, address and birthdate is the easy part. But if you’re new to the U.S., filling out the Social Security number field might be a stumbling block. If you don’t have an SSN, you can get an individual taxpayer identification number. If you skip these sections altogether, or if you’re under 18, your application will be rejected.


Required for all U.S. credit cards.

Issuers must check that borrowers have an “ability to pay” before extending them credit, under the Credit Card Act of 2009. But depending on the issuer, that can mean different things.

At the very least, your issuer is going to ask about your annual income, to make sure you have one. If you’re over 21, this includes all the income to which you have “reasonable expectation of access.” That means you can include your partner’s income.

Most secured cards don’t have minimum income requirements. But some take your debt and monthly living expenses into consideration. The Capital One® Secured MasterCard®, for example, will deny your application if your monthly income doesn’t exceed your rent or mortgage payment by at least $425, according to its terms.

If you’re applying for an unsecured credit card from a major issuer, you’ll likely have to meet a minimum income requirement — usually $10,000 or $12,000 per year. If your income is too low, or you’re carrying too much debt, your application might be rejected.

A security deposit

Required for all secured cards.

Unlike “regular” credit cards, secured cards require cash collateral when you open a new account. Typically, you need to put down at least $200 or $300 for a security deposit, which then determines your credit limit. For example, a $300 deposit would get you a $300 limit. If you fall behind on payments, the issuer keeps that deposit. Otherwise, you’ll get your money back when you close the account in good standing or upgrade to an unsecured credit card.

If you’re having trouble coming up with that kind of money, it’s usually best to save up for a secured card with a lower deposit requirement. Unsecured credit cards from subprime specialist issuers — or issuers that focus on borrowers with bad credit — may seem appealing, but could end up costing you over $100 more in fees each year, according to a NerdWallet study.

A checking or savings account

Requirement varies by issuer.

A checking or savings account gives you a secure place to store money and can help you build an emergency fund. But often it’s also required for funding a secured card’s security deposit or used by issuers to determine your financial stability. If your ChexSystems record is keeping you from opening an account, look for a bank or credit union that offers a second-chance checking account in your area.

A credit history without serious negatives

Requirement varies by issuer.

Some credit cards, like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card, don’t run credit checks. But most do. Usually, issuers do this to look for red flags that your financial life might be getting worse, not better. For instance, for the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee, “Factors such as income, bankruptcy, debt and judgments” — for example, liens or lawsuits — “may impact your ability to be approved,” according to a statement from Discover. Among major issuers, these types of warnings are typical.

Try to improve your credit as much as you can before applying for cards — say, by getting caught up on payments on your existing accounts. If a recent bankruptcy is keeping you from an approval, find out whether you can get a credit card with your local bank or credit union. While cards that skip credit checks are an option, they tend to be more expensive.

» MORE: Applying for a credit card after bankruptcy

A clean history with the issuer

Requirement varies by issuer.

Bad blood can sometimes get in the way of a credit card approval. If you’ve defaulted on your payments with a certain issuer before, that issuer likely won’t approve your application for a new card. Instead of dwelling on the past, start a clean slate by working with a different company. Remember, many banks are happy to get your business. Look for a lender that gives you a chance to rebuild your credit on good terms.

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @ideclaire7.

McDonald's testing breakfast Happy Meals

Parents in one Oklahoma city will soon have a new reason to coax kids out of bed.

Starting Monday, McDonald’s will offer breakfast Happy Meals at 73 locations in Tulsa, according to Time. The breakfast-themed Happy Meal offerings include two kinds of McGriddles and an Egg & Cheese McMuffin. Kids can choose between apple slices and yogurt as a side item. Certain locations will offer hash browns as a side option.

>> Read more trending stories 

If the morning Happy Meals are a hit, they could be launched nationwide next year.

Retailers Offer Consumers Mobile Check-Out


As issues with credit card chip readers continue to leave consumers and businesses vulnerable to identity theft, many retailers are rolling out a different type of solution - paying by mobile app. Large retailers such as Wal-Mart already offer this payment option, and starting in October, Kohl's will as well. Kohl's plans to offer customers the option of checking out using the store's mobile app rather than using their Kohl's charge card. The sale will still go directly to the card, but there will be no need even to carry the credit card into the store. Any usual rewards, promotions, or discounts will be applied, the same as if the consumer had swiped the card. According to information from Kohl's, about 60% of all purchases are made using a Kohl’s store charge card. The app, which is available for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, has been downloaded almost 14 million times.

Facebook Messenger Now Helps You Pester That Friend Who Never Pays You Back

We’ve all been there. You go out, have a nice meal … only to realize a few weeks later or so that your friend hasn’t paid back the $20 you lent her when you went out. What should you do? Facebook Messenger may have a solution.

This week, the social network introduced a feature on its Messenger App called chat assist, which drops a link into the chat window asking your friend to pay whatever they owe. The optional service is automated, and uses word recognition (think “IOU”) to determine whether a payback prompt is needed. The choice is yours whether to add it or not.

Chat assist follows the launch of Facebook’s Messenger payment service in March, which allows users to send and receive money free of charge, like Square Cash or Venmo.

Though some Facebook users may find the feature off-putting, others may find it’s a boon for helping them retrieve the money they’re owed. After all, nothing will put damper on a relationship quite like friends who “forget” to pay money they owe.

For those who are on level with their money, Facebook also introduced a new poll feature this week that allows users to write a question with possible answers for making plans, which can be posted to group chats. After reading the prompt, everyone in the group can “vote” on the plans and decide what to do together.

Friends & Money

Remember, loaning money to friends comes with emotional and financial costs, some of which you may not be prepared to take. Lending $20 here or there may not be a big deal at first, but it will add up if neither you nor your friend are forthcoming about expectations for paying it back. This is why having a conversation is a must. In the meantime, if you’ve been going out a lot and would like to check in with the effect it’s having on your finances, a good place to start is by viewing a free summary of your credit report, which you can access on

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Mortgage Rates Today, Friday, Sept. 23: Lower Again

Thirty-year and 15-year fixed mortgage rates as well as 5/1 ARM rates were all lower again this morning, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage rates published by national lenders Friday.

Rates on 30-year fixed home loans are at their lowest level in two weeks, according to the NerdWallet Mortgage Rate Index.

NerdWallet provides clarity to all of life’s financial decisions. Hal M. Bundrick, CFP Mortgage Rates Today, Friday, Sept. 23 (Change from 9/22) 30-year fixed: 3.62% APR (-0.01) 15-year fixed: 3.04% APR (-0.02) 5/1 ARM: 3.53% APR (-0.02) Mortgage rates likely to move higher by year-end

The Federal Reserve left short-term interest rates alone this week, but that doesn’t mean mortgage rates won’t move higher. Steve Hovland, director of research for HomeUnion, an online real estate investment management firm, sees the potential for mortgage rates to rise, despite the Federal Open Market Committee’s decision to stand pat.

“Rates are almost certain to move by year-end, barring any catastrophic economic news. The capital markets are expected to lift borrowing costs well ahead of December’s meeting, once again leaving the FOMC catching up to the market rather than setting it,” Hovland said in an analysis. “Last year, average mortgage rates drifted up approximately 25 basis points (0.25%) between the September and December meetings.”

Although a lot of attention is given to Fed policy decisions, it is important to remember that mortgage rates remain extremely low by historical standards, Hovland added.

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published APR with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. Annual percentage rate quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

More from NerdWallet Compare online mortgage refinance lenders Compare mortgage refinance rates Find a mortgage broker

Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @halmbundrick.

Jill Stein Outlines Her Student Loan Debt Plan


Dr. Jill Stein addressed a group of supporters on Thursday, at Center Connecticut State University. One of the main talking points was her plan to deal with student loan debt. The Green Party candidate's position is different from those put forth by the two major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and fellow minor party candidate, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party. Dr. Stein called student loans 'predatory' and said that it was not acceptable for many young people to be trapped in large amounts of debt just because they wanted an e...

Ask Brianna: Should I Delay Goals While I Repay Student Loans?

“Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column for 20-somethings, or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to

This week’s question:

“I want to get married, buy a house and hit other adult milestones in my 20s and 30s, but my student loan debt is holding me back. Should I put off other goals while I repay my student loans?”

Feeling stymied by student loans is becoming a defining part of being a 20- or 30-something. The numbers are stacked against us: College is more expensive, we’re taking on more debt to afford it, and it’s harder for us to repay the money we borrow.

According to the College Board, the average public four-year college’s net price — the amount you pay for tuition, fees, room and board after accounting for scholarships, grants and tax benefits — jumped from $9,940 a year to $13,320 from 2003-04 to 2013-14. Not surprisingly, the average amount of student loan debt at graduation went up 56% between 2004 and 2014, the Institute for College Access & Success reports. Meanwhile, the median household income fell 6.5% between 2007, the year before the recession hit, and 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Your concerns are real, and don’t let anybody tell you that you just shouldn’t have taken out student loans, or that you should have chosen a more lucrative major when you were 18 and couldn’t plan past your next meal.

But there are ways to make your student loan payments more manageable so you can afford a wedding, a down payment and other trappings of adulthood. You can also recast your expectations of what you’re supposed to achieve in your 20s and 30s to lessen that feeling of falling behind.

Lower your student loan payment

Affording your student loan bills should be your priority because the consequences of default can be severe. When you default, the government, for instance, has the power to withhold your pay or seize your tax refunds to collect your unpaid federal loan debt.

If you’re having trouble making your payment, switch to an income-driven repayment plan. These options can reduce your monthly student loan bill to 10% or 15% of your income. Check whether you’re eligible for student loan forgiveness, too: Public Service Loan Forgiveness will make your remaining loan balance disappear after 120 on-time payments if you work for a nonprofit or government agency.

Refinancing can also help you manage your student loans. A private lender will pay off your current debt and issue you a new loan at a lower interest rate. You must qualify based on your income, credit score and job history, so it’s best for those who aren’t in danger of falling behind on payments. You’ll also lose certain benefits if you refinance your federal loans.

Set your own expectations

Before you lament the cushy lifestyle your loans robbed from you, remember that those loans helped get you a college education. A degree earns 25- to 34-year-olds an extra $20,000 a year on average compared with those with a high school education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Yes, you might hit those classic adult milestones later — but you’ll still hit them. Starting about age 27, homeownership rates are higher among those who took on debt to go to college than those who didn’t go to college at all, according to a recent report by Susan M. Dynarski, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at the University of Michigan.

Keep in mind, too, that buying a house isn’t the ultimate sign you’re an adult, and putting it off doesn’t make you a failure. Helen Ngo, a certified financial planner and principal at Capital Benchmark Partners in Atlanta, says her 20- and 30-something clients who recently graduated with medical, law and other graduate debt aren’t eager to buy homes.

“Most of them just want to make money and pay off debt and travel,” she says.

Is that such a problem? Given the chance, I know you’d get rid of your student loans tomorrow; I would, too. But if they got you a degree, they were probably worth it. Work them into your budget, plan for the future anyway, and know that you don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations but your own.

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @briannamcscribe.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

Marijuana legalization initiatives could inject $7.8B into economy

Voters in nine U.S. states will decide on marijuana legalization initiatives come November. And if just seven of those initiatives pass, a new report says those states could inject $7.8 billion into the nation's economy by 2020.

>> Read more trending stories

Of course, marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

But Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, Florida and California are all voting to loosen their own pot restrictions.

And the report from New Frontier Data and Arcview Market Research says it could mean big money.

The study also claims the entire cannabis industry in the U.S. could hit $20.6 billion by 2020, which is slightly less than what was predicted earlier this year.

Still, as New Frontier's CEO said in a statement, "The cannabis industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy and continues to astonish those in and out of the space."

Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana in some form.

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10 Money Mistakes You Might Not Know You're Making

If you take a look at your spending, are you really being as smart as possible? It may seem like it at first glance, but if you really sit down and think about it, you may be actually making mistakes with your finances and not even realize it. This can mean you’re overspending or missing opportunities to save. Here’s a list of mistakes you might be making, and the changes you can make.

1. Not Having a Budget

A written budget can be the key to managing your money. A budget puts financial control back in your life. Otherwise, your money just goes and you can lose control over your finances.

I know it can seem scary to actually sit down and make a budget, but it really is not that bad. In fact, once you do it and start to follow one, you will realize how much better you feel about your money.

If you need help getting started, you can read about how to create a budget here. 

2. Not Being Involved in Your Finances

If you are in a relationship (married or otherwise) where you both contribute financially, are you both involved in paying the bills? In most cases, it seems that just one person takes care of this. There are instances where it is the person who is better at handling money (and/or maybe enjoys it). But really, to have a full understanding of your money, you both should be involved.

Consider sitting down together and talking about your budget (see point 1). Fill it out together so you both see how you plan to spend your money. You can both contribute to how you will save, what you will budget for dining out or other items you want to spend your money on. You both have an equal voice. You both are in control of your money.

Once you have the budget, look at your investments, credit cards, life insurance — anything with any sort of financial tie. Make sure you both understand where these items are held, be it a bank or insurance company, and that you both know how to access the account (login and passwords).

3. Not Saving for Retirement

Too many parents focus more on college than retirement. Sure, we’d love to help our children financially with college, but it’s important to consider your future as well. It is up to you to take the steps now to ensure that you are looking ahead to take care of yourself for the future.

Consider looking at the options your employer offers. Do they have a 401K plan? Do they have a matching program? Start saving now and look ahead toward covering yourself for those golden years.

4. Using Credit the Wrong Way

Many people are wise when it comes to using credit cards. They use them and pay the card off completely every single month. If you are one of these people, that’s what we should all aspire to. The problem is when you’re not careful to understand the fine print. The low introductory rate or the in-store discount can very tempting, but will only be worth it if you can afford what you charge.

Take a look at this example: You open a store card to save 20% off of your purchase that day and end up spending $400. The bill comes and you open it. You see that the interest rate is 18.9% and that the minimum payment is only $16. Rather than pay the entire $400 out of your account, you decide to send in the minimum balance because you need the $384 for something else.

If you continue to do this, it could take you nearly 3 years (34 months) to pay off this balance. Not only that, but you could accumulate more than $120 in interest on this charge alone, making your $400 purchase ultimately cost more than $520. Keep in mind — while only paying the minimum isn’t ideal, it is better to make that payment on time than to not pay at all.

You can see how your financial habits are affecting your credit scores by taking a look at your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on

5. Listening to the Bank Instead of Your Budget

If you want a new home or car (or anything that requires a loan), you will go to the bank. Consider this scenario — You fill out an application for pre-approval and find out that they tell you that you can afford a $300,000 home with an interest rate of 3.76%. Your monthly payment will be $1,391.05.

While that looks like it will work, according to the numbers, you know that will really stretch things thin. However, the bigger house with that huge master tub and large backyard is so wonderful. The neighborhood is upscale and it is everything you want. But is it what you can really afford? (Consider using this tool to get a better understanding of how much house you can afford.)

You take a look at your budget and decide you really should spend only $900 a month instead. That would mean you should not spend more than around $200,000 for a home ($100,000 less than what the bank says you can afford).

By spending less, you have freed up money to allow you to do things other than pay for your home. If you find yourself in this situation, it might be wise to consider downsizing or maybe trying to refinance at a lower rate to reduce the amount you are paying each month on your mortgage.

6. Not Doing Research Before Shopping

It is easy for us to overspend on things such as home repairs, clothing and gifts, as emotion is driving us on many of these purchases. If the refrigerator goes out, we worry and know we have to get it fixed as quickly as possible. That may result in paying more than necessary.

Instead, it’s a good idea to shop around and do your research. You may even want to do so before the unexpected happens. In the instance of an appliance repair, make some calls to find out the rates of various companies that repair the items you have in your home. Find out who does good work at an affordable price. Then, write down that name and number so that when you need someone, you will know who to call.

You can also look around for deals and the best prices on other items such as clothes and gifts. By taking a few extra minutes to do some research online, you might find a better price at another store.

7. Not Teaching Your Children About Money

Kids take in everything they witness and hear around them. This can lead to them learning great things, but also not so great things. You want your kids to be smart in all areas of their lives as they get older. This includes their finances.

It’s good to start educating them at a young age. When my kids go to the store, they know that we can’t just buy anything. We talk about our budget with them and tell them we have only a certain amount of money to spend on food, so we have to first cover the items we need and then we may be able to pick up that splurge item.

We also teach them financial responsibility. It is important that you start young with your children so that they understand the concept of how to manage their own money. Teach them about giving, saving and spending. By starting young, you set them on the path to financial independence as they get older.

8. Not Planning for an Unexpected Loss

None of us ever plan on losing a spouse or something happening to them that can prompt financial hardships. But, the reality is that it can happen. It is important to plan now so that you are ready just in case. To do this, consider sitting down with your spouse or partner and having a candid discussion. Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Who will raise our children if we are both gone?
  • How much money will my spouse need should I pass away?
  • How will we cover a funeral and/or medical expenses?
  • What happens if I become disabled and can no longer work?

Use this to figure out what your emergency fund should entail. Look at your budget and determine what could be cut back if you were out of work (things such as entertainment and dining out may have to be put on the back burner). It’s also wise to add in the additional cost of health insurance premiums (if you get this through your employer). Then, work hard to try to build up your emergency fund so you can support yourself and your family, should you find yourself (or your spouse) out of work.

From there, you may want to make other considerations, like life insurance or disability insurance. Check with your employer as they may offer some supplemental benefits as well as some sort of disability insurance at a reduced premium rate. You can read more tips to help you plan for the unexpected here.

9. Not Having a Debt Payoff Plan

If you currently find yourself in debt, it’s a good idea to have a plan to pay it off.  These are some simple things to keep in mind with any debt plan:

  1. Figure out your monthly payments to get the debts paid down.
  2. Set a deadline to getting out of debt.
  3. Put it all in writing and do your best to stick to it.

(If you are currently working to pay off your credit card debt, consider using this credit card payoff calculator tool to see how long it may take you.)

10. Ignoring Your Finances Completely

The truth is, ignoring your problems does not make them go away. The same holds true with your finances. If you are ignoring them, things will not improve.

If you find you are in over your head, check with your bank. Some of them offer free assistance to anyone who wants to get out of debt. They might even have financial planners available to assist you. You never know what services are out there unless you ask.

It is not how much you make that matters, it is what you do with it. Making wise financial decisions can keep you from throwing money away and help you gain more control.


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6 Ways to Avoid Losing Your Mortgage After Pre-Approval

Getting your paperwork together for a mortgage application can seem like an endless process. Your lenders need to document every bit of income you have in order to build a case that you can repay the loan. Even those monetary gifts from grandma seem to get inspected under a microscope.

And, after it’s all complete, you certainly don’t want your loan to fall through. To help you avoid having that happen, here are some tips from mortgage experts to keep the process going smoothly.

1. Watch Your Spending

Keeping an eye on your spending includes racking up more debt or making any big purchases. Now isn’t the time to shop for new furniture or get a new car to match your new house. When lenders track your credit usage during the mortgage application process, balance increases can have a negative impact on your approval, Josh Lewis, a mortgage adviser at BuyWise Mortgage in Anaheim, California, said in an email. (If you’re curious about where your credit stands, you can get a free credit report summary, updated every 14 days on

2. Don’t Borrow From Your Credit Card for the Escrow Deposit

This also sets off a big red flag for lenders, because it appears as if you’re already borrowing money to make a payment. “Credit card advance funds are never an acceptable source of funds,” Lewis said.

3. Keep Your Cash Deposits to a Minimum

You might think you need to fluff up your bank balances before applying for a mortgage. But, if you’re going to do this, you probably don’t want to use cash. Each of your large deposits needs a source and cash can be seen as too mysterious. For example, Lewis said he recently worked with a hairstylist who made a lot of cash deposits she received from work into her bank account. When a loan underwriter reviewed her bank statement, each deposit had to be accounted for, which made it more difficult.

4. Don’t Change Jobs & Maybe Even Stall a Promotion

New jobs, becoming self-employed or even a promotion that is a lower base but higher commission could all put your mortgage into jeopardy, Lewis said.Nearly every loan type requires a two-year history of commissions/bonuses/overtime,” Lewis said.

5. Avoid Getting Another Loan

It’s a good idea to hold off getting any other loans or lines of credit, as adding more credit to your profile may make you appear more risky to potential lenders. You also want to be upfront about any loans you’ve co-signed. “When borrowers fail to disclose they are a guarantor on another loan — this can dramatically affect the debt-to-income ratio which can quickly lose a home loan,” Trisha Bousfield, team member of Magilla Loans in Sacramento, California, said in an email.

6. Stay Married

The mortgage process can be stressful, and sometimes a spouse is unaware that their partner is planning to file for divorce in the midst of it. Doing so during the loan process could potentially ruin the mortgage application, Bousfield said. A divorce could mean an income split, or having to pay alimony or child support — all extra expenses that may have to be noted on the application.

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