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Can You Get a Credit Card When You Don’t Have a Job?

Last Updated: December 20, 2023
4 min read

Key points about: getting a credit card without a job

  1. You can get a credit card when you’re unemployed.

  2. Credit card companies consider other income sources besides employment.

  3. A secured credit card may be a good option for someone with little or no credit history.

Credit cards can offer a convenient way to make payments, plus the possibility of earning rewards. If you don’t have a job, you may wonder whether you will be able to qualify for a credit card. While the answer is not a simple yes or no, having a source of income and/or assets may improve your chances.

How to get a credit card if you have no job

Government regulations require credit card issuers to verify your ability to pay credit card debt before issuing a card, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Ensuring your ability to repay your debt is an important factor to credit card companies in approving you for an account.

Show income when you apply

To qualify for a credit card, you must demonstrate your ability to pay. A credit card application typically asks for income from various sources. The following are examples of income that credit card issuers may consider:

  • Income from employment (wages, salary or tips)
  • Money that is regularly deposited into your account by someone else, if you’re under 21
  • Investments
  • Bonus pay
  • Commissions
  • Income from rental property, interest, dividends and retirement benefits paid
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Certain student grants
  • Social Security payments
  • Another person’s income that’s available to you, if you’re 21 or older, or if you live in a community property state if you’re under the age of 21

Note that student loans are not considered income when applying for a credit card.

Will being unemployed limit the credit cards you can get?

If your income is lower because you’re unemployed, not every credit card issuer will approve your credit card application. However, some may. If you have enough income from other sources, unemployment won’t limit the cards you can apply for.

If being unemployed has Changed your financial picture, this may limit the cards you qualify for. With Discover, checking to see if you’re pre-approved is fast, easy and won’t impact your credit score.1


Credit cards to consider when you don’t have a job

Some types of cards may be easier to qualify for if you’ve lost income because you’re unemployed, or if your credit has suffered because of difficulty paying bills on time.

Secured credit cards

Secured credit cards are one option for someone with limited or no credit history. To open a secured card, you must deposit money with the credit card company. This security deposit reduces the company’s risk, and the deposit amount required is usually the same as your credit limit. Keep in mind that you will still be required to qualify for the card, and the issuer may pull your credit file in order to determine your creditworthiness and ability to pay.

You can use a secured credit card just like any credit card to make purchases. However, if you fail to make your payments or close your account with a balance, the company will apply the deposit toward your outstanding balance.

Note that secured credit cards are not the same as prepaid debit cards. Generally, a credit card issuer doesn't report your activity on debit cards or prepaid debit cards to any credit bureau. For that reason, they don’t usually affect your credit report in the same way a secured card does.

Did you know?

After you’ve used a secured card responsibly for a period of time, you may be able to have your credit line transferred to an unsecured credit card and continue to build your credit history. For example, with the Discover it® Secured Card, you can get your deposit back after six consecutive months of on-time payments and maintaining good status on all your credit accounts, and if you qualify, we will increase your credit line.2

If you're a student, you may consider a student credit card instead of a secured card, which may fit better into your current financial situation.

Becoming an authorized user

If you can’t or don’t want to get a credit card in your name, you can ask a friend or family member to add you as an authorized user on their card if the credit card issuer allows it. But be sure you and the account owner understand how it works so neither of you hurt your credit.

Using credit responsibly during unemployment helps you apply once you get a job

If you lost your job and your income is lower, it can be tempting to run up balances and skip credit card payments, especially if you've already exhausted your savings account. But you should try to make at least the minimum payment due.

Missed payments and using a large percentage of your credit limit may impact your credit score. A low credit score may make it harder to get a new credit card, even after you have income from a new job.

You can get a credit card while unemployed, but is it a good idea?

Every financial situation is different. If you don’t have a job, but you do have other reliable income, you may be able to manage monthly payments and keep your balance low. This could help you with building credit history while you search for a job. However, if you don’t have reliable income, you may have a hard time managing your credit card, which could ultimately hurt your credit score. In these circumstances, it may be best for you not to apply for new credit. The best choice for you depends on your unique circumstances.

Then, when you have consistent income again, you can apply for new credit, like a cash back credit card that can earn rewards on eligible purchases.

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  1. No Credit Impact for Pre-Approval: There is no hard inquiry to your credit report to check if you’re pre-approved. If you’re pre-approved, and you move forward with submitting an application for the credit card, it will result in a hard inquiry which may impact your credit score. Receiving a pre-approval offer does not guarantee approval. Applicants applying without a social security number are not eligible to receive pre-approval offers. Card applicants cannot be pre-approved for the NHL Discover Card.
  2. Graduation Transparency (Secured CLI): Monthly reviews start your seventh month as a customer. We will refund your security deposit if you have made all payments on time for the last six consecutive billing cycles on all your Discover accounts including any loans, and you've remained in “good status” on all credit accounts you are responsible for whether they are Discover accounts or not. “Good status” means: (1) your credit report shows no delinquencies, charge-offs, repossessions, or bankruptcies for the six months prior to our review; and (2) your Discover Secured Card is not in a prohibited status at the time of our review, including, but not limited to: closed, revoked, suspended, subject to tax levy, garnishment, deceased, lost/stolen, or fraud. Monthly reviews may be delayed if you change your payment due date. When you qualify to upgrade to a standard, ‘unsecured card’, Discover will also consider you for a credit line increase. We typically process your refund in 2-3 business days based on your delivery preference. If you close your account and pay in full, we’ll return your deposit within two billing cycles plus ten days.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.