These Are the Best Cards with Alternative Approvals

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Getting approved for a credit card when you have bad credit — or none at all — can be difficult, since credit history is the most common way issuers determine your creditworthiness. 

But some issuers have begun analyzing data beyond credit history when you apply for a new card, helping more Americans access credit. Using details like your income, savings, and regular monthly payments, they can get a sense of your ability to pay off debt and use credit, so you can qualify for a credit card. In other words, these issuers are looking at alternative financial data to determine creditworthiness.

Here’s what you need to know about these cards, getting approved, and how to use them to improve your credit long-term:

What is an Alternative Approval Process?

Your credit history and credit score play a significant role in determining approval for a new card. But some credit card issuers offer alternative approvals for those repairing or building credit.

You’ll often find alternative approval options among new credit card companies, and the alternative approval process allows them to identify low-risk users who simply haven’t had the opportunity to build credit. Instead of high-value perks, these cards typically offer credit-building incentives to help you improve your score.

In most cases, the issuer will still make a hard credit inquiry into your credit, and use any credit data you do have in combination with other financial data. This other data comes from banking info you provide in your application, and may include your monthly income, banking history or transactions, bills, and other financial information. 

Despite the more accessible approval process, these credit cards aren’t automatically available to everyone. There are still a few requirements that you should expect, though they can vary depending on the card. You may need to be 18 or older with a source of income and a Social Security number, and you will likely need to provide information about your monthly expenses and spending habits. You can also hurt your approval odds by making too many inquiries within a short time frame or having filed for bankruptcy in the past. Check the card issuer’s requirements before you apply, or look into options for pre-approval to determine your chances of being approved before applying. 

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Petal® 1

Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (3.3/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    22.24% – 31.74% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Petal’s secure site
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Petal® 2

Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    15.24% – 29.24% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Petal’s secure site
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Tomo Card

Tomo Card

Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)

Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card issued by WebBank

Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card issued by WebBank

Who Benefits from Credit Cards with Alternative Approvals

Alternative approval methods using financial information beyond your credit score can be most useful for people with no credit history or bad credit. In general, the way to build great credit is by using credit responsibly over time. Alternative approvals make it easier to get access to a credit card — even if it’s a simple card with few rewards or benefits — that you can use to start building your score. 

Once you’re approved, use your card to make purchases you can afford to pay back in full and on time when your balance is due. Over time, this will help you build a positive payment history and improve your credit score. And once you’ve built the good credit habits that will keep your credit in great shape long-term, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved for other cards that may help you reach your financial goals, like rewards credit cards or 0% APR options.

The Best Credit Cards with Alternative Approvals 

Petal® 1 Visa® Credit Card

Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card
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Petal® 1
Editor’s Score: (3.3/5)
Apply Now externa link icon At Petal’s secure site.
Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card
Editor’s Score: (3.3/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    22.24% – 31.74% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score:
    (No Credit History)

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • No annual fee
  • Earn rewards with select merchants
  • Petal looks at more than credit score for approval decision
  • Prequalification option
Cons
  • No ongoing rewards categories
  • High APR
  • Credit limit could be as low as $500
The Bottom Line
The Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card issued by WebBank is best for people looking to build credit for the first time or who may have had trouble getting approved for other unsecured credit cards in the past. Petal’s alternative approval option — based on a “Cash Score” using your banking info — can help you qualify even with little credit history. Just steer clear of this card’s high APR by paying your balances in full every month.

Additional Card Details

  • Get prequalified without a hard inquiry on your credit report
  • Qualify for a credit line increase after six months of on-time payments and maintaining a predetermined credit score range
  • Earn 2% to 10% cash back (when applicable) with select merchants through Petal Offers
  • Get approved based on more than your credit score — Petal considers banking information you provide within your application
  • 22.24% – 31.74% variable APR

The Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card is a pretty basic credit-building card, but it’s suitable for making transactions and paying the balance in full to build a positive payment history. 

Petal does check your credit when you apply, but you can also include bank account information, which Petal will use to create a “Cash Score.” This score is based on your income and regular payments, and can be used in place of a credit score if you don’t have one or in addition to your credit history.

Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card 

Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card
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Petal® 2
Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
Apply Now externa link icon At Petal’s secure site.
Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card
Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    15.24% – 29.24% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score:
    (No Credit History)
Rewards rate:

Up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments. 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away.

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Cash back rewards increase with responsible credit use
  • No annual fee or security deposit
  • Prequalify online without a hard inquiry on your credit report
Cons
  • No welcome bonus
  • No introductory APR
  • Potentially high ongoing variable APR
The Bottom Line
The Petal 2 Visa Credit Card issued by WebBank, is designed to help credit newcomers establish credit and build a good credit score with no annual fee. You’ll earn cash back rewards on your spending, and the card uses an alternative approval process which can help you qualify even with no credit history.

Additional Card Details

  • Earn a baseline 1% cash back on all eligible purchases, and up to 1.5% back after 12 on-time payments
  • Reports payment history to all three credit bureaus
  • Credit limit between $300-$10,000 based on credit worthiness
  • No annual fee

The Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card is a good alternative to the Petal 1 credit card if you’re looking to build credit while also earning rewards. You’ll earn 1% cash back on every purchase to start, then can earn 1.25% after six on-time payments. After 12 on-time payments, you’ll get 1.5% cash back on all purchases. 

It uses the same “Cash Score” approval process to determine your creditworthiness based on your banking information — such as your income and spending habits — in addition to any credit history you have. However, Petal 2 may require more credit history or cash flow than Petal 1. You can see if you prequalify for either card on Petal’s site without undergoing a hard credit inquiry. 

Tomo Credit Card

Tomo Card
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Tomo Card
Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site.
Tomo Card
Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    None
  • Recommended credit score:
    (No Credit History)
Rewards rate:

1% cashback.

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • No annual fee
  • 0% APR and no ability to carry a balance
  • No credit history required for eligibility
Cons
  • Potential for waitlist
  • No option to carry a balance may limit your purchasing power
  • Linking issues with certain banks
The Bottom Line
If you have bad credit or no credit history, the Tomo Credit Card offers a unique approach to improving your credit. Unlike a typical credit card with an interest rate on any balances you carry, Tomo requires you to make weekly payments through an autopay system that prevents any balance from being carried on the card. And you don’t need a credit history to get approved; instead, your approval is based on banking information, income, and other details in your application. It’s an accessible card that can help you build credit if you’re just starting out, but you’ll want to make sure you practice responsible credit-building habits you can use to continue maintaining good credit in the future.

Additional Card Details

  • Alternative approval process; instead of a credit check, Tomo assesses your financial history using information in your application
  • Credit limit between $100 and $10,000 (also based on your financial information)
  • No APR; instead, you must opt into a weekly autopay schedule that prevents you from carrying a balance
  • If you don’t have the funds necessary to pay a balance, your account will automatically be frozen
  • Payments reported to the three credit bureaus
  • No fees

The Tomo Credit Card offers 1% back on all purchases. Tomo will determine your approval based on bank account information you provide when you apply, like your income and account balances. 

This card’s payment process also works differently from other credit cards. There’s no APR; instead, you must pay your balance in full each month using an autopay schedule. There’s no option to carry a balance, which also means there’s no risk of taking on high interest debt. And since each of your autopay weekly payments are reported to the three major credit bureaus, you can quickly build or improve your credit. If you cannot pay your balance in full, Tomo will freeze your card until the balance is paid. 

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card  

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
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OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Editor’s Score: (2.7/5)
Apply Now externa link icon At Capital Bank’s secure site.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Editor’s Score: (2.7/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $35
  • Regular APR:
    18.99% (variable)
  • Recommended credit score:
    (No Credit History)

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Build credit with on-time payments
  • Get approved with no credit check
  • Security deposit is fully refundable
Cons
  • $35 annual fee
  • At least $200 minimum security deposit required
  • No intro offer or rewards
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking to rebuild your credit or have no credit history at all, you can get started without a credit check with the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card. Regular reporting to the credit bureaus can help you establish a positive payment history as long as you pay in full and on time, but you will be required to pay a $35 annual fee and a minimum security deposit of $200 to get started.

Additional Card Details

  • $35 annual fee
  • No credit check required
  • Refundable security deposit (minimum $200, up to $3,000) required
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus
  • Track payments via mobile app

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card doesn’t require a credit check when you apply — which can be good for those with no credit history or less-than-perfect credit. However, unlike the other cards on our list, this is a secured card, which means you must put down a deposit to open the account. OpenSky reports to all three major credit bureaus to help you build your credit if you pay your balance in full each month and avoid late payments. 

This card comes with a $35 annual fee and a minimum cash deposit of $200 that serves as your credit line. This deposit is fully refundable if you close your account in good standing and without a balance. The OpenSky Secured Visa card also doesn’t offer rewards on your spending — like most secured credit cards. 

While this card doesn’t require any credit check to get approved, there are a few requirements you must meet. You’ll need a monthly income greater than your expenses, must be a U.S. citizen age 18 or older, and you cannot already have more than two Capital Bank credit cards or have applied for a Capital Bank credit card four or more times in the last 60 days.

Other Types of Cards for Credit Building

Cards with alternative approval processes can be helpful for building credit, but they’re not the only option if you have no credit history or bad credit.

Secured credit cards are one popular option for beginners, because they can be easier to get approved for than unsecured cards. These cards require a refundable deposit upon approval that acts as collateral and, often, serves as your line of credit. Like with general credit cards, your issuer will report your payments to the three credit bureaus, so you can build credit over time by paying your balances in full and on time each month. Here are a few of our favorite secured credit cards:

Student credit cards are another great option that allows students with little to no credit history to build credit, often with opportunities to earn rewards, too. Many student cards don’t require a long credit history, and may even offer added incentives for good grades, or the option to upgrade to another card after graduation. Here are a few student card options we like:

Editorial Independence

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.