Borrowing money on good terms can be a financial game changer—especially if you're in a pinch.

And while getting that credit card with zero APRs, juicy mile rewards, and cash backs may seem like a daunting task for low-income earners, it’s much easier than you might think.

The catch? You need the right strategy.

Let's explore some smart credit card options tailored for those on a tight budget.

Go for an unsecured card (if you can get approved)

First, let's discuss unsecured cards—the golden ticket for some low-income earners.

These cards don't require collateral, so you don't have to put down a deposit. You get a credit limit to make purchases and pay back monthly.

The perk? You can build credit without tying up cash.

This allows you to establish solid history and improve your score over time, opening new financial doors. Approval may be tricky with limited income or history, but some issuers are more flexible, so persist!

Pro tip: Apply for student/beginner cards aimed at credit newbies. Don't give up - getting approved may take a few tries.

Stuck with a secured card? Use it wisely

Secured cards require a refundable deposit that becomes your credit limit.

They allow those with limited credit or low scores to start building payment history, which is key for your score.

Secured cards can be a great stepping stone to an unsecured card, especially if used wisely. Make small purchases, and pay your bill on time and in full every month.

This builds solid history, and soon you may qualify for an unsecured card with better perks and rewards.

Pro tip: Ask your issuer if they offer an upgrade path to an unsecured card after responsible use.

Top credit cards for low incomes

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is a great starter card for individuals with limited or bad credit. It offers a starting credit limit of $300 or more with no annual fees, making it accessible.

By using the card responsibly and making timely payments, you can earn up to 1% cash back rewards while working to boost your credit score over time.

This card provides an opportunity to demonstrate responsible credit habits.

  • Starting credit limit of $300 or more.
  • No annual fees.
  • Up to 1% cash back rewards.
  • Ideal for individuals with limited or bad credit.
  • Responsible credit usage and timely payments can lead to credit score improvement.

The Petal® 1 Visa® Credit Card

The Petal® 1 Visa® Credit Card allows you to build credit without requiring a security deposit upfront.

This card helps individuals with limited credit establish and develop their credit history through responsible usage without paying annual fees. Making on-time payments and keeping balances low will help improve your credit score over time.

  • Suitable for limited credit without requiring a security deposit.
  • Helps individuals establish and improve their credit.
  • No annual fees.
  • Responsible credit behavior is essential for credit score progress.

The Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card

Want to earn cash-back rewards while working to build or rebuild your credit? The Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card is a great option. Designed for those with limited or poor credit, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate responsible usage, which can lead to better financial prospects.

Make payments on time and keep balances low relative to the limit.

  • Offers cash-back rewards.
  • Designed for building or rebuilding credit.
  • Helps individuals with limited or poor credit improve their financial standing.
  • Responsible credit behavior can lead to better financial prospects.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back

College students, here's a great way to start building your credit! The Discover it® Student Cash Back card offers rewards while helping you establish responsible credit habits.

Make payments on time and avoid carrying high balances. With this card, you can set yourself up for credit score success!

  • Ideal for students looking to build credit.
  • Offers cash-back rewards.
  • Supports responsible credit usage for credit score improvement.

Deserve Digital First CardTM

If you have no prior credit history, the Deserve Digital First CardTM is a good option to help establish a positive track record. Designed for building or rebuilding credit, it allows you to demonstrate responsible usage, which is key for making credit score progress over time.

  • Suitable for individuals with no credit history.
  • Helps establish a positive credit history.
  • Designed for building or rebuilding credit.
  • Responsible credit usage is essential for credit score progress.

More tips for building credit

Here are a few more tips to build your credit as a low-income earner:

  • Become an authorized user on someone else's card to get a score boost! Just make sure they have good credit habits.
  • Only apply for needed credit – too many applications can lower your score. Be strategic.
  • Always pay at least the minimum on time – payment history is crucial. Set up autopay if it helps!
  • Keep balances low compared to limits – high utilization damages scores.
  • Check credit reports and dispute errors immediately – mistakes can wreak havoc.
  • Consider credit builder loans or secured personal loans to add positive history.

Ways to give your income a boost

While building credit, exploring ways to fatten your wallet can boost your finances. Let's discuss actionable strategies to incrementally increase your income:

  • Schedule a meeting with your boss to make a case for a raise. Come armed with concrete examples of how you contribute, like driving sales or improving efficiency. Confidently ask for a salary bump.
  • Dust off that resume and kick your job search into high gear. With today's hot job market, you have the upper hand. Look for openings with higher salary ranges and enticing benefits packages.
  • Get crafty and sell handmade items on Etsy. Offer services like virtual assistance on sites like Fiverr. Cash in on your skills with freelance gigs.
  • Audit your budget and nip those sneaky nonessentials in the bud. Nix unused subscriptions and memberships to save. Brew your own coffee instead of buying it. Every dollar counts!
  • Pick up the phone and politely ask your cable company, bank and insurance provider to lower your rates. Cite financial hardship if needed. Oftentimes they'll apply discounts to retain you as a customer.
  • Strategically use rewards credit cards for everyday spending. Earn cash back on groceries and gas, which turns into real money back in your pocket. Small amounts add up over time.

With some effort, you can absolutely boost your income, even in small increments. This extra padding will provide financial flexibility and help you achieve your credit goals.

Take action now

The key is choosing a card that matches your goals and using it responsibly to build strong credit history.

With the right card and disciplined habits, credit success is in reach for low-income earners. Secured cards provide an affordable starting point on the path to financial health.