How to Get a Credit Card From a Credit Union With Poor Credit

(May 2024)

In This Article

Do you have poor credit but are thinking about getting a credit card from a credit union? 

This article is what you need right now.

Be confident you definitely can get credit—unsecured or secured—from a credit union, but you must lower your expectations. Your low FICO score is certainly an obstacle when it comes to getting a high limit because most credit card issuers—credit unions and banks—would rather grant high limits to creditworthy borrowers.

To get a credit card from a credit union with poor credit: 

  • Seek Credit Unions You Can Potentially Enroll In
  • Focus on One or Two Preferred Credit Unions
  • Apply for Membership
  • Establish a Relationship with the Credit Union
  • Familiarize Yourself With the Credit Union’s Credit Card Criteria
  • Check Your FICO Score
  • Check Your Overall Financial Situation
  • Consider Prequalification (If Applicable)
  • Gather Your Paperwork
  • Apply

Excited to get started?

Let’s go.

1. Seek Credit Unions You Can Potentially Enroll In

To get a credit card from a credit union with poor credit, seek credit unions you can potentially enroll in. You may think credit unions are similar to banks—but that’s not entirely true. Keep in mind credit unions are nonprofit, member-owned institutions, and every credit union has its own rules and regulations. Therefore, search for credit unions in your area—and maybe later on, credit unions at the national level—as you start your journey towards credit cardholdership.

Make sure, though, that the credit union you pick is NCUA-insured. Similar to the FDIC—which guarantees consumer deposits up to $250,000 at banks—the National Credit Union Association (NCUA) guarantees member deposits up to $250,000 per person, per institution, per ownership category. (The NCUA is a federal agency created by Congress to regulate credit unions and insure your money.)

Focus on one or two preferred credit unions

To get a credit card from a credit union with poor credit, focus on one or two preferred credit unions. While searching for credit unions you can potentially enroll in, you’ll find several credit unions whose criteria you match. Applying to all of these credit unions can be overwhelming.

Therefore, to ease the stress of applying to 5 credit unions and following through with all of their processes, focus on one or two preferred credit unions and apply. It could be credit unions in your community or one with a family member or colleague. 

2. Apply for Membership

Apply for membership so you can get a credit card from a credit union even if you have poor credit. Make sure you understand membership eligibility criteria—and find ways to meet them.

To qualify, make sure you share some characteristics with other credit union members of the union, whether it is through profession (your work), biology (your family situation), geography (your location) or other affiliations (your religious congregation, for example).

With credit unions, it’s quite easy to apply for membership. Once you find a credit union whose criteria you qualify for, open an account and make a small deposit of about $5 to secure your membership. Mind you, you may not be granted a credit card or loan if you do not complete your membership process.

3. Establish A Relationship With The Credit Union

To apply for a credit card from a credit union with a low credit score, establish a relationship with the credit union. Cultivate a rapport with your credit union so the institution gets to know you—and you get to know it, too.

Acquaint yourself with the credit union so you can see how it operates, the criteria its requires for approval, the way it treats members, and the kind of priorities it has.

4. Familiarize Yourself With the Credit Union's Credit Card Criteria

To get a credit card from a credit union with a low FICO score, familiarize yourself with the credit union’s credit card criteria. Every credit union has its criteria for application. Consequently, make sure the union’s criteria for credit cardholdership are suitable to you before you apply.

5. Check Your FICO Score

To get a credit card from a credit union with poor credit, check your FICO score. Ensure your credit score is correct before you apply so you can avoid rejection—which can further reduce your FICO score. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com—where you can see your credit reports for free—once a year or whenever you receive a rejection letter from a lender or credit card issuer. Alternatively, use websites like Credit Karma, NerdWallet and WalletHub to monitor your credit scores for free.

6. Check Your Overall Financial Situation

To get a credit union credit card with bad credit, check your overall financial situation. After making sure your FICO score is correct, check your financial situation to know where you stand. Be sure you’re financially stable to receive a credit card. Run the numbers so you’re sure you can afford a credit card at this point in time.

  • Government-issued ID
  • Name, phone number, proof of address
  • Proof of income
  • Social Security Number/ Individual Taxpayer Identification Number/ Employer Identification Number
  • Eligibility—you must be at least 18 years or older

Note that paperwork needed for credit card application often vary from issuer to issuer. These are the basics.

7. Apply

Now that you have all of your paperwork, apply. You can apply through any of the below means:

  • Issuer’s website: Fill out the application online on the issuer’s website and upload the required information and wait for feedback from your union. 
  • Email: Fill out the forms and send them through email to your union’s email with the required document attached.
  • In-person: Apply in person at the credit union’s local branch that is nearest to you.

Conclusion

To apply for a credit card from a credit union with poor credit, seek credit unions you can potentially enroll in, focus on one or two preferred credit unions, then apply for membership. Be sure to establish a relationship with your credit union to make your application process a bit easier.

Familiarize yourself with the credit union’s credit card criteria, check your FICO score and your overall financial situation to be sure where you stand. Also, consider prequalification if applicable. Gather your paperwork and apply.

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