8 Credit Card Alternatives: How to Choose

Written by Banks Editorial Team
4 min. read
Written by Banks Editorial Team
4 min. read

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You’ve had a series of financial missteps in the past, and your credit health took a hit. Now, you’re having trouble getting approved for a traditional credit card, and a secured card isn’t viable since you don’t have the funds on hand to make the security deposit. Fortunately, there are several credit card alternatives to access the funds you need. 

Get a Digital Credit Card
Access a revolving line of credit based on your cash flow, not your credit score, with the Grain digital credit card.

What Factors Determine Credit Card Approvals?

Credit card issuers consider these factors when you apply: 

  • Your age and citizenship status: Applicants should be at least 18 years of age and be U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a valid Social Security number. Some credit card issuers also accept Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). 
  • Credit score: You’ll also need to meet the minimum credit score requirement to be considered for a credit card. 
  • Debt-to-income ratio: The sum of your minimum monthly debt payments compared to your gross monthly income should also be reasonable in the eyes of the credit card issuer. 

8 Credit Card Alternatives

Below, you’ll find an overview of the best credit card alternatives. 

1. Personal Loans

Personal loans are unsecured debt products that are dispersed in a lump sum. In most instances, the interest rate is fixed, and you’ll make equal monthly installment payments over a set period until the loan is paid in full. You’ll likely get a higher interest rate if your credit score is low, but your overall borrowing costs may still be lower than you’d incur with a credit card. 

2. Secured Loans

A secured loan is a type of personal loan that requires collateral. They’re easier to get approved for and often come with lower interest rates since they’re not as risky for lenders. However, you should proceed with caution and only use this option if you’re confident you can make timely monthly payments. Otherwise, you risk losing your asset if you default on the loan. 

3. Grain

Grain is an innovative alternative credit solution offering lines of credit based on your cash flow. The creators behind the online platform understand that you’re more than just a credit score, so you could be eligible for a credit line of up to $1,000 even if credit card companies have turned you down. Even better, applying won’t impact your credit score

Here’s how it works: 

  • Step 1: Download the Grain app on your iOS device. (If you have an Android, join the waiting list to be the first to know when it becomes available on this platform). 
  • Step 2: Create an account and sync your bank account. Grain will provide an instant pre-approval for a line of credit if you’re eligible for funding. 
  • Step 3: Accept your credit offer and initiate a request from your checking account. Grain will instantly transfer the funds from your line of credit to your checking account, and you’ll use your debit card as you normally would to make purchases. 

You should also know that Grain uses bank-level security to protect your data. Furthermore, Grain does not disclose your sensitive personal or financial data to third parties. 

So, even if you’re a credit newbie or have less-than-perfect credit, Grain is worth considering. Apply today in minutes to determine if a line of credit based on your cash flow is available to you! 

Get a Digital Credit Card
Access a revolving line of credit based on your cash flow, not your credit score, with the Grain digital credit card.

4. Short-term Loans

Short-term loans come in small amounts and are often payable within a few months. You may find it useful if you need to cover a one-time expense, like a flat tire, or pay a few bills before your next paycheck. Many lenders offer these products even if you don’t have perfect credit, and borrowing costs aren’t too high since they don’t give you a ton of time to repay the loan. 

5. Peer-to-peer Lending

Another credit card alternative worth considering is a peer-to-peer loan. They’re offered by individuals who are looking to earn more on their money than they’d get with a traditional savings account that pays a measly return. You can find these loans through matching services that identify individuals that may be willing to lend to you based on their lending criteria. 

6. Guarantor Loans

If your credit score is too low to qualify for other credit card alternatives or if you don’t have a credit score, consider a guarantor loan. You’ll apply with a friend or relative who will also act as your guarantor. Be mindful that if you default on the loan payments, they become responsible for the outstanding balance. 

7. Arranged Overdrafts

Some financial institutions offer arranged overdraft protection on checking accounts. This feature lets you overdraw your account up to a certain amount and bring it current by a certain time frame without incurring penalties. You’ll likely be assessed interest in using this service, though, so inquire about the costs before signing up. 

8. Payday or Title Loans

Payday and title loans should only be used as a last resort once you’ve exhausted all other options. Payday loans of up to $500 are available in most states, but they come with exorbitant interest rates and are typically due on your next payday. Title loans are secured and costly and put you at risk of losing your collateral if you fall behind on the loan payments. 

How to Choose Between Credit Card Alternatives

When evaluating credit card alternatives, keep these factors in mind. 

Eligibility Requirements

Is there a minimum credit score requirement? Does the lender prefer a certain debt-to-income ratio? 

Costs and Other Fees

What fees does the lender or creditor assess? How do they compare to other alternatives you could be eligible for? For example, are there loan origination fees? Will you be on the hook for early repayment penalties if you’re able to repay what you owe before the repayment period ends? 

APR and Interest Rate 

How much does the lender charge in interest? What is the annual percentage rate (APR) or the total borrowing costs, including interest and fees? 

Fund Availability and Limit

Does the lender’s borrowing limits meet your needs? How soon will you receive funding once your loan application is approved? Is same-day funding available, or will you have to wait several business days to access the funds? 


What are the repayment terms? Are they long enough to give you an affordable monthly payment? Do you have the option to select a repayment term that works for your finances? 

Safety and Security

How does the lender protect your personal and financial information from fraudsters? What security measures do they have in place to prevent your data from being compromised? 

Other Perks and Benefits

Are there other incentives that make one option a better fit over another one? Can you manage your account via a mobile app? Does the lender or creditor offer several payment options? Are automatic withdrawals mandatory? Is there a discounted interest rate available if you enroll in auto-pay?

Get a Digital Credit Card
Access a revolving line of credit based on your cash flow, not your credit score, with the Grain digital credit card.

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