When you misuse credit cards, you pay a pretty hefty price down the line. If you’re a late payer, tend to miss payment due dates, or max out cards and not pay, creditors will eventually cut you off. Having credit is a privilege and not a right! Good credit is used for more than just getting a credit card or a loan, it is a predictor of your future financial responsibility. More and more businesses are making the case that you must have good credit before they can extend products such as housing, utilities, insurance, or even a job to you, so maintaining good credit these days is crucial.

What happens, however, if you have bad credit and want a credit card?

The right card for bad credit is the best tool for rebuilding your credit standing after you’ve behaved irresponsibly with it in the past.

How many folks have bad credit?

The credit bureau Experian studied data from scoring model FICO and found that 17% of consumers have bad credit. More than a third of the population has what lenders call a subprime score, which includes the fair and poor categories. At the other end, Americans with exceptional scores make up 19.9% of the population. While minorities have lower credit scores than whites, they carry less credit card debt. As of 2016, white Americans had an average credit card balance of $7,315, higher than both Latinos ($6,066) and African-Americans ($5,784).

In 2012, for the first time, middle-income households headed by someone over 50-years-old carried more credit card debt on average than households of people younger than 50, according to the Demos National Survey on Credit Card Debt. Half of those over 50 had medical debt on their credit cards, and a third said they used credit cards to finance daily expenses.

Many seniors carry credit card debt into retirement. Debt can also actually keep seniors from being accepted into an independent or assisted-living facility.

What are the different types of “bad credit” cards?

Bad credit doesn’t have to be the kiss of death for you. In fact, cards that accept consumers in the “bad” category can help you build your credit within months. Two different types of “bad credit” cards are secured and unsecured cards:

Secured card – The secured card is perhaps the best-known type of card for people with bad credit as they offer the lowest fees and best approval odds. Here’s how it works: You pay a refundable deposit, say $200, then you are allowed to borrow off of that amount on your card. Some cards require you to have a bank account.

Unsecured card – An unsecured card is best known as a rewards, travel or cash back card, but in this case, it is a credit-builder card without the required deposit of a secured card. While the credit limit will likely be low, these cards can have small cash back benefits of about 1%.

What is the difference between a prepaid and a debit card?

A prepaid card acts like a credit card, but you “load” money in it periodically for spending purposes, so it isn’t truly a credit card, which lends you the money for charges. Prepaid cards are a great tool for budgeting and managing your spending, particularly if you are notorious for being a bad money manager.

A debit card is attached to an account with money in it, such as a checking account. Debit cards may not have the protections of credit cards because they are not protected by the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Rules vary among banks and credit unions. Debit cards are, however, a great convenience.

A prepaid or debit card cannot be used to help build credit.

What to look for in a credit card if you have bad credit

If you have bad, thin or no credit, don’t freak out! There is a card for pretty much every circumstance, from great credit to none. You just need to make sure you apply for the right card.

Credit cards for bad credit have a number of features that can mimic the cards reserved for consumers with excellent credit. But they also have features and downsides that are designed especially for consumers with bad credit habits.

If you have bad credit you should avoid the following types of cards:

  • Balance transfer cards
  • Cards with high annual fees
  • Cards that require high credit scores
  • Cards that require a high initial spend

Here are the best credit cards for bad credit according to money experts (please visit the individual sites to find out about any rates involved):

Here is some savvy advice for getting back on the good credit track:

  • Pay your bills! Delinquent bill-paying just doesn’t look good on a credit profile
  • Examine credit card fees. If you can do so, pay your entire bill every month
  • Strongly consider secured credit cards. Secured credit cards offer your best bet for approval because they require that you plop down a deposit that is actually your credit line.
  • Secured cards won’t, however, guarantee that you’ll wind up with a credit card! Many companies that offer secured cards will oftentimes perform credit checks, and you might still be disqualified for such reasons as a tax lien or recent delinquency

Bad credit scores can typically get better within a year to 18 months if you do your part to right, your credit wrongs. Call your card issuers to try and arrange a payment schedule to get rid of your debt. It doesn’t hurt to ask if the APR on your credit card can be lowered/the account can be reopened/your credit limit can be returned to the original amount.

The bottom line is that you are ultimately responsible for the debt you’ve incurred. So do the right thing, pay off your debts because after all, you did spend the money!