Can I Get a Credit Card Without a Job?

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Yes, it’s possible to get a credit card without a job. Life transitions, college, retirement and a myriad of other life circumstances may mean you’re unemployed when applying for a credit card. Building and maintaining healthy credit is important during every stage of life, and you may be surprised how simple it is to obtain a credit card even if you aren’t earning a consistent wage.

1. Consider All Forms of Income

Ultimately, lenders care more about your income than they do about your salary. This means that qualifying for a credit card—even if you aren’t receiving a consistent wage—is completely feasible. Consider all income you have access to when applying for a credit card, no matter what stage of life you’re in.

When applying for a credit card, you can report investment income, wages, social security, your spouse's income, unemployment and student financial aid as sources of income.

If You’re a Student

When you’re applying for a credit card as a student without a job, you can report any extra student aid that isn’t going toward tuition as “income.” This may help you qualify for a credit card. 

If You Have an Employed Spouse

Thanks to the Credit Card Act of 2009, those who are over 21 can report household income that they have access to when applying for a credit card. This means that you can report your spouse or partner’s income if you have a joint bank account or if they transfer an amount of money to you every month.

If You’ve Lost Your Job

After losing a job, you’ll want to stick to a strict budget. However, a credit card can still be a useful safety net in case of an unforeseen situation when funds are tight. You can report unemployment and severance as income when applying.

If You’re Retired

You may also report any non-wage income when applying for a credit card. If you’re not working, this could be interest, dividends or Social Security payments. Ideally, retirees have had a long time to build up a solid credit history, so getting qualified for a credit card shouldn’t be difficult.

2. Leverage Someone Else When Applying

We all need a little help from time to time. If they’re willing, friends and family with good credit may be able to cosign or add you as an authorized user on their credit card. 

Have Someone Cosign

Although it’s a big favor to ask someone, having a parent or trusted close friend cosign on a credit card is a great way to qualify if your own credit history isn’t sufficient. If you choose this route, it’s doubly important that you make on-time payments each month—otherwise, you jeopardize both your own credit score and your cosigner’s. 

Become an Authorized User

If you still live with your parents, you may want to consider asking them to add you as an authorized user on their card. You can then use their credit card to make purchases and pay them the amount you spent. Although the card won’t be yours, as long as the primary cardholder makes consistent payments, the effects to your credit score will likely be positive. This option is best for those looking to build credit—but if you’re looking for a card of your own, a secured card may be better.

3. Go for a Secured Credit Card

If you’re unable to meet the criteria to qualify for an unsecured credit card, you may want to explore secured options. Although uncommon—secured cards make up less than one percent of all consumer credit cards—they’re a great place to start.

A secured credit card is a card with relatively small maximums that borrowers can qualify for with a refundable safety deposit. The creditor may then use the deposit as collateral in case you are unable to pay back the balance. 

New borrowers or those without a steady income may find it easier to qualify for unsecured credit cards, as they’re seen as less risky by lenders. Two common secured credit card options are:

  • Discover It Secured Card: There’s no annual fee, and you get two percent cash back at restaurants and gas stations and one percent back everywhere else.
  • Capital One Secured Mastercard: A small deposit of $49 gets you a credit limit of $200, which increases after five on-time payments.

4. Make Sure You Can Pay Your Balance

The bottom line is that if you’re applying for a credit card without a job, make sure that you’ll be able to pay off the balance. Avoid getting into a borrowing situation that will cause you to carry over a large balance month to month, as interest can get expensive. 

Over one-third of college students have $1000 or more in credit card debt, according to AIG.

Additionally, if you’re in college with student loans, credit card debt can be an extra burden on your debt load. In fact, a 2019 report found that roughly one-third of college students already have $1,000 or more in credit card debt.

As long as you don’t charge more than you can afford, unemployment doesn’t have to be a barrier to credit building. By ensuring a responsible, on-time repayment plan, you’ll set yourself up for credit success early on.  For more ways to improve your credit, especially if you have questionable negative items on your credit report, contact the team at Lexington Law. We’ll show you how credit repair works.


Reviewed by Alexis Peacock, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Alexis Peacock was born in Santa Cruz, California and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2013, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology, graduating cum laude from Arizona State University. Ms. Peacock received her Juris Doctor from Arizona Summit Law School and graduated in 2016. Prior to joining Lexington Law Firm, Ms. Peacock worked in Criminal Defense as both a paralegal and practicing attorney. Ms. Peacock represented clients in criminal matters varying from minor traffic infractions to serious felony cases. Alexis is licensed to practice law in Arizona. She is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.