At a Glance

One of the most common misconceptions regarding credit cards is that a person absolutely needs to have a job in order to get approved for a card. However, a person can apply for a credit card while unemployed and there is a fair chance they will be approved depending on their personal circumstances. The real question, however, is whether or not applying for a credit card without a stable source of income is smart.

In this article, you’ll learn:

You can get a credit card while unemployed, but is it a good idea?

Lenders don’t list having a job as an actual requirement for a credit card application. All lenders care about is the level of income that a potential borrower lists they have access to. While income traditionally stems from a stable job, there are various forms of income that could apply to a credit application. However, if the only source of income you have is derived from a job you no longer have, you shouldn’t list your current savings amount as income.

Unless a person has money coming through the door on a regular basis via alternative income, taking the path of a credit card for unemployed people is not a smart choice. However, there are some options you can explore if you’re unemployed but still want a credit card. Check out Credello’s picks for best credit cards as the credit card landscape can change frequently, and the best cards may vary depending on your specific financial situation and needs.

What qualifies as income?

As mentioned, income does not only come from one single source. While a stable job is the traditional path of income that most people have, alternative forms of income do exist. By definition, income for a credit card application is any amount of money you have a reasonable expectation of being able to access. This can include income that comes from a spouse or partner, unemployment benefits, shared accounts, constant earnings from investments, and even social security payments.

When your income isn’t enough?

For those looking for the answer to what do I put for annual income if unemployed but struggling due to having not enough income, the answer is that you probably should not apply for the card. Lenders require certain income levels as having that amount of income serves as an indication that you can meet debt obligations. If you do not have any type of stable income, you should not be applying for a credit card.

Related: Credit Card Income Requirements

Alternate ways to get a credit card while unemployed

With the above in mind, there are still ways to get a credit card while unemployed if a person is looking to do so for the purpose of improving their credit. One popular way is to become an authorized user on another person’s card, which means all their on-time payments will benefit your credit as well. If it is a trusted family member or partner who has you as an authorized user, they can even request a card for you to use as well.

Additionally, some people who are unemployed will either get a co-signer who has a stable source of income or will opt to apply for a secured credit card. Secured cards often require a cash advance up-front before giving a person access to that amount in credit, which serves as a type of collateral.

How to build credit without a job

While being unemployed is a challenging experience, it’s not directly correlated to your credit score. This means that the act of getting a job won’t actually bolster your credit score directly. However, if you are jobless, there are still some indirect actions that can be taken which have the potential to benefit a credit score. Sign up to report utility payments to the credit bureaus if it’s an option where you live so that there is some record of payments being made on time.

On top of this, by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account your credit score will improve without you lifting a single finger, so long as that person is responsible for their debt.

Related: How to Build Your Credit Score?


When looking at how to get a credit card while unemployed, many people wonder whether a partner’s income can be counted on one’s own application. The answer is yes, so long as you know you have reasonable access to that income.

Yes, unemployment benefits can be counted as alternative income when filling out a credit card application.

Filing for unemployment is not a metric that is reported to the credit bureaus, which means it will not have a direct impact on your credit score. Should you start failing to make payments on existing debt due to your unemployment, however, you will notice a negative impact.

When considering the question of whether you can get a credit card if unemployed, many people often wonder how being unemployed actually affects credit. The short answer is that it doesn’t, so long as you don’t have any missing debt payments or general unfulfilled debt obligations.