If you have bad credit and want to get a credit card, it can be challenging to say the least. However there is one type of credit card you stand a good chance of being approved for. Secured credit cards are generally offered to all applicants, as long as they do not have any pending bankruptcies and they can prove their identity.
Secured credit cards work much like normal credit cards, except that applicants must submit a refundable security deposit before an account can be opened. From then on, cardholders can make purchases and they will have to make monthly payments, just like with any other credit card. And when secured cardholders choose to carry a balance, they will also incur interest charges.
Using Secured Cards to Build Credit
The great advantage of a secured card is that it allows you to receive credit when no one will offer it to you. When managed correctly, this can allow you to build your credit so that you may eventually apply for a standard credit card. The most important thing to do when managing a secured credit card account, or any other, is to always make each month’s payment on time. Secured cards tend to notify all three major consumer credit bureaus of your payment history, which will help your credit score, but only if you make timely payments. Fortunately, most secured card issuers offer a system to remind you of payments via email and text messages, so it can be helpful to take advantage of those tools.
It’s also important not to use up too much of your credit line, as high credit utilization can have a negative impact on your credit scores – aim to keep your balance at 10% or less of your available credit to maximize your credit-building potential. In fact, the ideal way to manage credit cards is to avoid interest by paying each month’s statement balance in full. This advice applies even more so to secured cardholders, who have the opportunity to develop good habits as they rebuild their credit. When you handle your secured card account responsibly for at least a year, you may be able to qualify for a standard credit card – check with your issuer, as guidelines can vary.
Checking your credit scores can help you track your progress as your work toward stronger credit. You can get two of your credit scores for free, updated monthly, on Credit.com.
How to Choose a Secured Credit Card
When choosing a secured credit card, look for a product from a well-known card issuer — you can also consider cards issued by the institution where you have a checking or a savings account. Next, you will want to carefully look over the fees imposed by the card, including any annual or monthly fees. Be sure to look at the standard interest rate as well as the cost of other types of transactions you might make including foreign purchases, and cash withdrawals. Finally, see what benefits the card offers including purchase protection and travel insurance policies.
For this month’s Best Credit Cards in America, we reviewed many of the top secured credit card offers out there – weighing the terms, fees, features and benefits — to determine which ones are the best. Here are our winners for the Best Secured Credit Cards.
The Winner: Capital One Secured MasterCard
Capital One achieves our top ranking by abandoning its annual fee.
Why It Won: This is a rare secured card that offers a credit line larger than the cardholder’s security deposit.
The Benefits: Cardholders submit a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, depending on their creditworthiness, in order to receive an initial credit line of $200 – $3,000. For example, the minimum deposit of $49 results in a $200 initial credit line. Cardholders also receive free access to their credit score through the use of their Credit Tracker website and app. Furthermore, this feature includes a what-if simulator to help you predict how different actions will affect your credit.
The Costs: This card has a standard interest rate of 24.9% on purchases. There is no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
1st Runner-Up: Harley Davidson Visa Secured Card from U.S. Bank
Why It Won: With no annual fee and a rewards program, this card is much like a standard credit card.
The Benefits: Customers place a deposit that becomes their credit limit. They can then receive benefits like auto rental collision damage waiver and automatic bill payment. Cardholders also earn Harley Davidson rewards points, but with no annual fee, this card is worth considering even if you aren’t a fan of the iconic brand.
The Costs: This card has an interest rate of 22.99% that applies to new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers, plus a balance transfer fee of 3%. There is no annual fee for this card.
2nd Runner-Up: Wells Fargo Secured Visa Credit Card
Why It Won: It has low fees and impressive benefits, which allows you to rebuild your credit quickly and easily.
The Benefits: This card offers a complete range of Visa benefits including an auto rental collision damage waiver policy, roadside dispatch, as well as travel and emergency assistance services. Cardholders are also covered by a mobile phone protection policy that covers against theft or damage up to $600, with a $25 deductible.
The Costs: There is a $25 annual fee for this card. The 18.99% APR interest rate is very competitive for a secured card.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
At publishing time, the Capital One Secured MasterCard is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.