The best secured credit cards are those that do what secured credit cards do best—help you build your credit. Because, if you have no credit history, or you have bad credit or poor credit, you probably think it’s impossible to get what people think of as a credit card, which is really a traditional unsecured credit card. But, there’s a good chance you can get a secured credit card even if you can’t get an unsecured card. And with that secured credit card in-hand, you can actually start improving your credit.
Just What Is a Secured Credit Card?
A secured credit card is similar to a typical unsecured card in that:
- You have a pre-set credit limit
- You can use your secured card to make purchases
- You make monthly payments toward your card balance
- You may or may not pay annual fees
- You may have a fixed or variable APR
The differences are that with a secured card:
- Your credit limit is based on a security deposit that you put pay when you get the card. That deposit might be your total credit limit or it might simply be a deposit.
- Unlike a debit card or a prepaid card, a secured credit card issuers usually report your responsible use of the card to all three major credit bureaus. That means that making your payments on time and keeping your credit balances low can help you improve your credit score.
- You’re likely to pay a higher annual percentage rate (APR) and possibly a higher annual fee
- You won’t likely find rewards programs or earn rewards with secured cards
After you build or rebuild your credit with a secured card, you may end up qualifying for an unsecured card that better interest rates, no or low annual fee and even rewards once you’ve had the account for a while and show that you can manage it responsibly.
The Best Secured Credit Cards
No one card is best for everyone, but here are a few of the Credit.com team’s secured credit cards. Which one is best for you depends on your unique needs and situation. Check each card’s individual rates and fees, which are available in the cardholder agreement or online, to get all the details.
Why We Picked It: This card offers qualified cardholders access to a higher line of credit with no additional deposit after the first five monthly payments are made on time. While it has a somewhat high APR, it has no annual fee. Perhaps the nicest aspect of this card is that you might get a higher credit limit than your deposit. The initial line of credit is $200 with a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200 depending on your creditworthiness.
Why We Picked It: This card is accessible to those with bad credit and no credit history and no minimum credit score is needed to qualify.
While the card charges an annual fee, it offers a lower fixed interest rate than most credit cards—even unsecured cards—at just 13.99% (Fixed). And you can get a credit line of $200 up to $5,000.
APR: Ongoing APR 13.99% (Fixed)
Annual Fee: $39
Why We Picked It: This secured card lets you choose your credit line with a fully refundable security deposit of between $200 and $3,000. And OpenSky will consider increasing your credit limit to $5,000 when you need it. Getting this card doesn’t require a credit check. The APR is reasonable. And the $35 annual fee is pretty standard.
APR: 17.39% (variable)
Annual Fee: $35
Getting a Secured Credit Card
Keep in mind, though, that even though the bar for approval for secured credit cards is within most people’s reach, it’s still possible that credit card companies will turn you down, particularly if you have a bankruptcy on your credit reports that’s not been discharged, or you have a history of missed payments, collections or other red flags. That’s why it’s important to check your credit report—at each bureau—and your credit score before applying.
You can get your free credit score on Credit.com so you know exactly where you stand. That score updates every 14 days, so you watch as your secured card helps you get higher credit too.
Using Your Secured Card
To ensure you get that higher credit score, use your card wisely. If possible, don’t carry a balance. Make your payments in full and on time so you don’t get charge any transaction fees for late payments or have those late payments reported to the credit bureaus. Use your card to spend only what you can afford to pay back—sounds obvious, but it’s easy to lose sight of a transaction when the payment is on a card and not in your face.
Also, watch your credit utilization ratio—that’s the ratio what you’ve charged versus your credit limit. The ideal is no more than 30%. That means if your limit is $200, you don’t ever want to have a balance higher than $60. Yes, that sounds tiny, but remember, you’re building your credit, not enjoying a spending spree. Your goal is good credit and a little wise use will get you there. Six months is the average time it takes to build your credit by using a secured credit card wisely.
Secured credit cards aren’t the only option if you have no credit history, bad credit or poor credit. A variety of unsecured cards cater to folks with lower or no credit scores. A few unsecured card offerings to consider include:
You may also want to read:
- What Is a Secured Credit Card?
- How Fast Can a Secured Credit Card Improve My Credit?
- How Secured Cards Can Help You Build Credit
- What Are Prepaid Debit Cards?
Editorial disclosure: Reviews are as determined solely by Credit.com staff. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the reviewers and aren’t reviewed or approved by any advertiser. Information presented is accurate as of the date of the review, including information on card rates, rewards and fees. Check the issuer’s website for the most current information on each card listed.