If you have no credit history, or if your credit just stinks, you might think it’s impossible to get a credit card. And while it’s true that your chances of qualifying for a credit card with the best interest rates are slim, that doesn’t mean you can’t get an honest-to-goodness credit card that can help you start improving your credit scores. How, you ask? With a secured credit card. Here’s how it works.
What’s a Secured Credit Card?
Secured credit cards are a lot like other credit cards. You have a pre-set credit limit and you can use your secured card to purchase items just as you would with a standard credit card. You’ll also make monthly payments like you would with a credit card. The only real difference is that your credit limit is based upon a security deposit that you make in order to secure the card.
And unlike a debit card or a prepaid card, a secured credit card is generally reported to the three major credit bureaus. That means that making your payments on time and keeping your credit balances low can help you turn your credit score frown upside-down, and pretty quickly.
Perhaps the best thing about establishing or building your credit with a secured card is that you can end up qualifying for unsecured cards with better interest rates and even rewards once you’ve had the account for a while and shown you can manage it responsibly.
Getting a Secured Credit Card
Do keep in mind, though, that even though the bar for approval is lower, it’s still possible to be turned down for a secured card, particularly if you have a bankruptcy on your credit reports that has 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 reports and your credit scores (you can get two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com) before applying. If you see any errors on your credit reports, you’ll want to clear those up before trying to get one of these cards.
Once you’ve obtained a secured credit card, you can build good credit by making all of your payments on time and keeping the amount of debt you’re carrying on the card as low as possible.
The Best Secured Credit Cards
Here are three of our favorite secured credit cards on the market today.
Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee
- No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
- A security deposit of $200 or more will establish your credit line (up to the amount we can approve). Automatic monthly reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an account with no security deposit.
- Earn 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
- Tools to assist you; email alerts, text reminders and 24/7 customer service. Plus get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements and online.
- Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
- No late fee on your first late payment. And paying late won’t raise your APR.
Card Details +
Why We Picked it: This card has no annual fee and allows cardholders to deposit as little as $200 to establish their credit line. And unlike a lot of secured cards, it also offers 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, Discover matches all of the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a cardholder. The Discover it card also comes with tools offered by most standard credit cards, including email and text alerts and 24-hour customer service.
Purchase Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 23.24%
Annual Fee: None
Capital One® Secured MasterCard®
- No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
- Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
- You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
- Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
- Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
- It’s a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Card 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 have been made on time.
APR: Variable 24.99%
Annual Fee: None
BankAmericard Secured Credit Card From Bank of America
Why We Picked it: This secured card requires a minimum security deposit of $300, but after a year, cardholders can qualify to have that security deposit returned. That essentially makes this an unsecured card after you’ve shown for 12 months that you can manage the account responsibly by making on-time payments.
APR: Variable 20.49%
Annual Fee: $39
At publishing time, the Discover it Secured and Capital One Secured MasterCard credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
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.