Best secured credit cards of October 2020
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With responsible use, the best secured credit cards from our partners can boost the credit score for someone just starting out on their credit journey or help rebuild your credit score if you've made some credit missteps in the past. Secured credit cards allow you to earn the trust of lenders without posing as much of a risk since you're putting your own money on the line. Read more in our "What is a secured credit card?' section below.
- Discover it® Secured - For Rewards
- Capital One® Secured Mastercard® - No Annual Fee
- OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card - No Credit Check Required
- First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured - Low Ongoing Interest
Because of the extra checks lenders require for secured credit card applicants, they do require additional scrutiny by loan officers, and even the best secured cards can take up to four weeks for approval. That said, it's worth the wait if you're willing to then put that card to responsible use and work on improving your score.
We can suggest a few of the best secured credit cards to rebuild your credit in the following categories:
Why We Like It: The Discover it® Secured offers many benefits similar to those you'd receive with an unsecured card, including the opportunity to earn rewards.
Bonus Opportunity: Discover will MATCH all the cash back your earn during your first year as a cardholder. That means that earning $200 cash back will effectively mean you've earned $400 cash back in that first year.
Rewards: Cardholders earn 2% back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 spent each quarter; you'll also earn an unlimited 1 percent back on all your other purchases.
Security Deposit: A deposit of at least $200 is required. The amount of your security deposit will determine your credit limit.
Annual Fee: See Terms
Purchase APR: See Terms
Credit Management Tools: After eight months, Discover will begin automatically reviewing your account to determine whether your pattern of responsible use and payment qualifies you to transition to an unsecured card. You can also access your FICO score free. Lastly, Discover will monitor risky websites and alert you if your Social Security number appears on any of those thousands of monitored sites.
- Most secured cards do not offer bonuses to new cardholders but this card will match the rewards you earn the first year, at the end of the year.
- No foreign transaction fee, which can save you money if you need to make purchases outside of the U.S.
- This card includes access to your FICO score so you can track and manage your credit.
- You'll need a security deposit to get started with this card.
- If you spend a lot with this card, your 2% cash back on gas and restaurants is capped when you hit $1,000 in spending each quarter and then those purchases will only earn 1% cash back. Still, it's a minor quibble given that many secured credit cards don’t offer rewards.
Read our full Discover it® Secured review.
Why We Like It: The best part about the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is the flexible low threshold some applicants will have for securing their line of credit. Many cards require at least a $200 security deposit, but the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® requires access to an authorized bank account to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit, in order to obtain an initial $200 line of credit. With this card, you can also select your billing due date, which should make it that much easier to pay on-time, every time.
Rewards: The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® isn't a rewards card, but it does offer Platinum Mastercard® benefits like rental car insurance, 24/7 roadside assistance, price protection that reimburses you the price difference if you pay for an eligible item that then goes on sale, and automatic travel accident insurance when you use your card to purchase a trip. And, as a sort of "reward" for your good payment behavior, you could receive access to a higher credit limit in as little as six months.
Security Deposit: $49, $99 or $200 based on your creditworthiness. Your initial credit line will be $200.
Annual Fee: Like the Discover it® Secured discussed above, this card charges a $0 annual fee.
Credit Needed: Limited, Bad
Purchase APR: 26.99% (Variable)
Credit Management Tools: Financial education is important when you're building or rebuilding your credit® makes sure card members have access to this information through its Financial Education site. The site features content about budgeting, balancing a checkbook and investing as well as additional resources that connect card members to financial literacy programs (some of which are free).
- No foreign transaction fee.
- You’ll get some nice benefits with this card, including auto rental insurance, price protection and 24/7 roadside assistance.
- You can rebuild your credit without paying a lot in fees.
- There aren't any extra bonuses offered for new cardholders.
- There are no rewards associated with this card.
Read our full Capital One® Secured Mastercard® review.
Why We Like It: This card doesn't require a credit check during the application process, which means you can dodge that step that does generally lower your credit score, if only temporarily. Furthermore, your credit limit depends upon the amount of your deposit, so if you want a higher limit you have the ability to deposit more.
Rewards: This card doesn't offer rewards.
Security Deposit: $200-$3,000, with the amount you deposit determining your credit limit.
Annual Fee: $35
Credit Needed: Fair/Poor/Bad/No Credit
Purchase APR: 17.39% (Variable)
Credit Management Tools: The Visa Zero Liability policy protects cardholders against fraud. If any unusual activity occurs on your account, Visa will contact you to verify its authenticity. The card also offers fraud protection, financial literacy tools in the form of online education and a regular newsletter that covers topics such as understanding your credit score, building credit and debt management.
- The variable fee is somewhat on the low side for a secured credit card. You still wouldn't want to carry a balance, though.
- High credit limit, up to $3,000, and, no, you won’t necessarily have to put $3,000 up to get that credit limit. The card reviews your situation periodically and may give you a credit limit higher than your security deposit.
- You can add authorized users to the card – with no authorization fee. And the purchases from the authorized users, if they use the card responsibly, may help you build your credit.
- There's no path for upgrading with this card. Many secured credit cards allow you to transition to the company's unsecured credit card. With this one, you'll have to apply for another credit card and then either keep this card or close it.
- This card does not offer anyway perks or rewards.
Read our full OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card review.
Why We Like It: There is no minimum credit score or credit history required. The ongoing interest rate is among the lowest you'll get with a secured card.
Rewards: There are no rewards offered with this card.
Security Deposit: A security deposit of at least $200 is required. Your initial credit limit cannot be more than $2,000.
Annual Fee: $49
Credit Needed: Poor/Limited/No Credit
Purchase APR: 9.99% Variable
Credit Management Tools: There are no special credit management tools with this card.
- This card offers one of the lowest variable APRs of any secured card.
- No minimum credit score or credit history is required to qualify for this card.
- If you qualify for this First Progress card, you would also qualify for the other two, which offer different APRs and annual fees.
- Although it offers a low variable APR, you’ll pay a slightly higher annual fee with this card.
- There are no other extra perks or rewards with this card. It’s primarily for focusing on building or rebuilding credit.
Read our full First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured review.
Why We Like It: The ongoing interest rate with this card is exceptionally low – especially for a secured card. Obviously, your best bet is always to pay your balance in full each cycle (and ALWAYS on time), but sometimes you just need a little extra time. A low interest rate certainly comes in handy on those occasions.
Rewards: There are no rewards offered with this card.
Security Deposit: You determine your deposit from $200-$5,000 with the amount of your deposit determining your credit limit.
Annual Fee: $39
Credit Needed: Poor, Limited, No Credit
Purchase APR: 13.99% (Fixed)
Credit Management Tools: Importantly, there's no penalty APR that kicks in if you do miss a payment, which could be that little push you need to get back on track. Remember that the point of the secured card is to help you build credit and paying that bill on time is critically important.
- If you miss a payment, there is no penalty APR.
- The 13.99% APR is fixed and pretty low. Granted, you still don’t want to carry a balance, but if you do, at least it isn’t in the 20’s, the way some credit cards are.
- As you would hope, this card reports to the three major credit bureaus.
- There's a foreign transaction fee of 3%, which will make any international trips more expensive if you use this card.
- If you worry about identity theft, you may be interested to know that this card doesn't come with a smart chip.
- You can't do balance transfers to this card. That may not bother you at all, of course.
Read our full Green Dot primor® Visa® Classic Secured Credit Card review.
WHAT IS THE BEST SECURED CREDIT CARD?
Discover it® Securedoffers pretty much everything you’d probably want in a credit card, especially one that is secured. CardRatings experts select this card as the best secured credit card because not only does it give you an opportunity to rebuild your credit, but it’s also a rare secured card that offers somewhat of a welcome bonus and a rewards program. You won’t find all of these types of features with other secured credit cards.
However, not everyone will qualify for the Discover it® Secured. The best secured credit card for you will be a card that reports your account activity to the three major credit bureaus so that, with responsible use, you can improve your credit score. It will also depend on your creditworthiness whether you have the security deposit the issuer requires.
If you don’t think you’ll qualify for the Discover it® Secured (or any other secured card), the best secured credit card for you might be the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card because there is no credit check to qualify for the card. The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured also does not have a minimum credit score or credit history required to qualify.
A secured credit card is one that requires the applicant to put down a deposit, usually ranging from $49 to $200 or more depending on your credit and the card for which you are applying, in order to establish a line of credit for the credit card. Usually (though not always), the cardholders line of credit, at least initially, will be equal to the amount he/she is able to put down as a security deposit.
If you fail to make monthly payments or you exceed your limit, your deposit will cover the loss for the issuer and, more than likely, the credit-building deal you've agreed upon will be off.
Often, credit card issuers will begin reviewing a secured credit card account after several months of activity to see whether the cardholder has shown a track record of spending responsibly and paying the bill on time. Over time, responsible use of a secured credit card should build your credit in the same way that a traditional unsecured credit card would and, assuming your account remains in good standing, your security deposit will be fully refundable to you when it's time to graduate to an unsecured credit card.
DO SECURED CREDIT CARDS HELP BUILD CREDIT?
Yes, a secured credit card can be a great option for those who want to build credit. They are typically available for those who have no credit history, little credit history or poor credit scores. By requiring a deposit, issuers protect themselves against losing money while providing customers a chance to prove their creditworthiness.
Several factors go into determining someone's credit score. For instance, myFICO, the official consumer division of FICO, the company that invented the FICO credit score, says its scores are calculated based on the following criteria:
- Payment history - 35%
- Amounts owed - 30%
- Length of credit history - 15%
- New credit - 10%
- Credit mix (types of accounts) - 10%
One of the most effective ways to build credit with a secured credit card is to make on-time payments. Those payments get reported to the credit bureaus Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, and then companies like FICO and VantageScore use that data to calculate credit scores.
Beyond paying on-time, you should try to pay off your balance each month or, at the very least, pay more than the minimum. Carrying a low balance on your card can improve your score while owing a lot of money has the opposite effect.
Finally, even when you become eligible to receive an unsecured card, you may want to keep your secured credit card open. Since the length of your credit history accounts for 15% of your score, it's helpful to keep an older account open on your credit file.
Of course, in order to improve your credit score with a secured credit card, you need to use it wisely. That means only spending what you can afford to repay.
Rather than using a secured credit card for discretionary spending, consider using your card for monthly bills instead. For instance, your cable or wireless provider may allow credit card payments without any additional fee. Pay your bill with your secured credit card and then immediately pay off the balance from your bank account. This will give you a record of timely payments that will help build a positive credit history. However, don't use this strategy on any bill that may charge a service fee for a card payment. Those fees can often tack an extra 2-3% onto your bill, and the benefit to your score may not be worth the cost.
HOW TO USE A SECURED CREDIT CARD
Opening a new secured credit card can improve your credit score – that is, after the initial and temporary drop due to the credit check for most applications require; however, opening a new card will not solve deep financial issues. It's important to remember what secured cards can do as well as what they can’t. For instance, secured credit cards should not be viewed as "free money" or as a quick fix after years of complex money trouble.
Here are a few important rules to keep in mind as you consider applying for and then using a secured credit card:
- Just because you can open a card, doesn't mean you should. If you must scrape together the money for a security deposit to the point that you know you aren't going to be able to pay off the amount you put on the card each month, then it isn't the right time to open a card. Focus instead on paying your existing bills on time and reducing the debt you may already have.
- NEVER miss a payment. The whole point of a secured credit card is improving your credit and that isn't going to happen if you're missing payments. Pay on time, every time, even if you can't pay the balance in full.
- Pay the balance in full if at all possible. How much debt you are carrying in relation to how much credit is available to you is called your credit utilization and it is one of the factors affecting your credit score. Not paying your balance off in full each month will cost you in interest payments, but it could also keep your credit score from going up as quickly as you'd like.
- Having a secured credit card won't magically improve your credit score. Furthermore, they aren't a source of instant cash. To reap the full benefits of credit cards, you'll need to keep your secured account in good standing for a year or two. Commit to earning and saving more money, so you can control your credit cards instead of letting them control you.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.
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