With responsible use, the best secured credit cards can boost the credit score for someone just starting out on their credit journey or 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 a risk since you're putting your own money on the line. Applicants for secured credit cards put down their own money as a deposit to back secure credit cards; the amount ranges from less than $50 to several hundred dollars depending on the secured card for which you are applying and your credit score. If you fail to make monthly payments or exceed your limit, your deposit will cover the loss for the issuer and, more than likely, the credit-building deal you've agreed upon is off.
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:
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 percent 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: Choose to deposit any amount from $200-$2,500. The amount of your security deposit will determine your credit limit.
Annual Fee: $0
Credit Needed: Please refer to issuer's website
Purchase APR: 24.99% Variable
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.
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®features a tiered security deposit requirement of $49, $99 or $200, depending on the applicant's creditworthiness, 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'll receive access to a higher credit limit after making your first five payments on time.
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:24.99% (Variable)
Credit Management Tools: Financial education is important when you're building or rebuilding your credit. Capital One® 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).
Why We Like It: Not only will you build up your credit score with responsible use, this card could also save you money. That's because cardholders who pay their cellular bill with the credit card will receive free cell phone insurance on that phone and the other phones on the account (terms apply).
Rewards: There aren't rewards offered with this card.
Security Deposit: At least $300, with the amount you deposit determining your credit limit.
Annual fee: $25
Added Perk: Wells Fargo cardholders enjoy cellular telephone protection on their phone and others on the account as long as they pay their cellphone bill on their card. That protection against covered damage and theft is subject to a deductible and other terms, but it could save you a nice chunk of change each month if you're accustomed to paying for your cell phone insurance out-of-pocket.
Credit Needed: Limited
Purchase APR: 20.74 percent (Variable)
Credit Management Tools: Budgeting tools will help you compare your expenses against your budget. Additionally, you can set up free monthly payments and alerts so that you never miss a payment.
Why We Like It: This card requires a security deposit that actually works for you. When you apply, you'll open a two-year, interest-earning certificate of deposit (CD) with your security deposit. The balance of your CD is your credit limit. If you want to increase your credit limit, simply add funds to your CD. USAA is solely for the use of military members and their families. Because of this, the lending institution offers further rewards for those on active duty or deployed. Especially key for this demographic, is the absence of foreign transaction fees.
Rewards: There aren't rewards offered with this card.
Security Deposit: $250-$5,000. The amount determines your initial line of credit.
Credit Needed: None/Limited History, Poor, Fair
Purchase APR: 11.65% to 21.65% Variable
Annual Fee: $35
Added Perk:. This card offers an excellent way for your money to be working for you even when you aren't physically moving the money in or out of investment accounts. That's because your security deposit will be held in an interest-earning CD while you work toward graduating to an unsecured card.
Credit Management Tools: Keep track of your credit score progress with your free credit score.
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: 19.14% 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.
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% (F)
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.
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:1. 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.
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