Last updated: January 16, 2019
Having a credit card on hand is helpful for many situations including large purchases, funding a vacation, or emergency expenses.
What happens if you don’t have enough credit or have too poor a credit score to get approved for a standard credit card? Until a little while ago, short of robbing a bank (not recommended), there wasn’t much the average Joe could do with his poor credit history.
But today, the secured credit card is on the scene, and people everywhere are gaining from this equal opportunity lender. Perhaps this is the solution you’ve been searching for as well.
Here’s a closer look at what secured credit cards are all about, what the benefits are, and we’ll even delve into the best secured credit cards of 2019 to give you a good idea of what’s available to you right now.
Best secured credit cards overview
|Card Name||Best For|
|Discover it(R) Secured||Rewards|
|Capital One(R) Secured(R) Mastercard||Low deposit requirement|
- No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
- It’s a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
- Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit from $200-$2500 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
- Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
- 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO(R) Credit Score
- We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- See additional Discover it® Secured details
|Regular APR||Annual Fee|
|N/A||N/A||10.99%||6 months||25.24% Variable||$0|
- 10.99% balance transfer introductory rate for six months
- 2 percent cashback on restaurant and gas purchases up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter, 1 percent cashback on all other purchases
- No annual fee
- Free Social Security Number alerts
The Discover it(R) Secured is one of the only secured credit cards that offers you a rewards program with your card. Unlike most cards in this category, Discover will give you 2 percent back on all restaurant and gas purchases made with your Discover it(R) Secured up to $1,000 spent per quarter and one percent cashback on all other purchases.
This is a generous offer and, as we said, one you won’t find with almost any other secured credit card (save certain specialty cards that are very hard to get approved for). As if that weren’t generous enough, the Discover it(R) Secured will also match your earned cash at the end of the year!
The Discover it(R) Secured also has a good introductory offer for those looking to transfer a balance. You’ll get 10.99% APR for the first six months from opening the card for all balance transfers. After that, the ongoing APR becomes 25.24% Variable This can be really helpful if you’re trying to consolidate debt and restart your debt repayment plan on a more manageable foot.
Discover will automatically review your account after eight months to see if you have been paying your bills responsibly. If you have, you may be eligible for an unsecured credit card application. Additionally, you can receive free social security number alerts when you have a Discover it(R) Secured. This means you’ll be alerted immediately if any strange activity is associated with your social security number.
And in the meantime, you’ll pay no annual fees for owning the Discover it(R) Secured.
- 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
- View Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R) details and how to apply »
- $200 line of credit with lowest deposits around
- Credit review after only five months
- Accepted almost everywhere
- No annual fee
The Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R) has some of the most attractive terms in the industry, making it an appealing card to apply for. If you meet the somewhat high standards, you will enjoy the lowest deposit requirements around and extremely flexible terms. Depending on your creditworthiness, you could get a secured card with a $200 limit for as little as a $49, $99, or a $200 deposit. Considering that most secured credit cards require anywhere between $300-$500, that’s a much more reasonable goal.
Pay Down Deposits
Additionally, the Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R) takes a bold step by letting approved cardholders pay down their deposit in installments if they can’t afford the entire sum at once. This is a rare feature for a secured credit card and one that will help anyone who is struggling financially get a foot in the door of financial rejuvenation.
The Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R) offers 24/7 online access so you can handle your account via your mobile app or computer whenever you want. Also, Capital One will report your card activity to the three major credit bureaus. This is a good thing as it will help you start rebuilding (or building from scratch) your credit history in a positive way.
Summary of the best secured credit cards
|Card Name||Unique Features||Rewards||Credit Needed||Proceed With Application|
|Discover it(R) Secured||Earns cashback with an end of year dollar-for-dollar match||2% cash back on restaurant and gas purchases up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter||Any||Proceed With Application|
|Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R)||Initial $200 line of credit after reaching your milestone||26.99% (Variable)||Any, but your score determines your deposit||Proceed With Application|
What is a Secured Credit Card?
Unlike an unsecured credit card, a secured credit card is one which requires you to put down some kind of security in order to be approved for the line of credit. Generally, this means linking the card to a savings account where you deposit money into or a collateral deposit as a kind of down payment for your card.
How much of a deposit you need to put down, what size line of credit you can receive, and how long you are required to have the deposit depends on your credit history, monthly payment habits, and the individual credit card company you are applying for. Frequently, the bank or card issuer will reward positive payment history with a higher line of credit (without requiring additional deposits).
Secured Cards vs. Unsecured cards
Both secured and unsecured credit cards come with their own benefits and drawbacks. Unsecured cards generally have higher limits and lower interest rates (though not always). On the other hand, secured credit cards can be an easy way to build credit. Not to mention, for someone who can’t get approved for an unsecured credit card, these alternatives are an absolute godsend.
A card like the Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R), for example, is known for being the best secured credit card for building up credit. It has no annual fee and a really low deposit requirement, making it easy to maintain financially. Additionally, a secured credit card is helpful if you want to make a purchase that requires a card (certain retail stores or wholesalers will only do business with credit cards), but you don’t want to deal with all of the strings attached to a standard credit card. Actually, there are so many situations when a secured credit card is a good idea including:
- After a divorce when you want to start your financial status fresh
- If you’ve suffered an illness or required a medical procedure that wiped out your credit rating
- If you have spent irresponsibly or beyond your means and need to rebuild your credit
- After declaring bankruptcy
- If you lose your job
In short, if you need to rebuild your credit history, for example, after a stint of irresponsible spending, a business loss, or some other unexpected financial issue that ruined your credit rating, a secured credit card will help you repair the damage.
It is also a good option for you if you simply don’t have sufficient credit history, such as a teenager or someone who never took out a credit card or used credit for any other reason. In truth though, the goal of an unsecured credit card is to get your credit rating up enough to be approved for an unsecured card.
How to Upgrade to an Unsecured Card
Of course, secured credit cards are generally a means to an end. The goal is to build up enough credit worthiness to be eligible for an unsecured credit card that comes with more benefits. So, how do you upgrade from a secured to an unsecured credit card? Here are a few things to keep in mind
Your credit score is the most crucial aspect when it comes to being approved for any sort of credit including cards, loans, and more. According to FICO, one of the largest credit bureaus in the country, your credit score is made up of new credit, credit mix, payment history, length of credit history, and overall debt. You can start by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card. This is difficult to do and can get sticky if you or the other party fails to pay.
Of course, the primary method of building up credit so you can eventually upgrade to an unsecured credit card is to start with a secured one. Use this like you would any other credit card: Buy things, pay off your owed amounts. Paying off your bill each month on time shows credit card companies that you are reliable enough to pay off whatever debt you accrue on their cards. When they see this, card companies are more likely to take a risk on you for bigger and better cards as well.
Our team of financial analysts strives to provide you with the most accurate and up to date information possible. We measure each credit card within its category to find the most beneficial cards available today. For our secured credit cards, we analyzed several factors including annual fees, APRs, any rewards or benefits, eligibility, deposit requirements, and line of credit limits. Credit cards scored higher when they offered favorable terms and benefits for cardholders.
Most Important Features of Secured Credit Cards
While there are numerous factors that went into our decision about which were the best secured credit cards in 2019, these were the most prominent features that were weighed:
A secured credit card with steep annual fees doesn’t take its clientele into consideration. Many people who are applying for these cards are doing so because they don’t have a steady income or enough disposable income to cover basic costs. Tacking on a high annual fee is almost self-defeating. Only credit cards with no or low annual fee made it on our list.
Just like high annual fees, a high APR cancels out the benefits of a secure credit card. However, people can still take advantage of good cards with high APRs by paying off their balance each month and so not accruing interest. For this reason, cards with high APRs still made it on to the list if they had other benefits bundled with the card.
When dealing with poor credit, flexibility is of great value. Cards that had flexible deposit options ranked highest on our list.
While we mentioned the most important features above, there are some cards that come with extra fringe benefits as well. For example, the Discover it(R) Secured offers cash back.
When comparing cards, take a look at the additional features that come with the card to see if one offers more of an incentive for your situation than the rest.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long does it take to rebuild my credit so I can get approved for an unsecured credit card?
A: The amount of time varies, but the rules are the same. Credit card companies want to see that you’re making payments responsibly and consistently. So, you have to show them that you are doing this over the course of several months. Typically, eight months to a year after getting your secured credit card, you can apply for an unsecured one.
Q: Are there rewards such as points or interest accrued with a secured card?
A: Yes! Several card issuers will offer rewards for purchases made. The Discover it(R) Secured is a good example of this. Using this card, you can earn 1-2 percent back on your purchases. Most cards do not accrue interest on the deposit you keep.
Q: Can a secured credit card ever be bad for my credit?
A: In fact, it can. When you initially apply for a secured credit card, the card issuer will pull your credit history to see if you are worth the risk of approval. Whenever a hard pull on your credit is made, your score will be decreased temporarily, so this can be bad for your credit. However, if you pay your card off responsibly each month, then this brief decline will quickly correct itself, and the credit building effects of the card will outweigh any initial damage.
Q: Does my security deposit go towards my monthly payments?
A: No. the security deposit is there in case your account is closed while a balance remains on the card. You must make your minimum monthly payment in order reap the credit-building benefits of a secured credit card.
Q: What is credit bureau reporting and does it really matter?
A: Credit bureaus collect credit card and other financial information and make it available to credit card companies and other lenders that are looking into a borrower/applicant. This information helps the lender decide if you’re a viable candidate for approval. When you pay off your credit card or debt in a timely fashion, this shows credit reliability and trustworthiness, good signs that lenders want to see. Bureau reporting is when a credit card company sends your payment history to the bureaus for their records. Since a positive repayment history will reflect positively on your credit history, it certainly is important. Credit bureau reporting is a feature you should look for when shopping around for secured credit cards.
Should You Get a Secured Credit Card?
A secured credit card is a fantastic option if you have poor credit and won’t be approved for an unsecured credit card. Many situations arise in life that put your credit score in a negative light such as poor financial habits in our youth, a bad business deal, medical issues, or a natural disaster not covered by insurance. If you are just starting out, your credit will also be lacking. So, if you want to build your credit for any of these reasons, look into the best secured credit cards and start creating excellent credit for yourself in 2019.
Not sure you want a secured credit card? Finding the right credit card for you is much simpler if you know your credit score, and can narrow your search to only the cards you know you’ll get approved for. We’ve made it easy for you. If you don’t already know your score, use our quick and free Credit Score Estimator tool – then find the perfect card for you!