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2019

Best Secured Credit Cards

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If you have bad or limited credit you won't qualify for the best credit cards on the market. But there are still options available to help you rebuild, including secured cards. Secured credit cards require a refundable security deposit when you're approved. This deposit will fund your credit limit for the card. Card issuers require a security deposit because it makes the deal less risky for them.

Best Secured Credit Cards
Brendan Harkness

By Brendan Harkness

Our Selection Criteria

  • No annual fee, or a reasonable fee: The best secured cards either have no annual fee or the fee is quite manageable, around $30 to $50.
  • No extra fees: Some secured cards have additional costs like application fees, card issuance fees, monthly maintenance fees, and others. Avoid cards with fees like these!
  • Reports to all three of the major consumer credit agencies: The major credit card issuers will report to all three major credit bureaus, but this isn’t always the case for smaller credit unions so it’s worth checking. When building a credit history it’s better to have your monthly payment activity recorded with all three credit bureaus.
  • An appropriate security deposit and credit limit: Secured cards have different maximum credit limits. Depending on your spending habits and financial needs, you may want a card with a very large maximum limit. Or you might be satisfied with a smaller limit.
  • A program to refund the security deposit: Some card issuers will refund the security deposit and allow you to continue using the card, if you prove yourself to be a responsible credit user.
  • A program to upgrade to a different card account: In some cases, depending on your creditworthiness, card issuers will offer an upgrade to a completely different, unsecured credit card.
  • Rewards, in some cases: It’s rare to find a secured card with a rewards program, allowing you to earn points or cash back. But there are some out there.
  • Additional benefits: Most secured cards come with a very basic set of extra benefits, like Purchase Protection and some others. Occasionally you’ll find a secured card with more valuable benefits, like the ability to get a higher credit line with Capital One.
Is a Secured Card Right for You?
Best Secured Credit Cards
Brendan Harkness

By Brendan Harkness

Is a Secured Card Right for You?

Secured credit cards are designed to give people with poor, limited, or no credit history a way into the world of credit.

Unlike other types of cards, a secured card requires a refundable security deposit when you’re approved. This will fund the line of credit for the card.

You can use secured cards to build up your credit because your card activity will be reported to the credit bureaus, unlike with prepaid cards or debit cards.

Other than the deposit, secured cards are pretty much just like any other credit card. You need to pay your bills on time. And if you carry a balance from month to month you’ll be charged interest, usually at a very high interest rate.

If you’re looking for unsecured credit cards for bad credit (which do not require a deposit), check out the Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit. And if you’re looking for unsecured cards for limited or no credit, see the Best Credit Cards for Limited or No Credit.

Consider a secured credit card if you:

  • Have poor, limited, or no credit and want to improve
  • Can put down a security deposit, usually at least $200
  • Will use it responsibly to build or rebuild your credit
  • Understand how to pay off your card correctly every billing period
  • Checked out other unsecured credit card options first
Our Selection Criteria
BEST PICK FOR

Earning Rewards, No Annual Fee

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit level Bad
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 24.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card (Review) is is probably the best secured credit card thanks to its rewards program, which is pretty good even compared to many unsecured cards.

This card requires a minimum security deposit of $200. The maximum allowable deposit will be determined by your creditworthiness, with an upper limit of $2,500. Your credit limit will be equal to the amount you deposit.

Discover will review your account and your credit every 8 months. With responsible card use, they may return your security deposit and allow you to continue using the card. There is no program to upgrade to a different Discover card.

  • 2% cash back on the first $1,000 spent per quarter (then 1%) at:
    • Restaurants
    • Gas stations
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double the cash back earned in the first year (awarded after the first year)

 

  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Security deposit: $200 to $2,500
BEST PICK FOR

Low Security Deposit

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit level Bad
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 26.99% Variable

With most secured cards, your credit limit will be equal to the amount you provide for the security deposit. But that’s not necessarily true for the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® (Review).

Instead you’ll be told a minimum required security deposit, based on your creditworthiness. This will be one of the following:

  • $49
  • $99
  • $200

Whichever amount you’re required to pay, this will fund an initial credit limit of $200. So even if you’re only required to deposit $49, you’ll still get a $200 credit limit.

Capital One will allow you to deposit more than your minimum required amount, up to a maximum of $1,000. If you deposit more, the total amount deposited will become your credit limit (so a deposit of $1,000 will get you a $1,000 credit line).

Deposits must be made within 80 days of being approved for the card, and before activating the card. Once you activate the card your initial credit limit will be set.

  • Higher Credit Line: Access a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time.
  • CreditWise: Monitor your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Price Protection, Extended Warranties, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers, and more.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0
BEST PICK FOR

High Credit Limit

Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card

Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card

Our rating
Min. credit level No Credit
Details
Annual Fee $25
Regular APR 20.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Secured cards usually come with relatively small potential credit limits, but the Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card breaks that trend.

It has a maximum security deposit and credit line that’s several times higher than most other secured cards. But you’ll need an existing relationship with Wells Fargo to apply.

This card requires a security deposit of $300 to $10,000, giving you a large potential credit line if you need to spend a lot in each billing period. But if you’re considering putting a large deposit down and your credit is poor because you’re in debt, it may be wiser to put some of that money toward your debt instead.

The Wells Fargo Secured Card requires an existing Wells Fargo checking account or savings account to apply. The cheapest option for you will depend on a few different factors like the type of account you want, your age, how much you’ll deposit per month, the balance you’ll maintain from day to day, etc.

Wells Fargo will check your credit periodically, and, if it likes what it sees, it may offer you an upgrade to an unsecured card. This might be the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa card.

  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Cell Phone Protection, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers, Roadside Dispatch, and more.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 20.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $25
BEST PICK FOR

No Bank Account Required

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit level No Credit
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 23.99% (Variable)

If you don’t have a bank account to make your security deposit, you won’t be able to apply for most secured cards.

But the Citi® Secured Mastercard® (Review) allows you to pay the deposit by other methods, although you’ll need to visit a Citibank location in person to do this. If you do have a bank account, you can simply use the online application as you normally would.

A security deposit of $200 to $2,500 is required. Your credit limit will be equal to the deposit.

After using the card for some time, Citi may review your card account and credit to see if you qualify for an upgrade. We heard from a reader who was offered an upgrade to the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card (Review) in less than a year.

  • Shopping and Travel Protections: You may get some benefits from Citi and/or Mastercard.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 23.99% (Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0

The information related to Citi® Secured Mastercard® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

No Credit Check Credit Cards

There are some secured credit cards that don’t require a credit check when applying, which means you’re almost guaranteed to be approved. There is still a possibility of denial, but it’s relatively low.

If you’ve been denied for other secured cards these may be your last options. Since they won’t check your credit you can probably get one of the following cards as long as your finances can handle it (some cards like these may check your credit, but they don’t necessarily use it to make the approval decision). You may still be denied if your identity can’t be verified, or if your income is too low.

These cards don’t require credit checks for approval but they’re known for having relatively poor customer support, and the payment processing systems may be slower or buggier than with other cards. This makes them riskier to use, and we don’t recommend them unless you truly can’t get anything else (even then, they probably aren’t a good idea). Some cards like these don’t require bank accounts, making them more attractive for people in certain situations.

If you use one of these cards, be sure to completely understand how to make on-time payments so you don’t wind up accidentally hurting your credit instead of helping it.

How To Build Or Rebuild Credit With Secured Credit Cards

Using a secured card is basically like using any other credit card. Most of the same rules apply, but a refundable deposit is also involved.

  • When approved for the card, make as large a security deposit as you comfortably can to get as large a credit limit as possible. This will make it easier to keep your credit utilization lower, which is better for credit scores. And you won’t have to worry as much about hitting the limit when shopping, because you’ll have more available credit.
  • Always pay your bills on time. Make at least the minimum monthly payments.
  • We recommend paying more than just the minimum payment. Aim to pay off your statement balance in full each month to avoid interest and help your credit utilization.
  • Be patient. The only way to establish a positive credit history is to consistently make on-time payments over a long period.
  • Track your credit using a free credit monitoring service to be sure that you’re making progress, and to get specific tips based on your credit reports.
  • As your credit improves, eventually you’ll be able to qualify for more rewarding credit cards. You can always check to see if you’re pre-qualified for any cards without hurting your credit scores at all.
  • When you’re ready to move on to an unsecured card, pay off your card balance in full. Then you can close the card account and get your security deposit back (some issuers also have programs that let you upgrade to an unsecured card account).

Can You Be Denied When You Apply for a Secured Credit Card?

Because secured credit cards require a deposit, the risk on the lender’s part might seem low enough that there’s no point in denying applications. But that’s not exactly how it works.

You can be denied for a secured credit card. And in general, it’s for the same overarching reason(s) you’d be denied for any credit card: Your credit history or other personal/financial information doesn’t measure up to the issuer’s standards, or there was something wrong with your application.

The actual reasons for your denial may vary, but they may include warning signs like bankruptcies, inadequate income (or lack of a stable income), perpetually late payments, and even poor management of any bank accounts you hold/have held with the issuer in question.

The good news? It’s your right to know why you were denied, and you should ask if the issuer doesn’t tell you. That way, you know exactly what to work on in order to get your credit to a place where you’re more likely to be approved.

Why Do Banks Turn Down Applications for Secured Cards?

Learn More: Q&A Videos

Will I Build Credit Faster with a Secured Credit Card?

Does Closing or Converting a Secured Credit Card Hurt My Credit Score?

Credit Builder Loans

If you have poor or limited credit there are a few different routes available to you. As an alternative or complement to a secured card, you may want to look into credit builder loans. A credit builder loan is a special type of installment loan that’s designed to build a positive credit history and good credit scores.

If you’re approved for one of these loans, the amount of the loan goes into a special account you can’t access. You make payments every month to “pay off” the loan, and the bank reports this positive activity to credit bureaus. Once you’ve paid the entire amount of the loan, you’ll get the money that was “loaned” to you from the special account that you couldn’t access until the loan was paid off.

Learn more about credit builder loans offered by Self Lender.

Are you an immigrant new to the U.S., without an SSN and looking for an alternative way to build credit? Check out personal loans from Stilt.

Secured Business Credit Cards

When starting a new business entity, your business needs to build credit too.

You can typically open business credit cards based on your personal credit, and, like regular consumer cards, it’s possible to start with a secured business card if your credit isn’t so great. This could be a good option if you’ve been denied for unsecured business cards.

Learn more about secured business cards and see if one could be right for you.

Looking for other types of credit cards? Take a look at our picks for the Best Credit Cards in a variety of categories.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

The information related to Citi® Secured Mastercard® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

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