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The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® could be a good choice if you’re looking to rebuild your credit or establish a credit history.
This is a secured credit card, which means it requires a security deposit when you’re approved. This deposit will fund your credit limit for the card, up to a maximum of $1,000 for an initial credit limit. You’ll also have a chance to increase your limit beyond that later on.
You won’t earn any rewards for using this card. But that’s the norm for secured cards, which are mainly focused on helping you improve your credit. After using a card like this responsibly for some time, and following good credit practices in general, you’ll increase your credit scores and will be able to qualify for a card that offers points or cash back.
There’s no annual fee, meaning this could be a completely free way to establish a positive credit history. Is the Capital One Secured Mastercard the right card to help get your credit on track? Keep reading to learn more and find out.
Our Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
We gave the Capital One Secured Mastercard 4 out of 5 Stars because it’s an inexpensive way to improve your credit, with some relatively favorable terms.
Why we like this card
- No annual fee
- Easy access to a higher credit line
- Can monitor one of your VantageScores and your TransUnion credit report
- Price Protection benefit, which isn’t usually found on secured cards
Why this card could be better
- No rewards, like points or cash back
- The maximum security deposit is pretty low at just $1,000, compared to $2,500 from Discover and $4,900 from Bank of America
The Capital One Secured Mastercard is one of your better options for a no-annual-fee secured card, but it may not be the perfect card for you. Check out some other secured cards below, one of which actually offers some rewards.
Insider Advice: Using This Card as Part of Your Credit Card Strategy
- Use this card responsibly as part of your strategy to improve your credit, and eventually you’ll be able to qualify for a rewards credit card. Your card activity will be reported to all three of the major credit bureaus.
- We recommend always paying your statement balance in full each billing period. Not only will this be good for your credit utilization, it will also prevent interest from accruing on purchases, helping you avoid credit card debt.
- You’ll need to pay a minimum security deposit when approved, which will fund your initial credit limit. You can deposit more, up to $1,000 in total, but you must do it within 80 days of being approved and before activating your card.
- We recommend depositing as much as possible to help your credit utilization. You’ll also be less worried about going over your credit limit, making spending easier.
- Be sure to pay your first 5 monthly payments on time, because you’ll be granted access to a higher credit line without needing to make an additional deposit. You should always be paying on time, of course, otherwise you’ll hurt your credit.
- Check out the CreditWise tool, and use it to monitor your credit as it changes over time. You’ll also learn about the key factors bringing your credit scores down, and what you can do to improve.
- Set your due date to a point during the month that’s most convenient for you.
- When you’re ready to get a better credit card or stop using this one, pay off the balance on this card completely and then close it out. Your initial security deposit will be returned to you.
After you’re approved for this card you’ll need to provide a refundable security deposit to fund the credit limit. In your application you must provide bank account details for an electronic funds transfer (EFT) to make the deposit.
Your minimum required security deposit will be based on your creditworthiness. The required deposit will be one of the following:
No matter which amount you’re required to deposit, you’ll get an initial credit line of $200. So whether your required deposit is $49, $99, or $200, you’ll always get a $200 credit limit. This is different from most secured credit cards, which provide a credit limit that is equal to the amount you deposit.
$200 is a pretty low credit limit compared to other secured cards, so you should consider depositing more money to increase that, if you can easily afford it. Capital One will allow you to deposit up to $1,000 to fund your initial credit limit.
Having a higher credit limit will make it easier to keep your credit utilization low. You also won’t stress as much about being declined for hitting the limit when shopping. But keep in mind that this deposit will be tied up until you close the account, and there’s a path to a higher credit limit later.
If you can’t deposit the full $1,000 or don’t want to, try to put down whatever you think is reasonable. You’ll have to adjust your spending with the card based on that limit — the higher your limit, the more you can spend in a given statement period before you have to pay it off. If you have a low credit limit it might make sense to only use the card for a few purchases per month, to keep your balance low compared to your limit.
You don’t need to make the deposit all at once, you can make partial payments instead. However, all deposits must be made within 80 days of being approved, and before activating the card.
When approved for the card you’ll be given a unique customer number. You must include this number when making a deposit. Deposits can be made online or by phone, by calling 1-800-219-7931 (online will be easier). To make a deposit online, you’ll need to begin by entering your customer number, zip code, and the last 4 digits of your SSN.
Deposits must be at least $20 each, in whole dollar increments.
You’ll also get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time. This will be an increase of your initial credit line, which was funded by your security deposit. This increase will not require another deposit, it’s just some extra credit for you to enjoy as a reward for your responsible behavior.
Capital One does not have a program to let you graduate from this card to an unsecured card. Instead, you’ll need to apply as normal for any unsecured cards you want. However, you may get pre-qualification offers from Capital One if your credit is good enough.
To get your security deposit back you must pay off your account balance in full, and then close the card. Your security deposit will then be refunded to you. If you don’t pay off your balance before closing the card, Capital One will use that deposit to pay off your card balance, before returning the remainder to you.
You won’t earn any rewards with this card, like points or cash back. Instead, it’s designed to give people with poor credit a chance to build a solid credit history over time, improving their credit scores.
Reports Activity to Credit Bureaus
Capital One will report your card activity with the Secured Mastercard to all three of the major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
This is pretty typical of most credit cards, including other secured cards. But it’s nice to know that you’ll be building up a positive credit history the major credit reporting agencies, as long as you use the card responsibly. And of course, if you make any late payments or otherwise violate the terms of your card, that could show up on your reports as well.
Access a Higher Credit Line
After making your first 5 monthly payments on time you’ll be given access to a higher credit line. You won’t need to make an additional security deposit.
The amount of the increase will be based on your creditworthiness, including your credit history and current financial situation.
Capital One may increase your credit limit more later on, based on how you use the card and your creditworthiness. Generally speaking, the more you use a credit card, the more likely an issuer will be to give you a higher credit line. But only if you’re paying on time and being a responsible card user overall.
Secured cards usually come with pretty low credit limits compared to other cards, so it’s nice to have a feature like this promising a higher limit. That’s especially true here because the maximum security deposit you can make is $1,000.
Most other secured cards don’t offer a higher credit line like this, although they may increase your limit over time with responsible usage.
Pick Your Due Date
You’ll be able to pick your billing due date with this card. You can pick almost any day of the month to help make paying your credit card as easy as possible.
If you get paid on a particular day each month, for example, you can switch your due date to accommodate that. And if things change for you suddenly, you can adjust your due date to match.
Some other credit card issuers will allow you to change your due dates as well, like Discover.
Capital One CreditWise
The Capital One CreditWise service lets you monitor your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, based on your TransUnion credit report. This is a great feature to have here because it gives you a way to track your progress as you improve your credit, which is the basic goal of a secured card.
You’ll also get tips for improving your score based on that TransUnion report. It will let you know if your card balances are too high, for example, or if you have too many recent credit report inquiries. And you can get alerts if your TransUnion report changes in any way.
Many credit card issuers today offer a similar service, but CreditWise has some extra features that set it apart from most of the others. There’s a credit simulator, which will show you how any particular decision might affect your credit on the whole, like paying off debt or opening a new card. This can be very useful if you’re new to credit or unsure about the consequences of a financial decision.
Capital One also provides free access to data from your actual TransUnion credit report. This is a rare feature, one that we haven’t seen from any other issuer. If you want to monitor a credit report rather than just a credit score, CreditWise is your only option when it comes to credit cards.
Anyone can use the CreditWise tool, cardholder or not. This is pretty handy. If you have another card that doesn’t offer a free credit score, you could always use this service instead. Discover actually offers a similar benefit with their FICO Credit Scorecard, which provides a FICO 8 score based on your TransUnion report and is available to anyone.
If you make a purchase with your card and find the same item being advertised for a lesser price, you can be reimbursed for the difference. There are quite a few terms and guidelines, however.
Some of the most important terms are:
- You must purchase the item entirely with your card
- You must see either a printed advertisement or a non-auction online advertisement that was published within 60 days of the date of purchase
- The advertisement must verify same manufacturer and model number
- Reimbursement is available up to $250 per item, with a maximum of 4 claims per year
- Call 1-800-MC-ASSIST to request a claim form within 60 days of the purchase
- You must submit your claim form, including all required documents, within 180 days of publication of the advertisement
- You’ll need to include copies of the receipt of the purchase, the card statement showing the purchase, and the advertisement, along with any other documents that may be “reasonably requested”
- You must include a blood oath swearing allegiance to Capital One (just kidding!)
Although many items are eligible, there’s also a broad list of situations that won’t be eligible for price protection.
Cases Not Eligible For Price Protection (Partial List)
- Advertisements that display a lower price due to rebates, special offers, giveaways, manufacturer’s coupons, or special financing
- Items purchased for resale, rental, professional, or commercial use
- Used, recycled, or refurbished items
- Collectibles of any kind
- Layaway items
- Professional services, like construction, installation, professional advice/counseling, or technical support
- Motorized vehicles, their equipment, and their accessories
- Land and buildings
- Pets, game animals, or specimens preserved for display
So there are quite a few cases that aren’t eligible, but many common purchases should be covered. Check your Guide to Benefits for more details, and contact customer support if you’re not sure if a particular item is eligible.
24-Hour Travel Assistance Services
Call Travel Assistance Services when you need help away from home. This benefit is available when traveling 50 miles or more away from home, unless you live in New York in which case there is no mileage requirement.
Just call 1-800-MC-ASSIST to speak with the benefits administrator. You must pay for any third-party services involved. There are four main categories of assistance included with this benefit:
- Master RoadAssist® Service: Provides help finding emergency road services, like towing and tire changes, and you may save money because some fees are pre-negotiated.
- Master Trip® Travel Assistance: Offers pre-trip info like passport, visa, and immunization requirements, and can help finding lost luggage or arranging emergency money transfers.
- Travel Services Medical Assistance: A global referral network of general physicians, dentists, hospitals, and pharmacies, with help making arrangements if you become sick or injured.
- MasterLegal® Referral: English-speaking legal referrals or consultations, and will assist in transfers of up to $5,000 for bail money.
If you get in trouble while traveling, it’s nice to know that you have a service like this backing you up.
You’ll get a few other benefits with this card. For the most part they’re other protections, security features, and account management tools.
- An Extended Warranty to double the manufacturer’s warranty on eligible items, for warranties of up to one year
- MasterRental Coverage, an auto rental collision damage waiver to cover your rented vehicles against damage and theft
- Identity Theft Resolution Services to provide help if your identity is compromised in some way
- $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance to cover you, your spouse, and unmarried dependent children against accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech, or hearing while traveling by common carrier
For more, check out the full set of benefits for the Capital One Secured Mastercard. Or take a look at the Guide to Benefits that came with your card.
The Costs & Fees
|Purchase APR||Balance Transfer APR||Cash Advance APR|
|24.99% Variable||24.99% Variable||24.99% Variable|
|Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Balance Transfer Fee||Cash Advance Fee|
|$0||0%||$0||3%, $10 minimum|
|Penalty APR||Late Fee||Returned Payment Fee|
|See Terms||Up to $38||See Terms|
As this is a secured card, it’s not surprising to find a high APR. The Capital One Secured Mastercard has no annual fee, so it doesn’t have to cost you any money at all despite the steep interest rate.
If you simply pay off your balance in full each month, you’ll be able to avoid accruing any interest on your purchases. That will accomplish quite a few things at once:
- It will make the card completely free to use (assuming you don’t use it for any balance transfers or cash advances)
- You’ll have a lower credit utilization, which is better for your credit than high utilization
- You won’t accumulate credit card debt on this account
- You’ll free up your credit line so you can use it again
Paying your balance in full like this is a great strategy, especially if you’re new to credit or trying to rebuild. You can simply set up automatic payments for the full statement balance each billing period, and you’ll be good to go.
When you’re approved for this card you’ll need to make an initial security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, as explained above. The amount you pay will fund your initial credit limit of $200, though you can deposit more if you wish, up to $1,000.
|Customer Support for Existing Accounts||1-800-CAPITAL (1-800-227-4825)|
|Apply for a credit card||1-800-695-5500|
We’ve found Capital One to have quite good customer support, compared to most of the major credit card issuers. Whenever we’ve called, we’ve spoken with friendly, knowledgable reps who were happy to help.
When we called with some questions about their Secured Mastercard we weren’t disappointed in the experience. After waiting on hold for just a minute or two, we spoke with a customer service agent who could answer all of our questions.
She told us all about how the security deposit works, clarifying a few points. We learned that you can increase your initial credit limit by depositing up to $1,000 before activating the card, and within 80 days of being approved. No matter what your initial required security deposit is, you can choose to deposit up to that amount.
We also learned that there is currently no upgrade program, in which the Secured Mastercard could be graduated to an unsecured card. Capital One may eventually put such a program in place, but they (and we) aren’t making any promises at the moment.
Overall, we were very pleased with this customer support call. It was pretty quick and easy. This is generally our experience with Capital One, and it’s probably why they usually place about 3rd in J.D. Power’s annual Credit Card Consumer Satisfaction Survey, like they did in 2017.
|Twitter Customer Support||@AskCapitalOne|
There aren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles with the Capital One Secured Mastercard, so it won’t be too hard to get an overview of the card. Capital One provides all the information you’ll need, and they go into detail about the various features and benefits. Secured cards may seem a bit tricky, requiring a deposit before you can start using them, but this card describes the process pretty well.
Capital One actually does a great job at explaining their cards compared to other credit card companies, for the most part. They include links to all the included benefits, specifying which are provided by Capital One and which are provided by Mastercard. There’s even a link to a PDF of this card’s Guide to Benefits, something that’s usually hard to find with other card issuers.
If you have a quick question for Capital One, you can tweet them @AskCapitalOne. Be sure never to reveal your personal or account information on Twitter, or any other social network.
The Bottom Line
Secured cards are not meant to be flashy and rewarding; they are designed with the sole purpose of helping you build credit. The Capital One Secured Mastercard is a perfect example of a card like that.
There are no rewards, and for the most part it only comes with basic benefits. It’s meant to help build your credit, reporting your card activity to the credit bureaus so you can establish a positive history.
It’s not the most exciting card, but use it responsibly and you’ll be on your way to better credit scores. Eventually, as long as you maintain good financial habits in general and succeed in improving your credit, you’ll be able to qualify for rewards credit cards that provide points or cash back.
There are quite a few secured cards out there to help build your credit. The Capital One Secured Mastercard is a good no-annual-fee option, but check out some other cards that can serve the same purpose, some of which offer rewards too.
How to Apply for the Capital One Secured Mastercard
You can apply for this card securely on Capital One’s website. Capital One will check your credit reports with just one or all three of the major credit bureaus.
Many applicants will get an instant decision, but in certain cases it could take a bit longer. In some cases Capital One may request more information from you to process the application.
If approved, you’ll need to fund the credit limit with a security deposit within 80 days. You will be given a minimum required amount to deposit, and this will provide you with a $200 credit limit. You can deposit more to increase your credit limit to $1,000 if you’d like.
Qualifications and Requirements
- Must be 18 to apply
- Personal identifying information, including SSN, email address, and phone number
- Total annual income, and source of income
- Monthly mortgage payment/rent
- Bank account information for the security deposit, like bank name, name on account, account number, and routing number
Alternatives to the Capital One Secured Mastercard
- Discover it® Secured Card (Review): No annual fee, 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations, maximum deposit/credit limit of $2,500
- Deserve Classic Mastercard (Review): Unsecured card, $39 annual fee, will check more credit factors when you apply, maximum $1,500 credit limit
- Citi Secured® Mastercard® (Review): No annual fee, maximum deposit/credit limit of $2,500, may return security deposit
- BankAmericard Secured Credit Card: $39 annual fee, maximum deposit/credit limit of $4,900, may return security deposit
The Discover it Secured Card (Review) is pretty unique because it almost resembles a reward card more than a secured card. It does require a security deposit, but it actually has a pretty good rewards program too.
This card requires a minimum security deposit of $200 when you’re approved. Your maximum possible credit limit will be determined by your creditworthiness, up to $2,500 at the most.
Your credit limit will be equal to whatever amount you deposit.
The Discover it Secured has a program to help you get your deposit back. Every 8 months, Discover will review your card account and your overall credit. If you’ve proven yourself to be a responsible credit user, they may refund your security deposit and allow you to continue using the card.
You won’t be able to simply upgrade to an unsecured card, however. You’ll need to close this card out and apply for a different Discover card.
- 2% cash back on the first $1,000 spent per quarter at:
- gas stations
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- 5–50% cash back at a variety of retailers through the Discover Deals shopping portal
- Cashback Match: get double the cash back in your first year
So not only do you get some bonus reward categories, you’ll get double cash back in your first year with the card. So you’ll be getting 4% cash back in those categories for the first year, and 2% back for every other purchase.
You’ll have access to the Discover Deals shopping portal, another feature that secured cards usually don’t have. Any cash back you earn there will be doubled in your first year as well, and many popular retailers are included. Some current offers include discounts at Starbucks, Ulta, the Apple Store, and many more.
This is a great card offer, and it’s even better than many unsecured rewards cards. If you’re in the market for a secured card we think this should be your first choice, as a way to improve your credit and earn unlimited cash back at the same time.
The Discover it Secured has a set of extra benefits that are pretty similar to what you’ll get with the Capital One card. These include most of the basic shopping and travel protections.
There are some minor differences, however. The Capital One card includes an Extended Warranty, while the Discover card does not (it was discontinued in February 2018). And these benefits are serviced by different card networks (Mastercard compared to Discover), so some of the small details will differ.
In addition, Discover cards do not provide a fast track to a higher credit line, like you get with the Capital One Secured Mastercard.
All Discover cards come with the FICO Credit Scorecard service, which is similar to Capital One’s CreditWise tool. Both use data from your TransUnion credit report. But the FICO tool provides your FICO 8 Credit Score, while CreditWise provides your VantageScore 3.0.
FICO scores are more commonly used among lenders these days, but you could use either tool to monitor your credit in general. High FICO scores correspond to high VantageScores, so each service can tell you if you’re making progress or falling back.
CreditWise includes a credit simulator, something the Discover card doesn’t provide. And CreditWise will also provide information from your actual TransUnion credit report, another thing you won’t get with the Discover card. So although you get to see your FICO score with Discover, you get more features with Capital One.
As mentioned above, both of these services are available to anyone, whether you have a Discover or Capital One card, or not. So you could always use both of these tools together, if you’d like, to get an even more complete view of your credit.
Costs & Fees
The terms of these cards are pretty similar. There’s no annual fee for the Discover it Secured, just like the Capital One Secured Mastercard.
The purchase APR is pretty high as well, and there are no foreign transaction fees. You might have trouble finding merchants that accept your Discover card outside the U.S., though you wouldn’t have that problem with the Mastercard.
The Discover it Secured actually has an intro balance transfer offer, something you don’t usually see on a secured card. The offer is 10.99% APR Variable for 6 months. You could use this to transfer a balance away from a different card and pay it off at that rate.
However, this doesn’t seem like a very good deal. Instead of getting this card for a balance transfer, why not just use the money you would put towards the security deposit to pay off that balance? That would get rid of the debt more quickly, and it would let you avoid interest charges too. We recommend looking into balance transfer credit cards before making that choice, although if you have poor credit your options will be limited.
Read more in our Review of the Discover it Secured Credit Card
The Deserve Classic Mastercard (Review) is not a secured card so it won’t require a security deposit. But cards issued by Deserve are unique, made for people with poor or limited credit who have had a hard time qualifying for other cards.
When you apply, Deserve will check more than the normal credit and financial factors. They’ll also take into account your:
- future employability
- income potential
If you have bad credit or haven’t yet established a traditional credit history, the Deserve Classic could provide a way into the world of credit.
These are both Platinum Mastercards, so they come with the same benefits for the most part. There are just a few differences, which come from the issuer: Deserve or Capital One.
The Deserve Classic comes with a waiver for your first late payment fee. You can also refer friends to Deserve for a little bonus. A $30 statement credit is provided for every friend who’s approved for a card, plus a $200 bonus for referring 10 friends. That’s a total of $500 you can earn.
You will not have access to a higher credit line with the Deserve card simply by paying your first 5 monthly payments on time, like you would with the Capital One card. But other than that, pretty much all of the extra benefits are the same.
Costs & Fees
There’s a $39 annual fee for the Deserve Classic. And the maximum credit limit you can have is $1,500. This is pretty comparable to the Capital One card, where your maximum initial credit line is $1,000 but you have the opportunity to increase it easily. You’ll have to ask yourself if this annual fee is worth the ability to build your credit, compared to putting down a security deposit.
You can’t use the Deserve Classic for balance transfers or cash advances. But that’s fine, because this card was made for the same purpose as a secured card, just to help you improve your credit.
Read more in our Review of the Deserve Classic Mastercard
This card requires a security deposit of $200 to $2,500 when you’re approved. You can deposit any amount up to that limit. Your credit limit will be equal to the amount you deposit.
After establishing a record of responsible card use, Citi may increase your credit limit without requiring another deposit from you. And in other cases they may upgrade your account to an unsecured card. But not all cardholders will be eligible for this.
You’ll get a set of very basic Platinum Mastercard benefits with this card, which will probably be pretty comparable to the Capital One Secured Mastercard.
Other than that, there aren’t really any special features with the Citi card. You won’t have easy access to a higher credit line, like you would through Capital One.
Costs & Fees
The Citi Secured Mastercard has no annual fee, just like the Capital One Secured Mastercard. But the Citi card does charge a fee for foreign transactions, of 3%.
Besides that, these cards are basically the same. They both provide cheap options to improve your credit, potentially completely for free as long as you avoid incurring interest.
Read more in our Review of the Citi Secured Mastercard
The BankAmericard Secured Credit Card isn’t quite as good as the Capital One Secured Mastercard, but it could still be a solid option if you weren’t approved for that or the Discover it Secured.
The BankAmericard requires a minimum security deposit of $300. Your maximum possible security deposit will be based on your creditworthiness, with an upper limit of $4,900. This is a fairly high upper limit compared to most other secured cards, so if that’s something you’re looking for this could be a good fit.
Your credit limit will be equal to whatever amount you deposit. Bank of America will periodically review your account, and based on your overall credit history, you may qualify to have your security deposit returned to you.
This is a great feature to have on a secured card, but it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get upgraded to a different card account. If you want to switch to a different card that earns rewards you’ll need to apply for that card specifically.
The BankAmericard Secured card has very basic benefits, mostly just some shopping protections and account security features. You’ll get a better set with the Capital One card, like access to a higher credit line and Price Protection.
You can use the BankAmericard to check one of your FICO credit scores, however. It will be based on your TransUnion credit report, the same credit bureau that Capital One uses for its CreditWise tool. The BankAmericard does not provide access to your actual TransUnion credit report.
Costs & Fees
The BankAmericard Secured has an annual fee of $39, so it’s more expensive than the Capital One Secured Mastercard. It also has a foreign transaction fee of 3%, unlike the Capital One card.
Other than that, these cards are pretty similar in their costs and fees.
Have you been building credit with this card? How do you like it? What do you think is the best way to build credit? Leave your own review of the Capital One Secured Mastercard, we’d love to hear your opinion!
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