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2020 Review: Self Secured Visa Credit Card — Best for Building Credit?

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By Sean Messier May 20, 2020 | Updated Oct 26, 2020
Our rating
Min. credit level: Limited Credit History
Annual Fee: $25
Regular APR: 23.99% Variable

Self Secured Visa® Credit Card

Our rating
Limited Credit History Min. credit level
Apply Now Jump to Alternatives

Our Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

We’re giving the Self Secured Visa® Credit Card 4 out of 5 Stars. The card’s features are barebones and there’s an annual fee, but its low barrier to entry makes it appealing if you’d like to build your credit scores and have nowhere else to turn.

Why We Like It

  • It’s easy to get; there’s no standard credit application, hard inquiry, or lump-sum deposit necessary, and no chance of rejection if you have a Self Credit Builder Account in good standing
  • Reports activity to all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), allowing you to build credit if you use the card wisely
  • Managing a credit card while paying an installment loan (your Credit Builder Account) diversifies the variety of accounts listed on your credit reports, which may help boost your credit scores
  • Near-universal acceptance thanks to the Visa network

Why It Could Be Better

  • The $25 annual fee is in addition to any fees required to open a Self Credit Builder Account, so it’s less cost-effective than other secured options that charge no annual fee at all
  • You need a Self Credit Builder Account to get the card, and while helpful to some, Credit Builder Accounts aren’t for everyone
  • You can’t get the card until you’ve made three on-time payments and reached a total balance of at least $100 on a Credit Builder Account that’s in good standing

Self Secured Visa® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelLimited Credit History
Details
Annual Fee$25
Regular APR23.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Secured card
  • No hard inquiry
  • No chance of rejection
  • No application
  • No extra deposit needed
  • Credit limit based on Self Credit Builder Account savings
  • $25 annual fee
  • Issued by Lead Bank

Since Self Financial’s founding, “Credit Builder Accounts” — the company’s take on credit builder loans — have remained its flagship product. The accounts are presented as a straightforward, relatively low-fee way to build credit, and in general, they appear to deliver on that promise when managed wisely.

In late 2019, however, Self took a logical step forward, introducing its own credit card: the Self Secured Visa Credit Card.

It’s not exactly a new product so much as it is an extension of Self’s credit builder loans. It works like your everyday secured credit card, but rather than requiring you to pay a deposit up front, your credit limit is secured by your Self Credit Builder Account savings balance. And there aren’t any rewards or benefits, either, though that’s common for cards primarily designed for building credit.

There’s no typical card application involved, and no credit inquiry necessary to get the card, either. You just have to meet a few simple requirements, which we’ll discuss later.

All in all, the Self secured card seems like a helpful extension to the company’s Credit Builder Accounts. You just have to use it wisely.

Insider Advice: Getting the Most Out of Your Card

  • Treat it like a regular credit card: Make purchases as usual; the Self secured card can be used wherever Visa is accepted, which is basically everywhere credit cards are accepted.
  • Use it responsibly: You should usually only use a credit card for purchases you can afford to pay off in full by the due date to avoid accumulating interest charges. That’s especially true for cards designed for applicants with poor or limited credit, as they often have higher interest rates. On top of that, carrying a balance will leave you with a higher credit utilization ratio, which may hinder your credit-building progress.
  • Keep managing your Credit Builder Account wisely: Whether you qualify for the card in the first place depends on your Credit Builder Account’s good standing. Make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew by juggling the account and a credit card.
  • Look elsewhere once your Credit Builder Account is paid off: If you successfully improve your credit during your time as a Self customer, consider moving on to something better. Try a basic unsecured rewards card with no annual fee, or a secured credit card with no annual fee if your credit’s not quite there yet.

How Do I Apply for the Self Secured Visa Credit Card?

The Self card’s most distinctive feature is that you can’t just apply for it like you can with most secured cards.

The card is exclusive to current Self Credit Builder Account users, and you have to meet a few requirements to get it. Here’s how it works:

  1. Have an open Credit Builder Account. The Self card is only available to Self accountholders in good standing.
  2. Make at least three on-time monthly payments in a row. Strive for an impeccable payment history to demonstrate your reliability as a borrower.
  3. Make at least $100 in payments on your Credit Builder Account. Your first three on-time payments might be enough to satisfy this requirement, or they may not. It all depends on your account terms.
  4. Make sure you’re all caught up on fees. You’ll have to take care of any outstanding Credit Builder Account fees before you can get the card.
  5. Choose your credit limit and request your card. Once you’ve met the above criteria, you should be able to get the Self Secured Visa. You pick your own credit limit (it can’t be any more than your Credit Builder Account balance), and that’s basically it — you should receive your card soon after.
  6. Pay the annual fee. Bear in mind that the Self Card has an annual fee, which isn’t always the case with a secured card.

What Credit Scores Do You Need for the Self Secured Visa Credit Card?

Your credit scores have no impact on your ability to get the Self card, and there’s no hard credit inquiry necessary. 

After all, the Self Credit Builder Account was designed to help those with poor or limited credit in the first place. The card is just an additional account feature. (See other cards for poor or limited credit.)

Read more Credit Score Ranges — Good, Bad, and Excellent

The Benefits

The Self Visa doesn’t really offer anything in the way of benefits.

Where some cards deliver perks like travel insurance and statement credits, the Self card’s ease of access is its main “benefit.”

But that’s fine — the card wasn’t designed to compete with cards that do provide benefits. It’s meant to serve as a stepping stone on the path to better credit. You can apply for better cards with flashier features after you’ve further developed your credit history.

The Terms & Fees

Purchase APR Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR
23.99% Variable None None
Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
$25 None
Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee
None None
Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
None Up to $15 Up to $15

You have to pay an annual fee to use the Self card. It’s a relatively low fee, but it’s in addition to whatever fees you’re paying for your Credit Builder Account. And while those fees aren’t bad, they’re there, and that can be an obstacle.

There are plenty of secured cards without annual fees, and you might want to try applying for one of those first if you’d like to save money. You can check to see if you’re pre-qualified for any cards before applying and getting a hard inquiry.

You also have to remember that if you carry a balance on the Self card without paying it off in full by the due date, you’ll be charged interest, just like with any credit card. So you’re better off using the card only if you can pay off all of your purchases on a monthly basis.

The Bottom Line

If you can’t qualify for a secured credit card with no annual fee, and you’re either an existing Self customer or someone who might benefit from a Credit Builder Account, then the Self Secured Visa® Credit Card is a potentially useful credit-building tool. The card’s low barrier to entry is a huge plus.

The fact that the card is secured by your Credit Builder Account balance, rather than an upfront deposit, is another perk, especially if you’re not sure you’d be able to fund a decent-sized deposit in one shot. Most other secured cards require a one-time upfront deposit.

The fees you’re charged for both the card and the account keep the Self card from being the best secured option, of course, but you could do worse. At least those fees are reasonable, and the straightforward application path makes it a more dependable option than most.

Overall, there’s not much to say about the card itself. Aside from its relationship with Self’s Credit Builder Accounts, the Self Visa is a very simple card that’s primarily designed for building or repairing credit. Swipe it wherever Visa is accepted, pay off the balance each month, and keep an eye on your credit scores. You might just see them grow.

The Self Secured Visa isn’t for everyone, but it’s about as good an option as you can expect if you’re having trouble getting approved for anything else.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Self Credit Card have rewards?

No. The Self credit card offers no rewards; it’s mainly meant to help you build credit.

In fact, very few secured credit cards offer rewards at all (though some do). You may have better luck finding a rewards card that suits your situation by browsing our list of the best first credit cards, or our top card picks for building credit.

Can you increase the credit limit of the Self Credit Card?

Yes. The Self Secured Visa’s credit limit can be increased in $25 increments if you’ve accumulated enough savings in your Credit Builder Account to cover the required deposit.

You should be notified via your account dashboard if you’re eligible for a limit increase. Your credit card account and Credit Builder Account must both be in good standing in order to qualify.

How do you get your security deposit back if you close the Self Credit Card?

If you close the Self secured card and your Credit Builder Account is still active, the deposit will be returned to that account.

If you close the card after your Credit Builder Account is paid in full, then the deposit will be sent either by check or via ACH.

Closing the account because you’d like to apply for something better? Try one of our favorite no annual fee credit cards.

Will my Self Credit Card be closed if I don’t use it enough?

No, your Self credit card account will never be closed due to inactivity.

Was this helpful?

Alternatives to the Self Secured Visa Credit Card

The Self Secured Visa is helpful if you’ve considered (or already have) a Self Credit Builder Account.

But there are several credit cards with no annual fee that may be worth trying first, even if your credit is in rough shape.

Discover it® Secured

Our rating
Min. credit level Bad
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR See Terms

It’s not common for secured credit cards to offer rewards, so the fact that the Discover it® Secured (Review) provides a rewards program that’s competitive with some unsecured cards may come as a welcome surprise.

Aside from that, though, it’s not too fancy. That makes it an excellent starting point if you’re building credit from scratch or looking to repair bad credit.

You do have to be approved and provide an upfront deposit of at least $200 (up to $2,500), which makes it slightly harder to get than the Self card. But it’s worth a shot.

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back on up to $1,000 spent per quarter at:
    • Gas stations
    • Restaurants
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double cash back in the first year (awarded after the first year)

Secured cards very rarely provide rewards, and even when they do, they’re seldom this good. You’re getting a solid rate in two categories in which most people spend a lot of money.

The $1,000 quarterly threshold on those 2% categories would seem tight if this were an unsecured card, but considering the context, it’s quite generous.

  • Free FICO Score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Inquiry and new account alerts: Get notified of any credit inquiries or new accounts on your Experian credit report.
  • Social Security number alerts: Discover will alert you if your SSN is found on any thousands of dark web sites.
  • Security deposit: $200 to $2,500
  • Purchase APR: See Terms
  • Balance Transfer APR: See Terms for See Terms, then See Terms
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

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

Secured Mastercard® from Capital One

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

With many secured cards, your credit limit equals your security deposit. The Secured Mastercard® from Capital One (Review) works a little differently.

Once you’re approved, Capital One will set your minimum deposit at either $49, $99, or $200, based on your creditworthiness. Whichever you pay, your initial credit limit will be $200. It’s a rare situation where you may be able to supply a deposit that’s considerably lower than the limit you’ll receive.

You can provide a deposit of more than $200 (up to $1,000) if you want a bigger limit, but even if you don’t, you’ll automatically be considered for a credit limit increase after you’ve had the card for at least six months.

  • Higher credit line: The issuer will consider increasing your credit line in as little as six months.
  • Capital One CreditWise: Access your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, based on your TransUnion credit report, for free (available online or through a mobile app).
  • Shopping and travel protections: Including 24/7 travel assistance services, rental car insurance, travel accident assurance, extended warranty, and price protection
  • Security deposit: $49, $99, or $200, up to $1,000
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% (Variable)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

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

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit level Bad
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 22.49% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® (Review) is a run-of-the-mill secured card apart from one interesting feature — you don’t need a bank account to apply and use it.

You have to visit a Citibank location to open this card without a bank account, so if you’re bank-accountless and there’s no branch near you, you’re out of luck. Even so, that’s a useful option if you live in the right area.

To secure your credit limit, you’ll have to provide a refundable deposit of at least $200, up to $2,500, after you’re approved.

  • Free FICO score: Check your FICO Bankcard Score 8, based on your Equifax credit report, via statements, online, and by mobile app.
  • Purchase Protection: If an eligible item you bought with your Citi card is damaged or stolen, Citi will either fund repairs or reimburse you for the loss.
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions: Citi will help if you believe you’ve fallen victim to identity theft.
  • Security deposit: $200 to $2,500
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 22.49% (Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a no annual fee credit card that helps you build your credit when used responsibly.
  • Unlike a debit card, it helps build your credit history with monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus. Once available, you will also have free access to your FICO score online.
  • Use your card anywhere Mastercard® is accepted — worldwide.
  • A security deposit is required. Once approved, your credit limit will be equal to your security deposit (minimum of $200).
  • Get help staying on track with Auto Pay and account alerts.
  • With Flexible Payment Due Dates, you can choose any available due date in the beginning, middle or end of the month.
  • Manage your account 24/7 online, by phone, or in our mobile app.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 22.49%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.

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.

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Our rating
Min. credit level Limited Credit History
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 26.99% (Variable)

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One (Review) is one of the only unsecured credit card offers designed for applicants with limited (or possibly poor) credit. Though its name might suggest otherwise, you don’t have to be a student to apply (see more student cards here).

The card’s lack of an upfront deposit requirement may not sound that exciting, since the Self card doesn’t require one (per se) either. But with the Journey card, all you have to do is apply and be approved. There’s no annual fee and no account-related requirements like you have with the Self card. Just a typical hard inquiry.

On top of that, this card provides a decent (if not particularly interesting) rewards program for a card that’s meant for individuals with low or nonexistent credit scores.

Spending Rewards
  • 1% cash back for every purchase
    • 1.25% cash back if you pay on time

There’s not much to see here.

Boosting rewards for on-time payments is a clever idea, but we recommend paying your balance in full each month with this card anyway, so you should never have to worry about paying late. If you’re not sure you can pay your balance in full on a monthly basis, you should probably reevaluate whether you should be using credit cards at all.

  • $60 streaming credit: $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming services, when you pay on time
  • Higher credit line: The issuer will consider increasing your credit line in as little as six months.
  • Capital One CreditWise: Access your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, based on your TransUnion credit report, for free (available online or through a mobile app).
  • Shopping and travel protections: Including 24/7 travel assistance services, rental car insurance, travel accident assurance, and extended warranty
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% (Variable)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

The information related to Journey Student Rewards from Capital One has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Self Secured Visa® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelLimited Credit History
Details
Annual Fee$25
Regular APR23.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Secured card
  • No hard inquiry
  • No chance of rejection
  • No application
  • No extra deposit needed
  • Credit limit based on Self Credit Builder Account savings
  • $25 annual fee
  • Issued by Lead Bank

Like the review? Feel free to spread the word! If you think we’re forgetting something that’s important, tell us in a comment below.

At a glance

The Self Secured Visa is a secured card available only to Self Credit Builder Account customers. You have to meet certain requirements to get it, but there’s no credit check involved, which makes it fairly accessible.

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 Discover it® Secured, Secured Mastercard® from Capital One, Citi® Secured Mastercard®, and Journey Student Rewards from Capital One have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

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