All information about Citi Simplicity® Card, Green Dot primor Mastercard Gold Secured Credit Card, Green Dot primor Visa Classic Secured Credit Card, and Green Dot primor Visa Gold Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
Comparing Secured Credit Card Offers
If your credit isn’t its best or you are new to credit, your options can be limited. In fact, the New York Federal Reserve reports that in October 2020, 21.3% of consumers were rejected when applying for credit cards. But with a secured card, you can build your credit in a few months so that you can apply for a more rewarding unsecured card.
Secured cards require a refundable deposit that you are borrowing off of for your available credit limit. In many cases, they may be your only option. But they are a great way to build credit and to develop good payment habits.
We evaluated more than 200 secured credit cards using such criteria as: rates and fees, deposit amounts, ability to improve credit, customer service, and miscellaneous features and benefits. Below are our top picks for the best secured cards and further information to help you make your decision and improve your credit so you can qualify for even better offers. Here, we look at:
Best Secured Credit Cards of 2021
Overview: This card’s no annual fee makes it a great starter card. Also, the no foreign transaction fee makes it a good card for overseas travel or making purchases on foreign sites.
Pros: The terms are fairly straightforward, and with responsible use, you could get a higher credit line in as soon as 6 months if you make your first 6 monthly payments on time.
Cons: The Secured Mastercard from Capital One offers no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards.
Overview: Unlike most credit cards, the OpenSky Secured Visa doesn’t require a credit check to apply. Also, you can build your credit history quickly because the card issuer reports to all 3 credit bureaus.
Pros: No credit check is required with the OpenSky Secured Visa, which is a rarity for credit cards.
Cons: There’s an annual fee, as well as fees for foreign transactions, inactivity and garnishment.
Overview: Earn 2% back at gas stations and restaurants for up to $1,000 in combined spend each quarter (then 1% cash back); plus, Discover will match your cash back at the end of your first year. That means, if you spend $300 a month at restaurants and gas stations, you will earn $6 a month, plus $72 at the end of your first year for the Cashback Match, coming to $144.
Pros: With no annual fee and rewards to boot, this secured product offers another reason why it’s a good card for the long haul – Discover will automatically review your account after 8 months to see if they can transition you to an unsecured card.
Cons: There’s a lot to love about this card, but the regular APR is not one of them. Higher than the average APR for credit cards, which is 16.21%, the Discover it Secured Credit Card’s variable APR is one of the highest among secured cards.
From our expert: “The Discover it Secured card is noteworthy because it offers rewards – a rarity among secured cards,” says CreditCards.com Industry Analyst Ted Rossman. “With no annual fee and 2% cash back* at restaurants and gas stations and 1% everywhere else, this card is a compelling introduction into the world of credit.”
*2% on up to $1,000 in combined spend each quarter, then 1%
Best secured credit card for fast application process: Surge Secured Mastercard®
Overview: The Surge Secured Mastercard promises a fast and easy application process with results in seconds and, given its low barrier to entry from a credit standpoint, is an option for people with bad credit.
Pros: It’s one of the few secured cards on the markets that offers rewards (1% cash back on all purchases). Card use is reported to all three credit bureaus and you’ll get free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from TransUnion when you sign up for e-statements.
Cons: The ability to earn rewards might distract some cardholders from their credit-building goals.(You’ll want to be careful not to overspend in an attempt to earn cash back.) The card touts a number of high fees, including a $69 annual fee, up to a $40 late payment fee and a $30 additional card fee.
Overview: There’s no intro 0% offer, but this low interest card comes with a top-of-the-line fixed APR: 9.99% for cardholders, and it won’t increase even if you’re late with a payment.
Pros: There’s no minimum score or credit check required in the application process. Also, your credit card habits will be reported to major credit bureaus Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – a perk that can really help boost your credit score.
Cons: The card comes with a $48 annual fee on top of the required refundable deposit. Plus, there are no rewards to be earned here.
Overview: Because the First Progress Platinum Elite is a Mastercard, it is widely accepted, making it a great go-to card for the traveler. (Note: You will pay a foreign transaction fee when using the card overseas.)
Pros: This card has a new expedited processing option, which is handy if you are looking to get your new card quickly. Also, the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card doesn’t require a minimum score or credit history.
Cons: While not as bad as others, this card’s fees can be onerous. It carries an annual fee of $29 and a variable APR of 19.99%.
Overview: Unlike a debit card, the Citi Secured Mastercard helps build your credit history because the issuer reports to all 3 major credit bureaus each month. Also, you may get free access to your FICO score online.
Pros: There is no annual fee which is always a plus.
Cons: The security deposit to get started with this card can vary from $200-$2,500 based on your credit qualifications. Also, like most other secured cards, there is no rewards program with the Citi Secured Mastercard.
Overview: Whether you’re establishing your credit or repairing it, this unique card-and-account combination will help develop healthy credit habits while building a stronger credit mix – all without a credit check or history.
Pros: Besides just earning interest on your “loan” deposit, you’re building credit on both your loan and credit card while other secured cards don’t. This strengthens your credit since 10% of a good credit score comes from a solid credit mix. Plus, you can extend your credit limit based on your account’s savings progress and stay on top of your credit score with credit monitoring and account alerts.
Cons: Since the deposit is a “loan” and isn’t out-of-pocket, you can’t qualify for your card until you make 3 full consecutive payments and have at least $100 in your account without outstanding fees. On top of the one-time $9 account fee and yearly $25 annual card fee, be careful not to carry a balance since your monthly payments and credit card both carry APRs.
Overview: This card doesn’t require a credit history or minimum credit score for approval. Your card use is reported to all three major credit bureaus to help you build credit. Cardholders are required to put down a refundable security deposit of at least $200 to serve as the card’s credit limit.
Pros: The card carries a regular variable APR of 9.99%, which is favorable for a secured credit card.
Cons: There’s a $49 annual fee, which is on the high side for a secured credit card.
Overview: With this financial product, you basically get a small loan that funds an FDIC-insured certificate of deposit for 12 or for 24 months. Then, once the account’s term ends, you’ve built your credit and your CD unlocks.
Pros: This is a good way to build credit for someone with iffy credit. There’s no hard pull on your credit, and it doesn’t matter where your credit is when you begin.
Cons: There’s an “administrative fee” that is on a sliding scale, depending on how much you pay into your “account.” So, if you pay $89 a month for 12 months, you pay a $12 administrative fee and you get $1,000 at the end of the year, $68 shy of what you’ve put in, bringing the total finance charge to $80.
Overview: If you keep your balance low and pay on time each month, this card will help you rebuild your credit. Also, you might be granted a credit limit increase after 12 months of good credit habits if you ask.
Pros: Because this card is in the Mastercard network, your purchases will be widely accepted both in the U.S. and abroad, although keep in mind that there’s a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
Cons: This card doesn’t offer ongoing rewards or a sign-up bonus. There are also a number of fees to be mindful of, such as $29 annually for each additional card, a credit limit increase fee, as well as the annual fee of $50.
Compare the best secured card offers
|Credit Card||Best For:||Minimum Deposit Required||Annual Fee|
|Secured Mastercard® from Capital One||No annual fee||$49, $99, or $200||$0|
|OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card||No credit check||$200||$35|
|Discover it® Secured Credit Card||Cash back||$200||$0|
|Surge Secured Mastercard®||Fast application process||$300||$69|
|Applied Bank Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card||Low interest||$200||$48|
|First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard® Secured Credit Card||Wide acceptance||$200 – $2,000||$29|
|Citi® Secured Mastercard®||Building credit||Minimum $200||$0|
|Self — Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card||Establishing credit||See Terms||See Terms|
|First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card||Bad credit||$200-$2000||$49|
|Self — Credit Builder Account||Getting a small loan||See Terms||See Terms|
|First PREMIER® Bank Secured Credit Card||Rebuilding credit||See Terms||$0|
Secured credit cards analyzed: 228
Criteria used: Credit needed, ease of application, ability to move credit limits, deposit required, rates and fees, credit score tracking, other benefits and features, customer service, security, rewards rates.
What are secured cards?
A secured credit card is a financial product designed for a consumer with bad credit or a limited credit history. It requires a refundable deposit in exchange for a credit limit. Most credit cards are unsecured credit cards, which means a security deposit isn’t required. Because having a credit card is the easiest and fastest way to build credit, a secured card can be worth your while.
How do secured cards work?
To give you a line of credit, lenders want to know that you’re likely to repay what you borrow. In many cases, a positive credit history provides the proof that credit card issuers need. That’s why it can be difficult to get approved for a credit card with a poor or limited credit history. Enter secured credit cards.
Instead of positive credit history, you provide the credit card issuer with a security deposit upfront, typically $200 or more. Then, the issuer will decide your credit limit, which is often equal to the security deposit you provide. After this, a secured card works pretty much the same as an unsecured card. You have a revolving line of credit that replenishes as you make payments.
With some secured credit cards, you may be automatically considered for a credit line increase after several months of on-time payments. Not only does this give you more purchasing power, but it may also give your credit score a boost. Finally, once your score reaches the “good” range (a FICO score of 670+), you can begin shopping around for a credit card with better rewards, rates and benefits.
How to get a secured credit card
If your financial institution offers secured credit cards, you may be able to submit an application in person, by telephone, or through its website. If you’d prefer to see what cards are available outside of your bank or credit union, you can compare offers online and apply independently. Here’s how it works:
- Choose a card: First, do a little research to determine which secured card offer best aligns with your budget and spending behaviors. Secured cards may not always give much in the way of frills but that doesn’t mean you can’t land a competitive offer.
- Determine your deposit amount: Once you’ve found a secured credit card that feels right for you, you must then decide how much of a deposit you’d like to put down. In most cases, your deposit amount will be equal to your credit limit. It’s tempting to pay the minimum amount required but think honestly about how much you’ll routinely spend. Remember, using too much of your credit line can hurt your score, and a single trip to the supermarket can quickly eat into a $200 card limit.
- Apply: Submit your application. The issuer will ask you to provide personal details to confirm your identity such as your Social Security number, income, U.S. mailing address, and other basic information.
- Monitor application status: In most cases, the card issuer will reach a decision in a matter of seconds. Sometimes you may have to wait to receive a decision by mail. Many card issuers also allow you to check the status of the application by telephone or by logging on to their website. Once you’ve been approved, you may then pay your deposit amount and the issuer will mail the credit card to you. If the issuer has denied your application, you’ll receive a letter from the issuer explaining the reason for the decision.
What credit score do you need to be approved for a secured credit card?
Because you are not able to spend more than the cash deposit you provide, the issuer’s risk is much lower than it would be lending to someone with an unsecured credit card. For this reason, applicants with minimal or bad credit history are often approved for secured credit cards. To give you a better sense of what constitutes good, fair and bad credit, FICO goes by the following range:
- Very poor: 300-579
- Fair: 580-669
- Good: 670-739
- Very good: 740-799
- Exceptional: 800-850
Factors to consider when choosing a secured credit card
Your choice in credit card should be based on your personal goals and finances. A secured credit card will require a cash deposit ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Determine what sort of credit limit makes the most sense for you and how much of an initial deposit that will require. If your card limit is on the lower end of the spectrum and you think you’ll routinely make purchases that eat up the majority of your available credit, understand that this type of high usage can impact your credit score. In these situations, a high limit secured card may be a better option.
Aside from spending habits, you’ll also want to take into consideration any applicable rates and fees such as annual fees and foreign transaction fees, as well as any additional benefits. Though it’s rare, some secured cards do offer rewards, such as the Discover it® Secured Credit Card.
When it comes to selecting a secured credit card, here are a few things you should be particularly wary of:
- Hidden fees: While some fees are clearly marked in the “Schumer Box” at the top of cards’ rates and fees disclosures, lesser-known fees with credit-builder cards can be mentioned lower in the copy. They can have vague descriptions, such as “copy fee” or “telephone payment fee,” and can pile up fast. Heads up that secured cards can have the most fees.
- High interest rates: If you plan to carry a balance, you’ll want to avoid a card with high interest rates. Interest charges can pretty quickly overtake the principal when the rates are steep.
- High rewards, no credit-building features: Don’t be tempted by a good rewards rate. While rewards are a nice perk, your goal with a secured credit card is building credit, so you want to pick a card with features that help you do so without charging too many fees. One great example is the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One. To start, there are only two fees – a cash advance fee and a late payment fee. What makes this card advantageous to the credit-builder, though, is this feature: As your credit score increases with responsible use, so can your credit limit. You’ll be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months. You may even qualify for a limit that is higher than your security deposit, which is very uncommon among secured cards.
How to use your secured card to build credit
Now that you understand how secured credit cards work, how do you handle one correctly? It only takes 3 easy steps:
- Pay on time. While it takes months to build your credit with good payment habits, one or two late payments can cause a big drop in your score. And not only is paying on time good for your credit, it keeps you from having to pay late fees and even losing your card.
- Pay in full. In fact, pay multiple times a month to keep your utilization ratio low – because you don’t know when your issuer will send your account information to the 3 major credit bureaus. This will also help you avoid interest charges.
- Place a small charge on the card. Don’t forget to use the card each month. If you lose your card to inactivity, you can’t build credit month by month. Put a recurring reminder on your calendar to ensure that you don’t forget. Or better yet, place an auto debit for a small charge on your card.
How to upgrade to an unsecured credit card
You probably don’t want to keep a secured card forever; for most people, secured credit cards are a bridge to bigger and better things. When you are able to upgrade, your next credit card should be a rewards card. If you have good credit and are able to pay your bill in full each month, passing up on a rewards card is like passing up on extra money, essentially. In addition to higher credit limits, you’ll have the luxury of earning cash back or travel points and access to exclusive perks like sign-up bonuses and 0% intro APR offers.
So how does upgrading your secured credit card work? Here’s what a typical timeline looks like:
- Achieve good credit: If you’re serious about improving your credit, you can do so in no time with on-time payments and low balances. After your credit score is in a good place (at least 670 on a scale of 300-850), the exciting part starts. It’s time to start exploring rewards cards.
- Inquire about your upgrade options: Note that some cards, such as the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, let you transition to an unsecured card after a period of time, provided your payment habits are good. Check with your card issuer.Even if the upgrade option isn’t advertised, you may still be able to trade up. Heads up that you likely won’t be able to benefit from the new card as a new member, meaning you may not get such benefits as the sign-up bonus. However, you will enjoy any ongoing rewards that the new card offers. Even if the upgrade option isn’t advertised, you may still be able to trade up by calling your issuer and asking. Heads up that you likely won’t be able to benefit from the new card as a new member, meaning you may not get such benefits as the sign-up bonus. However, you will enjoy any ongoing rewards that the new card offers.
- Look into applying for a new credit card: If you don’t qualify for an upgrade or there is a disadvantage to the card you qualify for, such as an annual fee you’re not interested in, start exploring cards from different issuers. It’s worth looking into a variety of the best credit cards to find the perfect fit for your lifestyle.
- Decide what to do with your old secured card: Once you find the unsecured card of your dreams, it’s time to look at whether to keep the secured card. However, only close it if there is a compelling reason, such as recurring fees that you want to break away from. Be mindful that when you close a card account, while your good payment habits don’t drop off your credit reports for 10 years, the average age of your cards will go down, which will impact your score for a while.
Alternatives to secured credit cards
Whether you don’t want to plunk down a security deposit or you don’t qualify for a secured card, there are a number of alternative ways to enjoy the convenience, the safety of a cashless life and even credit building. For example, with unsecured cards such as retail credit cards, you can avoid paying a deposit while having the opportunity to build your credit. A passbook loan or credit-builder loan also gives ways for consumers to build credit. And while you won’t build credit with debit cards and prepaid cards, some consumers prefer them for budgeting and convenience reasons.
Unsecured credit cards
Usually unsecured credit cards are for consumers with better credit, but there are some available for fair and even poor credit. However, they often have hidden, weird fees. That said, there are a few that are worth a look, such as the Discover it® Student Cash Back and the Discover it® Student chrome. Both have minimal fees and both offer rewards for restaurants, gas stations and more.
Retail credit cards
Retail cards are often co-branded with a network, such as Visa or Mastercard, and they frequently only require fair credit. There is usually no security deposit required, but the APRs are typically higher than other credit cards.
While you can’t build credit with these cards, some people use them to manage their spending. Prepaid cards can be purchased at grocery and other stores, then reloaded with money when the balance runs low. Prepaid cards are safer than cash because they have some protections by federal law.
Debit cards are attached to your checking or savings account and can be used at points of sale and as an ATM card. You won’t be able to build credit with this kind of card, and you’ll need to check your financial institution about protections because they don’t automatically have the protections of credit cards or prepaid cards.
There are different types of credit-builder loans, including unsecured loans that can be used for emergencies, such as a car breakdown, and secured loans that require you to save. As the name implies, they are designed for building credit. Community banks and credit unions often offer these lending products.
A passbook loan is a lending product secured by a savings account. According to Investopedia, some lenders lend up to 50% of the savings account balance while others lend up to 100%. You can earn interest on the account, including the amount borrowed.