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It’s a classic catch-22: a credit card is often the fastest way to building good credit, but getting equitable credit card terms without good credit is close to impossible.
Here’s where secured credit cards come in. The best secured credit cards can help people with bad credit or short credit histories get out of this paradox, as they are typically backed by a cash deposit by the card user when they open their account. The deposit is typically equal to the card’s credit limit, meaning a $200 deposit gives the user a $200 credit limit.
From the perspective of the credit card issuer, such a process vastly reduces risk. If the cardholder doesn’t pay their bill on time, the issuer can take the money owed from the deposit. This helps make such credit cards available to people with bad credit or no credit.
What happens to the cash deposit if the cardholder pays their bill on time? It is eventually refunded. If the cardholder uses the card responsibly, then, they can improve their credit over time and eventually qualify for an unsecured card.
Some of the best secured credit cards might even provide a means of upgrading directly to an unsecured card, whereas other issuers don’t have such an upgrade process. The amount needed for a deposit varies by card, but potential applicants should be prepared to provide a deposit of at least $200.
Whether or not you need a secured credit card is often dependent on how good your credit is at present.
For unsecured credit cards — cards that do not require a deposit and as a result pose a greater risk to the card issuer — credit card providers generally require that you present with average credit. Good or excellent credit improves your chances of being approved for a superior credit card.
If your credit is bad or non-existent, however, you might have to start with a secured credit card. Be aware, however, that as soon as you begin using your card, your issuer reports your activity to the credit bureaus. Your credit score will adjust accordingly, so use your secured credit card wisely!
So you’ve decided you need a secured credit card. The next challenge is finding the best secured credit card for your financial situation and long-term plans. Here’s a list of the best secured credit cards on the market, from our perspective.
If you are hoping to get your hands on all the benefits of an unsecured credit card, the Discover It Secured card might just be the best secured credit card for you. With no annual fee, cashback perks and the chance to build your credit history with the three major credit bureaus, this card can help you get on your feet fast!
This card requires a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after approval, and your bank information must be provided when you submit your deposit. Automatic reviews start at eight months, opening the door for you to transition to an unsecured credit line and have your deposit returned.
Better yet, the Discover it Secured credit card gives you 2% cashback at gas stations and restaurants up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter. Get 1% cashback on all other purchases.
Note, however, that your initial deposit must be paid with a bank account. If you don’t have one, you won’t be eligible to apply.
2. Best for Low Fees: DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card
If you’re hoping to save money on fees and interest rates, this might be the best secured credit card for you. With no annual fee, and secured card rates far below the national average, the DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card will help you build your credit history without making you pay for it.
Better yet, this card has no fees or higher rates for cash advances and balance transfers, and even works with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.
Moreover, the ongoing APR is 13.75% variable, which is about half the rate of other secured cards on the market. It’s also far lower than what is typically offered on unsecured cards.
Note that you must be a member of the Digital Federal Credit Union to apply for this card, and a $500 minimum deposit is required.
3. Best for an Adjustable Limit: Credit Builder Secured Visa Card
With a credit limit of between $300 and $3,000, depending on your deposit, the Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card could be the best secured credit card for your needs. As a cardholder, you can increase your credit limit by adding increments of $50, or more, into your savings account.
There’s another reason to add to your savings account: that money will accrue interest over time, adding to your savings.
This card also provides the option of upgrades, meaning your credit activity will be periodically reviewed to see if you qualify for an unsecured line of credit.
If you want to adjust your credit limit and earn interest on your deposit, this might be the best secured credit card for you. Note that there is an annual fee of $35 for this card.
4. Best for Military Cardholders: Navy Federal Credit Union Rewards Secured Credit Card
For those with a military background, this card is by far the best secured credit card on the market. With no annual fee, no application or “account management” fees and an option to upgrade to unsecured credit after six months, this is an excellent secured credit card option.
Better yet, there are no balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees or cash advance fees for this card. For every dollar spent, you’ll have one point added to your account.
Note that you must be a member of the Navy Federal Credit Union to apply for this card, with membership restricted to current and former members of the military, civilian Department of Defence employees, and their families.
5. Best for a Low Deposit: Capital One Secured Mastercard
For those looking to build their credit history from scratch, this could be the best secured credit card for you. There’s no annual fee associated with this card, and cardholders can enjoy all the credit building advantages that come with responsible use of a secured credit card.
After making a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, cardholders can access an initial $200 credit line. You have the option to increase this after making your first 5 monthly payments on time, with zero additional deposit necessary.
This card has the added convenience of 24/7 access to online management, by phone or via mobile app.
Note, however, that underwriting standards for this credit card are stricter than most secured credit cards. If you don’t have a checking or savings account or hold a non-discharged bankruptcy, or if your rent is almost as high as your monthly income, you probably won’t qualify for this card.
6. Best for No Credit Check or Bank Account: OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card
If you don’t want to undergo a credit check, or don’t possess a bank account, this card might be the best secured credit card available to you.
According to OpenSky, everyone deserves an opportunity to access the advantages of financial planning, so there will be no credit check made when you apply. A refundable deposit of at least $200 is required, with this sum representing your credit line limit as a cardholder.
Note that there is an annual fee of $35 associated with this card, and there is typically no opportunity to upgrade your account to an unsecured line of credit.
7. Best for No Credit: Citi Secured Mastercard
If you’re not looking for anything with frills, the Citi Secured Mastercard might be the best secured credit card for you. Use it to build credit, and then upgrade to a product with better terms.
There is no annual fee connected to this card, and you can use your Citi Secured Mastercard anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
Reporting to all three major credit bureaus monthly, this card will provide you with the chance to build your credit history over time. Once available, you will have free access to your FICO score online.
A security deposit of at least $200 is required for this card, with your credit limit equal to the deposit you make.
Note that if you have bad credit already, this is not the right card for you. The Citi Secured Mastercard is most appropriate for those looking to build their credit from the ground up, rather than rebuilding credit after past mismanagement.
8. Lowest Interest Rate: Green Dot primor® Visa Gold Secured Card
With no minimum credit score requirements and no processing or application fees, this card might be a good option for those with bad credit.
Indeed, cardholders with bad credit can typically expect high-interest rates upwards of 25% The ongoing APR on this card, however, is 9.99%, and there’s no penalty rate if you don’t make your repayments on time.
With monthly reporting to all three major credit bureaus, this is your chance to rebuild your credit history and improve your future rates on unsecured lines of credit.
Note that there is an annual fee of $49 for this card, which is relatively high for a secured credit card. For a lower fee, but higher APR, the Green Dot primor Visa Classic Secured Credit Card offers an annual fee of $39 with an ongoing APR of 13.99%.
9. The Wild Card: Harley-Davidson Visa Secured Card
You don’t need to be a biker or Harley enthusiast to apply for this card. In fact, the Harley-Davidson Visa Secured Card is a good product and can be used to build a good credit history over time.
There’s no annual fee for this secured card and, of course, an auto rental collision damage waiver is provided. Better yet, every purchase made with this card earns the cardholder entry for a chance to win a motorcycle in the H-D Visa Free Ride Sweepstakes.
If you’re not a Harley-Davidson owner or rider, you probably don’t stand to benefit much from this card. But it will look cool in your wallet, so that’s something to consider.
Every issuer handles the process of applying and using a secured credit card differently, but once you receive your card your experience should look something like this: once you fund your deposit, you can use your card just like any other credit card. As a general rule, it’s best to use less than 30% of your available credit at any time; use it for small purchases, and pay your bill promptly.
As your credit improves from bad to average to good, consider qualifying for an unsecured line of credit with more benefits. As always, however, use your credit wisely: the journey to rebuilding your credit after mismanagement is a long one.
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