Our Pick: Green Dot primor® Mastercard Gold Secured Credit Card
If you have low or no credit, this card offers easy-to-meet eligibility criteria - with no fees or credit check required.
- Annual fee: $49, waived the first year
- Purchase APR: 9.99%
Compare secured credit cards
What is a secured credit card?
A secured card is a credit card that requires a security deposit to be made against the credit limit for the card. The credit limit is usually equal to the amount of the security deposit. If you make a $500 security deposit, for example, you will have a $500 credit limit.
Besides the security deposit, your secured credit card behaves just like a regular credit card. Your purchases are charged against the credit limit and you’re required to make at least the minimum payment each month. Your security deposit is held in case you default on your payments. As long as you pay as agreed, your security deposit will be returned to you.
Just some of the secured card brands we compare
How secured credit cards work
The primary difference between a secured and unsecured credit card is that a secured credit card requires an upfront security deposit as cash collateral. Other than that, you’ll still be able to us the secured credit card in the same fashion as an unsecured credit card.
Why does a secured card require a deposit?
Credit card issuers want to be certain that you’ll be able to make your payments. If you have no credit or bad credit, a security deposit alleviates some of the risk from the credit card issuer and offers collateral in case you default on the credit card agreement.
For example, you may need to deposit $200 in a separate account to access a credit line of $200 on your card. You cannot touch the $200 you deposited but you get it back after you close your card.
Why would I want a secured credit card?
Some consumers have a tough time getting approved for a credit card because they’ve had past credit problems or haven’t established a credit history yet. A secured credit card is typically used to establish new credit or to rebuild poor credit — so spend wisely and make payments responsibly to push that credit score in the right direction.
Once you’ve become a master of your credit handling capabilities and begin to see improvements in your credit score, you may no longer need to be tethered to a card with a security deposit — meaning you can apply for an unsecured card.
26 million Americans are “credit invisible,” meaning one out of every 10 Americans doesn’t have any credit history with the major credit bureaus.
Pros and cons of secured credit cards
- Get one even if you have new or damaged credit.
- You set your credit limit.
- Secured cards can come with no annual fee and low deposit requirements.
- Rebuild your credit score.
- You must put down a security deposit.
- Cards typically come with high interest rates.
- Credit is limited by your deposit.
- Cards tend to offer few rewards.
5 simple ways secured cards help rebuild credit
It helps to think of secured credit cards as training wheels, a way to add a little stability to your credit habits while at the same time proving that you’re responsible and are following the right steps toward financial independence.
Below are five simple ways a secured card can help you repair your credit.
- A first step. Secured cards can be the first taste of credit for some borrowers. It serves a great trial for credit cards because you’re using your own money.
- Credit bureau reporting. Almost all secured cards report to credit bureaus, so you can be sure that your timely payments and sensible account management will be noticed.
- Increased credit limit. You’ll instantly lower your credit utilization ratio. This could bump your score as it shows that you have available credit and you’re not maxed out.
- More lines of credit. It’ll increase your total number of credit accounts, and more accounts generally points out that you’re a creditworthy borrower.
- Creating positive habits. Secured cards will likely help you build better financial boundaries because you’re using your own money and not a line of credit.
Tips for using secured credit cards
Ideally, your secured credit card is only a stepping-stone to a better credit card. In the meantime, it’s important to use your secured credit card in a way that improves your credit score. Otherwise, it will take you longer than necessary to qualify for an unsecured credit card.
- Choose a secured credit card that reports to the major credit bureaus. A card that reports to all three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – is best, but if the card only reports to one credit bureau, that’s OK as long as the rest of the terms are favorable.
- Always make your payments on time. Payment history is the most important factor affecting your credit score. It makes up 35% of your FICO score. You can’t afford even a single late payment when rebuilding your credit score.
- Make multiple payments. The more payments you make while using your card is going to keep your balance low. This is especially important because large balances can increase your debt to limit ratio, and that can put a small dent in your credit score. You never know when a credit card lender is going to report to the credit bureaus, so you might as well stay on top of it.
- Make small purchases. It may be tempting to swipe your secured credit card for a large purchase, but that’s the type of spending that may present problems when it comes to paying the bill. Use your card for multiple smaller purchases that you can pay off at the end of the month.
- Keep your balance at a reasonable level. The amount of debt you’re carrying is the second most important factor for your credit score – accounting for 30% of your credit score. The lower your balance, especially relative to your credit limit, the better. Aim to charge no more than 30% of your credit limit.
- Automate your payments. Setting a monthly reminder a few days before the bill is due or enrolling in an autopay billing system are two surefire ways to make sure your payment is being made on time.
- Minimize any other applications for credit. Credit card issuers judge you based on the number of credit applications you make. Keep your secured credit card as your primary credit card for six months to a year before applying for an unsecured credit card.
How to choose a secured credit card
Choosing the right secured credit card is important for making sure you end up with a card that will help you rebuild your credit score. Once you’ve reviewed your options, follow these simple steps to applying for a secured card.
- Minimum security deposit. If you don’t have a lot of money to put toward a security deposit, you’ll want a secured credit card with a low deposit.
- Maximum security deposit. Look for a secured credit card that requires a high security deposit if you want a secured credit card with a large credit limit. Many limit the security deposit to $5,000, but there are a few that allow security deposits as high as $10,000.
- Interest rate. Ideally, you will pay your balance in full each month. This is the best way to build a good credit score and avoid getting into debt. If there’s a chance that you’ll carry a balance rather than pay in full each month, choose a secured credit card with a low interest rate. You’ll pay less in finance charges if you have a low interest rate.
- Reporting to the major credit bureaus. The goal of having a secured credit card is to build a new credit history or rebuild a bad credit history. Having a card that reports your account details to the major credit bureaus is a must. This way your payment history will be included in your credit report and will help improve your credit score.
- The credit card issuer. Picking a secured credit card from a major credit card issuer is often a safe choice. Choose a secured credit card from a well-known, reputable credit card issuer to be sure you’re not falling for a scam.
Understanding secured credit card fees
Secured credit cards have the same fees as credit cards, but can affect your spending limit much differently. Tread carefully with any credit card that asks you to pay additional fees to get a credit card.
- Annual fee and upfront fees. An annual fee is a fee that is charged once a year by your card provider that allows you to use the card. You may also run into secured cards that charge an application fee. The reason these fees matter is because it’s taken directly out of the initial deposit.
- How much will these fees cost? Annual fees can cost nothing or be as high as $49. Most secured credit cards won’t have an application fee, but the ones that do will typically cost around $25.
- How can I avoid these fees? As you compare secured credit cards, look for one with a low or no annual fee. This will lower the cost of having a secured credit card. Also, you won’t have much trouble finding a card without an application fee — so look elsewhere if the card you like charges this fee.
Let’s say that you’re putting a $400 security deposit on a card and the annual fee is $50 and the application fee is $25, you’d only have a credit limit of $325 left. Research different cards that appeal to you and apply for the one that allows you to get the most for your buck.
Secured credit card deposit amounts and payment windows
|Credit card||Deposit amount||Deposit window||Funding method|
|AeroMexico Visa® Secured Card||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply
Print an application and mail along with your deposit payment.
|Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card||$200 – $1,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund an account with Applied Bank.|
|Armed Forces Bank Card||$300 – $3,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund a Credit Builder Savings Account with Armed Forces Bank.|
|BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card||$300 – $4,900||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer|
|Bremer Bank Visa® Secured Card||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund an account with Bremer Bank.|
|Secured Mastercard® from Capital One®||$49, $99 or $200, based on your creditworthiness.||90 days||Bank transfer|
|Citi® Secured Mastercard®||$200 – $2,500||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer|
|Digital Federal Credit||$500 – $1,000||45 days||Bank transfer|
|Discover it® Secured Credit Card||$200 – $2,500||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer|
|Excent Secured Credit Card||$200 – $5,000||30 days||Bank transfer|
|Fifth Third Secured Card||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund an account with Fifth Third Bank|
|First Progress Elite||$200 – $2,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund an account with Synovus Bank|
|First Progress Prestige||$200 – $2,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund an account with Synovus Bank|
|First Progress Select||$200 – $2,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund an account with Synovus Bank|
|Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured Card||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer
|Justice Federal Credit Union (JFCU) VISA Classic Secured Card||$100 – 110% of pledged shares.||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer|
|Merrick Bank Secured Visa® Card||$200 – $3,000||30 days||Bank transfer
|Navy Federal Rewards||$500 – $50,000||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer (Applicant must be an NFCU member)|
|OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card||$200 – $3,000||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer|
|Green Dot primor® Visa® Classic Secured Credit Card||$200 – $5,000||30 days||Bank transfer|
|Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card||$200 – $5,000||30 days||Bank transfer|
|Green Dot primor® Mastercard® Gold Secured Credit Card||$200 – $5,000||30 days||Bank transfer|
|Green Dot primor® Mastercard® Classic Secured Credit Card||$200 – $5,000||30 days||Bank transfer|
|Green Dot® Platinum Visa®||$200 – $1,000||60 days||Bank transfer
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|Reflex Mastercard®||$50 – $2000||30 days||Mail or Phone|
|SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card||$250 – $100,000||30 days||Bank transfer|
|SKYPASS Visa® Secured Card®||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer|
|SunTrust Secured Card||$300, maximum deposit depends on your creditworthiness||Fund when you apply||Must open and fund an account with SunTrust Bank|
|Surge Mastercard® Credit Card®||$50 – $500||30 days||Undisclosed|
|TCF Bank Secured Visa® Card||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer|
|Union Bank® Secured Visa® Credit Card||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Undisclosed|
|UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card||$250 – $10,000||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer, check or money order|
|UNITY Visa Secured Credit Card - UGET25 Promotion||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer|
|US Bank Card||$300 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Bank transfer
|USAA Secured Card American Express® Card||$250 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund a USAA Bank 2-year Certificate of Deposit|
|USAA Secured Card Visa Platinum® Card||$250 – $5,000||Fund when you apply||Open and fund a USAA Bank 2-year Certificate of Deposit|
|Verve Mastercard® credit card®||$50 – $500||30 days||Undisclosed|
|Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card||$300 – $10,000||30 days||Bank transfer from Wells Fargo account
Check or money order
How to apply for a secured credit card
To apply for a secured card, follow these steps to apply online or at your local bank:
- Personal information. Be at least 18 years old, provide your Social Security number, residential status and contact details.
- Employment and income information. List your occupation, employment status and income.
- Submit application. Depending on the lender, it can take anywhere from less than a minute to a few business days to review your application.
- Provide bank account information. If approved, the lender will need your bank’s routing and account number to deposit the funds for your minimum security deposit to open the card.
What type of secured credit card do you need?
Compare secured cards by…
Secured cards by minimum deposit
Secured cards by APR
No matter what your choices are, you should carefully consider all costs involved when getting a credit card, whether it’s secured or unsecured. The way you use your credit card can directly affect your credit score, so it’s important to be finacially responsible and set realistic budgets to prove your creditworthiness in the future.