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Jennifer Gimbel has over five years of experience informing editorial strategy at one of Disney’s digital media brands. Now as loans editor at finder.com, she strives to create engaging, transparent content to help readers find products to meet their financial goals. On the weekends, you can catch Jenn at the dog park with her pup Olive or exploring the streets of Brooklyn — iced coffee in hand.
What the SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card has to offer
Whether you’re just starting to build credit or trying to improve a poor credit history, the State Department Federal Credit Union SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card can help you get there. With no annual fees, balance transfer fees or foreign transaction fees, the
APR is just icing on the cake. Unlike most secured cards, this card even offers a rewards program that empowers you to earn rewards as you build credit.
There’s no hard pull on your credit history if you apply by phone, and income verification is not required. Unlimited credit limits require a minimum deposit of $250, which is placed in a savings account that earns interest.
To apply for this card, you must first have an account at the State Department Federal Credit Union. To be eligible for the account, you must be one of the following:
A member of the American Consumer Council (ACC) — a $15 lifetime membership
An employee or contractor of the State Department
A government employee on a tour of duty in a foreign affairs office
A member of an organization affiliated with the State Department FCU
ACC membership is available to any American citizen who has purchased or currently uses a major consumer product or service, including but not limited to the following:
Recreation and communications
To apply, simply visit the website and proceed through the application with all of your personal information.
What’s great about this card?
With no annual fee and free balance transfers and cash advances, secured cards don’t get much more affordable than this. If your account has over 100 transactions by the end of the year, you’ll receive a year-end summary, helping you pinpoint areas of improvement as you move forward.
Unlike most secured cards, the SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card features an incredible rewards program. You’ll earn Flexpoint rewards at a rate of 1 Flexpoint per dollar spent, and 5 bonus Flexpoints anytime you pay a bill through Bill Pay. Your points can be redeemed on:
Unrestricted travel including flights, hotels and even car rentals
Merchandise (electronics, tools, jewelry and much more)
The card also comes with an EMV chip and PIN capability, meaning it can be used overseas in countries that are predominantly rely on chip cards. And with no foreign transaction fee, this make this card a great option for international travel.
While balance transfers are free, they are still subject to the standard APR.
How to make this card worth it
This card was designed to help build or rebuild credit, and with worldwide acceptance and almost no fees, it’s easy to make this card worth it. Start by paying down a deposit to set your credit limit, then sit back and watch the interest accrue. In the meantime, stay on top of your monthly payments, maintaining the lowest balance possible to avoid fees or interest charges.
Use the card as often as possible to earn Flexpoints, and use bill pay for your monthly payments to get those five bonus Flexpoints every month. Monitor your Flexpoints balance online, then take advantage of your hard work with one of the many rewards.
What to watch out for
It’s rare to find a secured card that doesn’t charge monthly or annual fees, especially one that comes with such a generous rewards program. However, the card does have its drawbacks:
It reports as a secured card. This doesn’t directly affect your FICO score, but it can cause issues if someone checks your credit history manually. Potential lenders may want to see that you have experience with unsecured cards before approving your application.
You won’t graduate to an unsecured card. Unlike most secured cards, this card does not allow you to graduate to an unsecured card. You can, however, apply for their unsecured option once you achieve a higher FICO score.
You’ll need to cancel this card if you want to get your security deposit back. Canceling your card shortens your average age of credit history, and negatively impacts your credit. Avoid this by keeping the card open, apply for an unsecured card with a low credit limit and close this card once your credit score has gone up a bit.
Membership is required. You do have to be a member of the credit union to qualify for the card, even before you apply.
Your car may be required as collateral. The required documents form mentions that you may be required to provide them power of attorney over your vehicle. Call before you apply to see if this is necessary for your application.
How to apply for the SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card
If you’re already a member, applying for the SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card is easy. Your application can be completed online, by phone or in person. To avoid a hard pull on your credit, apply by phone.
1. Visit The State Department Federal Credit Union’s site and find the Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card on the Credit Cards page.
2. Click Apply Now.
3. Read through the required documents list and prepare all necessary information.
4. You’ll be prompted to log in to your online account, and from there you’ll be able to fill out and submit your application.
If you’d rather apply by phone, you can call their 24-hour card services line at 800-296-8882.
Rather talk to someone face to face? Visit the branch locator to find your local branch. Keep in mind that you’ll still need a membership and all of the required documents regardless of how you apply.
How likely is my approval?
Approval for this card is very likely, as there is no minimum credit score or income verification. However, credit checks are required for new users to verify your identity.
How long will it take to be approved?
Applications are processed manually and usually take less than a week.
I got the card. Now what?
Now that you’ve been approved, it’s time to start using your card. Here’s how to take advantage of your new Savings Secured Visa Platinum card:
Activate your card. Once it arrives, activate your card through an existing online banking account or by phone.
Make timely payments. You can mail in your payment or pay through your online account. And you’ll avoid interest on your purchases by paying your balance in full. Consider paying online through Bill Pay, as you’ll earn 5 bonus Flexpoints each time.
Set up autopay. Avoid unnecessary fees and interest by setting up automatic withdrawals for your monthly payments.
Customer service. Support is available by phone or secure email through your online account.
View your annual report. After 100 transactions in a year, you’ll receive a free account overview. Go through your account activity to pinpoint areas for improvement for the next year.
What do customers say?
Curiously, The State Department Federal Credit Union isn’t rated on Trustpilot or accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). They do hold an A+ rating on the BBB website, but you might want to take that with a grain of salt considering the lack of reviews. Users on the BBB website have made complaints about a lack of communication and clarity in applying for financial products, but the sample size is fairly small.
In contrast, users on the myFICO and CreditKarma forums generally have more positive things to say about the credit union. On multiple accounts, the card is praised for being the best secured card out there, backed up by mentions of great service.
This card is arguably one of the best secured cards available. Even though the card can be a bit of a hassle to obtain if you aren’t a member of the credit union, the benefits are well worth the process. Look no further if you’re looking for an affordable secured card with a low APR and a generous rewards program.
Frequently asked questions
No. If you apply via phone there is no hard pull, but applying online might be different. Customers have reported both hard and soft pulls when applying online, so you might want to speak with someone first if you are concerned.
Yes. You can add friends or family members as authorized users for your card either when you apply or through your online account, although you may be required to fill out this authorized user application form.
No. Since you put down a deposit when you apply, you are essentially borrowing your own money. While this is standard for most secured cards, there is usually a credit limit. Because this card doesn’t have a credit limit, you can deposit as much money as you want.
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