Best Secured Credit Cards to Build Your Credit
Building a strong credit profile and improving your credit score takes time. It also takes effort. And a secured credit card is one of the tools you can reach to help you build your credit.
But not all secured credit cards are alike. Secured credit cards offer varying amounts of a required deposit. Some cards charge an annual fee for usage. Other secured cards ding cardholders with a higher interest rate. Let’s take a look at what features you should look for and our pick for the best-secured credit cards to build, or rebuild, the right way.
- What is a secured credit card?
- Overview of the best-secured credit cards
- Secured Mastercard from Capital One
- Discover it Secured
- Citi Secured Mastercard
- OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card
- Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card
- Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card
- First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card
- BankAmericard Secured Credit Card
- A glance at the best-secured credit cards
- The bottom line
What is a secured credit card?
A secured credit card requires you to put down a refundable security deposit, in turn, the credit card company issues you a credit line that matches the amount of your deposit. The idea is you can’t go too crazy with your spending because you’re limited in the amount you can charge to your credit card. A secured credit card provides guardrails for your card usage. Basically, it is like having a debit card that is provided by credit card issuers.
Most secured credit cards do not have a minimum credit score requirement or even perform a credit check. You typically only need an authorized bank account and refundable security deposit to get started. Because these are prepaid cards, in a sense, if you don't have funds on the card you won't be able to complete the charge. It also means you won't have late payments and you can build credit as the lenders report responsible use.
Some cards will accept a security deposit and assigned a limited line of credit, giving you the opportunity to make monthly payments by the due date and earning creditworthiness. The issuer is trusting you to make on time payments and at the end of your first year may transfer your account to a regular credit card account with more freedom with your good standing.
Overview of the best-secured credit cards
|Card issuer||Best for|
|Secured Mastercard from Capital One||Low initial deposit|
|Discover It Secured||Earning cash back|
|Citi Secured Mastercard||No credit history|
|OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card||Low APR|
|Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card||Military members building credit|
|Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card||Adjustable credit limit|
|First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card||Choices with secured cards|
|Bank Americard Secured Credit Card||Higher credit limit|
Best-secured credit cards
Secured Mastercard from Capital One
The Secured Mastercard from Capital One is a great option for those with little money to put down a deposit, or who simply don’t want a large initial credit line. Some applicants may qualify for a $200 credit line, even with only a $49 deposit. After six months, if you’ve made payments on time, you are eligible for your first credit line increase, without an additional deposit.
The Secured Mastercard from Capital One comes with other features helpful when building or rebuilding your credit from a challenging credit score. You can manage your card online, by phone, or via an app. Plus all three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, TransUnion, Experian — receive your credit payment history with this card. This means you can improve your credit score when using the card responsibly.
Discover it Secured
The Discover it Secured is a strong contender for those who have no credit history and need a card to start. Like other secured credit cards, you secure this one with a refundable security deposit and then you’re issued the matching amount for a credit line. For example, if you put down $200, your credit line is $200. Your credit usage is reviewed after 8 months to see if you qualify for a credit line increase.
But don’t worry, once you put down a security deposit, the credit card is fully functioning and can be used wherever credit cards are accepted. The Discover it Secured even earns unlimited cash back, with 2% cash back when you use your card at gas stations and restaurants, and 1% cash back for all other purchases. Plus you have other benefits from a Discover card, such as no over-limit fees (for your credit line) and no rate hike if you’re late on one payment.
Citi Secured Mastercard
If you have no credit history whatsoever, the Citi Secured Mastercard is a fantastic option to help you establish your credit. A refundable security deposit is required, and it can range from $200-$2500, depending on your application. Plus you’ll enjoy no annual fee and a 22.49% annual percentage rate (APR) — one of the lowest APRs on our list.
The Citi Secured Mastercard helps you establish your credit history by reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus. Once available, you receive free access to your FICO score online, an essential tool for managing your credit. Other features of this credit card include Citi Identity Theft Solutions, to help you quickly deal with identity theft issues, and $0 fraud liability if your card information is compromised. You can also use the Citi Secured Mastercard in your digital wallet, for the ultimate convenience.
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card
The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card is another secured credit card option on our list, ideal for building or rebuilding your credit. But unlike others, the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card has one of the lowest APRs we’ve seen for a secured card — 17.39%. The application process is quick and easy, and you get started with a $200 refundable deposit of up to $3,000.
With this card, your credit report is not checked, another reason this card is ideal for someone who has a bad credit report (or no credit history) and is looking to rebuild positive credit history. It’s also a way to apply for a credit card without your credit score getting impacted. You follow the application process online, so you’re aware of every step of the way if you’re approved. Once you’re approved, you have access to the OpenSky Facebook community, where you can connect with others who are along a similar credit journey as you.
Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card
For our military family members establishing or rebuilding credit, the Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card was designed with you in mind. With a $200 refundable security deposit, you can apply for this card and receive a matching initial credit line. With a relatively low APR of 18.00% and no annual fee, this is another useful option for a secured credit card. If you meet the eligibility criteria, this is one of the best-secured credit cards available.
One of the best perks with the Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card is the enrollment into the rewards program. For every dollar you charge on your credit card, you earn one point in rewards. These rewards can be redeemed for cash back, merchandise, or gift cards. And after three months (one of the shortest time periods for a secured card), your credit profile is re-evaluated to determine if you’re eligible for a credit line increase. Other big perks of this card include rental car protection and cell phone protection, which are hard to find benefits with other secured cards.
Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card
The Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card offered by Academy Bank is designed for those who need to rebuild and repair their credit score. A refundable security deposit of $300 is required to get started, and you can increase your deposit and credit limit in $50 increments which makes increasing the amount of your credit limit quite flexible. After an undetermined time period, your payment history and card usage is evaluated, and it’s possible you could be offered a secured credit card.
The Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other secured credit cards, but there are a few helpful perks. This card won’t charge you additionally if you accidentally go over your credit line. When you’re enrolled, your information is shared with the credit bureaus, so this card aids in establishing or re-establishing credit. The annual fee of $35 is high compared to others, and you need to enroll in paperless e-statements — otherwise, you’ll be charged $4.50 additional each month.
First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card
First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card is part of the family of First Progress secured credit cards. There are three cards total, all of which you’re applying for at once when you submit your application. The Platinum Elite version has the lowest annual fee of $29, while the Platinum Prestige and Platinum Select versions have higher annual fees.
This secured credit card is a no-frills, no extras type of card, but it is ideal for those who don’t want their credit score impacted when you submit the application. There is no credit history or minimum score required to apply, but the minimum refundable security deposit is $200. If you’re a resident of Arkansas, Iowa, New York, or Wisconsin you won’t be eligible to apply for this particular secured credit card.
You should also note the annual fee for each of the cards in First Progress Platinum Mastercard Secured Credit Card series counts against your credit line. For instance, if your annual fee is $29 and you have a $200 credit line, then when your annual fee is charged your line is reduced to $171 (until the fee is paid).
BankAmericard Secured Credit Card
The BankAmericard Secured Credit Card from Bank of America is fitting for those who need a secured credit card but also want a higher credit line. Although a minimum deposit of $300 is required, you can put down a refundable security deposit up as much as $4,900. The card doesn’t charge an annual fee and has a somewhat competitive APR of 22.49%.
What makes the BankAmericard Secured Credit Card optimal is the number of tools you receive to help you build and manage your credit. You receive free monthly FICO score updates. Your secured credit card can be used in your digital wallet and the online and mobile banking apps are convenient. This card also includes the $0 Liability Guarantee for fraudulent transactions, in case your card or number is stolen and misused.
A glance at the best-secured credit cards
|Card issuer||Rewards program or cash back||APR||Annual fee||Minimum deposit required||Time required for credit line increase|
|Secured Mastercard from Capital One||None||26.99% variable||$0||$49||6 months|
|Discover It Secured||2% at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter, 1% all other||22.99% variable||$0||$200||8 months|
|Citi Secured Mastercard||None||22.49% variable||$0||$200||6 months|
|OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card||None||17.39% variable||$35||$200||6 months|
|Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards Secured Credit Card||1X points per dollar spent used towards cash back or merchandise||18.00% variable||$0||$200||3 months|
|Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card||None||20.99% variable||$35||$300||“With good performance”|
|First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card||None||19.99% variable||$29||$200||N/A|
|BankAmericard Secured Credit Card||None||22.99% variable||$0||$300||Variable|
Is a secured credit card a “real” credit card?
Yes, a secured credit card is a real credit card. You can use it for all the same applications and circumstances you would use with an unsecured card. The only difference is your credit line is limited to the amount you put towards your refundable security deposit.
Can I rent a car with a secured credit card?
Yes, you can rent a car with a secured credit card, similar to an unsecured version. If you do rent a car, make sure you have enough available credit for the rental car company to hold and charge against your credit line.
Will a secured card raise my credit score?
Although exact numbers are hard to pinpoint, if you make your payments on time and use your card responsibly, you will see an improvement in your credit score over time. It may take a few months to see the positive impact, but eventually, your score will reflect your hard work.
Who should use a secured credit card?
If you don’t have any credit history, you may find it difficult to apply and get approved for an unsecured credit card. A secured credit card however, gives you the opportunity to establish a creditworthiness, with a simple refundable security deposit structure. Your credit profile will be shared with the credit bureaus, and your history is established.
But a secured credit card offers a chance to those who have established credit and your FICO score is less than ideal. Once you show you can make payments on time, your credit score can show an improvement, and help you rebuild your credit.
The bottom line
Building or rebuilding your credit profile takes work. And a secured credit card is one of the many tools available to you to aid you during the building process. Like other types of credit cards, each secured credit card has its own unique features and benefits to fit your profile and lifestyle. Use our guide to help you find the best one, and watch your path to a strong credit score take shape.