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Best secured credit cards for October 2021

If you have a checkered financial history or no credit, a secured credit card can be an effective way to build (or rebuild) your credit.

Credit cards offer a convenient way to pay for things without carrying cash. But if you have a troubled financial history or no credit history at all, getting a credit card can feel downright impossible. That's where the secured credit card comes in. Secured credit cards are easier to get approved for, relatively simple to maintain and some can even be upgraded down the road.

Unlike traditional credit cards, a secured credit card asks for an upfront security deposit and your "credit limit" is usually equal to the amount you deposit. So, if you deposit $200, you'll receive a $200 credit line. This is a refundable security deposit and some card providers even issue your deposit back as a statement credit once you show a pattern of responsible credit usage. It's an arrangement that's particularly useful for someone who needs a credit builder account to demonstrate they can reliably make a monthly payment before applying for a regular credit card.

Like traditional cards, secured credit cards report your payment history to the three major credit bureaus. That means by paying your statement balance each month, you'll be able to watch your credit score improve

Our recommendations for the best secured credit cards highlight options that allow you to recover your cash deposit and transition to a conventional, unsecured card once your credit is in better shape and you can meet the minimum credit score required for a regular credit card. Most recommendations also have no annual fee and one option avoids a hard credit check all together. Check out our picks for the best secured credit card. We'll update this list periodically as new options become available.

Best secured credit card

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR26.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit Limited, Bad
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A
Balance Transfer Fee $0 at this Transfer APR
Balance Transfer APR26.99% (Variable)
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None

Our Take

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card* may give you up to $200 in credit when you deposit between $49 and $99 -- making it one of the few secured cards to offer actual credit. (Your particular terms depend on your specific application and credit score.) And this card checks all of the boxes: $0 annual fee, modest minimum security deposit of $49 -- and the opportunity to get your minimum deposit back after demonstrating responsible credit usage. You could also be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months. Also nice: Capital One will preapprove you with a soft credit check, providing a risk-free peek at eligibility before you submit an official application to the credit card company. 

Best secured credit card with a higher credit line limit

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR22.99% Variable
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward RatesN/A
Annual FeeNone
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR22.99% Variable
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of the U.S. dollar amount of each transaction

Our Take

The BankAmericard Secured Credit Card* offers the table stakes: a $0 annual fee and an opportunity to get your deposit back and transition to a standard Visa credit card account. The only real potential drawback is the slightly higher minimum credit line: $300, which is $100 more than our other top picks. Still, this is a solid offering from a well-known national bank with solid online tools and plenty of retail locations. 

Best secured credit card with rewards

See Rates and Fees
Card Highlights
Intro BonusIntro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
APR22.99% Variable
Recommended Credit New/Rebuilding Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR10.99% for 6 months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Balance Transfer APR22.99% Variable
Late Payment Fee None the first time you pay late. After that, up to $40.
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

Our Take

Another excellent choice, the Discover it Secured Credit Card* offers a $0 annual fee and $200 minimum credit line. You may qualify for a deposit refund after eight months of paying your statement in full and on time.

It's worth noting that this card also features a rewards program -- though be cautioned that it could tempt you to spend more than you can afford. And if you're approved for the card with a lower credit line limit, the 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined quarterly purchases, then 1%) and 1% cash back on other purchases won't amount to much, anyway.

Best secured credit card with no credit check required

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR17.39% (variable)
Recommended Credit No credit check
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$35
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Late Payment Fee Up to $38
Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of each Transaction in U.S. dollars
Penalty APR None

Our Take

The OpenSky Secured credit card application doesn't require a credit check, making it a good option -- and perhaps a last resort -- for people with low credit scores. If you're a student and just starting out, or you've been declined by another issuer, this card may be a good second choice.

But you'll have to pay the price: There's a $35 annual fee. And given that part of the credit rehab process is leaving credit accounts open for as long as possible -- in order to build back a credit history and work toward lower credit utilization, you may end up paying that annual fee for years to come. Still, if the card helps rebuild your credit, it's well worth the cost. 

FAQs

What is a secured credit card?

This type of credit card usually requires an upfront deposit equal to the credit limit. So, for a card with a credit limit of $500, you'd need to deposit $500. Secured credit cards are still subject to late and rejected payment fees and generate interest on outstanding balances. As such, a secured credit card presents lower risk to card issuers and allows them to extend lines of credit to borrowers who don't have good credit or meet the minimum credit score threshold.

How much should I deposit when I open an account?

We recommend depositing no more than $300 to $400 for a secured credit card. Given that you want to keep your credit utilization low by paying off the account two or three times per month, the actual limit doesn't matter too much. Any additional funds should be placed in a bank account (either checking or savings) to ensure you're keeping your card balance at $0.

How is my credit score calculated?

Credit scores are calculated by looking at a variety of factors related to your personal credit, including length of credit history, payment history, amounts owed, new credit and credit mix. The exact weight of each factor depends on the score model (FICO, VantageScore, or other) and your own credit history. If, for example, you have no credit history, the other factors may be weighted more heavily. (Check out this article for more information on credit scores.) 

How long does it take to improve my credit score?

After opening a secured credit card account, it will take around one to two months for the secured credit card issuer to report it to a major credit bureau, at which point it will begin impacting your credit report and your credit score. Then it takes several additional months before the account's activity is substantial enough to make a difference. If you maintain a low or $0 balance and manage the rest of your financial house responsibly, you could raise your score several hundred points in a year or two, but it'll depend on your particular situation. If you have a longer credit history with a number of issues, it will take longer. If you have a shorter history, each month's activity will play a much larger role. 

Why do you recommend paying off the account two to three times a month?

By paying off your account more than once a month, you greatly reduce the risk of paying late, missing a payment or getting charged interest for an outstanding balance. We recommend choosing set days to make payments, like the 15th and 30th of every month, or the 10th, 20th and 30th. 

How often should I use my secured credit card?

Swipe it two or three times a month to ensure the account is considered active. There's just no reason to use it any more than that, or make it your primary way of paying for things. A secured credit card is a tool for repairing damaged credit from an unsecured card or cards or establishing and building credit. To simplify your finances, it's best to make other purchases with cash or a debit card. Studies show that consumers who pay with credit tend to spend more than they would if they paid with cash, so if you're trying to right the ship or start on the right track, it's best to first establish a budget through cash or debit card purchases to ensure you don't spend beyond that budget.

Should I keep a secured credit card once my credit is in better shape?

Yes. Keeping the account open, active and with a $0 balance will continue to improve your credit score as the length of the credit history grows and you maintain a low credit utilization.

Is there ever a situation when I would use a secured credit card like a balance transfer credit card?

No. We don't ever recommend transferring a balance to a secured credit card. Some websites may tout particular secured credit cards for introductory 0% APR offers but we strongly advise against transferring a balance. If you're looking for a card for balance transfers, check out our article on the best balance transfer credit cards or look into other ways of dealing with credit card debt.

More credit card recommendations

*All information about the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card, BankAmericard Secured Credit Card, and the Discover it Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.