Secured credit cards offer a lifeline to those looking to build or rebuild their credit. Designed for people with limited or poor credit history, these cards can open the door to better financial opportunities. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of secured credit cards, compare options from banks like Chase, Bank of America, and Citi, and provide tips for responsible credit management.
How Secured Credit Cards Work
Secured credit cards work just like regular credit cards. You can use them to make purchases, earn rewards, and build your credit history. However, there are some key differences between secured and unsecured credit cards.
A secured credit card requires a security deposit. This deposit acts as collateral for the bank. For example, if you deposit $300, your credit limit will often be the same amount. Banks like Bank of America and Citi offer secured cards with various deposit and credit limit options. Both banks require a minimum deposit of $200 as of Mar 2023.
Interest rates and fees vary among secured cards. Shop around to find the best deal. Some cards offer a clear upgrade path to an unsecured card after demonstrating responsible credit use.
Choosing the Right Secured Credit Card
When comparing secured credit card options, consider factors like annual fees, interest rates, credit limits, and reporting to credit bureaus. Also, review upgrade options and additional benefits, like rewards programs or free credit monitoring.
Many financial institutions offer zero annual fees (like Bank of America, and Citigroup), so check around.
The interest rate for a secured credit card is often very high, around 20 %/year or higher, so I recommend trying your best not to have to pay interest.
Most reputable institutions should offer free FICO score monitoring so that benefit should be a given.
Building and Improving Credit with a Secured Credit Card
Your credit history and score are vital in today’s financial world. To build credit with a secured card, follow these steps:
- Pay on time.
- Keep a low balance. If you can, try to pay the monthly balance in full before the deadline. This way you don’t need to pay interest.
- Monitor your credit reports.
Timely payments and low credit utilization show lenders you’re a responsible borrower. With good habits, you can improve your credit over time. If you want to deep dive into FICO credit score and its main components, take a look at this guide.
Transitioning to an Unsecured Credit Card
Once you’ve demonstrated responsible credit use, consider upgrading to an unsecured credit card. Before applying, compare options and review your credit report to ensure it reflects your progress. You can check directly with the bank/ current financial institution on whether you can get an unsecured credit card based on your history thus far.
Common Secured Credit Card Mistakes to Avoid
To maximize the benefits of your secured credit card, avoid these common mistakes:
- Overextending credit utilization.
- Late or missed payments.
- Ignoring interest rates and fees.
- Not monitoring credit reports and scores.
- Applying for too many credit cards at once.
- Closing the secured credit card too soon.
Alternatives to Secured Credit Cards
If a secured credit card isn’t the right fit, consider alternatives likeauthorized user status on a family member’s credit card, co-signed credit cards or debit cards.
Frequently Asked Questions about Secured Credit Cards
Do secured cards actually build credit?
Yes. As long as your financial institution reports your payment history to the credit bureaus, a secured credit card can be a good option to build or rebuild your credit.
How quickly will a secured card build credit?
Credit improvement varies based on individual circumstances. By consistently making on-time payments and keeping low balances, most people see improvement within 6-12 months.
What are the downsides of getting a secured credit card?
There are disadvantages with secured credit cards like:
- Higher annual fee or interest rates: you can mitigate these by looking for a provider without an annual fee and paying the full account balance at every statement cycle. This way you don’t need to pay interest rate.
- Your money is tied up as a security deposit at the credit card company.
- Low credit limit: because your security deposit is often your credit limit, a secured credit card often comes with a low credit limit.
Can a secured credit card hurt my credit?
Misusing a secured credit card, such as late or missed payments, can negatively impact your credit.
Does Chase offer Chase secured credit card?
As of Mar 2023, Chase does not offer a secured credit card. You can check all of Chase credit card offerings here.
Does Bank of America offer a secured credit card?
Yes. You can read more about Bank of America secured credit card here.
Does Citigroup offer a secured credit card?
Yes. Citi secured MasterCard is available. You can read more here.
How much does a secured credit card give you?
The amount you deposit (known as a security deposit) often becomes your credit limit. So if you deposit $500, $500 is your credit limit. For the actual details, please check with your bank or the financial institution that you plan to apply a secured credit card.
How much should I spend on $200 credit limit?
Generally, you should keep your credit card balance below 30% of your credit limit. So if your credit limit is $200, you should try to keep the balance below $60. (I understand that this is an incredibly small amount, especially in this sky-high inflationary period.) So try paying off your balance multiple times per month/statement cycle to reduce your credit utilization ratio.
Secured credit cards can be a valuable tool for building or rebuilding credit. By understanding how they work, choosing the right card, and practicing responsible credit management, you can pave the way for a brighter financial future. Remember, the key to success is consistency and patience.