Everything You Need to Know About Secured Credit Cards

May 13, 2023
4 min read
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Understanding Secured Credit Cards

A secured credit card is a type of credit card backed by a cash deposit, which serves as collateral for your account. This deposit is usually equivalent to your credit limit. If you fail to make payments, the card issuer can take the deposit.

Secured credit cards are distinct from unsecured credit cards, which don't require a security deposit. They're typically offered to individuals with good credit scores, whereas secured cards are designed for those building or rebuilding their credit.

Using a secured credit card responsibly can indeed help improve your credit score. Regular, on-time payments get reported to the major credit bureaus, thereby establishing a positive credit history. To learn more about the process, check out our article on frequently asked questions about secured credit cards.

The Road to Better Credit

One questions comes up more than others when talking about secured credit cards: Can a secured credit card raise your credit score? The answer is yes, it can.

Using a secured credit card responsibly can indeed help improve your credit score. Regular, on-time payments get reported to the major credit bureaus, thereby establishing a positive credit history. However, missing a payment can negatively impact your score.

Access and Requirements

While secured credit cards are more accessible, especially for those with low or no credit, you can still be denied if the issuer doubts your ability to make payments. Typically, no specific credit score is needed, but you must provide a deposit, which usually starts from around $200 but can go up to thousands of dollars.

Deposits, Limits, and Fees

This deposit also determines your credit limit. However, some card issuers might increase your credit limit without additional deposits after you've shown responsible usage. Remember, the deposit is refundable upon closing the account, minus any outstanding balance.

On the downside, secured credit cards can come with annual fees and high interest rates. They also don't typically pay interest on your deposit.

Reporting and Upgrading

Most secured credit card issuers report to the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – regularly. After a period of responsible use, you may be able to upgrade to an unsecured card with the same issuer.

Risks and Considerations

The risks associated with using a secured credit card are similar to other types of credit cards - high interest rates, the potential for debt, and negative credit impacts for missed payments. Therefore, always aim to spend within your means and pay off the balance in full each month.

Secured Credit Cards for College Students

As a college student, a secured credit card can be a smart way to start building your credit history. Even without a job, you may qualify as long as you can provide the necessary deposit.

International students can also consider secured credit cards as an option, given that a U.S. credit history is often required for unsecured cards.

Secured credit cards can be used to cover college expenses, but remember, it's crucial to manage the balance responsibly to avoid high interest charges.

Wrapping Up: The Pros and Cons of Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards carry both advantages and disadvantages, making them a unique financial instrument tailored for specific individuals.

The Pros:

  1. Credit Building: Secured credit cards offer a reliable pathway for establishing or rebuilding credit history, by consistently reporting your payment activities to credit bureaus.
  2. Accessibility: They are accessible to those with low or no credit history. If you've struggled to get a conventional credit card, a secured card could be your ticket to credit initiation.
  3. Refundable Deposit: The security deposit required is refundable, provided you've paid off your balance in full.
  4. Potential for Upgrade: Responsible use of a secured card could open the door to an upgrade to an unsecured card with better terms and benefits.
  5. Controlled Spending: Because your credit limit is often equal to your deposit, it can inherently limit overspending and help promote responsible credit habits.

The Cons:

  1. Required Deposit: The upfront security deposit can be a hurdle if you don't have the necessary funds.
  2. Lower Credit Limits: Initially, the credit limits on secured cards are usually lower than those on unsecured cards.
  3. Fees and Interest: Secured cards can come with high interest rates and annual fees, which can increase the cost of using credit.

Secured credit cards can be a particularly good fit for those just embarking on their financial journey, such as college students, or individuals looking to rebuild their credit. International students or new residents without a U.S. credit history can also greatly benefit from them.

While they may not offer the high credit limits and perks of unsecured cards, they provide a stepping stone towards better credit options in the future. Always remember, whichever credit path you choose, responsible usage is key to a strong financial future.


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