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Building or rebuilding credit takes time and effort. For a lot of people, one step on the road back to financial health is getting a secured credit card.
By their very nature, secured credit cards require a deposit as collateral to “secure” the card in case you don’t make your payments. It makes sense, then, that there’s no such thing as a secured credit card with no deposit.
But there are some secured credit cards out there that provide extra value as you’re working to improve your credit. And once your credit is in good enough shape, you may be able to get your card unsecured and have your deposit returned to you.
Here are some secured credit cards that we think could be worth your while, even if you don’t find it ideal to put up a security deposit.
- Best for rewards: Discover it® Secured Credit Card
- Best for a flexible deposit: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
- Best for no credit check: OpenSky® Secured Credit Visa® Card
The Discover it® Secured Credit Card belongs to a rare breed of secured cards that offer rewards. With it, you’ll earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 spent in combined purchases each quarter, plus an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
At the end of your first year, Discover will match all the cash back you earned, giving you an opportunity to effectively earn at least 2% cash back on all your purchases during that time. Very few cash-back cards offer that high of a rate on all purchases.
Your security deposit can range from $200 to $2,500 and will set your credit limit to the same amount. If you use the card and your other credit accounts responsibly, Discover may return your deposit as soon as eight months after you open the account, converting it to an unsecured card. The card has a $0 annual fee.
If you don’t have a lot of cash to put down for a security deposit, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® may be a good solution. The card has an initial credit limit of $200, but you can get it with a deposit of $49, $99 or $200, depending on your creditworthiness. You may also get access to a higher credit line after you make your first five monthly payments on time.
You typically get your security deposit back on secured cards when you close your account and pay off your entire balance. But Capital One may also return it to you (as a statement credit) if it decides to make the card unsecured.
The card doesn’t have a rewards program, but its annual fee is $0 .
If your credit needs a lot of work, some secured credit card issuers may decline your application. But the OpenSky® Secured Credit Visa® Card doesn’t require a credit check, so you don’t have to worry about something like a previous bankruptcy or foreclosure preventing you from getting the card.
You can also qualify without a checking account. To pay the deposit, which can range from $200 to $3,000, you can use a debit card or send a money order or Western Union transfer.
One drawback to the card is its annual fee of $35. But if your options are limited, that may be a price worth paying.
Applying for an unsecured credit card
Whether you’re looking to build credit from scratch or rebuild after some mistakes or a financial downfall, a secured credit card could help you achieve your goal. And the sooner you can qualify for an unsecured card, the sooner you can work on getting your deposit money back from the secured card.
Fortunately, there are some good unsecured credit cards you may qualify for right out of the gate. And if you don’t, getting there is simply a matter of developing good credit habits.
How to improve your chances of getting an unsecured credit card
If you’re having a hard time getting approved for an unsecured credit card or you’ve decided it’s time to apply for one, it’s important to know what you can do to improve your credit to help you qualify. Here are some things you can start with right away.
- Pay your bill on time every month. One of the most important factors in your credit scores is your payment history, so make sure you always pay on time. To do this, set up a reminder each month or request automatic payments from your checking account. If you want to go an extra step and avoid interest, pay your entire bill (on time) instead of making only the minimum payment.
- Keep your balance relatively low. Another key factor in your credit scores is the amount of credit you use. One way to calculate this is through your credit utilization rate, which is all your balances divided by your credit limits. The lower your rate, the better it can be for your credit scores. Most experts recommend keeping your overall credit card utilization below 30%.
- Avoid multiple credit applications in a short period. It may be tempting to apply for multiple credit cards, but it’s best to give it some time first. Each individual hard credit inquiry that accompanies an application won’t do too much to your credit scores. But too many in a short period can lower your scores and signal that you’re a risky borrower, which can hurt your chances of getting approved.
As you develop these habits, your credit history can improve over time. Depending on the issuer of your secured credit card, you may have a chance to convert your current account to an unsecured one. But even if you don’t have that option, once you build up your credit, you may have a better chance of getting approved for an unsecured card to replace your secured one.
Should you apply for an unsecured credit card now?
Depending on your situation, it may be possible for you to skip a secured credit card altogether and go with an unsecured one. Here are a few examples of when this might work for you.
- You have no credit history at all. The Petal Visa Credit Card doesn’t require a credit history and uses your banking information to determine whether you qualify.
- You’re a college student. There are several unsecured student credit cards that can help you build credit — some even offer rewards.
- You have bad credit. The Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® is possible to qualify for even if you have a bankruptcy on your credit reports.
While each of these credit cards is specialized for people with limited or bad credit, you’re not guaranteed approval. Check where you’re at with your credit by taking a look at your credit scores and carefully consider your options before deciding to apply.
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There’s no such thing as a secured credit card with no deposit, but that doesn’t mean that secured cards aren’t worthwhile. Some offer significant features that can make the credit-building process more pleasant.Learn more: Credit Karma Guide to Building Credit
And depending on your situation, you may have a chance of getting an unsecured credit card, either right now or after you’ve improved your credit by using your secured credit card responsibly.