We compared a number of secured credit cards to find the best credit cards for people looking to build and improve their credit history. We’ve picked these cards because they have low annual fees, low interest rates, and helpful credit tools such as email and text alerts to ease the transition back to good credit. Lastly, and most importantly, they report to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, the three major credit bureaus that are instrumental in building your credit history.
Our three best credit cards for bad credit will give you the means to re-establish your credit history with some perks. While these credit cards are excellent means to re-establish your credit history, it's the hard work of paying balances on time and not exceeding your credit limit that matters to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee: Best Secured Credit Card with Rewards
The Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee has something that is rare among secured credit cards: a decent rewards program. The card provides users with 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations, on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. All other spending results in 1% back. One of the only other secured credit cards with a 1% rewards rate we’ve seen is the State Department Secured Card that you can find later on in this list.
One thing that is less than stellar about the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee is its interest rate. Cardholders who carry a balance must pay a 24.49% Variable APR, which is significantly higher than average. This is even high for a secured credit card. If you are someone who is prone to not pay their bill in full every month, we recommend avoiding this card and exploring other options.
You can get the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee with a relatively low minimum deposit. The card only requires you to put down $200 to open a new account. This deposit is fully refundable. You can deposit more, and note that your credit line will always be equal to the amount you have on deposit. Therefore, a $500 security deposit will translate to a $500 line of credit.
- $0 annual fee
- Minimum deposit of $200; deposit is your credit limit
- Discover matches all cash back at the end of the first year for new cardmembers
State Department EMV Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card: Best Secured Credit Card
The State Department’s EMV Savings card offers the best benefits we’ve seen among secured credit cards: the lowest APR, no annual fee, AND a rewards program. You don’t need to be a State Department employee, but there is one step to take for eligibility that's worth the benefits. Here’s why we think it’s the best:
The best feature of the State Department secured card is its Flexpoints Rewards program. Most secured credit cards do not have a rewards program, but with the EMV Savings Secured Visa, you can build your credit cake and eat it, too. The points you earn can be redeemed for a nice 1% rewards rate - a sweetener to help the credit improvement process.
With an APR of 6.99%, this card has the lowest variable APR we’ve seen among secured cards, and even regular credit cards. For those of us who find it difficult to pay card balances off in full, this will be the most lenient card, since the remaining balance won’t incur interest at as steep a rate as the 16% average we’re seeing among secured cards.
Additionally, there is no annual fee and a relatively low deposit of $250 to get you started on rebuilding your credit scores. Once your credit score is improved enough to qualify you for an unsecured card, you can keep the State Department secured card open at no extra annual fee to extend the good history on your credit report.
Lastly, you don’t need to be a U.S. State Department employee to be eligible – there are other easily available options, such as a $15 lifetime membership to the American Consumer Council, or employment at select Virginia or DC companies.
- No annual fee, extremely low 6.99% variable APR
- Minimum deposit of $250; deposit is your credit limit
- Flexpoint Rewards program with 1% rewards rate
- Eligibility: State Department employee or family member, American Consumer Council membership
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®: Best Secured Credit Card for Financial Flexibility
The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is a great all-around credit card for people looking for more financial flexibility since it has the lowest minimum deposit requirements and low annual fees. With these lower application amounts, you won't need to pay as much upfront to open the card.
What's special about the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is that your security deposit can be extended towards a higher credit limit. While other secured credit cards set your credit limit to equal your security deposit, Capital One®'s starts at $49, and can get you a credit limit beginning at $200 if approved. Other secured cards typically ask for a minimum deposit beginning at $200 for an equivalent credit limit. Capital One® Secured Mastercard® helps stretch cardholders' dollars further and provide extra financial flexibility that other cards won't have.
Lastly, it has no annual fee, which is cheaper than the average annual fee of about $35 that other bank secured cards will charge.
There's a great set of tools to keep cardholders on top of credit improvement. For example, enrolling your account online lets you monitor your credit score and credit report with Capital One®’s free CreditWise® service. Email and mobile alerts are helpful and necessary reminders in case you forget to make a payment - the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® has a relatively high APR of 24.99% and a penalty of up to $35 for late payments.
- $0 annual fee, 24.99% variable APR
- Minimum deposits of $49, $99, or $200 for credit limit of $200+
- Eligibility: Checking or savings account anywhere, certain restrictions for existing and previous Capital One® customers
Navy Federal nRewards Secured Card: Best Secured Credit Card for Military Families
If you’re affiliated with the military, and you don’t want to or can’t qualify for the State Department’s card, then the Navy Federal Secured Card is the best card for military families. With this card, you'll get no annual fee, a low 8.99% variable APR, and the nRewards program.
It’s a great card to have if you’re realistically going to carry a balance – better an 8.99% APR than the 16% secured card average we’re seeing. The minimum deposit of $500 is a bit higher than other secured cards, but allows more breathing room in credit purchases during the month. On top of this, the nRewards program amounts to a 0.5% rewards rate – a nice sweetener that most other secured cards lack. Best of all, when you apply for an unsecured credit card after improving your credit, you can keep this card open at no annual fee to build upon the longevity of your accounts.
- No annual fee, low 8.99% variable APR
- Minimum deposit of $500; deposit is your credit limit
- nRewards program with 0.5% rewards rate
- Eligibility: Personnel of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Department of Defense, and their families
Here are a few other secured credit cards we evaluated for your reference. We’ll explain why they’re still generally decent for people rebuilding their credit, but paled compared to our best secured credit cards. Regardless of which secured card you pick, the most important things are paying your credit card bills on time and staying under your approved credit limit.
DCU Visa Platinum Secured
This is a strong credit union card with no annual fees, but its variable APR of 11.5% is higher than both the State Department's EMV Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card and the Navy Federal nRewards Secured Card. Additionally, you don’t get an opportunity to earn rewards through DCU. There are a large number of organizations that are eligible for membership, or you can donate $10 to Reach Out for Children instead.
U.S. Bank Secured Visa
With the U.S. Bank Secured Visa, your security deposit is your credit limit - this is the primary reason it lost out to the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, which doesn’t require as much of a deposit for a higher credit limit. Compared to the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, the U.S. Bank Secured Visa has a higher annual fee of $35, a lower variable APR of 20.99%, and a similar credit monitoring tool called FlexControl.
USAA Secured Card Visa Platinum® Card
USAA is a fabulous organization, but its secured credit card paled in comparison to the State Department and the Navy Federal credit union’s secured offerings. The USAA card costs $35 a year, and has a higher variable APR (11.40% - 21.40% Variable) compared to the two no-fee cards (variable APRs of 6.99% and 8.99%, respectively). On top of this, the two other cards have rewards program on their credit card spending of 1% and 0.5%, respectively, which the USAA card lacks.
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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.