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We compared a number of secured credit cards to find the best credit cards for people looking to build and improve their credit history. These cards were selected because they have a low annual fee 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.
Best Secured Credit Cards
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 provide an excellent way to re-establish or build your credit history, it's the hard work of paying balances on time and not exceeding your credit limit that matters most when rebuilding a credit score.
Discover it® Secured: Best Secured Credit Card with Rewards
The Discover it® Secured 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 is its interest rate. If you are someone who is prone to carry a balance from month to month, we recommend avoiding this card and exploring other options.
You can get the Discover it® Secured 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 once you close the card, minus any fees or outstanding balance. You can deposit more than the minimum of $200, but 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.
- 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 Savings Secured Visa Platinum 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. The best feature of the Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card is its Flexpoints Rewards program where you earn 1 point for every $1 spent on the card. The points can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, hotel stays, airfare and more.
With an APR of 13.49%, this card has the lowest variable APR we’ve seen among secured cards, and even regular credit cards. For those 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 as steep as the 16% average we’re seeing among secured cards.
Additionally, there is no annual fee and a relatively low minimum 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 Savings Secured Visa Platinum 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 Washington, D.C. companies.
- No Annual Fee, extremely low 13.49% 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. What's special about the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is that your initial security deposit can be as low as $49 (note, you’ll need access to an authorized bank account to make your security deposit). While other secured credit cards set your credit limit to equal your security deposit, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® starts at $49, and can get you a credit limit beginning at $200 if approved. The card currently offers a refundable minimum security deposit of $49, $99 or $200 (note, you’ll need access to an authorized bank account to make your security deposit). 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 don't have. The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® also carries a $0 annual fee.
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 26.99% (Variable) and a penalty of up to $39 for late payments.
- $0 annual fee, 26.99% (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 Credit Card: Best Secured Credit Card for Military Families
If you’re affiliated with the military, and don’t want to or can’t qualify for the State Department’s card, then the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is a good choice 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 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 bonus 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
Other Great Credit Cards for Bad Credit
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 keeping your balance under your approved credit limit.
DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card
This is a strong credit union card with no annual fees, but its variable APR of 11.5% is higher than both the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® and the Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit 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 Card
With the U.S. Bank Secured Visa Card, 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 Card has a higher annual fee of $29, a lower variable APR of 20.49% , and a similar credit monitoring tool called FlexControl.
FAQs about secured credit cards
Here are some common questions about secured credit cards.
Can you get turned down for a secured credit card?
It is possible but unlikely for some people to be turned down for a secured credit card. This is because the deposit you put down to secure your credit line usually mitigates the risk a bank takes in lending to someone with a lower credit score. However, if you've recently gone through a bankruptcy or some other major event that damages your credit, you may not be immediately able to access a secured card.
What is the best secured credit card to build credit?
Any secured credit card that reports to the three major credit bureaus will help you build credit. However, we suggest opening one that does not charge an annual fee.
How fast can you build credit with a secured card?
It takes time to build a strong credit profile. Thankfully, opening a secured credit card is a great first step toward establishing a great score. While there is no specific timeline for when you'll have excellent credit, first time credit users who open a secured card can typically qualify for an unsecured beginner card within six to eight months.