If you have poor credit, you’re not alone. According to Experian, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, 16% of Americans have a FICO score of 579 or less, putting them in the “poor” range. And nearly 45 million people may be credit invisible, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, meaning they have no established credit history that can create a credit score.
If you’re looking to rebuild your credit or establish a credit history from scratch, a simple strategy is to sign up for a secured credit card.
Jump to the best secured credit cards of September 2023:
- Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
- OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
- Citi® Secured Mastercard®
- First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card
- Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card5
- Discover it® Secured Credit Card
- BankAmericard®️ Secured Credit Card
How a secured credit card works
With a secured credit card — which is a great first credit card — you put down a refundable security deposit. The amount of that cash deposit is typically the same as the spending limit you'll be given. Then you just use your new card like a credit card.
As you make payments, the credit card company reports your activity to the credit bureaus. With regular, on-time payments, you could improve your credit. This could help you in the future if you apply with lenders or other credit card issuers.
If you decide to close the secured credit card account in the future, you'll get your deposit back.
The best secured credit cards of September 2023
Secured credit cards differ from traditional credit cards in that they require you to put down a deposit upfront. That deposit is typically held in a savings account. Your deposit acts as collateral, minimizing the credit card company’s risk if you don’t pay up. As your credit improves, you may be able to transition to a regular credit card that is unsecured and doesn’t need a security deposit.
The secured credit card market has become fiercely competitive in recent years. Now, some credit card companies have card offers that include benefits like cashback rewards, travel benefits, and introductory APR (annual percentage rate) offers.
When shopping around for a card, make sure you keep these perks in mind as you review credit card offers. But also take into account other factors like the issuer's mobile app, cash advance and other fees, and the APR.
As you look for a card, consider its security deposit requirements, credit limits, and any benefits it may offer. Here are seven of the most popular secured credit cards available:
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Why we like this card: The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is the perfect stepping stone toward higher-tier cards. You could get a limit of up to $200, and your payments will contribute to your credit history as Capital One reports to all three credit bureaus.
Who this card is good for: This card is perfect for those looking for their first credit card. With no annual fees and automatic credit line reviews, it’s an easy-to-use card for newbies.
If you’re looking for a secured credit card with the potential to qualify for a higher credit line, check out the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card.
With no annual fee, you can get approved for the card with a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, depending on your creditworthiness. You can deposit more funds to raise your credit limit. The minimum credit limit you can receive is $200, and the maximum is $1,000. Don’t get discouraged if you’re only approved for the minimum. Cardholders get automatic consideration for a credit line increase in as few as six months after opening the account.
Capital One reports your payment activity to all three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — so make all of your payments on time to boost your credit.
The Capital One Platinum Secured card does not have a special intro APR. New purchases and balance transfers will be subject to the regular variable APR. To avoid paying a lot in interest charges, make sure you pay your statement balance in full by the due date each month. In addition, remember that any balance transfers will also be subject to a balance transfer fee. This is all typical of secured credit cards.
The card doesn’t offer any rewards, but it does have some useful benefits, including travel accident insurance, auto rental damage collision coverage (secondary coverage), and 24-hour travel assistance services.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Why we like this card: The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card comes with no credit check and a relatively low annual fee of $35. OpenSky also reports to all three credit bureaus, so your credit can start to improve with on-time payments.
Who this card is good for: Since OpenSky doesn’t do a credit check, this card is for borrowers with very low credit scores, such as those who recently went through bankruptcy. Additionally, those looking for a slightly higher credit limit will appreciate the fact that this card comes with a limit of up to $3,000.
If you want more control over your credit limit, the OpenSky Secured Visa may be a smart option. OpenSky doesn’t do a credit inquiry when you apply, making it a smart choice for those looking for a credit card after declaring bankruptcy. Instead, you choose your own credit limit — from $200 to $3,000 — and secure it by making a one-time deposit for the full amount of your credit limit.
However, this flexibility does come with a cost. The OpenSky Secured Visa Card has a regular interest rate that is high in comparison to some other cards. This card also has an annual fee of $35. There are some other fees to keep in mind, too:
- Foreign transaction fees: If you travel outside of the country, you’ll be charged 3% every time you use your card.
- Late payment fees: If you pay late, you could be charged up to $38.
The OpenSky Secured Visa Card doesn’t offer any rewards or card benefits like travel insurance. But OpenSky reports to the three major credit bureaus, helping you build your credit history.
Check out our OpenSky Secured Visa® Credit Card review.
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
Why we like this card: The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a simple, straightforward credit card that comes with some flexibility. With credit lines between $200 and $2,500 and the ability to choose your monthly payment date, first-time cardholders can find a lot to like about this card.
Who this card is good for: Anyone with little to no credit will appreciate the Citi Secured Mastercard. Plus, anyone looking for a $0 annual fee will also like this card.
If you’re looking for a simple card with no annual fee, consider the Citi Secured Mastercard. If approved for the card, you’ll have to provide a security deposit. Your credit limit is equal to your security deposit; the minimum deposit possible is $200, and the maximum is $2,500.
The Citi Secured Mastercard will charge you a regular variable APR for all purchases and balance transfers; there is no intro APR offer. It also has a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
The card doesn’t have a rewards program, but Citi does report your activity to the three major credit bureaus. And if your card is lost or stolen, you’ll get access to Citi Identity Theft Solutions, a free program to help you resolve the problem.
Check out our Citi Secured Mastercard review.
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card
Why we like this card: The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card requires no credit in order to qualify, so the application process is fast. Plus, you get access to your free credit score and have continued Experian monitoring so you can see how your score improves.
Who this card is good for: Users with no credit history will appreciate that they can still qualify for this card. Plus, there’s a wide range of $200 and $2,000 for the deposit amount, so a variety of budgets can handle this card.
The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard is one of many secured credit cards offered by First Progress. The Prestige card charges the lowest interest rate of the three cards but also has the highest annual fee at $49. Of course if you're working to build or improve your credit and paying your balance in full each month, then you won't have to worry about interest charges anyway.
There is no way to upgrade to an unsecured credit card with First Progress, so apply for the Platinum Prestige card only if you are only looking to establish credit and do not have aspirations of converting the card in the future. This card does also carry a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not the best card to use for international travel.
The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured is not available to residents of Arkansas, Iowa, New York, or Wisconsin.
Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card5
Why we like this card: Chime® 3 has it all: no credit check required, a $0 annual fee, and no minimum security deposit requirement.2 Plus, your on-time payments are reported to all of the credit bureaus, which may help you start building credit quickly.
Who this card is good for: Since it’s required that you have a Chime® Checking Account, this card is best for those who are already Chime users. For anyone looking for a no-credit-needed card with a $0 annual fee (and a decent checking account, too), this card has a lot to offer.
The Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card comes with no monthly fees, no interest, no deposit requirements, and no credit check. These features make it a strong contender in the secured credit card world.
Do note that you’ll need to open an account through Chime if you don’t already have one to qualify for the Secured Chime Credit Builder. To open a checking account, you will need a qualifying direct deposit of at least $200 in the past year. Whatever you move from your Checking Account to your Credit Builder account is the amount you can spend on the card.2
Chime will report to all three credit bureaus and, with on-time payments, you can slowly start to build your credit history. Secured Chime Credit Builder users see an increase of 30 points to their scores, on average.1 4
Check out our Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa review.
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Why we like this card: The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a rare secured card that offers rewards. Plus, with a $0 annual fee and no credit score needed to apply, anyone looking to build credit can get started with this card.
Who this card is good for: Those who want rewards with their secured card will like this card. And, since the highest tier of rewards is for restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 quarterly), those who travel or eat out frequently will be especially happy with the Discover it Secured Credit Card.
The Discover it Secured Credit Card comes with a $0 annual fee and no credit is required to apply. Your card won’t just help you build your credit, but you’ll also earn rewards at the same time. You’ll earn 2% cash back on purchases at restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 quarterly), and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
On top of that, Discover matches all your cash back earned in your first year as a cardholder.
Your credit line can range from $200 to $2,500. The exact line you’ll get will depend on the security deposit you put down. After seven months of on-time payments, Discover will automatically review your profile and may convert your card to an unsecured card.
Check out our Discover it Secured credit card review.
BankAmericard®️ Secured Credit Card
Why we like this card: The BankAmericard®️ Secured Credit Card is a no-frills card with the ability to have a fairly high credit line of up to $5,000. Plus, there’s a $0 annual fee, and you have the ability to access your monthly FICO score.
Who this card is good for: This card is meant for those looking for an easy-to-use secured card that comes with a potentially high credit limit.
The BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card is a $0 annual fee secured card that comes with a few extras. You don’t have to have good credit when you apply, you just have to make a deposit between $200 to $5,000, which then becomes your credit line.
You’ll also get beneficial features like Balance Connect, which offers overdraft protection for certain Bank of America checking accounts, and your free monthly FICO score.
Best secured credit cards compared
|Credit Card||Minimum Security Deposit||Annual Fee|
|Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card||$49||$0|
|OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card||$200||$35|
|Citi® Secured Mastercard®||$200||$0|
|First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card||$200||$49|
|Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card||None||$0|
|Discover it® Secured Credit Card||$200||$0|
|BankAmericard®️ Secured Credit Card||$200||$0|
How to build credit with a secured credit card
Just opening a secured credit card account won't build your credit automatically, but there are some simple things you can do to help your credit score improve over time:
- Choose a credit card issuer that does monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus.
- Always make your monthly payments on time. Late payments can have a negative impact on your credit bureau file.
- Don't spend so much that you fill up your entire line of credit. If you're spending a lot and only making minimum payments, you could use up a lot of your credit line and this could negatively impact your credit score.
If you keep your account in good standing, you may eventually be able to request a bigger line of credit from the credit card issuer, or you may even be able to convert your secured card to an unsecured card. Not all credit card companies have the perk of being able to convert your card, so if that is important to you be sure to read all the details of the card you're interested in before you apply.
Secured vs. unsecured credit cards
A secured credit card requires a security deposit, usually of at least a few hundred dollars, which is held in an account by the issuer and is used to secure the cardholder's line of credit. This security deposit is generally equal to the cardholder's credit limit and is refunded when the cardholder closes their account or upgrades to an unsecured card.
Unsecured credit cards are issued without a security deposit and are backed only by the cardholder's creditworthiness. Both types of cards can be found at a variety of financial institutions, including banks and credit unions, and both typically offer mobile and online banking.
The primary difference between secured and unsecured cards is the amount of risk that the issuer is taking on. With a secured card, the issuer has the security of a deposit to cover any losses due to the cardholder failing to make payments, while with an unsecured card there is no such guarantee if the cardholder fails to make payments. As such, secured cards usually have more lenient credit requirements than unsecured cards.
Secured cards can be useful for those with limited or no credit history, as they are easier to qualify for and can help to build or rebuild credit. On the other hand, unsecured cards offer more rewards and benefits and can be a great way to increase spending power as long as you can keep up with payments.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the major differences between secured and unsecured cards.
|Secured Credit Cards||Unsecured Credit Cards|
|Type of credit||Collateral-backed||Not backed by collateral|
|Credit limit||Typically based on security deposit||Based on creditworthiness|
|Eligibility||Lower credit scores||Higher credit scores|
|Security deposit||Often required||Not required|
|Annual fee||Many come with annual fees||More options of no-annual-fee cards|
|Rewards||Often none||Travel rewards or cash back|
Alternatives to secured credit cards
Secured credit cards are far from the only option for fair-credit, bad-credit, or no-credit borrowers. Here are a couple of alternatives to consider:
- Unsecured credit cards with more lenient requirements: There are some unsecured credit cards that have less-strict credit requirements. While these cards offer lower-tier rewards, if they offer rewards at all, those with poor but not terrible credit can still qualify.
- Personal loans: Personal loans provide access to funding without having to put down a deposit. Borrowers with poorer credit may still be able to qualify if they have a stable job and proof of income, but they may have to settle for higher interest rates.
- Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card: Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card allows you to access a credit line without taking on any of the legal responsibilities associated with credit card ownership. This is a good way to help build credit, but it's important for authorized users to understand that the primary cardholder, who may be a relative or close friend, is ultimately responsible for repayment of the debt. Making sure you're able to pay any charges you make on the card will go a long way toward keeping this relationship a positive one.
- Credit building loans: Credit building loans are designed for people trying to build their credit from scratch. These loans may come with higher interest rates than other types of loans, but they also offer an opportunity to demonstrate responsible credit use and make payments on time.
What is the difference between an unsecured and a secured credit card?
With a secured credit card, you deposit a fixed amount of money into an account. The credit card issuer holds onto that deposit as collateral and extends you a credit line that is typically equal to your deposit amount (the Capital One Platinum Secured is an exception to this). Similar to a regular credit card, once you reach the credit limit, you can’t use your card again until you make a payment.
Unlike secured cards, unsecured credit cards don’t require a deposit. Instead, credit card companies issue a credit line based on your credit report, reported income, and other factors that indicate your creditworthiness to them.
Do secured credit cards help build credit?
The potential for building credit is one of the biggest benefits of opening a secured credit card. A secured card can help you improve your credit score if you choose one that reports to the three major credit bureaus and if you demonstrate responsible use of the account.
Two important factors that determine your credit score are your payment history and your utilization ratio. Your payment history is reported to the credit bureaus, and if you pay your secured card on time every month, this record of steady payments could improve your credit score.
Credit utilization ratio is the amount of credit you're actively using versus the total available credit you have. If you have a secured card with a $500 limit and you charged $100 to it, your utilization ratio is $100 divided by $500, or 20%. Keeping your credit utilization below 30% is ideal for working toward a good credit score.
Can you get turned down for a secured credit card?
Yes, although secured credit cards will not have as stringent of requirements as cards for excellent credit, it is still possible get to turned down for a secured credit card. This could happen because you are not able to provide proof of sufficient income. It may also happen because you have an extremely low credit score or a history of bankruptcy.
Whatever the reason, the credit card issuer will send you a letter that explains their decision. Knowing why they turned you down could help you make adjustments to your finances so you can get approved in the future.
If you can't get a secured credit card on your own, you might consider becoming an authorized user on the account of a trusted friend or family member or opting for something like one of the best prepaid debit cards if you're looking for a way to purchase things online like you would with a credit card. Prepaid cards can be a good option if you also don't have a bank account.
If you have bad credit or no credit at all, applying for a secured card is a great first step in building your credit history. Be sure to review all the details of potential cards when you apply, including any maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees, and cash advance fees.
To take full advantage of your new card, use it wisely and make all of your payments on time.
After several months of managing your account, you might be able to improve your credit score — you could even qualify for a higher credit limit or a traditional unsecured credit card.
To choose the best secured credit cards, we identified secured credit cards that are accessible to people with lower credit scores. We compared features like welcome offers, annual fees, and other account fees. We did not include all possible options.
Great Starter Card for Those With No Credit
Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
Reports to all three major credit bureaus
Unlimited 1% cash back on eligible purchases; after 6 on-time payments, earn 1.25% cash back; after 12 on-time payments, earn 1.5% cash back