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The UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card is intended to serve as an interim card — a product to take you from poor credit (FICO scores of 629 or lower) to good credit (scores of 690 or higher) before you move on to a traditional "unsecured" credit card.
As a secured credit card, it requires that you make an upfront but refundable deposit that becomes your credit limit. Your payment activities are reported to all three major credit bureaus, helping you establish your credit history over time.
In addition to your deposit, the UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card charges a $39 annual fee, and there's a $10 fee to increase your credit limit. It can be used wherever Visa cards are accepted.
Issued by OneUnited Bank, it faces stiff competition from other starter credit cards geared toward those who are building credit. Here are five things to know about the UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card.
1. It’s possible to have a very high credit limit
Typically, secured credit cards offer a limited credit limit of up to $3,000 or so, depending on the card. But the UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card allows for initial deposits of $250 to $10,000, which is helpful to applicants who have the cash and desire a higher credit limit, but who lack the credit history typically required for it.
You must fund the security deposit from a bank account, which can present a roadblock for applicants who don’t have one. Some secured cards, like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card, accept money orders and other forms of funding.
2. Making bill payments isn’t straightforward
You can’t simply pay your bill by logging into your account online or through an app. Your options include:
Mailing in your payment. The risks include your payment not arriving on time or getting lost along the way. If you intend to pay this way, you'll need to plan to do so far ahead. Payments cannot be made in cash.
Making a payment using your bank’s online bill pay service.
Pay online through Speedpay. This third-party platform charges a fee for each payment.
The fact that this card doesn’t offer many quick, easy or fee-free ways to make payments online is a drawback and a bit surprising, especially since OneUnited Bank offers mobile and online banking for its checking and savings accounts.
3. Ongoing APR is fixed, and there's an intro rate on balance transfers
The ongoing annual percentage rate is lower than the interest rates that some other secured cards charge, including those from major issuers, but it’s still on the high end. There's also a promotional rate for balance transfers: Pay 9.95% on balance transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 17.99% (Fixed). The balance transfer fee is 3% or $10, whichever is greater, with a maximum $150 fee.
This card does not impose a higher penalty APR if you're late with a payment. Late payments can incur a fee of up to $10, but that's lower than what major issuers typically charge. As of 2021, federal regulations allow late fees as high as $40.
4. The card issuer provides a credit-building education program
The UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card is offered by Boston-based OneUnited Bank, which describes itself as the nation's largest Black-owned bank. A core part of its mission, the bank says, is to garner Black spending power "and channel it back into the communities we serve."
The bank's offerings include options for underserved consumers — not only its secured credit card for building or rebuilding credit, but also second-chance checking accounts for those who have had trouble opening an account because of past issues.
OneUnited provides a self-guided How to Rebuild Credit Program, which provides tips and action items for anyone seeking to improve their credit. It recommends many of the same things we do at NerdWallet, including pulling your credit reports for free, making more than the minimum monthly payment and always paying your bills on time.
Why should you bother to build your credit? Excellent credit scores will get you the best terms on future loans, as well as help you qualify for assorted needs, including cell phones, rental homes or jobs. The UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card seeks to help open up the opportunities that come with great credit.
5. The website may not provide the information you need
The card’s website isn't easy to navigate, which can make it difficult when you’re weighing the UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card against other options.
Ultimately, you can find much of what you may be seeking if you dig enough and search through the fine print. But, for example, the "frequently asked questions" page answers only six of the 16 listed questions (and some of those unanswered questions are good ones — including how you manage your account and fund your security deposit).
Ideally, it would be easier to find the card's fees, security deposit minimums, funding methods and more.