Best of

Best Secured Credit Cards of April 2019

NerdWalletMarch 29, 2019

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NerdWallet's Best Secured Credit Cards of April 2019

Our pick for

Low deposit

Capital One Secured Mastercard Credit Card

on Capital One's website

on Capital One's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® may not be a good fit for folks recovering from major credit damage, but it could be an excellent match for someone getting a credit card for the first time.

Our pick for

Rewards and upgrading

Discover it Secured Credit Card

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

25.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

recommended credit score

When you consider the rewards, the lack of an annual fee and the opportunity for an upgrade, the Discover it® Secured is the best secured credit card we've seen.

Our pick for

No credit check or no bank account

Capital Bank Open Sky Secured Credit Card

on Capital Bank's website

on Capital Bank's website

Annual Fee

$35

Regular APR

19.64% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

You don't have to undergo a credit check to apply, and you don't need a bank account to qualify. If these are areas of concern for you, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is definitely worth a look. If not, there are better (and cheaper) alternatives.

Our pick for

Low fees and interest

Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card Credit Card

on Digital Federal Credit Union's website

on Digital Federal Credit Union's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.75%, Variable

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

It’s best to pay your credit card bill in full every month, especially when working to build credit, but if you must carry a balance, the DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card is less expensive than most other secured cards.

Our pick for

Basic card for thin credit

Citibank Citi® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

24.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a low-hassle card: Get it, use it to build credit, then move up to a product with better terms.

Our pick for

Adjustable credit limit

Armed Forces Bank Credit Builder Secured Visa®

on Armed Forces Bank's website

on Armed Forces Bank's website

Annual Fee

$25

Regular APR

23.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

The Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card from Armed Forces Bank makes it easy to increase your credit line over time to give you greater flexibility and keep your credit utilization low.

Our pick for

Lowest interest rate

Berkshire Bank primor® Secured Visa Gold Card Credit Card

on Green Dot primor's website

on Green Dot primor's website

Annual Fee

$49

Regular APR

9.99%

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

Although it's always best to pay your credit card in full each month, especially when you're trying to build credit, the low interest rate on the Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card takes a much smaller bite when you do carry a balance.

Our pick for

Military

Navy Federal Credit Union Nrewards Secured Credit Card

on Navy Federal Credit Union's website

on Navy Federal Credit Union's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

18.00% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

The Navy Federal Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is just about everything a secured card should be. It does require a security deposit, but there's no annual fee, no unnecessary application or "account management" fees, and starting at six months — with good payment behavior — your account will be considered for conversion to unsecured status.

Our pick for

Bikers ... or anyone seeking a $0 fee

US Bank Harley-Davidson Visa Secured Credit Card

on US Bank's website

Rates & Fees

on US Bank's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

25.24% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

You don't need to be a Harley enthusiast to carry the U.S. Bank Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured card. It's a decent product you can use to build a good credit history.

Summary of Best Secured Credit Cards of April 2019

Credit CardIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeLearn More
Capital One Secured Mastercard Credit Card

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

on Capital One's website

N/A

26.99% Variable APR

$0

on Capital One's website

Discover it Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

25.24% Variable APR

$0

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Capital Bank Open Sky Secured Credit Card

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

on Capital Bank's website

N/A

19.64% Variable APR

$35

on Capital Bank's website

Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card Credit Card

DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

on Digital Federal Credit Union's website

N/A

13.75%, Variable

$0

on Digital Federal Credit Union's website

Citibank Citi® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

on Citibank's application

N/A

24.74% Variable APR

$0

on Citibank's application

Armed Forces Bank Credit Builder Secured Visa®

Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card

on Armed Forces Bank's website

N/A

23.24% Variable APR

$25

on Armed Forces Bank's website

Berkshire Bank primor® Secured Visa Gold Card Credit Card

Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card

on Green Dot primor's website

N/A

9.99%

$49

on Green Dot primor's website

Navy Federal Credit Union Nrewards Secured Credit Card

Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card

on Navy Federal Credit Union's website

N/A

18.00% Variable

$0

on Navy Federal Credit Union's website

US Bank Harley-Davidson Visa Secured Credit Card

U.S. Bank Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured card

on US Bank's website

N/A

25.24% Variable

$0

on US Bank's website

Credit CardIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeLearn More
Capital One Secured Mastercard Credit Card

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

on Capital One's website

N/A

26.99% Variable APR

$0

on Capital One's website

Discover it Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

25.24% Variable APR

$0

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Capital Bank Open Sky Secured Credit Card

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

on Capital Bank's website

N/A

19.64% Variable APR

$35

on Capital Bank's website

Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card Credit Card

DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

on Digital Federal Credit Union's website

N/A

13.75%, Variable

$0

on Digital Federal Credit Union's website

Citibank Citi® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

on Citibank's application

N/A

24.74% Variable APR

$0

on Citibank's application

Armed Forces Bank Credit Builder Secured Visa®

Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card

on Armed Forces Bank's website

N/A

23.24% Variable APR

$25

on Armed Forces Bank's website

Berkshire Bank primor® Secured Visa Gold Card Credit Card

Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card

on Green Dot primor's website

N/A

9.99%

$49

on Green Dot primor's website

Navy Federal Credit Union Nrewards Secured Credit Card

Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card

on Navy Federal Credit Union's website

N/A

18.00% Variable

$0

on Navy Federal Credit Union's website

US Bank Harley-Davidson Visa Secured Credit Card

U.S. Bank Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured card

on US Bank's website

N/A

25.24% Variable

$0

on US Bank's website

Getting a secured credit card

Who can be approved?

Even though secured credit cards are available to people with bad credit, and even though the security deposit reduces the risk to the issuer, approval is not guaranteed for everyone:

  • The issuer will usually (but not always) check your credit report for signs that you're an unacceptable credit risk. If you're in the middle of a bankruptcy, for example, or you're currently delinquent on other accounts, or you've opened a bunch of new accounts recently, you're unlikely to be approved.
  • You'll also have to show that you have income so you can pay your credit card bill. Yes, the issuer has your deposit, but it will use that money to cover your bill only as a last resort. You're expected to pay your bill every month, so you'll need income.

How does the process work?

Every issuer handles things a bit differently, but the process of applying for, receiving and using a secured credit card works like this:

  1. You apply for the card. The issuer evaluates how risky you are (a process called underwriting), and if you pass muster, you're approved.
  2. You fund the deposit. Before the issuer will open your account, you have to pay your security deposit. In some cases, you must provide bank account information with your application so the deposit can be transferred right away. Other times, the issuer will give you some time to pull together the deposit. If you neglect to fund the deposit, the issuer will change the status of your application from approved to rejected.
  3. You receive the card. Once your deposit is funded, the issuer will send you your card. You can then use it just like any other credit card. In general, it's best to use less than 30% of your available credit at any given time, so don't go maxing out your secured card. Use it for a few small purchases each month and pay them off promptly.
  4. You get your bill and pay it each month. Because secured cards tend to charge very high interest rates, it's best to pay your bill in full every month to avoid finance charges. The issuer reports your payments to the credit bureaus, which helps you build credit.
  5. You upgrade. As your credit moves from bad to average to good, you'll be in a position to qualify for better cards:
  • Some issuers automatically review your account for potential upgrade to an unsecured card. For example, Discover does this with the Discover it® Secured after eight months. Navy Federal Credit Union starts automatic reviews after six months when you have the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card. When your issuer moves you to an unsecured card, you get your deposit back.
  • With other issuers, you may have to specifically request an upgrade. That might mean converting your secured account to unsecured or closing your secured card and opening a new unsecured account. Either way, you get your deposit back.
  • If your issuer can't or won't upgrade you — and keep in mind that not all secured-card issuers even offer unsecured cards — you can apply for unsecured cards separately. Eventually you'll want to close the secured card to recoup your deposit.

Alternatives to secured credit cards

Unsecured cards for bad credit

Several issuers specialize in unsecured credit cards for people with bad credit, but NerdWallet generally doesn't recommend them. That's because these "subprime specialist" cards tend to charge high fees that can easily add up to much more than a typical minimum security deposit — annual fees up to $99, application fees, "activation" and "processing" fees, monthly maintenance fees and so on. And unlike the deposit on a secured card, those fees are money you can't get back. Our roundup of the best and worst cards for bad credit has more information on cards to avoid.

Prepaid debit cards

Prepaid debit cards offer convenience and are a safer alternative than carrying cash, but they don't help you build credit. With a prepaid debit card, you "load" money onto the card, and the purchases you make are paid for with that money. Since you're not borrowing money, there's no effect on your credit score. See NerdWallet's best prepaid cards.

Credit-builder loans

Offered mostly by smaller financial institutions, such as credit unions and community banks, these loans are designed to help you build a good payment history. The money you "borrow" isn't actually given directly to you. Instead, it's held on your behalf in a savings account while you repay the loan in monthly installments. Once you're done, the money is released to you — and your credit report shows a paid-off loan. Learn more about credit-builder loans.

Personal loans

These loans can be secured or unsecured. Unsecured loans (those without collateral, such as a car title) generally have higher interest rates than secured loans. The better your credit, the lower your rate is likely to be. Conversely, those with bad credit can expect to pay very high rates, if they can get a loan at all. Learn more about personal loans.

Secured credit cards: Fees and deposits

Card Annual fee Minimum deposit Maximum deposit
Capital One® Secured Mastercard® $0 $200* $1,000
Discover it® Secured $0 $200 $2,500
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card $35 $200 $3,000
DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card $0 $500 No set maximum
Citi® Secured Mastercard® $0 $200 $2,500
Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card $25 $300 $3,000
Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card $49 $200 $5,000
Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card $0 $200 Not specified
U.S. Bank Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured card $0 $300 $5,000

* Some applicants for the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® may be able to qualify for a $200 credit line with a deposit of $49 or $99, depending on creditworthiness.

Last updated on March 29, 2019

Methodology

NerdWallet's Credit Cards team selects the best secured credit cards based on overall value, as evidenced by star ratings, as well as suitability for specific kinds of consumers. Factors in our evaluation include annual and other fees, security deposits (both the minimum required and maximum allowed), APRs, whether a card offers an option to upgrade to an unsecured account, the availability of free credit scores and other credit education, reporting to credit bureaus, and other noteworthy features such as a rewards program or the ability to qualify without a credit check.