Best of

Best Secured Credit Cards of September 2019

Paul SoucyAugust 23, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

NerdWallet's Best Secured Credit Cards of September 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

Pros

With most secured cards, your deposit must be equal to your credit limit. But with the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, you can get a limit of $200 for a deposit of $49, $99 or $200. If you can’t come up with your whole deposit upfront, you can pay it in installments before activating your card. If you make your first five payments on time, you may gain access to a higher credit limit.

Cons

Underwriting standards are tighter than for many other secured cards. You generally won’t qualify if you don’t have a checking or savings account, if you have non-discharged bankruptcy, or if your rent is almost as high as your monthly income, among other reasons.
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Capital One:

Our pick for

Rewards and upgrading

Discover it® Secured

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

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

24.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

The rewards on this card — 2% cash back on up to $1,000 worth of spending per quarter on restaurants and gas, and 1% on all other spending — would be pretty decent on a regular card. For a secured credit card, they’re unheard of. After eight months, Discover automatically evaluates your account for possible upgrade to an unsecured card. And the annual fee is $0.

Cons

The initial deposit must be paid with a bank account; if you’re unbanked, you’re out of luck. For some people, the $200 minimum deposit will be a stretch. For others, the maximum $2,500 credit limit will be too low.
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • View Rates and Fees

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

Pros

The issuer doesn’t run a credit check on OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card applicants, making this an attainable option for people with severely damaged credit. You can make your deposit — minimum $200, maximum $3,000 — and pay your bills with a debit card, wire transfer, check or money order, making it one of the few secured cards that doesn’t require a traditional bank account.

Cons

There's an annual fee of $35 — not excessive for a card for those with very poor credit, but not $0, either. You generally can’t upgrade your account to an unsecured card.
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card.  Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.

Our pick for

Low fees and interest

Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card Credit Card
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.75%, Variable

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

The ongoing APR is 13.75%, Variable. That’s roughly half the rate of many popular secured cards — and better than what you can get on many unsecured cards. The annual fee is $0, and there are no balance transfer or cash advance fees. As with most secured cards, you have to make a security deposit equal to your credit limit, but this one doesn’t put a cap on how much you can deposit, and therefore how high your limit can be.

Cons

You must be a member of Digital Federal Credit Union. There are a number of ways to become a member, and most people can do so, but it’s still a hoop to jump through. The $500 minimum deposit is high.
  • Secured card rates well below the national average
  • Borrow against your DCU savings account
  • No Annual Fee*
  • No Fees or Higher Rates for Cash Advances and Balance Transfers
  • Works with Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, and Samsung Pay
  • Insurance, car rental, travel, and warranty benefits
  • Optional Overdraft Protection On Your DCU Checking
  • Buy online easily and safely with Visa Checkout
  • Embedded EMV chip to protect your card information

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

24.49%* Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

With an annual fee of $0 and a minimum deposit of $200, this is a low-cost, low-maintenance, no-fuss option for someone looking to build credit. When your credit improves, you may be able to graduate to one of the issuer's regular cards.

Cons

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is not a card for people with damaged or "bad" credit. It's for people building credit for the first time rather than rebuilding credit after past mistakes.
  • The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a no annual fee credit card that helps you build your credit when used responsibly.
  • Unlike a debit card, it helps build your credit history with monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus. Once available, you will also have free access to your FICO score online.
  • Use your card anywhere Mastercard® is accepted — worldwide.
  • A security deposit is required. Once approved, your credit limit will be equal to your security deposit (minimum of $200).
  • Get help staying on track with Auto Pay and account alerts.
  • With Flexible Payment Due Dates, you can choose any available due date in the beginning, middle or end of the month.
  • Manage your account 24/7 online, by phone, or in our mobile app.

Our pick for

Adjustable credit limit

Armed Forces Bank Credit Builder Secured Visa®
Annual Fee

$35

Regular APR

23.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

The Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card allows you to increase your credit limit simply by adding money to your deposit in $50 increments. (The minimum deposit is $300.) Most secured cards either don't allow you to add to your deposit or make you apply for a credit limit increase. Your deposit also earns interest.

Cons

The card has an annual fee of $35.
  • Set your own credit limit between $300 and $3,000 based on the amount you deposit into your Credit Builder Savings account.
  • Custom Credit Line - Increase your credit limit by adding funds in increments of $50 or more to the savings account.
  • Accrued Interest on Savings - The money in your savings account will earn interest, adding to your savings.
  • Automatic Reporting - We'll report your performance to the three major credit bureaus to help you build a credit history.
  • Upgrades Available - You can upgrade to an unsecured card with good performance. We'll periodically review your credit activity to see if you qualify. If you do, we'll let you know.
  • Custom Payment Date - If you are a new customer, you can choose either the 1st or 16th of each month as your payment date. Once your date is set, it can't be changed.

Our pick for

Lowest interest rate

Berkshire Bank primor® Secured Visa Gold Card Credit Card

on Green Dot's website

Annual Fee

$49

Regular APR

9.99%

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

Credit cards for people with bad credit tend to have very high interest rates — often 25% or more. The Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card, however, offers a rate lower than what you'll find on many products for people with good or excellent credit: The ongoing APR is 9.99%. There's also no penalty rate if you pay late. The card allows for credit lines as large as $5,000, assuming you have the cash to deposit.

Cons

There's an annual fee of $49, which is on the high side for secured cards. (For a lower fee but a higher APR, consider the Green Dot primor® Visa® Classic Secured Credit Card. The annual fee is $39. The ongoing APR is 13.99%.)
  • Credit lines available from $200 to $5,000! Super Low Fixed 9.99% interest rate on purchases - with no penalty rate!
  • No minimum credit score requirements! We invite all credit types to apply! No processing or application fees!
  • Helps strengthen your credit with responsible card use. Reports to three national bureaus
  • Fast, easy application process. Choose your credit line and open your Personal Savings Deposit Account to secure your line.
  • See additional Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card details

Our pick for

Military

Navy Federal Credit Union Nrewards Secured Credit Card
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

18.00% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

In addition to low fees and a clear path to upgrading, this card offers rewards — 1 point per dollar spent. Points are worth about a penny apiece and can be redeemed for cash back, merchandise or gift cards. The ongoing APR is lower than what you'll get with most secured credit cards.

Cons

You must be a member of Navy Federal Credit Union to apply, and membership is limited to current and former members of the military, civilian Department of Defense employees, and their families.
  • 1X point per dollar spent
  • No annual fees
  • No balance transfer fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No cash advance fees
  • Deposit at least $200 into your savings account (before submitting your application) to back your spending. Once approved, the deposit will determine your card’s credit limit and be held

Our pick for

Bikers ... or anyone seeking a $0 fee

US Bank Harley-Davidson Visa Secured Credit Card
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

24.99% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

The Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured Card has an annual fee of $0 and allows for credit limits of up to $5,000. There's also a rewards program: You earn 1 H-D Genuine Rewards point per dollar spent. Every time you accumulate 2,500 points, you get a $25 H-D gift card redeemable at Harley dealerships or the Harley-Davidson online store.

Cons

If you aren't a Harley-Davidson rider, you won't get much value out of the rewards, although you could always use them for gifts for the Harley lover in your life.
  • Earn one H-D™ Genuine Rewards point for every $1 in net purchases
  • Redeem 2,500 points for a $25 H-D™ Gift Card
  • Every purchase on your card earns you an entry for a chance to win a motorcycle in our H-D™ Visa Free Ride Sweepstakes
  • No Annual Fee
  • Zero Fraud Liability
  • Fraud Protection
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
  • Online Banking
  • Automatic Bill Pay
  • View Rates and Fees

Summary of Best Secured Credit Cards of September 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

Discover it® Secured

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

10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

24.99% 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

N/A

13.75%, Variable

$0

Read review
Citibank Citi® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

on Citibank's application

N/A

24.49%* Variable APR

$0

on Citibank's application

Armed Forces Bank Credit Builder Secured Visa®

Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card

N/A

23.24% Variable APR

$35

Read review
Berkshire Bank primor® Secured Visa Gold Card Credit Card

Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card

on Green Dot's website

N/A

9.99%

$49

on Green Dot's website

Navy Federal Credit Union Nrewards Secured Credit Card

Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card

N/A

18.00% Variable

$0

Read review
US Bank Harley-Davidson Visa Secured Credit Card

Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured Card

N/A

24.99% Variable

$0

Read review
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

Discover it® Secured

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

10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

24.99% 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

N/A

13.75%, Variable

$0

Read review
Citibank Citi® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

on Citibank's application

N/A

24.49%* Variable APR

$0

on Citibank's application

Armed Forces Bank Credit Builder Secured Visa®

Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card

N/A

23.24% Variable APR

$35

Read review
Berkshire Bank primor® Secured Visa Gold Card Credit Card

Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card

on Green Dot's website

N/A

9.99%

$49

on Green Dot's website

Navy Federal Credit Union Nrewards Secured Credit Card

Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card

N/A

18.00% Variable

$0

Read review
US Bank Harley-Davidson Visa Secured Credit Card

Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured Card

N/A

24.99% Variable

$0

Read review

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 $35 $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
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 August 23, 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.

Frequently asked questions

Secured credit cards require a cash security deposit, while regular "unsecured" cards do not. The card issuer requires that you deposit some money — typically $200 or more — to open your secured card account. The deposit is there to protect the issuer in case you don't pay your bill. Because secured credit cards pose less risk to the issuer, they are generally easier to qualify for.

Secured credit cards usually require you to deposit at least $200 to $300, although some have minimum requirements as high as $500. See the chart of deposit requirements above.

No. A secured credit card is different from a prepaid debit card that you "load" with money. With prepid debit, you put money on the card, and then you spend that money when you make purchases. A secured card works just like a regular credit card: You make purchases with the card, and then you pay them off later. The deposit comes into play only if you don't make your payments. In that case, the issuer can use it to pay your debt.

In most cases, your credit limit will be equal to your security deposit. So if you deposit $300, you'll have a $300 credit limit on your card. If you deposit $1,000, you'll have a $1,000 limit, and so on. Most cards set a maximum amount you can deposit — say, $2,500 or $5,000 — which also limits your credit line.

It depends on the card. With some cards, you can increase your credit limit just by depositing more money. With others, you must apply for an increase. Some cards will automatically consider you for a credit line increase if you use the card responsibly for a while — not going over your limit and paying your bill on time every month. Also depending on the card, you might be able to get a higher credit line without depositing more money.

Yes, when you close your account in good standing (meaning you've paid off your balance) or when you upgrade to an unsecured card from the same issuer, your security deposit will be returned to you.

It depends on the card. There are excellent options that don't charge an annual fee, including several on this page. If you want a card that won't require a credit check or that charges an extra-low interest rate, you're more likely to pay an annual fee. In general, you shouldn't pay more than $50 a year for a secured card.

Secured credit card interest rates tend to be high — often well over 20% APR — although there are exceptions. Credit card issuers set interest rates according to risk: The higher the risk, the higher the rate. Since secured cards are designed for people building or rebuilding credit, they usually charge higher rates than "regular" cards. Keep in mind that if you don't carry a balance from month to month — that is, if you pay your balance in full every time — then your interest rate doesn't really matter because you don't get charged interest.

No. Even though the risk is lower, issuers of secured cards still have eligibility criteria. For example, you'll need to be able to pay your bill each month, so your application could be rejected if you don't have a job or if you have only a small income. If you have filed for bankruptcy and the case is still pending (meaning a court could wipe out any debt you put on a new card), you could be rejected. Some secured cards are designed only for people new to credit, rather than those with bad credit, so you could be rejected based on negative information on your credit report.

Use it to build your credit! Make small purchases with it regularly, and then pay those purchases off in full every month to avoid paying interest. Don't max out the card — in fact, strive to keep your balance below 30% of your limit. Ideally, you won't have this card forever. It's a tool you use to demonstrate to lenders that you can handle credit responsibly. As you build a solid payment history and your credit improves, you can start looking at cards with better benefits.

Yes, but be careful. Several specialist companies offer unsecured credit cards designed for people with bad credit, but we generally advise consumers to be cautious when applying for them. They tend to charge high fees that secured cards do not — application or "processing" fees at the beginning, annual fees as high as $99, monthly maintenance fees, and so on. And unlike a secured card deposit, none of these fees are refundable.