It’s more complicated than traditional secured credit cards and potentially more expensive in the long run. But it offers a unique way to help users build credit.
No credit check
Relatively low security deposit
Can't get the card immediately
Compare to Other Cards
28.24% Variable APR
10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Detailed review: Self Visa® Secured Card
The Self Visa® Secured Card, issued by Lead Bank, offers those with no credit or poor credit a unique path to establish a credit history.
Secured credit cards typically require a credit check and an upfront cash security deposit, which can be obstacles for those with bad credit history or little access to immediate funds. The Self Visa® Secured Card works a little differently, allowing you to skip the credit check and letting you build up the required security deposit by opening a Credit Builder Account, a secured installment loan necessary for eligibility.
It's an interesting model that can eliminate significant roadblocks to credit for many, but the card has its own hurdles — including an annual fee — that you'll have to clear. And because you can't get the card itself immediately, you'll have to be patient.
Self Visa® Secured Card: The basics
Card type: Secured.
Annual fee: $25.
Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 28.24% Variable.
Eligibility requirements: You must first open a Credit Builder Account, which is a secured installment loan. The installments you pay accumulate in a federally insured certificate of deposit that earns interest until the term ends and the loan is paid off. Once you save $100 or more in the certificate of deposit (which will serve as your security deposit), make three on-time monthly payments and maintain an account that is in good standing, you may qualify for the Self Visa® Secured Card.
Bonus offer: N/A.
Administrative fee: $9 when you open a Credit Builder Account. This is a one-time, nonrefundable fee.
Late fee: Up to $15 per late payment.
Return fee: Up to $15 per failed payment from a bank account.
Expedited payment fee: $3.50 when you pay your credit card balance with a debit card.
Benefits and perks
No credit check or traditional deposit required
Typically when you apply for a credit card, the issuer conducts a hard inquiry that temporarily lowers your credit scores. You don’t have to worry about that with the Self Visa® Secured Card.
And unlike with most secured credit cards, you won't need to come up with a set lump sum ahead of time that establishes your credit limit. Here's why:
The card works in tandem with a Credit Builder Account, which is a secured installment loan that you must take out before becoming eligible for a Self Visa® Secured Card. Though this loan also doesn’t require a credit check, it requires effort on your part and an administrative fee of $9 (this is a nonrefundable, one-time charge).
You'll pay the Credit Builder Account in monthly installments, starting at $25 per month, depending on the loan term. Self offers one- and two-year terms, and you can see the relevant pricing information — including annual percentage rates, finance charges and the total amount of payments — using the sliding tool on Self's website.
The installments you pay accumulate in a federally insured certificate of deposit that earns interest until the term ends and the loan is paid off. To be eligible to get the Self Visa® Secured Card, you'll need to have saved at least $100, which in terms of a deposit is relatively low compared with what other secured credit cards require.
Choose your own credit limit
Once you’ve opened a Credit Builder Account and held it for some time, it might be possible to qualify for the Self Visa® Secured Card if you meet these other requirements:
Saving $100 or more in the certificate of deposit. (This will serve as your security deposit.)
Making three on-time monthly payments.
Maintaining an account that is in good standing, with no outstanding fees.
Once you have the Self Visa® Secured Card, the minimum amount allowed as a security deposit is $100, but you’ll get to choose how much of your savings to put toward it. This amount will determine your credit limit. As with traditional secured cards, you can get the deposit back upon closing the account in good standing.
Accounts in good standing may also have opportunities to increase the card’s credit limit over time. As you make payments on your Credit Builder Account each month, you can choose to increase your credit limit up to a maximum limit of $3,000. Plus, Self considers those who have held a Self Visa® Secured Card for six months or longer for an unsecured credit limit increase. To determine eligibility for an increase, Self performs a soft inquiry that doesn’t affect your credit scores. The company also reviews your income and account management history, among other factors.
You don't necessarily need to have paid off the Credit Builder Account loan to qualify for the Self Visa® Secured Card. You need only to have saved enough in the certificate of deposit and met the card's other criteria (listed above in the "eligibility requirements" section).
Payment history reported to credit bureaus
When you use the Self Visa® Secured Card and pay the bill, that payment history — which is a large factor in your credit scores — is reported to all three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Another major factor in your scores is your mix of accounts, and with Self you get an installment loan and a credit card in one model.
Drawbacks and considerations
Your path to the Self Visa® Secured Card is not immediate. You'll first have to open the Credit Builder Account and then work your way up to qualifying for the credit card. And while there are benefits to having two types of credit, juggling the Self Visa® Secured Card and Credit Builder Account loan may seem like a lot of work.
If you want to avoid a wait, and if a larger minimum security deposit isn’t a barrier for you, consider a secured credit card you can get without an installment loan. The $0-annual-fee Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card may allow for a lower deposit of $49 or $99 for a starter credit line of $200, if you can qualify. The Discover it® Secured Credit Card requires a minimum security deposit of $200, but it offers cash-back rewards that can help offset that cost, along with a path to upgrade to an unsecured credit card. The annual fee is also $0.
There are lower-cost ways to establish credit
The costs of carrying the Self Visa® Secured Card start with the expense of the Credit Builder Account. As an example, a $600 loan you pay back in $25 monthly installments over 24 months will cost you $89 after you factor in interest and the one-time $9 administrative fee. Add to that the card’s $25 annual fee and any interest costs you may incur if you carry a balance. Suddenly, you’re spending as much as you would to get a more premium rewards credit card but without the perks that make the price tag worth it.
Some secured credit cards allow you to build credit with no fees, no interest and no minimum deposit requirement, although they also don't allow you to carry a balance from one month to the next. The Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card and Varo credit card, for instance, require you to open an account with the company that offers the cards. That account is used to fund the security deposit in the amount of your choice. Still, there's no annual fee for these cards.
Determine your credit limit by setting money aside in your Chime Credit Builder secured account. From there, you can spend what's in your account, and the bill is automatically paid each month. The card charges no interest, as you must pay your monthly bills in full.
How to decide if it's right for you
The combination of an installment loan and a credit card can help you establish credit, but having both types of credit can increase your costs, especially if you’re also paying interest charges on the Self Visa® Secured Card. So you’ll have to determine whether it's a worthy investment for your credit-building journey.
Other cards for bad credit or no credit are possibilities, too, if you’d prefer greater simplicity and lower fees. The trade-off would be having to make a higher security deposit upfront.