Updated on Sep 21, 2017

Best Secured Credit Cards for 2017

Take the first step toward positive credit with a secured credit card.
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In the journey to build positive credit, many people take the first step using a secured credit card. Why? The best secured credit cards make it easy to rebuild or establish credit when you have a poor credit score or no credit history at all. If you’ve found that an unsecured credit card isn’t an option right now, then a secured credit card is a good way to bridge the gap until you can upgrade to an account without a security deposit. You won’t jump from poor credit to exceptional credit overnight. But, with the right secured credit card and some financial best practices to help you out, you’ll be on your way to building positive credit. Check out our list of the best secured credit cards, apply online, and start your journey to build positive credit today.

Summary

Best secured credit cards of 2017

The Simple Dollar’s top picks

Pro tip: Many secured credit cards come with higher interest rates. If you’re carrying a balance, you can calculate your credit card interest. Or, you can pay your card off in full and on time each month to avoid paying interest altogether.

Best overall

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee
Security deposit $200 to $2,500
Reward details 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations; 1% cash back on other purchases

Free monthly credit score Available
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Discover Show Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
  • Your Secured Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line. You will need to provide your bank information when submitting your security deposit.
  • We will automatically begin reviewing your account starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • New! Free Social Security Number alerts, we’ll monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.*
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 10.99%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 6 months
  • Ongoing APR: 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

If establishing or rebuilding credit is your primary concern, but having some perks is a secondary consideration, you might want to think about the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee. Put down $200 to $2,500 in a security deposit to open your account – with no annual fee! – and you can start earning rewards. As a cardholder, you can take advantage of 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. You’ll earn even more cash back at the end of your first year thanks to Discover’s automatic dollar-for-dollar Cashback Match™. Pay your balance in full and on time each month to build credit and possibly qualify for a refund of your security deposit after only eight months.

How to use it
  • Your credit limit will be equal to your initial deposit of $200 or more. To keep credit utilization low (a major factor in your credit score), carefully consider any large purchases and pay off your balance in full each month.
  • Use your card to make purchases at restaurants and gas stations to earn 2% cash back, up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, get 1% cash back everywhere else.
  • Pay your balance in full and on time each month to build your credit, avoid paying interest, and possibly receive a deposit refund.
  • Watch your credit score improve with FICO® credit score reporting, free on your monthly statements.
Consider this

The Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee offers a lot of perks; however, if you’re someone who cooks at home mostly and/or doesn’t own a car, the benefits might not be as lucrative. In that case, you may want to focus on building credit with minimal upfront costs and fees. The Capital One® Secured MasterCard® offers no annual fee, and you may be able to open a $200 line of credit for as little as $49 depending on your credit score.

Why you'll love it

One word: Rewards! Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee is one of the only secured credit cards to help you build positive credit while also earning rewards. You can even use the cash back you earn to help pay off your statement. There’s a lot more to love about the card as well – no penalty APR, no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and waived first late-payment fee.

Start your application now

Best for military members and their families

USAA Secured Card® Platinum Visa®
Security deposit $250 to $5,000 in the form of an interest-earning CD
Reward details None. However, your CD will earn interest at a variable rate over two years.

Free monthly credit score Available
Annual Fee $35
Highlights Provided by USAA Savings Bank Show Highlights
  • Best for members rebuilding or establishing credit.
  • Determine your own credit limit ($250 to $5,000) with an interest-earning CD.
  • No foreign transaction fees when you travel outside the United States.
  • Issuer: USAA Savings Bank
  • Annual Fee: $35
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the amount of each transfer (maximum fee per transfer $200).
  • Cash Advance APR: 10.90% to 20.90%
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 10.90% to 20.90%
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

As a member of the military, you and your family can work on establishing or rebuilding credit with minimal upfront costs with the USAA Secured Card® Platinum Visa®. The card has some of the best features of any secured credit card – small $35 annual fee, no penalty APR, no foreign transaction fee, and super-low 4% APR during deployment and PCS. Additionally, unlike other cards that hold your security deposit until it’s refunded or the account is closed, USAA will put your deposit in an interest-earning certificate of deposit (CD) for two years. This means your security deposit is actually earning you money while you repair your credit.

How to use it
  • Put down a security deposit of $250 to $5,000 in the form of an interest-earning CD. The amount you put down will be equal to your credit limit.
  • Pay your balance in full and on time each month to build your credit and avoid paying interest. There’s no penalty APR, but late payments can carry a fee of up to $35.
  • Take advantage of $0 foreign transaction fees during international trips.
  • Leave the CD untouched for two years to avoid penalties for early withdrawal.
Consider this

You’ll want to think twice about closing your account before two years are up. While your security deposit earns you money as an interest-earning CD, you’ll need to keep it there for the full two years to receive the interest and avoid an early-withdrawal penalty. If you’d like your security deposit back sooner rather than later, with responsible credit management, consider the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee.

Why you'll love it

What the USAA Secured Card® Platinum Visa® lacks in rewards, it makes up for in military-friendly perks. Military members and their families can take advantage of the small annual fee, no penalty APR, no foreign transaction fee, and super-low 4% APR during deployment or PCS. As a bonus, your security deposit will actually earn interest over the course of two years.

Start your application now

Best for low fees

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
Security deposit $49, $99, or $200 based on creditworthiness
Reward details None

Free monthly credit score Available
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • 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, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • 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
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: N/A
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Cash Advance APR: 24.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 24.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you want the benefits of a credit card with minimal upfront costs and low fees, take the Capital One® Secured MasterCard® into consideration. With most secured credit cards, the security deposit you put down is equal to your credit limit; however, Capital One offers the chance to get a $200 line of credit for as little as $49 or $99 (depending on your creditworthiness). Plus, there’s no annual fee! You can get a higher line of credit two ways. First, deposit more money before your account opens to increase your spending power. Or, make your payments on time and in full to build your credit and possibly qualify for a higher credit line after five months – no additional deposit needed.

How to use it
  • Put down more than the minimum security deposit to score a larger credit limit (up to $1,000).
  • Pay your first five monthly payments on time to get access to a higher line of credit – no additional funds needed.
  • Pay your balance in full and on time each month to build your credit, avoid paying interest, and possibly receive a deposit refund.
  • Take advantage of $0 foreign transaction fees during international trips.
  • Use Capital One’s CreditWise tool to access your credit score and keep an eye on your credit profile as you rebuild your credit.
Consider this

Be sure to pay your balance in full and on time each month to avoid paying interest and late fees. The Capital One® Secured MasterCard® does have an interest rate of 24.99% variable APR and a late payment fee of up to $35.

Why you'll love it

For most secured credit cards, what you put down is equal to your credit limit. However, depending on your credit score, you may be able to get a $200 line of credit for as little as $49 with the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®. Even more exciting is that making your first five monthly payments on time may result in Capital One increasing your credit limit without increasing your security deposit.

Start your application now

Best for moving to an unsecured card

U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card
Security deposit $300 to $5,000
Reward details None. However, your security deposit will be placed in an interest-earning savings account.

Free monthly credit score Not available
Annual Fee $29
Highlights Provided by U.S. Bank Show Highlights
  • You are not responsible for unauthorized transactions if your U.S. Bank Secured Visa card is ever lost or stolen.
  • detects and notifies you of any unusual card activity to help prevent fraud.
  • It's yours automatically - at no extra cost - when you charge your entire car rental on your U.S. Bank Secured Visa Card and decline the rental company's collision damage waiver option. Coverage on a 24-hour basis for damage due to collision or theft.
  • The easiest way to bank online! With this service you can view current statements, download account history, check your balance, make a payment from your U.S. Bank Checking or Savings account, get a cash advance and much more.
  • Take advantage of this easy way to pay bills online.
  • U.S. Bank offers this online tool that can help you avoid interest and late fees with automatic payments that put you in control. It can also help you pay down a balance faster. Learn more at usbank.com/flexcontrol.
  • Issuer: U.S. Bank
  • Annual Fee: $29
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 24.99%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 2% USD, 3% Foreign Currency
  • Ongoing APR: 19.99%
  • Penalty APR: Not applicable

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you want to make the transition from secured to unsecured as seamless as possible, consider the U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card. Use the card responsibly for a year by paying your balance off in full and on time each month to request a review of your account. If approved, you may qualify to upgrade to an unsecured account – no extra cards or hard inquiries needed! To become a card member, you’ll pay a small annual fee of $29 and then put down $300 to $5,000 to open your account. Unlike some other secured cards, your security deposit will be placed in an interest-earning savings account that earns you money until it is refunded, the account is upgraded, or you close the account in good standing.

How to use it
  • Put down a security deposit of $300 to $5,000. The amount you put down is the amount you have available in credit.
  • Pay your balance in full and on time each month to build your credit and avoid paying interest.
  • Use your card responsibly for 12 months to possibly “upgrade” to an unsecured credit card.
Consider this

In order to upgrade to an unsecured credit card, you’ll need to keep your account in good standing and raise your credit score. This means keeping your credit utilization below 30%, as well as paying your balance off in full and on time each month.

Why you'll love it

The U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card offers the most straightforward approach to upgrading from a secured credit card to an unsecured credit card. After a year of using the card responsibly, making payments on time, and increasing your credit score, U.S. Bank will upgrade your account and release your security deposit. That’s it – go from secured to unsecured with one card and no extra hard inquiries.

Start your application now

Best for low APR

First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
Security deposit $200 to $2,000
Reward details None

Free monthly credit score Not available
Annual Fee $49
Highlights Provided by Synovus Bank Show Highlights
  • Fund your new MasterCard® secured credit card with your tax refund today!
  • Our card reports monthly to all three major bureaus and approval is based upon a fully-refundable security deposit.
  • We can approve you at any credit score, no minimum required.
  • No processing or application fees required.
  • Full-featured Platinum MasterCard, accepted for car rentals, hotels, and millions of other locations worldwide.
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 - $2,000 Submitted with Application
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI
  • Issuer: Synovus Bank
  • Annual Fee: $49
  • Cash Advance APR: 18.99%, Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Ongoing APR: 9.99% (Variable)

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you want an interest rate that’s much lower than the national average of 16%, then consider the First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card. The card features one of the lowest APRs of any secured card at just 9.99%. While we never recommend carrying a balance from month to month, sometimes things happen. In those cases, you’ll feel better knowing you aren’t being hit with a super high-interest rate. Pay your balance in full and on time each month to avoid paying interest altogether, build positive credit, and possibly receive a credit line increase of up to $5,000 from First Progress.

How to use it
  • Put down a security deposit of $200 to $2,000. The amount you put down is the amount you have available in credit.
  • Pay your balance in full and on time each month to build your credit and avoid paying interest.
  • Use your card responsibly to possibly receive a credit line increase of up to $5,000.
Consider this

The First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card has the highest annual fee on our list at $49. If you’re disciplined about making payments and avoiding interest, consider a card with no annual fee instead, such as the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee or the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®.

Why you'll love it

In an ideal world, you pay your credit card balance off in full and on time each month and avoid carrying a balance. However, sometimes things happen. When they do, you’ll feel better knowing you can take advantage of super low 9.99% APR offered by First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card (which is a lot less than the 16% average interest rate on a credit card).

Start your application now

The Simple Dollar’s top picks: summed up

What is a secured credit card?

A secured credit card is a credit card you receive after getting approved and putting down a security deposit. Unlike unsecured credit cards (which don’t require a deposit), secured credit cards require collateral, usually in the form of a cash deposit. In many cases, what you put down is equal to your credit limit. So, if you put down a $500 security deposit, typically you’d receive $500 in credit.

Lenders require a security deposit to reduce their risk. Because you may not have previous credit or may have a poor credit score, they want to ensure that you can be trusted with credit. If for some reason you can’t make a payment, they can take what you owe out of your security deposit. Many secured credit cards will actually refund your security deposit after a period of responsible use (for instance, Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee may refund your deposit after only eight months). In some cases, a refund may be issued after the account is closed in good standing.

How to build credit with a secured credit card

Now that you have a secured credit card, it’s time to put it to use building up your credit score. The first step is knowing where you’re starting at and how far you have to go on your journey to build positive credit.

What’s my credit score?

If you’re applying for a secured credit card, then you probably already know that your credit isn’t great (you might not have been approved previously for an unsecured credit card) or you have no credit history at all yet. But do you know what your actual credit score is or what a good credit score range is?

If not, you can check your credit score for free using a number of sites, such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. Once you know your number, it’s time to see where you fall in the range. Your goal should be to move up into the “good” and “very good” range.

FICO Score Range:

  • Exceptional: 800+
  • Very good: 740-499
  • Good: 670-739
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Poor: 300-579

What happens if my credit score is “fair” or “poor”?

When your credit score is “fair” or “poor” you may find that many of your credit-related options are limited — you may not qualify for an unsecured credit card, it may be harder to get approved for a mortgage, your interest rate on a new car may be higher, you may be denied for a personal loan, and more.

Even when you enter the “good” range, you still want to work to get your credit score in the “very good” range. With a good credit score, you’ll probably get approved, but you may not get the most favorable rates.

How do I know what’s affecting my credit score?

To understand your relationship with credit, you’ll need a copy of your credit score. You can request your report for free from one or all three of the major credit bureaus once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com – the only authorized website to request a credit report.

Look over everything on your credit report to better understand how you’ve used credit in the past:

  • Have you paid late?
  • Do you miss payments altogether?
  • Is your credit history not that long?

Dig in and look for areas where you can make improvements.

What can I do to improve my credit score?

Once you understand your credit score and your history with credit, it’s time to take proactive steps. First and foremost, you want to make sure you never miss a payment or make a payment late. Payment history accounts for the largest portion (35%) of your total credit score. Next, you’ll want to keep your balance low since credit utilization – the amount you owe vs. the amount of credit available to you – is 30% of your total credit score.

In short, you should be paying your balance off in full and on time each month. In order to avoid temptation, don’t put more down for your security deposit than you can pay off. With secured credit cards, your credit line is often equal to your security deposit (minus fees). If you want to aim high for that 800+ score, you can follow the four habits of people with great credit:

  1. Make your payments on time
  2. Carry low balances on your credit card
  3. Apply for credit only when you need it
  4. Develop a long credit history

How do I know I’m making a difference?

You’ll want to make sure that whatever card you choose is updating all three of the credit bureaus on your credit status. All of the secured credit cards on our list report regularly to all three agencies.

Next, you’ll also want to regularly check your credit score through one of the sites above, or through your credit card company if they provide that feature (like the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee ). Lastly, you’ll want to check your credit report regularly (at least once to three times a year) to ensure that everything is being reported on time and accurately. If you see any discrepancies, you can dispute them.

Building positive credit takes time – it’s a journey. Even those with the best scores have been using credit for more than 10 and a half years, on average, according to FICO. Don’t get discouraged if things seem slow at first. Establishing good credit habits will help you in the short-term (no interest when you pay in full and on time!) as well as the long-term (a better credit score).

Four signs it’s time to upgrade to an unsecured credit card

Many of the best secured credit cards will upgrade you to an unsecured card after a period of responsible use. In some cases, you may need to request a review, while some cards have no upgrade opportunity meaning you may need to apply for an unsecured credit card directly.

Here are four signs you may be ready to upgrade:

  1. Your credit score has improved. As your credit score improves, you can consider other types of cards. Ideally, you’ll want to get it into the 600s before you start looking at unsecured credit cards for fair credit or average credit. As you get closer to the 700s, you can consider cards for good credit that also offer rewards and perks.
  2. You’ve made your payments on time. Paying your credit card balance on time (bonus if you made payments in full each month) for at least a year shows lenders that you’re trustworthy with credit and that you take building, or rebuilding, your credit seriously. Making payments on time and not missing a payment accounts for about one-third of your credit score – so make sure to do it!
  3. You’ve made a credit card part of your financial routine. You can’t build credit if you’re not using credit, but you need to be doing so responsibly. Use your card at least once a month at minimum and treat it like a debit card – only charge what you can afford to pay. Even charging as little as $20 a month and paying it off in full and on-time will build positive credit.
  4. You haven’t had any other hard inquiries. A hard inquiry is when a lender pulls your credit report as part of an application (credit card, car loan, student loan, renting an apartment, etc.). Hard inquiries stay on your report for two years, and too many can actually dock your credit score. If you want to check out an unsecured card without risking a hard inquiry, see if they offer a pre-qualification option. This soft inquiry won’t hurt your credit score.

The best secured credit card can be a powerful financial tool.

Secured credit cards represent an opportunity to build or rebuild your credit. While you won’t have the lower APR, higher credit limit, and rewards that are common with unsecured cards, you probably won’t miss these perks if you use your card strategically and responsibly.

For anyone with a military affiliation, we highly recommend the USAA Secured Card® American Express® Card and the USAA Secured Card® Platinum Visa®. Otherwise, you’ll want to identify what matters most to you in a secured credit card. If it’s low fees, try the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®; if you want a low APR, look at the First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card. If you’re serious about quickly graduating to an unsecured credit card, consider the U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card.

If you want to learn more about your credit score, what affects it, and how it affects you, you’ll find everything you need to know in our credit score guide. And if you’re interested in other financial tools that may be available even if you have bad credit, we also offer guides to the best bad credit loans and bad credit auto loans.

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our rankings and recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.