A secured card is a credit card that requires you to deposit a certain amount of money into a savings account, money market account, or certificate of deposit. The minimum amount usually ranges between $200 and $500 but this will vary from one company to another. Your deposit is considered your security and some card issuers will even allow the deposit to earn interest.
The amount that you deposit into the account is your credit limit. You should understand that sometimes the limit will be for the full amount that you put into the account but with some companies your limit may be a percentage of the total amount that you deposited.
A secured credit card is not a debit card. This is important to understand because if full payments are not made each month, interest will be charged on the outstanding balance.
Who should consider using secured credit cards?
If you have no credit history at all, using a secured credit card can be a good way to begin establishing your credit. Many young people who are just starting out may choose this as an option.
If you have bad credit, you may wish to use a secured credit card to help you improve your credit score. In addition, a secured credit card may be the only source you will have for obtaining a credit card. There are some transactions that require the use of a credit card. This might include car rentals or hotel reservations. If you need to make those types of transactions and cannot get an unsecured credit card, this might be the only way you can get a true credit card.
What to look for in a secured credit card:
Interest Rate: Do not be fooled into thinking that because you have no credit history or a bad credit report that you have to settle for exorbitant interest rates. Make it a point to shop around for the lowest rates that you qualify for before you apply for a secured credit card.
Fees: Pay close attention to any fees that will be charged to you or to your account once it is opened. There are some companies that will charge ridiculously high fees that will reduce your initial deposit before you even use the card. Stay away from those companies. Look for companies that have no fees whatsoever or for those companies that charge a small one-time fee to set up the account. Annual fees for attractive secured cards typically range from $20-$35.
Scams: It is sad to say that there are companies out there who are in the business of ripping people off. They prey on the vulnerability of those who may be in a credit crunch. Some of the things they do include promises of getting you "quick credit" for a price. Another popular scam is to ask you to call a 900 phone number for "secrets" to getting a credit card or credit repair. Your phone company will charge you a high rate for using a 900 number and you never get the information that was offered.
The best advice to avoid secured credit card scams is that if it sounds too good to be true it is. Use your common sense and do not be taken by these crooks.
Credit Improvement Issues: Even with a very good payment history on your secured card it can takes many months before you begin to see improvement in your credit record. You have to be patient when repairing bad credit. You also have to be smart. Make sure that the company that issues the secured credit card to you will report your good payment history to the three big credit reporting agencies. Not all companies report and if they do not report you are simply wasting your time.
Keep in mind that they will also report your bad payment history if you do not pay on time. Be careful and make your payments on time each and every month.