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Society is rapidly moving towards becoming cashless, where physical money will be a thing of the past. Instead, people will be able to pay anywhere and for anything using cards, including debit and credit cards. Now, credit cards are generally a significantly better version, as they can improve your credit score, as well as allow you to spend money that you do not have yet. The only problem with them is that users require a high credit score in order to be considered trustworthy and be issued a regular credit card.
If, on the other hand, your credit score is too low, the only options that you have is to use debit cards (which do not impact your credit score) or to turn to secure credit cards. These are the cards that people with lower credit scores can receive, but the catch is that they must first pay a deposit which will act as collateral. The size of this initial deposit will typically determine the credit line that the user will receive. The benefit of secured credit cards is that they can, in fact, improve your credit score over time if used responsibly.
However, there are certain aspects that you should consider before applying for a secured credit card. Seven of them, in fact, and these are the key factors that will discuss today.
1. Do they report your account activity?
The first thing to pay attention to when selecting an issuer of your secured credit card is whether or not the issuer reports your details, such as payment history, balance, and alike, to the three major credit bureaus. The bureaus in question include TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, and it is in your interest that they report your data.
Assuming that you have used your secured credit card responsibly, such reports will have a positive effect on your credit score, allowing you to eventually apply for and receive an unsecured credit card, as a trustworthy user. So, what this means is that you should not choose a lesser-known card issuer, even if they offer things such as low fees or no fees, as the long-term effect on your credit score is your real goal.
2. How much will it cost you?
The second big thing to consider is the cost of a secured credit card. Often enough, these cards might come with an annual fee that doesn’t really give anything of value in return. However, it is possible to find cards that come with no fee, which is typically possible if you turn to major card issuers.
There is also the third option — cards that do charge an annual fee, but you do get something in return, such as a lower interest rate. For example, one of the popular cards is the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Security Credit Card. It comes with a $49 fee, but then it also has a 12.24% variable APR.
Such offers are rare, however, and more often than not, a card with an annual fee will not really have anything to offer in return. It’s difficult to be picky when you only have one option that is very slightly different from one issuer to the next, which is why it is extra important to identify the best deal you can find.
3. The length of the Grace period
You probably heard of the grace period — the amount of time between your statement date and your due date. This is the period during which your interest will not start growing, as long as you pay your statement balance from the last month in full by the end of it.
Not all secured credit cards have a grace period, and if you happen to choose the one that doesn’t, then your purchases will start accumulating interest as soon as the transaction is made. This means that selecting a card with no grace period is going to get very expensive very quickly, which is why you should definitely keep an eye out for that.
Luckily, most of secured credit cards have it, at least when it comes to those coming from major card issuers, which once again means that it pays to compare cards and choose one offered by a major firm. Lastly, remember that even with a grace period, you should not get too relaxed, as missing your payment by even a day could result in a significant increase in expenses.
4. How big is the security deposit?
We mentioned the security deposit — the deposit you have to make, which will then serve as your collateral. Well, this very same deposit is the biggest downside of secured credit cards. Most people who have low credit scores, or are new to credit, in general, do not have a pile of cash lying around.
Furthermore, the security deposit will be locked up until you either close your card or upgrade it. In other words, you won’t get that money back for months, or even years, until you are done with the card. So, with that in mind, it is very important to pick a card based on how affordable the deposit is.
Typically, the cards come with a deposit that can be as low as $200-$300, and your credit limit will be about the same. One that stands out, however, is the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card, which offers an initial deposit of only $49, depending on the height of your credit.
One more thing to remember is that a lower credit limit makes it harder to maintain a good credit utilization rate since you are advised to only use 30% of your credit line for the best impact on your overall credit score.
5. Upgrading your card to an unsecured one
Moving on, another thing that you should keep in mind is that the goal is to improve your credit score so that you can eventually either upgrade to an unsecured credit card or apply for it from scratch. While it is cleaner and faster to apply for an unsecured credit card once your credit score is good enough for that, some users might prefer an upgrade.
With that said, there are card issuers that allow you to upgrade, such as Discover it Secured, which lets you gradually switch to an unsecured account. You can then get your initial deposit back. Another issuer that does that is the Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card, although it doesn’t make it known.
With that said, having a secured card can be convenient for the future, simply because you can upgrade to a new credit card, and transfer your credit limit to the new card, as well.
6. Will your application be approved?
Now, the big question is whether or not your application will even be approved. The way the offer was made to look like, it appears as if anyone can get a secured credit card. After all, the deposit that you are making should make the card issuer feel secure enough to not make any problems with that. However, it might still happen that card issuers will simply deny your application.
This might happen if your income or credit history does not meet their requirements. Capital One is known for rejecting applications if you are past due on another Capital One account, for example. Furthermore, if your credit report shows bankruptcy, no one will expect that you can pay for a credit card, so if you have had such issues, they need to be settled first. That means having to wait a certain period after the discharge date for all the reports to reach their destination and your financial data to be updated to the current state.
So, when you start picking a card, make sure to check of the card issuer has a pre-approval process that will give you some idea of the requirements and your odds of getting approved.
7. What perks does it offer?
Finally, you should also look into the perks that you get with your secured credit card. The biggest one is the ability to build your score and improve it, in general. However, it also doesn’t hurt if there are additional perks, such as rewards and other benefits.
Take Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Cards as an example, which offers 1.5% cash back n all purchases that you make. Some cards offer cash backs on payments in hotels and restaurants, or they have no annual fee, and sometimes, you may even find an issuer that lets you get your deposit back without closing the account. However, this is very rare and only available at Capital One Quicksilver card.
Different cards have different benefits, so make sure to check out all of the details about them.
So, if you need a sacred credit card to build up your credit history or rebuild it after an unexpected drop, you should avoid the urge to just accept the first deal that comes your way. Do your research, explore different options that are available, and compare the deals. Then, once you have a clear picture of the benefits of each card, make your choice.
Of course we also offer a guide that offers the Best Secured Credit Cards.
Ali is a freelance writer covering the cryptocurrency markets and the blockchain industry. He has 8 years of experience writing about cryptocurrencies, technology, and trading. His work can be found in various high-profile investment sites including CCN, Capital.com, Bitcoinist, and NewsBTC.
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