What is a secured credit card and how does it differ from regular credit cards and prepaid cards?
A secured credit card is an option for a person to build or rebuild his or her credit. Furthermore, a secured credit card provides the opportunity for consumers to gain access to certain services such as renting a car or hotel room. Secured credit cards differ from traditional credit cards in that a deposit is required to serve as the consumer’s credit line whereas, with traditional credit cards, the consumer’s credit line is collateral free and based partly upon their credit and payment history. Secured credit cards differ from prepaid credit cards as well. With prepaid cards, there is no required credit history check and the consumer’s credit line is limited to what the consumer has previously paid, or loaded, on the credit card. On the other hand, a secured credit card requires its user to open a savings account which will serve as his or her credit line. The consumer will then continue utilizing the secured credit card as a traditional credit card; in the event, the secured credit card user defaults on his or her credit card payment, the user’s savings account will be used as collateral.
What are the benefits of a secured credit card?
Access to a credit card: Obtaining a secured credit card may benefit some people who have a tarnished credit history and therefore, have been denied by traditional credit card providers such as Visa®, MasterCard®, and American Express®. By gaining access to a secured credit card, a consumer has a whole variety of purchasing opportunities available to him or her, such as making online purchases, reservations, and features such as automatic bill pay.
Improve your credit history: Once a secured credit card has been procured, a consumer now has the opportunity to make consistent, on-time payments. Just as important as making timely, in-full payments, it is imperative to confirm with the secured credit card provider, prior to opening the secured credit card, that it reports to the 3 major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and that it does not mark the reports as a secured credit card. Having the secured credit card provider report positive payments to the bureaus without flagging the reports as a secured credit card is the main way that secured credit cards can improve your credit history and probably improve your credit score.
Save and or earn money: A secured credit card requires its users to open a savings account that serves as collateral in the event the user defaults on his or her payments. If the user makes timely and consistent payments on his or her secured credit card, this savings account will not and cannot be touched. This is beneficial to the user because, for the time that their secured credit card account is open and in good standing, they will be saving money. Furthermore, more than likely the money in that savings account will be earning interest, a net gain.
What are the disadvantages of a secured credit card?
Upfront costs: In order to obtain a secured credit card, one must open a savings account to serve as collateral in case the user defaults on his or her payments. Therefore, funds are required to be available prior to procuring a secured credit card. The amount of money that is required depends on the bank or credit union with which the savings account is opened and the amount of money the secured credit card provider requires to be in the savings account. Additionally, some secured credit card providers have application fees.
Hidden fees: While secured credit cards offer many benefits, there are fees associated with the usage of secured credit cards such as annual fees. Moreover, secured credit cards almost always have much higher interest rates than traditional credit cards, and thus, it is suggested to utilize them only for as long as needed or until one’s credit has improved. Additionally, some secured credit card providers hold on to the funds in the user’s savings account for a designated period of time after the secured credit card has been canceled to safeguard themselves against any possible lingering charges. Therefore, it is extremely important to shop around numerous providers for a secured credit card.
Hinder your credit history: Although secured credit cards may be beneficial to some people, if a user defaults on payments, especially past the amount being held as collateral in his or her savings account, it can tarnish their credit history and consequently lower his or her credit score.
In summary, secured credit cards may be very beneficial to their users by opening doors to new purchasing opportunities, improving credit histories, and saving and/or earning money if used appropriately. However, if a user cannot meet the payments of what they charge on the secured credit card, he or she may be worse off than in the beginning. Finally, if a consumer has decided to use a secured credit card it is imperative to shop around for the best deal, including but not limited to non-flagged reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus, lower interest rates, lower annual fees, and inexpensive or no application fees.