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Secured Credit Cards Can Raise Your Scores

What is a secured credit card?

A secured card is typically a Visa or Mastercard that is issued based on a security deposit that you make before the card company will grant you the credit line. Usually you will need to make a deposit in the same amount as the credit line you wish to have available on the credit card. In this sense, it works very much like a debit card, since you have to already have the money set aside to make charges on the card.

There is one very important difference between the secured card and a debit card, and that difference is how the credit bureaus view the secured card. Debit cards do not report your activity to the credit bureaus, so your debit card use is not a factor in your credit score.

These cards provide positive credit lines to help offset older negative accounts on your reports.

Why do secured cards help boost your credit score?

Secured cards appear to the credit bureaus like any other revolving line of credit. So if you deposit $500 into your secured card account, then you will see a $500 credit limit on the account reported to the credit bureau.

Do you need a secured card?

I highly recommend a secured card for anyone that has very bad credit and currently does not have any Visa or Mastercard credit lines. Especially, for anyone that has been turned down for one or more unsecured card offers recently. These cards are not for people that already have an unsecured card. If your credit is good enough to get an unsecured card then you can skip the secured card and work on your credit with other methods.

The fact is, having several revolving lines of credit on your credit reports is going to allow you to raise your credit score as fast as possible. I know it seems peculiar that going out and getting credit cards will improve your score… but this is how the game is played. You have to show responsible use of credit to build a high credit score.

What should you look for in a secured card?

There are quite a few options for secured cards that are not a good choice for consumers. Many have very high application fees and some even have monthly service charges just to maintain the account. There are 3 things that you should look for in a secured card:

1. Most importantly, the card needs to report to all 3 credit bureaus. This is the main reason you are getting the card, you will use it to establish positive credit history with each credit bureau. Don’t assume that a card reports to all 3 bureaus, it’s very common to only report to one credit bureau.
2. The card should have low or no annual fees and no application fee. Stay away from cards with hundreds of dollars in fees.
3. Ideally, the card issuer will have other credit cards available that are unsecured so that you can easily upgrade to an unsecured card with higher credit limit later as your credit improves.

How long will you need to use a secured card?

Let’s face it, nobody really wants a credit card that requires you to pay up front. You might as well use a debit card, if it wasn’t for the fact that debit cards don’t report to the credit bureaus. So, these cards are a means to an end – they are not cards that you will plan on using for a long time. Typically, if you are on a path to rebuilding your credit, and are using your cards responsibly, you can expect to use a secured card for only 6-12 months. That should be enough time to raise your credit scores enough to qualify for an unsecured card.

How to use your secured card to raise your credit score

It’s pretty simple; you must pay every payment on time each and every month, and pay your balance down every month as well. You have to do this – if you miss a payment, you’re going to be right back where you started and have to wait another 6-12 months to make progress toward an unsecured card.

Just pay the card balance down to zero each month and pay it off before the due date so that the balance doesn’t show on your credit reports. Over time, you will see your credit scores rise significantly just based on this good payment history.
These cards will tend to have low limits, since you are limited by your cash deposit and most people won’t deposit thousands of dollars into the secured card account. This is a good thing, because it forces you to spend on the card sparingly and you won’t end up with a large bill at the end of the month that you can’t pay off.

What is the best choices for a secured card?

My first choice is the First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard ® that you will find on this page:

Get the First Progress ® Secured Mastercard ® Here >>

The other cards on that comparison page have higher fees and don’t report to all 3 credit bureaus.


About the author

Mike Roberts

Mike Roberts

Mike has seen how important understanding credit has been in improving his own life. As a result, Mike dedicated himself to teaching others how to improve their lives by raising their credit score and taking control of their personal finances. Mike is an experienced entrepreneur with a passion for knowledge. He’s also a bit of a self-improvement enthusiast, and enjoys sharing what he learns with others.


  • Mike What makes your program from Smart Credit to which I pay 20 monthly and It didn’t come with form letter just a book with directions on how to do it yourself or pay more for auto pay forms.

  • Secured card from First Progress was a life saver. Brought my high 500’s to mid 600’s in less than a year then got a new unsecured card and boosted credit score to high 600’s on one score and low 700’s on another score.
    Great advice. Thank you!

  • It was suggested that i get a secure credit card make timely payment for about 6 months and that would help to improve my score. I was actually told to pay full balance. Im not paying full balance but i am making timely payments, and staying under 20 percent usage. My credit score improved almost instantly. Haven’t seen much difference over the last 6 months from the initial jump. Im now able to get approved for unsecured cards. Also, if you’re going to secure a card with a thousand dollars. I would split and do 2 cards at 500. I believe it will double your results.

  • I was incarcerated for a very long time. Upon my release I not only had no credit, I had no file. It was almost like I didn’t exist. I quickly obtained a secured card. Only a year later I have a wallet of cards with good limits, all unsecured and offers thrown at me regularly. I knew I was on the right track when I went to Best Buy and instantly qualified for a Visa with a $2,000 limit.

    I will say that paying your balance off in full each month like the article suggests is not the correct way to go. You are trying to establish a payment history and paying the balance in full every month won’t do that. Many card companies won’t even report if there is no balance.

  • secured cards are GREAT! I opted to go with Capital one. I had to pay a fee for the card in addition to the secured amount however, with on time payments I was able to apply for a capital one non secured card. It started with $500 and 1.5% cash back. They sent a letter saying 6 on time payments will get me 250 increase to 750. It’s been a great card. I use it to pay bills, and buy groceries etc. Once a week I send a payment in for all that I used the previous week which I would have used cash to pay. The balance goes to zero and there is constant activity on the card.

  • The secured first progress card recommended on this page is not available in Iowa where I live. Do you have any other suggestions?

    • Hi Trish,

      You may want to see if your bank offers any secure credit cards since you already have a relationship with them. You can also do some online research to find other credit card providers that offer secure credit cards, and see which benefits work best for your situation.


  • My median score was a 659. I was told to get a secured card to improve my score to purchase a house. I got a secured card and now my median score is a 623. I am closing on my house in a month. Will it go back up in time for closing? I’m afraid that I won’t have an acceptable score when they rerun my credit at closing.

    • Hi Lindsey,

      It’s not uncommon for your score to fluctuate like this from month to month. Your score may have dropped temporarily due to the hard inquiry from the bank when you applied for the secured card, or due to another factor such as increasing your credit utilization. If you continue to make payments on time and keep your card balance low, you should see your score increase again.


    • No it will not improve in a months time as your hoping. Whenever you get a new card you’ll have a hard pull on your credit score. It will take about three months for the points lost due to the hard pull to return. You may of also had points taken if your average age of credit dropped too much due to adding a new credit card, it may take much longer for those points to return.

  • I had a huge mark on my credit in the beginning, not quite under my control. I decided to apply for a secured card in March, 2013 with CapitalOne. I deposited 500 into the secured card account, they gave me a limit of $651. I’ve been using it for gas and paying faithfully. I recently called my bank to replace my debit card, and got a Rewards credit card offer with no fees and without a high interest rate. I took the offer and have a $3000 credit limit. Right now I’m looking for information on the secured card, whether or not to close the account. There seems to be many varying opinions, I would like yours with some detail if possible. Thank you for your time.


    P.S. I really don’t need the deposit back from the secured card, if that makes a difference. The main goal is just to build credit, if it helps keeping the card.. I will.

    • Hi Shelby,

      Most credit card companies report on the statement date, then it several days or even a week for the credit bureaus to update your credit report. Keep up the good spending habits and you should notice a change in your credit score.


  • I’m in the process of filing bk really needed a fresh start I was foolish with my credit allowing others to make purchases with my name but they never paid me back . Boy did I learn my lesson! My questions are : how many secured cards should I get? Should I do a secured loan through my credit union along with getting the secured card for credit mix? How much of the secured card should I use %10 %20 or %25? I know to make payments on time, but should I leave a small balance ?

    • Hi K,

      With secured credit cards, you should always pay off the full balance every month. You are trying to show creditors that you are able to use credit responsibly, so you want to avoid racking up more debt. As with any credit card, you want to keep your balance below 30% to maintain a good credit utilization ratio.

      You may want to start with just one card and make it your goal to have it switched to an unsecured credit card after a few months by paying in full and on time. Rebuilding your credit may take some time, but it is well worth the hard work.


  • Hi there,

    I am wondering how to quickly improve my score. I have copies of all three and see some things I would like to dispute. But I also have two credit cards very near their credit limits. Do you recommend a secured card in this situation to help score? I’d like to get a balance transfer to lower the limits, but don’t think I can find a decent card til my score improves.

    • Hi Lorena,

      Secured cards are a good option once you have your other debt under control and are able to focus on rebuilding your credit. You can dispute items on your report if you feel they are in error, but you likely won’t see a huge improvement in your credit score until you are able to pay down the balances. If you are able to cut your spending and put more money towards paying down your current credit card debt, I recommend doing so as soon as possible.


  • I had a $500 secured credit card from Bank of America and about 1 year and 8 months later, no request, no expectation, I received a letter stating that my new card is unsecured at $2500.00 and that they would return my $500.00; they did.
    I also have a $1000.00 secured Cap one, 2 years, no increase, no hope, but I don’t want to close it because I feel it will lower my score.
    I did get a $500, unsecured from cap one and a $1800 Discover in the interim., so I am definitely thankful for the secure cards establishing my credit.

    • Hi There,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. How much improvement have you seen in your credit score since using the secured credit cards to build your credit?


  • Hi Mike
    okay so I’ve recieved your emails and all, and I would love to get started improving my credit score, but I’m a little afraid and don’t really know where to begin or how to even take the first step.

    • Hi Paula,

      Starting the process of improving your credit can be overwhelming, but if you take it one step at a time you will be able to accomplish your goal. The first step I would recommend is getting a copy of your credit report (from a site like so that you can understand exactly what you’re dealing with.

      If you need some structure and guidance, you may be interested in The Credit Solution Program that Mike created to help others after dealing with his own personal finance issues. You can find out more about that here:

      Give yourself a pat on the back for taking the hardest step, which is deciding to take action to improve your credit score. Please check back in to let us know how it goes!


    • Paula, I have just started the same thing and trust me be careful applying for even the secured cards some will turn you down as well and don’t report to all 3 bureaus or even one not to mention the fees. I found Open Sky credit card sent 200 and my score went up 70 points first month. Fee is only 29 yr. Couldn’t believe it but this is the way to go. I just made first payment but don’t go over 30% of your credit limit. This is a good secured card and can even pay pymt online some wont let you as they hope you will be late. Good Luck the website for them is

  • Hi Mike,

    Thanks so much for the good advice. I was wondering how to properly use a secured card to improve my score. I found a local bank that gives a secured card for $300 minimum deposit and the only fee is $25 yearly. I know you said to pay your balance to less than 30% but I don’t know really how to get started .

    • Hi Dawn,

      You will want to use secured credit cards as a way to start building a good credit history. Basically, you want to start showing that creditors that you can use credit responsibly and make payments on time. Yes, as a general rule with any credit you want to keep your balance below 30% of total amount of credit you are allowed (so in your case, if the credit limit on the card is $200, you want to keep your balance below $66).

      For secured credit cards, it is especially important to pay off the full balance every month. Remember, you are building an historical record of good payments to show creditors that you can pay your bills on time and in full. This way they will be more likely to give you unsecured credit in the future. You can find more about the pros and cons of secured credit cards here:


  • I have had a debit card account with Bank of America since 08. My credit score is under 600, and since my wife passed 5/13 I have been working to repair it. In January I was in B. O. A. branch I don’t normally deal with and they asked me if I wanted to apply for a credit card so I bit even though I had been rejected before. The manager said I qualified for a secured Platinum card, $39.00 annual fee and a $95.00 dollar deposit for a credit line of $500.00. What sold me though was the cash back rewords program. I was already using the debit card for most of my purchases, esp. gas so as I told the manager by using the card I could easily save enough in a year to cover the maintenance fee, something he hadn’t thought of. I have already earned over $15.00 including $3.00 + on a $60.00 dollar Auto Zone purchase through a special promotion they offered. I think the B. O. A. Platinum secured card is a great way to go for any one in my situation.

  • Mike

    This more a question than a comment. We would appreciate information form anyone out there with this knowledge.

    We file chapter 13 BK 4 yrs ago. To be completed in 5 years. We make monthly payments to the courts. Never been late. 1. How soon after our 5 year court commit can we rebuild our credit. Also, are our good payment history increase our credit score coming out of BK in one year from now?

    • Hi Ed,

      Good question! A bankruptcy remains on your credit report for 10 years. The credit reporting agencies should remove it from your report then. If they do not remove it, you can request that they do in writing. You can find their addresses here:

      It’s great that you have never missed a payment, this is an excellent first step on the road to rebuilding your credit. I wish you the best of luck, and hope that you post again to let us know how you progress.


  • Even landlords are interested in this – as they want to make sure you can pay your rent without any problems.
    With the trial period, you can assess whether the
    program is working for you or not. But repaying the
    loans availed is quite a different entity.

  • Thanks for all you advice. I have been doing TONS of reaearch, and so far, you are one of the best sources. i had a terrible jaw enjury about five years ago and tje mdical bills are all over my credit. What i have fpund, is even though they effect my score, the fact that i have no credit, other than a vehicle loan. That effecgs me much more. I got three secured cards, paid them off at the end of every month. My score went up one hundred points in a year. I was amazed. The medical bill will fall off, and i have been desputing and working the magic you showed with you videos. The medical bills just are not efeecting me all that much anymore. If i want a good credot card, i can get one. If i want a loan, i can get it. I still have a lot of work to do, but im well on my way. Thank you! And please keep up with the great advice.

    • Hi Nathan,

      Congratulations! I’m so happy to hear that you have taken control of your finances and successfully raised your credit score. I know from personal experience that doing this takes a lot of commitment, and I salute your focus and hard work. Please keep checking in to let us know of your future successes, and help inspire others who are working toward the same goal.


    • Hi Rich,

      Give yourself a pat on the back for starting to take control of your credit. Most people find that the hardest part of this process is getting started, so you have already made a big accomplishment! Keep in touch and let us know how it goes.


  • Mike, the card you prefer is asking for a deposit equal to the credit limit ie., $300 + $300 more.., am i understanding that correctly?

    • Yes, you give them the initial deposit of $300 for instance. That gives you a $300 “credit” limit. Then you can use the card just like any other credit card with a limit. Each month you can charge what you need and then pay the balance off at the end of the month. They always hold your $300 for the duration of your time with the card. The deposit will be returned if you cancel the card or if the card is upgraded to an unsecured card.

    • This is really just personal preference. Your credit score will improve no matter what deposit you choose. It’s a matter of convenience – for instance, if you want to be able to purchase an airline ticket that is $600, then you would need a limit of more than $500.

  • Getting a secured credit card through one’s credit union is a GREAT option! Often times the card will roll over to a full credit card after your have proven a good payment history. Also, there are little no fees and the amount secured is actually in your savings account earning interest!

  • My personal banker advised me to do this when we were looking to get approved for a new home loan and it really works. My score has gone from 550 to 641 in only 4 short months. This along with paying my car payment on time has done well for me. However, I do have a question, in your blog you advise to pay the account down to zero every month.

    I did this the first two months and noticed that my credit report had comments that stated “less than 50% of credit limit being used on more than 1 account”. My banker then told me this was because it looked better if I were to use more than 50% but, no more than 75% of the limit. I have done so since. I add more to it if necessary to keep it at 75% while making the minimum on time. When I did that is when my score jumped the most. I’m not knocking your advice by any means, but I’d like to understand it better. Am I doing right thing or should I follow your advice? I only ask because it’s working for me this way. BTW, your teachings have been very beneficial. I’m learning a lot between your tips and a course on budgeting from my place of employment. Thank you very much for your service.

    • Hi Mario, it’s great to hear that your score is improving. Most bankers know very little about credit scores – your score should improve further if you pay your credit card balance down to less than 30%. High credit utilization makes it appear like you are barely getting by – this is a high risk situation for a lender and credit scores measure risk, higher risk = lower score.

  • i applied for the first progress mastercard on line at the site you referred but was denied. in an email from them they said it was because my monthly income was insufficient to cover my monthly expenses and card payments. I earn $4800 a month with my monthly expenses being $1500. what is up with that?

  • After my husband was killed i found it impossible to pay the credit card debit. I finally sold a piece of property and was able to paid the agreed amount between the credit card lawyers and a closing attorney. They sent me a tax statement that they forgave an additional $10,000.00 in debt. now it is on my credit. how do i get rid of this? My credit is in the low 500’s. i did a secured credit card, bought a house and a car from the credit union because they new i had the money to pay the debt. My debt ratio is low. Any suggestions?

  • I have a coment about the credit company to pull your credit, it offered the 3 scores, but when I did it they only gave me one score and wanted to charge me 29.95 for each of the other scores. Do you know of another company I could use who would give me all three scores for free. Also my husband used another company for his scores before we found your site, and his score was 645. But when we went to try to get a car they pulled his score and it was a 495, why is that happening, I don’t know why when you check your score with some of these companies and you go into some place like a car dealer your score is drastically different. I wish consumers had some type of recourse for this misinformation.

  • i wanted to use my Va Loan to purchase a home but my husbands credit score was at 520 in October 2012. so i told him to go open up three secured credit cards and we placed $500 on each card. I used them to buy gas($65) ,or to pay our electric bill($100) or pay our cable/internet bill($90). when it was time to make a payment:example i would pay $90 from the $100 that i put on my card. anyhow by january 2012 but husbands credit score is now 655. yeah after the fist month of doing this i pulled his credit score and i was like “ok this really does work”. now the Va can help us purchase out first home. i didnt need to spend any money on a financial adviser i just googled and here we are 2 weeks from closing on our home. it works people just don’t spend too much of the money on the cards. god luck

  • Hello Well Im trying to rebuild my credit I had 2 collections I paid them off Ive never had no credits cards I always paid everything in cas which is a totally mistake.Im trying to buy a home but I have to get my score a little bit more can you please tell me where do I start at nobody will give me a credit card not even a secure one.

    • anyone can get a secured card, just give them the amount of money that, that particular bank requires for a secured card and the proper identtification. ist your own miiney your putting towards the card, so why wold they not give you a secured card, the bank is not at a loss.

      • No, you are wrong not everyone can get a secured card. Trust me many of them will run your report and deny you as well. As stupid as it sounds this is correct. You would think you are putting up the money so why would they deny you. Well they do. And most of the ones that will easily approve anyone they dont report to credit bureaus so be careful. Well, there are a few good ones that report to all 3 bureaus that don’t robe you for all kind do fees and one of them is the opens sky credit card only 29yr fee. I went thru same thing my score was only 518 and after getting card it went up 70 points in first month. I am very satisfied with this one and they do report to all 3.

        • Hi Richard,

          Thanks for sharing–have you done anything else to raise your credit score that you would recommend to others?


    • Marie, try getting a credit in store plan from a jewelry store that advertises credit, they usually report. I used Milestonz Jewelry store. You can also try a furniture store that offers credit. There are usually commercials on t.v. for these companies – jewelers and furniture. You should see progress in 6 months.

  • I have horrible credit right now. I have been using the premier bank credit cards to help get it to a higher score. They were the only ones that would approve me for wo cards with such a low score. They have high interest but until I can get a higher score to where I am getting a card with a lower score. I have also used credit one bank as well. THey both are pretty decent so anyone looking for a card can go to these websites adn apply for one even with a very low score. and I hope everyone out there is successful at getting one of these cards so they can start rebuilding their credit.

  • Two years ago I was scammed via an internet advertising under which I invested from my Sears Master Card account, and on my Visa account ( banks: Citi and One in Iowa) when I realized this might be a scam I started to implement a dispute action. The scame provider promissed to award me10,000 dollars within several months, foolishly, I bought it. Now both accounts are in default. I don’t feel a need to correct my credit score which was 789. I’d like your suggestion about reinstituting the disput action. Frankly, I ‘m less than disfatified with the “help” either of these two creditors offered. I have acquired a debit card from my credit union and have been making reguar payments toward a visa card from the cu. I’m now a widdowder living in the same house for over forty years. I was able to have my mortagage adjusted to 2% and have a tax free monthly income of $1,800. I really don’t have a need for credit any longer, but I’d be interested in you comment regarding the feasability of reinstituting the dispute action. The scamer has flown the coop. If I could get it off my record I am in the process of a legimate home bas business, and could make negotiated recompanse to creditirs within eighteen months


  • My bank ( Wells Fargo) has been been trying to get me to take a secured card like this. How do I find out if they report to all three bureaus?? Will they tell me or do YOU know?

    • I’m not familiar with secured cards from Wells Fargo. You can ask them, but sometimes it’s hard to find someone that actually knows. I recommend the card that I linked to on this page because I’ve done the work for you.

      • I got a secured wells fargo ($500) and it worked, I used it and I also put an minimum auto pay on it so I would never be late on a payment. It worked great! A year later they refunded my deposit and raised my limit, I believe it is at $2800 now, really cool!
        I also have a monitoring account with Experian.
        The problem I now have is that my score is stagnant. I call and ask why and it will go up 20 -30 points and then go back down for no apparent reason. I have spent hours on the phone with their account advisors and customer service, so on and so forth with no results. I am doing all the right things but to no avail for score improvement. What can I do to make them give me the score I deserve? I look at my report and its green check marks all the way, why isn’t the score going up?

        • Hi Michael,

          That’s awesome! You clearly have been working hard to increase your credit score, and it’s paying off!

          You may want to check your scores with the other two credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion and Equifax), because your score will very likely be different with each one. The other thing to remember is that building credit and increasing your credit score takes time, like building a wall one brick at a time. You are laying the right foundation for an excellent credit score, but it can take several months to start to see the results.

          A good way to continue to raise your score is to understand the factors that the credit reporting companies use to calculate it. You can find out more by reading this post:

          Again, congratulations for all of the excellent work you have done, and please check back in to let us know about your future successes.


      • The card that you recommend is not avaliable in new york,, what other card reports to all three.


        • Hi Frank,

          In general, most major credit card companies report to all 3 bureaus. Sometimes smaller, local credit unions do not report to all 3, so your best bet is to check with the individual lenders to find out how they report.


    • We have a Wells Fargo secured card and it works great, they do report to all three agencies and the higher your card value the better, BUT when you use it, like we do to pay bills, be sure to make the payment BEFORE the end of the card’s billing cycle. That’s when they report the card’s balance. If you keep reporting to the agency a 0 balance then that shows great on your score. We actually keep a $5 dollar balance each month as someone who used to help us fix our credit said if the card has a continual 0 balance that the score assumes the card is not used and that brings the score down some. We got the card so we can pay bills when the bills come due then pay the card when we get paid.

      Works Great and Wells Fargo has been a great bank to us so far too, we had three others to compare to.

  • I have a secured card with Capital One. I have had it since November of 2010. I built the deposit up to $1500. I pay it off FAITHFULLY as I use it. Example…If I use it from the 1st-16th, I pay it off on my 16th payday. If I use it from the 16th-1st, I pay it off on my 1st paycheck. I have never been late, I have never gone over the limit. Capital One has NEVER raised my limit on their own. They have told me I COULD raise my limit by making additional deposits, which I refuse to do. I would think after almost 2 years of being an excellent paying customer, they should raise it for me AND return my security deposit. They have also NEVER turned the credit card into an UNSECURED card as promised if I paid on time for a year. NOW I have to say I have been approved for 2 other UNSECURED credit cards, one with Orchard (March 2011 – which has never had a credit limit increase) that I have had since and Credit One Bank (May 2012) but the credit limits are low. $320 and $400 respectfully. Those are paid in full IF I use them as well. So essentially it has helped my credit as well as improved my credit score enough to purchase a new vehicle back in March of 2012. Although on my credit monitoring it says having a low credit limit is a factor that is hurting my score. I am still hopeful that all my good work will eventually pay off. I know as of right now (today) my Vantage Score is a 613. (although I am still not quite sure what VantageScore really means). I am just plucking along with all your great ideas and being patient. It will work itself out in time. I have removed 8 credit inquiries and about 4 paid collection accounts as of date when I first started getting your emails with advice on how to improve your credit so I am very very pleased. Thank you!

    • Hi, I also have both of credit cards you have. With capital one you will have to apply for there UNSECURED. which has rewards program with using it. You get money back everytime you use it.. My credit limit has gone from $500 to $750 with in a year.

    • Also I’ve learned going with a credit union over a regular bank is all around better. You can get a loan where you borrow against your own money. For example I had $500 so I borrowed against it. On your credit report it shows up as just a loan. which builds your credit.

  • This is great information. I’m definetly trying to raise my score back to very good. I will do this for not ony myself but my wife has well. Please keep giving us this invaluable information.

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