Secured Credit Cards- Consumer Tips

Whether you have no credit or damaged credit, secured credit cards are a good tool for building a good credit history.

Several months ago Tom, a member of CreditBoards.com, filed for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Now he is in the process of rebuilding his credit history. It’s a task that is not easy, but with patient persistence he is seeing progress already. Daily he checks his credit score and is slowly seeing improvement.

1 – In addition to correcting every mistake, even the smallest ones, on his credit report, he is using a secured credit card.

2 – This secured card is an important tool in the overall process of building or rebuilding credit.

Who should consider a secured credit card?

Someone who has no credit history.

Someone with a damaged credit history.

What is a secured credit card?

Secured cards are credit cards opened with a deposit into a savings account, money market or certificate of deposit. The amount of deposit required varies from card to card, but generally minimum amounts range from $250 – $500. These funds are considered your security and will even earn a little interest since they are being held in a savings account. Your credit limit is determined by the amount you deposit into the savings account. Sometimes the limit will be for the full amount of the deposit; other times it will be a percentage of the total.

It is important to keep in mind that a secured card is a credit card, not a debit card. If full payments are not made each month, then interest is charged on the outstanding balance. And the lending institution uses the security money to pay off the debt only as a last resort. Even though the card is secured, it is still possible to damage credit.

What are the benefits of a secured credit card?

Establishing credit. If you have never had a credit card, a good first step in establishing good credit is applying for a secured credit card. Assistant Professor of Economics at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN, Jerry Plummer says, “A secured card is most useful for the person starting out on their credit history, since it says that the person is willing to take the extra step to establish credit.”

Reestablishing credit. If your credit history is damaged, you may only be able to qualify for a secured credit card. Using this secured card appropriately and within the set parameters will help rebuild your credit and qualify you for an unsecured card. If you have had to file for bankruptcy, however, you may not qualify until it has been discharged.

Preset limit cannot be exceeded. If poor spending habits were part of the cause for bad credit, then a secured credit card will help keep spending in check.

Useful for transactions that require a credit card. Hotels and car rentals require the use of a credit card. If you don’t qualify for an unsecured card but you do for a secured card, then you are still able to make the transaction.

What should I look for or avoid when shopping for a secured credit card?

Fees. This is the area you will really want to research when shopping for a secured credit card. Some cards will come with fees that run into the hundreds of dollars, eating away much of the credit you secured with the savings account. Professor Plummer says a card with no fee is the best, but a small one-time fee can be okay. Annual fees for attractive secured cards typically range from $20-$35. Be sure to watch out for hidden fees such as “registration charges” and “setup fees.”

Interest Rate. Just because you have no or poor credit doesn’t mean you have to settle for the highest interest rate. Interest rates for attractive secured cards should not exceed 19%. Shop around and get the most competitive rate available.

Read the fine print. Linda Tucker, Director of Education for Consumer Credit Counseling Service for Arkansas and Memphis, TN, stresses the importance of reading the fine print. Doing so will let you know your exact obligations to the issuing company: for example, the grace period, what happens if you don’t make a full payment, and what fees are attached if you don’t make the full payment. Understanding these details will help make sure you are not further damaging your credit.

Fraudulent Offers. As with unsecured cards you need to watch out for fraudulent offers.The Federal Trade Commission gives the following advice to protect yourself from credit card fraud:

Offers of easy credit. No one can guarantee to get you credit. Before deciding whether to give you a credit card, legitimate credit providers examine your credit report.
A call to a ‘900’ number for a credit card. You pay for calls with a ‘900’ prefix — and you may never receive a credit card.
Credit cards offered by “credit repair” companies or “credit clinics.” These businesses also may offer to clean up your credit history for a fee. However, you can correct genuine mistakes or outdated information yourself by contacting credit bureaus directly. Remember that only time and good credit habits will restore your credit worthiness.

When will I qualify for an unsecured credit card?

It can take several months to see an improvement in your credit history. Bankrate says it’s a good indicator when you start receiving flyers in the mail for unsecured cards that your credit is improving. However, it’s a good idea to continue taking things slowly. Using a secured card will help you learn healthy habits so that when you do get an unsecured credit card you remain in control of your spending and credit.

Where can I find a secured credit card?

Most companies don’t advertise secured cards. But you can visit the Card Reports section of http://www.CardRatings.com to find out where and how to apply. Click on the link entitled “Cards for Consumers with Poor or No Credit”.

Other tips

Tom recommends sticking with only one or two cards and keeping spending to a minimum. The goal is to pay the card off each month.

Tucker emphasizes the importance of paying the amount due each month; otherwise late fees can be charged, interest rates raised, privileges lost, and credit history negatively affected.

Make sure you are getting a credit card as opposed to a gas card or a department store card.

Make sure a reputable bank or credit union, even a local one, is issuing the card. And, don’t automatically assume a bank is issuing the card.

Not all issuers report to the three major credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). It’s important to get a card that does report to all three agencies; otherwise you will be wasting your time. Fortunately, secured cards normally report to the credit agencies just like unsecured cards (you should verify this before applying).

If you have filed for bankruptcy, you may need to wait until it has been discharged before qualifying for a secured card.

Get one only if you cannot get credit, since you have no credit record; or if you have poor credit. Plummer says, “Many companies will not even count them as credit, such as automobile F&I (Finance and Insurance) people, although they will not admit it.” So, if you don’t really need a secured card, you will be doing more harm than good.

Finally, whatever situation you are in, no credit or poor credit, the best way to build good credit is to set up a budget and then stick with it.

1 You can pay membership fees to any one of the three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax- to be able to check your credit score online daily. Visit our Credit Information section for more details. Tom recommends purchasing Microsoft Money 2004, which comes with a one-year membership to Experian (value of $99.00).

2 To find out more about correcting errors on your credit report, read our article How to Correct Mixed or Split Credit Reports.

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Find The Best Credit Card Type

There are a variety of credit card types, each claiming to offer you the best possible deal. Finding the programs and incentives that works best for you is key to maintaining a good credit card history.

Each type of credit card offer different benefits. Some are geared toward the individual consumer, while others are set up to work for small businesses. To find the type of card that best fits your needs, let’s review some of the options.

Business Cards

A business credit card offers the business owner an opportunity to keep business and personal expenses separate. The card may offer special business rewards and saving opportunities that go above and beyond what the individual card owner has. Since money management is essential for running a business successfully, this card may offer an expense management service that helps track outgoing money. You can obtain additional cards for employees who may need them for travel expenses and such. You may also have a higher credit limit than you normally would on an individual card.

Student Cards

Many credit card companies will issue student cards with lower credit limits and fewer incentives, helping new card users to keep their spending in check. However, note that many college students now graduate with credit balances averaging from $3,000 to $7,000. With high interest rates, these debts can be a real problem to pay off.

Debit Cards

Prepaid debit cards are 1 type of credit card that has grown significantly in recent years. Although it works like a traditional credit card when making a purchase, that is where the similarity ends. With a prepaid debit card, you actually set the credit limit yourself by depositing money into the debit card’s account. The amount you deposit determines the credit limit on that card. This is a great way to have the convenience of a credit card without the possibility of charging more than you can afford to pay off.

Cards for Bad Credit

Even with bad credit, it is possible to obtain a credit card. These cards come with some restrictions not typically found on other types of cards. Your credit limit will be lower and your interest rate higher. Some may require you to have a secured card, meaning you have to maintain a savings or some other type of account that will cover the expenses on the credit card. Once you have established that you will be responsible in your credit handling, some, if not all, of your restrictions may be lifted.

Cash Back Cards

Many cards will now offer you cash-back incentives for using their cards. Depending on how much your balance is, and how often you use the card, you can earn cash back for your purchases. Some companies offer 1% off your balance while others, like Sears, will offer you cash off purchases made in their store. Either way, if you are planning on using a card, finding one that will offer you a cash incentive is a smart choice.

Low-Interest Cards

One of the more recent additions to the credit card world is the low-interest credit card. These cards offer a significantly lower interest rate than most of the older cards you may already have. As balance-transfer cards, most of them offer you the option of transferring a balance from a higher interest rate card and, for a specified period of time, your transferred balance will be at either 0% interest or something quite low. This can save you a fair amount of money if your plan is to pay it off.

Reward and Incentive Cards

Since credit cards have become such a lucrative business, many corporations have jumped on the bandwagon. Even airlines now offer credit cards that come with a certain amount of frequent flyer miles attached, depending on your balance and purchases. If you do a fair amount of traveling, this can be a real bonus. Along these same lines, reward credit cards are growing in popularity. Competition is stiff, and many card companies are now offering different reward or incentive options for using their cards. Once you accumulate enough points, the rewards pour in. These can be anything from travel insurance to small appliances. If you use a card regularly, finding one with a reward program can really pay off.

Instant Approval Cards

Another form of credit card is the instant approval card. Once you fill out the application, a quick background check will be done and you will have your approval almost immediately. Regular cards can take up to 2 weeks to process. Although you can get instant approval, this does not always mean you can get instant credit. Some companies will supply you with a temporary credit card number and allow you to begin making purchases immediately, while others will not, due to an increase in credit card fraud potential.

Protect Your Credit

Since there are so many options in choosing a credit card, you should do a little research before you apply. Decide what type of card best fits your needs and apply for that one. Don’t go overboard, though. Applying for too many cards will negatively affect your credit rating.

And, above all, once you get your new credit card, use it responsibly.

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Secured Credit Cards – the Basic Facts

Credit card is a part and parcel of modern life. The credit card offers us the ease and simplicity to spend money without carrying cash, is versatile and handy to use and provides us the means to establish and recreate our credit rating. The secured credit card is however, not without its disadvantages, the main one being high interest rates charged on it. How would you rate your capacity to purchase a home or the car you want or the loan you simply need? How significant is it for you to have a good credit rating? In order to establish and spruce up your credit score, the best possible option is to have a secured credit card. A secured credit card is in effect the opportunity to regain a sound financial position. Due to the easy accessibility of credit reports through well-established credit bureaus today, credit issuers rely increasingly on these reports to make their final decision on providing you credit. A credit card is often denied to you when you do not have a credit history. This is often in the case of the young adults who have never taken out a loan or have so far used a credit card through a parent. It can also occur in the case of divorced people who have never had a credit card in their name. Secured credit cards [http://www.creditrunner.com/secured-credit-card-offers] thus provide the best means for anyone to establish a credit history. The secured credit card by virtue of being secured by your own money allows the issuer to feel safe, ensuring their money back in case you default. Since the issuer is also holding your money, they persuade you to make your payments regularly instead of losing your security deposit on the secured credit card. Secured Credit Card – A credit card with a security deposit Very often when you rent an apartment, the landlord will ask you to deposit an amount equivalent to a month’s rent into a special account. This amount acts as security and is not used till you move out. When you move, this money along with interest is returned to you. You will not owe the landlord any money if you leave the apartment without any damages. The same rule applies to the secured credit card. In a secured credit card you have to deposit an amount as security equivalent to 50-150% of your credit limit in a special account with the credit card issuer. The credit card issuing company will provide you with a secured credit card which is used like a regular credit card. The only difference being that only you and your credit card issuer know that the secured credit card has attached to it a security deposit. Provided you use your secured credit card wisely, the security deposit will not be used. This means that the secured credit card will be used to make reasonably priced purchases and the monthly bills will be paid regularly and fully as far as possible. To increase the credit available to you on your secured credit card, you can either increase your security deposit or get as many secured credit cards as possible. The credit card issuer will soon increase your credit limit from 50% of your deposit to anywhere between 75% and 100%. The interest rates on secured credit cards are usually quite high. In the even that you have been rejected for credit by some companies you will be thought of as a significant credit risk. The issuing companies are taking a huge risk in lending you money through secured credit cards, and these interest rates are based on these risks. A secured credit card is not suitable for people with a solid and established credit rating as they can avail of credit cards with lower rates, rewards and other benefits. A secured credit card is for people who have had a bad credit or no credit to start with and need to mend their credit scores through a responsible show of credit card handling.

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