For whatever reason — the economy, youthful negligence, health problems or general ignorance — you may find yourself with a low credit score and no way of getting a small business loan, home loan, or a car loan. What you need is a way to increase your credit score in a hurry and credit cards are a great way to do just that. But people who have never had credit or need to repair a poor credit history may not qualify for an unsecured credit card. For them, a secured credit card may be the only way to establish credit.
There are a lot of “bad” secured credit cards, so you want to make sure you do your homework first before getting one of these cards. Getting the right one and using it the right way, will go miles in the journey of rebuilding your credit and increasing your credit score.
What is a Secured Credit Card?
A secured credit card requires a cash collateral deposit that becomes the credit line for that account. For example, if you put $500 in the account you can charge up to $500. You may be able to add to the deposit to add more credit, or sometimes a bank will reward you for good payment and add to your credit line without requesting additional deposits.
You should look for the following conditions in a secured credit card:
- No application fee and a low annual fee.
- The ability to convert to a regular, unsecured credit card after 12 to 18 months of on-time payments.
- The card issuer should be reporting your payment history to ALL THREE credit bureaus.
We have put together a listing of secured credit cards you can apply for.
Rebuilding Your Credit With a Secured Credit Card
Your best bet is to make arrangements with all of your current creditors to pay off your current debt and then make your payments on time. But this alone will not build a good credit score, it’ll simply undo some damage to your credit score. You need to have a credit card you can use at least once per month and pay off in full each month to make your credit score go up quickly.
Even in the present economy, a person with a bad credit score can get a credit card. And, you don’t even have to stoop down to cards with annual fees. A secured credit card issued by your bank allows you to rebuild your credit score quickly, if you use it responsibly. You only need to make a small purchase each month and then pay the card in full each month. After several months of doing so, and if you are faithful with your other debt payments, your credit score will quickly rise.
After about six to nine months of responsibly using your secured credit card, you will find your credit score rising sharply. At this point you should also know how to use your secured credit card responsibly. This is an important part of rebuilding credit scores. You need to continue using your secured credit card responsibly or your credit score will soon be damaged again.
Building a Credit History
First, get a couple of secured cards. Next, spend small amounts wisely and pay it all off every month and pay it right when you get the bill, don’t wait for the due date and don’t be late.
For people with poor credit or no credit, a secured credit card is the fastest, most effective way to re-establish themselves as good credit risks in the eyes of lenders. Secured cards are easy to get and the card issuer reports your payment history to major credit bureaus every month.
Using Credit Cards Responsibly
Using credit wisely is important since your credit reputation influences the rates that will be paid on a loan for a house or car, or for a credit card. The better your credit reputation, the lower the interest you will have to pay. Although secured cards tend to have higher interest rates and annual fees, they provide a valuable steppingstone to unsecured credit.
If you cannot use your secured credit card responsibly, it is time to consider that loans and credit cards are not for you. Some personalities simply don’t work with credit. There is no shame in being someone who must live on a cash basis, but there is shame in taking on lines of credit when you are someone who must live on a cash basis.
Establish a Sound Payment History
Establishing a payment history will help you qualify down the road for the major credit cards. Using this secured card appropriately and within the set parameters will help rebuild your credit. Only make small purchases and pay the bill in full when it arrives and well before the due date. Doing this regularly over time helps build your credit history as a prompt payer.
Don’t fall into the trap of overspending and/or making minimum payments. Once you have built a solid credit history over 12 months or more, you can apply for an unsecured card. Or, you can talk to the card issuer about converting from your present card to a regular card.