Secured Credit Cards – Pros, Cons, and What to Watch Out For
If you’ve been turned down for several credit cards, even with low credit limits, a secured credit card may be the right product for you.
In today’s society, having a credit card is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. You need a credit card in order to rent a car, book a hotel room, or in the most extreme cases, to rent a movie from the local video store. People without credit cards are locked out of the e-commerce revolution, since a credit card is needed to buy online. Most people can qualify for a traditional credit card, even if it is with a low credit limit and high interest rate. But what about the people who’ve made serious mistakes in the past? Are they doomed?
The Advantages of a Secured Credit Card
While it’s true that a debit card attached to your bank account can substitute for a credit card in most cases, the sad truth is that using a debit card doesn’t utilize credit – and therefore, it can’t help to improve your credit score. Since a debit card withdraws money from your checking or savings at the moment of purchase, there is no risk of you not paying, and because you’re using your own money, you aren’t showing future creditors that you can be trusted. In order to do that, you have to use other people’s money.
A secured credit card falls somewhere in between. In order to set up an account, you have to place funds in a certificate of deposit (CD). Your credit card is then secured by this CD, meaning that if you seriously default on your credit card bills, the secured credit card company can recoup its money by taking the CD.
The good news is that your CD earns interest. If you established a $2,500 secured credit card account, and you always paid your bills in full and on time, you would actually make money with your credit card, excluding any annual fees. The bad news is that some secured credit card companies report to the credit bureaus that your card is secured. By doing so, it makes the account seem less valid than an unsecured account, since there is ultimately very little risk to the card issuer. Because of this, look for a secured credit card company that offers both secured and unsecured cards, and make sure that they will not report your account as being secured.
Make Sure That You’re Secure Too
Since credit constrained consumers are the target market for secured credit cards, there are plenty of unethical companies that seek to take advantage of their desperation. Unless your secured credit card is through a reputable, national institution that you’ve heard of and know well, you should probably contact the Better Business Bureau to verify that the company doesn’t have excessive complaints against it. Even the best companies, particularly larger ones, are sure to get a few complaints now and then, but if your company seems to have a slew of dissatisfied customers, look elsewhere. Thanks to the internet and web sites like this one, you have no shortage of options.