Chris Bridges, Founder and CEO, VITAL Card Inc.
Using a secured credit card is one of the simplest ways to build credit from scratch or support your existing credit health. Plus, when you’re ready to upgrade to an unsecured credit card, your credit history and score may help you qualify.
Before applying for this type of card, you may be wondering, “How much will a secured credit card raise my score?” This answer is dependent on several factors.
What is a secured credit card, and how does it work?
Secured credit cards require creditors to provide a refundable security deposit in order to obtain and use the card. The deposit acts as collateral for the credit card issuer, which protects the creditor from losses by serving as a buffer against missed payments or defaults.
As a result, if you don’t make your payments on time, the issuer can draw from your deposit to cover the owed amount. The deposit is typically equal to your credit limit, so if you have a $1,500 deposit, your credit limit will also be $1,500.
Secured credit card issuers may accept a wide range of deposits, generally starting at $200 and reaching upwards of $3,000. In most cases, secured cards function just like regular credit cards, except for the fact that you have to put down a deposit.
You can use your secured card to make purchases, build your credit history, and support your credit score. These credit cards are usually designed for individuals who are trying to rebuild their credit or establish credit for the first time.
Just keep in mind that with a secured card, you’re responsible for making on-time payments — if you don’t, the issuer can take away your deposit and close out your account.
Also, certain secured cards may require a monthly or annual fee, so read the fine print and factor that cost into your budget before applying.
What are the benefits of a secured credit card?
Cardholders may be able to improve their credit score with a secured credit card. That’s because the majority of creditors report your payment history to the primary credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — whether your credit card is secured or not.
So, if you use a secured card responsibly by making all of your payments by the due date, your credit score may rise over time. Another advantage of a secured card is, of course, that it may be easier to acquire than an unsecured line of credit.
This means consumers with bad credit or no credit history at all may be considered for a secured card. Plus, this type of card can help you get your foot in the door with a particular issuer.
For example, if you eventually want to get an unsecured card with the same issuer, they may be more likely to approve you if you already have a good history with them via a secured card.
Can a secured credit card help build my credit score?
When it comes to building credit, a secured credit card could be a helpful tool. You can demonstrate to lenders that you’re a responsible borrower by making full payments on time each month.
After all, establishing a good payment history is one of the most important components that affect your credit score, especially when it comes to your FICO Score.
Keeping your balance low relative to your credit limit is another significant factor that goes into your credit score calculation. The formal term for this is credit utilization, which should ideally fall below 10% — or at the most below 30% — if you want to support your credit health.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that not all secured cards report to the main credit reporting agencies. As a result, if your primary goal is to raise your credit score, take care to choose a secured card that will report your activity to the major credit bureaus.
How much will a secured credit card raise my score?
While using your secured credit card wisely can certainly support your creditworthiness, a few factors come into play when determining just how much it will affect your credit score.
These can include the length of time you’ve had your secured card, your overall credit history, and credit inquiries.
When you apply for new lines of credit or loans, lenders will check your credit report. Unfortunately, this can result in a hard inquiry being placed on your credit report for up to 24 months. Too many inquiries can hurt your score, so it’s recommended to only apply for new credit when necessary.
Plus, each credit scoring model weighs factors differently, so it’s not possible to provide an exact range for those wondering how much a secured credit card will raise their score.
For example, one scoring model may place more emphasis on your payment history, while another may give more weight to your credit utilization. As such, if you have a good credit history but high credit utilization, a secured card may help your score with the latter scoring model.
In addition, for those with no history of borrowing or debt repayment, opening a secured credit card and using it responsibly can help set the foundation for a healthy credit history.
However, if your credit report already has some negative marks, such as bankruptcies or a record of late payments, then a secured credit card may not raise your score as much as you’d like.
How to make the most of your secured credit card
Choose a secured credit card issuer that reports your credit history to all three primary credit bureaus. This helps to ensure that your secured credit card payments are reflected in the contents of your credit report.
You can use these strategies to get the most out of your secured credit card:
- Use it regularly. To build your credit, you need to use your secured credit card on a consistent basis. This means making small purchases and paying off your balance in its entirety each month. If you only use your card occasionally, you may not see any movement on your credit score.
- Make on-time payments. Late payments can damage your credit score. If you’re worried about forgetting to make a payment, you can set up automatic payments through your bank or credit card issuer. Just be sure to keep enough money in your account to cover your payments and avoid overdraft fees.
- Keep your balance low. Your credit utilization ratio is one of the most crucial elements that determine your credit score. To support your score, aim to maintain a balance below 30% of your credit limit at all times.
- Monitor your progress. Keep an eye on your credit report and score so that you can monitor your progress over time. You can review a free copy of your annual credit report once a year.
Also, look for a card with little to no fees. Many secured cards come with annual fees or monthly maintenance fees. Selecting a card with the lowest possible fees can help you save money and help you build your credit.
When should I apply for an unsecured credit card?
The best time to upgrade to an unsecured line of credit may vary depending on your unique financial situation. A few factors to consider when deciding when to apply for an unsecured credit card include your credit score, employment status, and income.
Some people may benefit from applying for an unsecured card as soon as they become financially independent, while others may prefer to wait until they have established a strong credit history.
In general, you may want to submit an application for an unsecured card when you have good credit. The FICO scoring model typically considers a score of 670 and above “good.”
In addition to having a healthy credit score, you should generally have a steady stream of income. This way, you may have a better chance of being approved for an unsecured credit card with a reasonable credit limit and lower interest rates.
Plus, with ample income and experience managing on-time payments, you can start making wise financial decisions to avoid credit card debt.
The bottom line on secured credit cards and your credit score
The answer to “How much will a secured credit card raise my score?” is that there’s no definitive way to calculate the exact number of points at this time. This is because lenders may look at a variety of credit scoring models, with each using a distinct algorithm that weighs individual factors differently.
With that in mind, a secured credit card can be an effective way to rebuild your credit in the long run or establish credit for the first time. Just remember to pay your balance in full every month and keep your credit utilization under 30%, and you may see some positive changes in your credit score.
If you’re looking for an unsecured credit card, see if the VITAL Card is right for you. With generous cashback offers and opportunities to monitor your financial habits, the VITAL Card can help you on your way to credit health.
VITAL Card blog posts are intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial or any other type of advice.