secured-credit-cards

Your guide to secured credit cards

Information verified correct on December 9th, 2016

Secured credit cards aren’t available in Australia, but this is how they work and some of the alternatives you can consider

In Australia, all credit cards are unsecured lines of credit. Secured credit cards are common in the United States. This guide looks at the differences between secured and unsecured credit cards as well as options for getting access to credit if you have a default listing on your credit file.

What is a secured credit card?

A secured credit card lets you access the advantages of owning a credit card even if you’ve got a bad credit history. A secured credit card also lets you build your credit history.

Secured credit card credit limits are set by the cash security you can put down when you apply. This money sits in an account for a period of time and the funds do not earn interest.

You must make regular repayments and you will accrue interest on any unpaid balances. There is an interest free period if you pay your account in full each statement period. Using the card to withdraw money from an ATM will incur interest charges right away.

How does a secured credit card differ from a secured debit card?

Nearly everyone has a bank account and debit card. You can use the money in your account to shop and to get cash out at the ATM. Anyone can apply for a debit card.  Secured credit cards are not available in Australia, all credit cards are unsecured products. You will need a good credit history to be eligible to apply for a credit card in Australia.

Just out of interest or if secured credit cards ever do enter the Australian market, some of the features include:

  • Credit limit attached. A secured credit card is a line of credit from a bank. A cash deposit of your own money is used as a security. The financial institution issues a credit limit based on the size of the deposit. You’ll need to repay what you spend in addition to any interest charges.
  • A debit card is linked to your transaction account. This is the account most people get their pay deposited into, use to make everyday purchases and ATM withdrawals. A secured credit card can be opened with a single cash deposit. You’re given a line of credit you can continue to use as long as you can make repayments. Debit cards and secured credit cards offer similar features at the checkout and online security features.
  • Repayments. You must make regular repayments when you spend using a secured credit card.
  • Bankruptcy option. You can apply for a debit card account if you’re bankrupt. However, some secured credit cards have an application requirement that you must not have been bankrupt in the past two years.
  • Credit score. A secured credit card provider will report your regular repayments to credit reporting agencies, which can help improve your credit score.

How does a secured credit card compare to a line of credit home loan?

Here’s a simple look at secured credit cards next to line of credit home loans.

Secured credit card Line of credit home loan
Security Cash depositProperty mortgage
Credit limit Set by cash securityUp to a % LVR
Eligibility Bad creditGood credit
AvailabilityNot available in AustraliaAvailable in Australia

Who are secured credit cards best suited to?

Secured credit cards are great if you have a default listing on your credit file and you want access to a credit account. This can be because you want a positive listing on your credit file, you’ve just arrived in a country, or simply as a way to make payments. Unfortunately, as they’re not available in Australia at the time of writing, you’ll need to consider other alternatives.

Features of a secured credit card

Your cash deposit is held by a bank or financial institution which allows you to get a secured credit card. The things to note about the workings of a secured credit card are as follows:

  • Credit limit. Most secured credit card providers offer a credit limit that is equal to your security deposit.
  • Security. The security is held in an account by the credit card provider, 18 months for example. The security deposit does not earn interest.
  • Interest free days. Get up to 25 days interest free on your card purchases when you pay back the card balance by the statement due date.
  • Cash transactions. Using a secured credit card to withdraw money from an ATM will incur interest charges right away.
  • Interest charges. Interest charges apply on any balance you have not paid by the statement due date.
  • Credit tracking. The credit card provider will send reports to credit agencies about your repayment history.

US secured credit card providers

ProviderDescriptionFee or charge
Capital One Secured MasterCardpurchase interest rate cash advance interest rate annual fee cash advance feeprime rate + 22.9%prime rate +24.9%$29$10 or 3% of transaction
First Progress Platinum Elite Secured MasterCardpurchase interest rate cash advance interest rate annual fee cash advance feeprime rate + 16.74%prime rate + 21.74%$29$10 or 3% of transaction
First Progress Platinum Prestige Secured MasterCardpurchase interest rate cash advance interest rate annual fee cash advance feeprime rate + 8.74%prime rate + 15.74%$44$10 or 3% of transaction
USAA Secured Platinum Cardinterest rate annual feeprime rate + 9.90%$35
Citi Secured MasterCardinterest rate annual feeprime rate +14.99%$29
Wells Fargo Secured Visa Cardpurchase interest rate cash advance interest rate annual fee
cash advance fee
prime rate +18.99%prime rate + 23.99%$25
$10 or 5% of transaction
Bank of America Secured Credit Cardpurchase interest rate cash advance interest rate annual fee balance transfer fee

cash advance fee

prime rate + 20.24%prime rate + 24.99%$393% of transfer amount

$10 or 3% of transaction

Penalty rates and late payment fees

Fees apply if you don’t make your credit card repayments by the due date. Late payment fees can be as high as $35, so be sure to pay by the due date on the statement. You can try changing your repayment frequency or set up an automatic direct debit to ensure you pay your account on time.

Can I earn interest on my deposited cash?

You do not earn interest on your secured credit card deposit. This is the money you need to put forward to apply for a secured credit card. Be sure to note the length of time the card provider will hold your deposit. Some periods can be as long as two years.

Applying for a secured credit card

Secured credit cards are not available in Australia at the time of writing. They are common overseas, especially in the United States.

  • You can apply for a secured credit card online.
  • You can apply for a secured credit card if you have a bad credit history or no credit history.
  • You must be over the age of 18.
  • You must pay a security deposit to get approved for a secured credit card.
  • You may not apply for a secured credit card if you’re currently bankrupt.
  • You must show that you have enough money to cover your expenses.

Pros and cons of using a secured credit card

Pros

  • Credit history. Secured credit card providers send reports to credit agencies about your repayment history. This can help improve your credit history.
  • Bad credit alternative. You can apply for a secured credit card if you have a bad credit history.
  • Interest free days. You can get interest free days on your credit card purchases if you pay your balance in full by the statement due date.

Cons

  • Limited credit. Your credit limit is often limited to the amount of money you deposit.
  • Interest. Paying fees and interest on money you’ve deposited to the bank is unnecessary. Be sure to only spend what you can afford to repay within the interest free period.
  • Annual fee. These cards usually come with an annual fee, so it’s important to make sure the extra features offered with a secured credit card are enough to justify the annual fee.
  • Risk. You will lose your deposit if you fail to make the repayments on your balance amounts

Secured credit cards are a great way to help improve your credit history. Compare secured credit cards so you can find the product with the right mix of features for you.

Frequently asked questions

Why aren’t secured credit cards provided in Australia?

Due to the credit laws secured credit cards are not offered by Australian credit card providers.

Some Australian banks, such as ANZ Bank, offer secured credit cards via some of their US branches, in Guam and in Singapore but not within Australia.

Where are secured credit cards available?

Secured credit cards are available from several lenders and credit card providers across North America. To a much lesser extent, these types of accounts can also be found in Great Britain and Canada, but these are becoming rarer. Singapore and the Philippines also have a small selection of secured credit cards from a couple of providers.

Can secured credit cards be used for bankrupt people to rebuild their credit record?

The US uses a credit scoring system for banks and lenders to determine how responsible a customer is with their finances. It’s common for bankrupt people to apply for a secured credit card to help improve their credit history.

A secured credit card provider sends reports to credit reporting agencies about your repayment history. If you have a good repayment history, it will help improve your credit history.

What are the alternatives to a secured credit card if I have negative listing on my credit file.

Secured credit cards are not an option in Australia. Credit cards are unsecured lines of credit. If you have a negative listing on your credit file you won’t be able to apply for a credit card. Consider these options instead of a secured credit card.

  • Credit repair. A credit repair agency may be able to remove default listings from your credit file if there’s been an error in the creditor’s reporting process.
  • Bad credit payday loans. Short term loans if you have a bad credit history.
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8 Responses to Your guide to secured credit cards

  1. Default Gravatar
    Joel | February 2, 2016

    I’m a father looking to build a credit rating for my young son as he shall soon start work. Is there anyway I can achieve this in Australia without a secured credit card or something of the like thanks

    • Staff
      Jonathan | February 3, 2016

      Hi Joel, thanks for your inquiry!

      If your son is over 16 you may like to consider adding him as an additional cardholder to your own credit card if you are a primary cardholder. Otherwise if your son is over 18 he can consider applying for a credit card with a lower credit limit and minimum income requirement which will increase the chance of being approved. Other methods of building a credit rating include applying for services which require a monthly payment such as mobile services, broadband plans etc.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  2. Default Gravatar
    Ami | January 15, 2016

    Hi, I’m in Australia. Is it possible for me to open an account in Singapore and apply for a secured credit card? I have the Singapore 10k required by HSBC. But there website is not clear on non-residents.

    • Staff
      Sally | January 21, 2016

      Hi Ami,

      Thanks for your question.

      As an Australian financial comparison service, we currently only compare credit cards available in Australia on the website. Without knowing which card you’re referring to, it’s difficult to provide you with any specific information. If you can’t find the information on their website, I would suggest getting in contact with their customer service team directly to follow up your enquiry.

      I’m sorry we couldn’t be of more assistance.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  3. Default Gravatar
    tanya | January 6, 2016

    I am in Australia and wanting to get a secured credit card, is it possible?

    • Staff
      Sally | January 6, 2016

      Hi Tanya,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately, there aren’t any providers in Australia currently offering secured credit cards.

      You can compare other credit cards options here.

      I’m sorry we can’t be of more assistance.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  4. Default Gravatar
    bradley | December 17, 2015

    i am an american citizen living in Japan. I am looking for a bank that will give me a secured credit card, and account, if needed, by using my japanese address. I do not have an address in the USA. Can anyone help me find a company that will let me open an account and get a secured credit card with a japanese only address????

    • Staff
      Sally | December 18, 2015

      Hi Bradley,

      Thanks for your question.

      Just to confirm, you have come through to finder.com.au – an Australian financial comparison service.

      As such, we’re unable to provide you with information regarding financial options in Japan. Instead, you’ll need to compare your options and contact some Japan-based providers to discuss your options.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

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