In order to find the best secured credit card we need to take several factors into consideration. This article looks at exactly what those factors are, as well as some basic information about what a secured credit card is and why it is a good credit option.
Secured credit cards were given considerable media attention recently, after US President Barack Obama discussed credit card reform and strategies to find a way out of the global financial crisis. It is well known that people on low income accumulating credit card debt that they are unable to pay has been a key factor in the credit crisis coming about in the first place.
Traditional credit cards see the cardholder being assigned a credit limit, which can vary from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand. The problem arises when customers rack up the debt on their card and are unable to service it (make their monthly payment) getting themselves into severe financial trouble in the process.
Obviously it is not possible to completely eliminate credit cards, as customers still require a method of paying their bills, buying items online and paying for goods and services without carry huge bundles of cash around, so secured credit cards have become an increasingly popular option.
The best secured credit cards work to a slightly different format to regular (unsecured) credit cards, in that they require the new cardholder to pay an upfront deposit of their own money, usually known as a ‘security bond’. This then becomes their credit limit, so if (for example) they deposit $ 500, they are usually assigned a credit limit of $ 500.
The card can then be used in the same way as a regular credit card. It will almost always carry the Visa or MasterCard logo, and can be used to pay for goods at anywhere that accepts that method of payment. The customer also receives a monthly statement, which will notify them of their minimum monthly payment. This payment (or a higher amount) should then be paid on or before the due date, and the card can then be continued to be used as normal.
The main difference comes about if the customer is unable to make their payments. In this scenario, funds can be removed from their deposit to cover the payment. If this continues on a regular basis the account will likely be closed and the customer will simply have lost their deposit, a far better option than debt being passed onto a collections company who then chase them for the money.
Secured credit cards can also be beneficial for a consumer’s credit score. By managing their account appropriately they can improve their credit rating, as the best secured credit cards offer monthly reporting the national credit bureaus. Not all cards offer this, however, and it is important to check the terms and conditions before applying for any given card.
The other factors to consider before selecting a secured credit card are how high the annual percentage rate (APR) of interest is, whether or not there is a monthly and/or annual maintenance fee – and if so how much it is, and what the fees and charges are for basic actions such as ATM cash withdrawals.