Where to find the best, most affordable secured credit cards

Stack of credit cards

Don't give up if you've got poor credit and can't qualify for a traditional credit card.

Apply for a secured credit card.

They're designed to help consumers build, or rebuild, their credit and get back on the track to traditional lending.

These cards can be expensive, but we can help you avoid the terrible deals and find the one that's right for you.

First, let's discuss how secured credit cards work and how you should use them.

When you open an account, you'll be expected to deposit $300 to $500 with the bank or credit union issuing the card.

Once you've done that, you'll get a credit card that looks and works like any other.

You just won't be allowed to charge more than the amount you have on deposit. That becomes your credit limit.

They'll give one of these cards to just about anyone, because you're securing it and providing collateral with your deposit.

Just like regular credit cards, you don't have to pay the entire bill every month. You can carry a balance and pay interest on it, as long as you make a minimum monthly payment.

But a better idea is to charge only as much as you can afford to pay off each month. Regular, on-time payments are critical to establishing good credit. Demonstrating that you can use a card without running up big debts helps, too.

Your goal with a secured credit card is to:

Getting to that point will be much easier if you start with a secured credit card that doesn't stretch your budget with excessive fees. And remember, fees are the critical factor with these accounts, not the interest rate.

In general, secured credit cards aren't good deals. But they're designed as credit builders when you have no other option.

Indeed, if you could be approved for a regular credit card, you'd have no use for one of these cards.

The best deals are offered by local credit unions.

Membership requirements have been eased over the past decade, so you'll almost certainly find one you can join. Just go here and enter your ZIP code.

You want a secured credit card like the one offered by Stanford Federal Credit Union or Digital Federal Credit Union.

These cards charge no application fee, annual fee or monthly fee. But good deals like these are becoming rarer nowadays.

If you can't find a credit union with a good secured card, our next choice would be one of the better bank-issued cards.

Although their terms aren't quite as good, they're still acceptable. Among our favorites are:

Orchard Bank, which charges a $35 annual fee that's waived for the first year and no application or monthly fees.

Capital One Bank, which charges a $29 annual fee but no application or monthly fees.

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