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Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes those mistakes severely affect your credit. If you’re among the 68 million Americans who have a credit score below 601, a secured credit card might be your only option for card ownership.

Think of a secured credit card as a debit card with consequences. Your credit limit will be established based on the cash collateral you deposit. But, unlike with a debit card, your payment history may be reported to the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. That means using a secured card can help you create or rebuild your credit score when you establish an on-time payment record.

Maintain good payment habits, and eventually you’ll be able to switch to an unsecured card.

Here are the three best secured credit cards as chosen by the experts at CreditCards.com. The issuers of these cards each report to all three bureaus, which is important for anyone trying to build their credit.

CARD SEARCH: Apply for a secured credit card now.

Best secured credit cards
Card Features APR
Capital One Secured Mastercard Deposit may be smaller than credit limit 24.99%
Discover it Secured card $200 minimum deposit; 2% cash-back on restaurants and gas 23.99%
State Department Savings Secured Visa Platinum $250 minimum deposit; 1% rewards redeemable for gift cards 7.74%

1. Capital One Secured Mastercard

This is one of the only secured cards with a deposit requirement that could be lower than your limit.

Highlights:

  • Depending on your credit history, get a $200 credit line for either a $49, $99 or $200 deposit. You can deposit more to get a higher limit — up to $1,000.
  • The APR is a variable 24.99 percent, but there are no annual fees, application fees or foreign transaction charges.
  • If you make the first five payments on time, you can increase your credit limit without any additional deposits.

Who should get this card

This card is a good fit for anyone with little or no history who might qualify for one of the lower deposit options. The card also comes with an option to pay the opening deposit in installments over an 80-day period, which may help people on a fixed income who are seeking to build credit.

Not everyone can qualify for this card. If you have a non-discharged bankruptcy, a past due or over-the-limit Capital One card, a card that was charged off within the past year or your monthly income does not exceed your monthly housing payments by at least $425, you won’t be approved.

CARD SEARCH: Start building your credit today with a secured credit card.

2. Discover it Secured card

This is one of the only no-fee secured cards that offers rewards, which are competitive with some unsecured credit cards.

Highlights:

  • Earn 2 percent back on restaurants and gas — up to $1,000 every quarter —  and get 1 percent back on everything else.
  • Minimum security deposit is $200 to open the account, but you can deposit up to $2,500 depending on your creditworthiness.
  • The APR is a variable 23.99 percent.

Who should get this card

If you’re looking to build credit, plan to pay off your balance each month and want to earn rewards, this might be the right card for you. This also might be a good choice if your looking to graduate to an unsecured credit card.

After eight months, Discover will review your account monthly to see if you qualify for a security deposit refund. If you make consistent on-time payments, the issuer will let you know when you qualify for one of its unsecured cards.

CARD SEARCH: Apply for a secured credit card now.

3. State Department Federal Credit Union Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card

You don’t need to be a State Department employee to qualify for this card. Just join the American Consumer Council for a one-time membership fee of $15, and you’re eligible to join the State Department Federal Credit Union, a prerequisite to eligibility for their secured card.

Highlights:

  • One of the lowest APRs we’ve seen in this category — just 7.74 percent.
  • There’s no annual fee and no application fee.
  • Includes a 1 percent rewards program that can be redeemed for gift cards at select merchants.

Who should get this card

If you’re looking to build or repair your credit score, this could be a good option. With credit limit as low as $250, it might prove difficult to rack up a lot of debt on this card. It’s also a smart pick for frequent international travelers and shoppers who want to avoid foreign transaction fees.

This editorial content is not provided or commissioned by any of the referenced financial institutions or companies. Opinions, analysis, reviews or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any financial institutions or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such entity. All products or services are presented without warranty. Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. This post contains references to our partners, and Bankrate may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on certain links posted on this website.

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