Secured credit cards can be a helpful asset for people on their journey to build better credit and a great tool to help learn good credit habits. While they have many benefits, secured credit cards should be viewed as a stepping stone on the path to a traditional unsecured card once your credit has improved. It makes sense to question how you’ll go about moving from a secured credit card to a traditional card once you’ve established a fair credit score. In truth, there are many factors that issuers look for that will impact your ability to upgrade your secured credit card to an unsecured card.
Why you might want to keep your secured credit card open
Despite the allure of opening a new unsecured credit card and everything that comes with it, there are a number of reasons why keeping your secured credit card account open will benefit you. First, you’ll likely see a dip in your credit score if you decide to close your secured credit card. Plus, if you’re unable to convert your secured credit card to an unsecured card, you’re better off keeping your secured credit card account open as the secured credit card will have a longer account history, which is factored into your credit score.
Can you upgrade a secured credit card to an unsecured credit card?
Ideally, you should be able to move from a secured credit card to an unsecured one after you’ve built up your credit. In the best case, your secured credit card issuer will have options available to graduate from your secured credit card. If not, getting an unsecured credit card will require you to search for one and subsequently close your secured credit card account.
If you’ve made your credit card payments on time consistently for a period of time (typically 12 to 18 months), you’ve built your score up to meet the card issuer’s requirements (usually starting around 580 for cards for fair credit) and you’ve consistently kept your credit utilization ratio at or below 30 percent, you should have no problem upgrading to an unsecured card, given your card issuer has unsecured options.
When you should upgrade a secured credit card
You should keep your secured credit card for a minimum of a year, longer if you still need to improve your credit. When you’ve reached a minimum of a fair credit score, be sure you obtain a traditional credit card before closing your secured credit card account. Get a sense of where you are in your credit building process by checking your credit score.
Though the effects are usually small, keep in mind that closing a secured credit card could impact your credit score. So whenever possible, you should opt to upgrade your secured credit card with your current credit issuer over signing up for a completely new credit card.
What credit card should I upgrade to?
When it’s time to upgrade your secured credit card, it’s important to speak with your credit card issuer about what your options are. Often a credit card issuer will offer to simply convert your secured credit card to an unsecured one and return your security deposit. There are several options for those with secured credit cards who are ready to make the switch to a traditional unsecured credit card. The card issuer will want to see a history of on-time payments over the life of your account and that you’ve kept your credit card balances low. The BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card*, for instance, offers cardholders the chance to graduate to an unsecured Bank of America card starting six months after account opening. Bank of America will periodically review your account to determine if you qualify for an unsecured card.
How to upgrade a secured credit card
You’ll want to have your secured credit card account open for some time—usually about a year, but sometimes longer—before you start to think about moving to an unsecured credit card. During this time, it’s important to take advantage of your secured credit card by taking steps to build your credit. Once you’ve spent at least a year building your credit (making all of your payments on time and keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent consistently), get in touch with your secured credit card issuer to take the steps to upgrade your secured credit card.
Step 1: Get in touch with your credit card issuer
One of the easiest ways to transition to an unsecured credit card is to upgrade your secured card. Many credit card issuers offer a direct path from a secured credit card to an unsecured one—given you’ve used your secured card responsibly. Get in touch with your card issuer to find out your options when looking to upgrade.
Step 2: Shop around
You may find that your secured credit card issuer doesn’t have options to upgrade your secured credit card to an unsecured one or that the options don’t suit you. If that’s the case, start shopping around for a credit card that suits your needs. The credit cards you can qualify for will depend on the credit score you’ve built up with your secured credit card.
Step 3: Get your deposit back
Whether you upgrade your secured credit card to an unsecured one or shop around for a new unsecured credit card, when you transition or close your secured card account, you’ll get your deposit back. This process can take time since the card issuer has to be sure you don’t have any outstanding payments linked to the secured credit card. It’s best to contact your credit card issuer to find out when you’ll get the security deposit back.
The bottom line
Secured credit cards are great options for consumers trying to build up their credit on their journey to a traditional unsecured credit card. You can upgrade your secured credit card to an unsecured credit card, but you’ll need to work with your credit card issuer to find out what unsecured credit card options are available to you based on your credit score. If you need to look to other credit card issuers to find a card that fits your needs when you’re ready to upgrade your secured credit card, you’ll have plenty of options.
*All information about the BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.