What to do if you’re denied a secured credit card

A secured credit card can be a great tool to help you build credit—especially if you’re establishing or rebuilding your credit history. A secured credit card requires an upfront cash deposit to open the account. The deposit provides security for the card issuer in case the cardholder falls behind on payments.

While secured credit cards are usually easier to qualify for than unsecured credit cards are, card issuers might turn down applicants who don’t meet certain requirements. Take a look at why you might be denied a secured credit card, and learn how you might be able to improve your credit scores before reapplying.

Why you might be denied a secured credit card

When it comes to secured credit card applications, every card issuer sets its own criteria for approval. But issuers do look at similar factors when deciding whether to approve an application.

Below are some of the reasons a card issuer may turn down an applicant for a secured credit card.

  • Lack of credit history: While secured credit cards are designed for people with poor credit, card issuers may still set minimum requirements. Applicants with no or poor credit history may need to work on building credit first.
  • Low credit score: You might have an established credit history but a low credit score. If you don’t meet the card issuer’s credit score requirements, the issuer might turn down your request for a secured credit card.
  • Negative information on the applicant’s credit reports: You might not qualify for a secured card if you’re currently going through a bankruptcy, you’ve previously charged off credit accounts or you’ve missed credit card payments
  • The applicant is unable to pay the card’s deposit: You’ll often need to have a bank account in order to fund the deposit that’s required to open the secured credit card account. And you’ll have to have enough money to cover the deposit. If you don’t have a bank account or can’t cover the security deposit, you might have to wait until you have a bank account with the necessary funds before applying again.
  • No verified income: Lenders are required to check your “ability to pay” before opening a credit line for you. If you don’t have income or don’t earn enough to cover the monthly bill, the card issuer might deny your application.

Improve your credit scores before reapplying

If your application for a secured credit card has been turned down, don’t worry. There’s some good news: Though getting denied for a credit card may impact your score, credit scores can change over time. And there are ways to improve your credit score with responsible credit use.

Here are some tips to help you improve your credit so you can eventually reapply for a secured credit card:

Pay bills on time

Paying your bills on time is one of the best ways to build a good credit history and improve your credit scores. If you’re having trouble staying on top of your bills, try setting reminders or using automatic payments. Just be sure you have money in your account when the payment is scheduled.

Apply only for the credit you need

If you apply for multiple credit cards and loans over a short period of time, lenders may incorrectly think your financial situation has changed for the worse.

Become an authorized user

If you have a trusted friend or relative with good credit, they might be willing to add you to their credit card account. As an authorized user, you get your own card to use for purchases and other transactions. Some issuers, like Capital One, also provide online access to eligible authorized users. 

And if the card issuer reports authorized user account activity to the credit bureaus, responsible credit habits could help you build credit. Just keep in mind that negative actions, like missed payments, could affect both the primary cardholder and the authorized user.

Consider a credit-builder loan

Credit-builder loans work a little differently than other types of loans do. Instead of receiving money upfront, the lender puts it into a savings account for you. Then, as you make payments every month, the lender reports your account activity to the credit bureaus. Timely payments can help you establish credit or rebuild credit. And once you’ve made all the payments on time, you’ll get access to the money in the savings account.

Keep in mind that there may be fees associated with a credit-builder loan. And a credit-builder loan won’t help you build credit if you miss payments or pay late. If you make a late payment or miss a payment altogether, your lender will likely report it to the credit bureaus. And that could hurt your credit scores. 

Monitor your credit for free with CreditWise from Capital One

If you’re trying to improve your credit before reapplying for a secured credit card, regularly monitoring your credit can help you keep track of your progress. 

One way to monitor your credit is to use CreditWise. CreditWise is a free tool that allows you to access your TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 credit score—without hurting your score. And it’s free for everyone, not just Capital One customers. 

Checking your credit reports can also help you stay on top of your credit. Just visit AnnualCreditReport.com to learn how you can get free copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.

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