How you can use a secured credit card to help build credit

Explore how a secured card paired with good financial habits can help you build your credit.

If you’re trying to establish or rebuild credit, credit cards can be one way to make progress by showing responsible credit use. That’s important, since credit can play a role in decisions made by lenders, insurance companies, landlords, utility companies and potential employers. 

The thing is, it can be difficult to get approved for a credit card when you have limited or poor credit. In that case, a secured credit card might be an option. It’s “secured” because you make a security deposit when you open the account. 

Ready to get started? It may help to learn more about how secured cards work. Plus, read on for more about how a secured credit card paired with good financial habits can help you build credit.

Does a secured credit card help build credit?

Building credit with a secured credit card starts with you, the cardholder. That’s true whether you’re using a secured card or an unsecured card, which doesn’t require a security deposit. Developing good financial habits can be a big help. That includes making monthly payments on time, making at least the minimum payment, spending responsibly and managing your credit utilization.

Once you’re using your secured card responsibly, credit card companies may report the activity to credit bureaus. That can help you start building credit. You can read up on credit reports to learn more about the types of information credit bureaus collect. 

It’s also important to know that you have multiple credit scores from multiple companies, including FICO® and VantageScore®. That means you might see slight differences in your score, depending on how your score was calculated.

How long does it take to improve credit scores with a secured credit card?

Building credit takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen overnight. Just how long it takes to build credit is different for everyone. And it can depend on what your credit score is now, as well as a variety of factors that affect your credit scores.

How much will a secured credit card raise your credit scores?

Exactly how much a secured credit credit card will help you raise your credit scores depends on your own unique circumstances. And those same factors that can affect how long it takes to improve your scores can affect how much your scores improve, too.

Keep in mind: A credit card won’t build credit or improve your credit scores for you. It’s your responsible use of the card that can help you build credit.

As you work on building your credit, it may help to use a tool like CreditWise from Capital One to see where you stand. CreditWise gives you access to your free TransUnion® credit report and weekly VantageScore 3.0 credit score anytime. And using it won’t hurt your scores.

CreditWise is free and available to everyone—even if you’re not a Capital One customer.

Tips for building credit with a secured card

Lots of factors affect how credit scores are calculated, but here are some things to do as you work toward building a good credit score with a secured card:

1. Consider your options

If you decide a secured card may be right for you, it could help to do some research before applying.

  • Get details on the security deposit. They could include the amount of the deposit, whether it’s refundable and how refunds work.
  • Check out spending limits. Some card issuers have policies that allow you to access a higher credit limit or graduate to a traditional, unsecured card. More credit can mean more responsibility, but it can also offer more flexibility.
  • Explore additional expenses. They may include processing or application fees.
  • Determine the type of inquiry the credit card company will use. When considering your application, creditors may use what’s known as a hard credit inquiry. This type of inquiry may affect your credit score, whether you’re approved or not.
  • Find out what information may be shared with credit bureaus. If card activity isn’t reported, you won’t be able to use the card to help yourself build credit. 
  • Be mindful of how many applications you submit. How frequently you apply for credit is a factor in scoring, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). But some credit card companies may allow you to see whether you’re pre-approved or pre-qualified before you apply for a secured card. This is called a soft inquiry, and these kinds of inquiries won’t affect your credit.

Remember, there’s no guarantee you’ll be offered a secured credit card if you apply for one. And decisions are ultimately up to the individual companies. But it can help to understand what card issuers typically look for from credit applicants before you apply.

Find a card that fits your needs

Pre-approval makes it easy to browse card offers without impacting your credit score.

2. Use your secured card responsibly

Keep in mind that building credit with a secured card doesn’t happen automatically. Instead, you can make that happen over time by using a secured card responsibly.

What does responsible card use look like? It includes making payments on time, paying more than the minimum payment and staying below your credit limit. Be aware that the CFPB cautions that late or missed credit card payments could harm your credit. And note that if you’re only paying the minimum due each month, you could be charged interest.

It may be helpful to check your monthly statements for accuracy. Carefully checking them could help you find accidental charges, overcharges or other errors that might appear on your statement. Also, keep in mind that it’s important to report a lost or stolen card right away.

It might also help to learn some basics about credit cards and how revolving credit works

3. Monitor your credit score

Monitoring your credit score can help by keeping it top of mind.

CreditWise can help here, too. You can access CreditWise to see your VantageScore 3.0 credit score from your desktop or phone, so you always have it at your fingertips. Plus, you can check CreditWise as often as you like without hurting your score—and get weekly credit updates and alerts. 

You can also check your credit reports, since they can be used to judge your creditworthiness, according to the CFPB. You can get free copies of your credit reports from the major credit bureaus by visiting

Building credit with a secured credit card from Capital One

Secured cards might not help you build credit any faster than other credit-building methods, but it’s possible to improve your credit gradually with consistent, responsible use. 

If it fits your needs, you could apply for a Capital One secured credit card. If you’re approved, you’ll simply make your deposit and then wait for your card to arrive. 

Once you’re a cardholder, you can start using tools and security features that come with your Capital One card. They can help you manage your account and help you protect yourself from fraud. And using those resources—plus using your new card responsibly—could be part of your journey toward establishing or rebuilding your credit.

Explore more from Capital One

Are you new to credit or searching for your next credit card? Capital One can help:

Take control of your credit

Explore our Platinum Secured and Quicksilver Secured cards for building credit.

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