Upgrading from a secured to an unsecured credit card

When used responsibly, secured credit cards can be great tools for establishing, building or rebuilding credit. And after you’ve worked on your credit over time, you may be eligible to upgrade from a secured credit card to an unsecured credit card. But when can you change your secured credit card to unsecured? And how does unsecuring work? 

Find out what to expect if your secured credit card graduates to an unsecured credit card.

Key takeaways  

  • Secured cards require a security deposit to open the account. When you upgrade to an unsecured card, you’ll typically get that security deposit back. 
  • Unsecuring doesn’t mean your card becomes less secure or safe. It simply means you’ve upgraded to an unsecured credit card that doesn’t require a security deposit.
  • Each credit card issuer has its own policies and requirements for unsecuring. But consistently using your secured credit card responsibly is important across the board.

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Secured vs. unsecured credit cards: What’s the difference? 

Before you learn about upgrading a secured credit card, it can be helpful to understand the difference between secured and unsecured cards.

A secured credit card is a type of credit card that requires a security deposit to open the account. The terms and amount you pay as a security deposit can vary. 

With some secured cards, the credit limit will be equal to the security deposit amount. Capital One has secured cards with credit limits that are higher than the security deposit.

With the Capital One Platinum Secured card, for example, an initial security deposit of $49, $99 or $200 can open an account with a credit line of $200, depending on your credit history. And you can raise the credit limit by depositing more than the minimum amount required.

Rewards may also be limited with secured cards, but not in all cases. The Quicksilver Secured Rewards card offers cardholders 1.5% cash back on every purchase. With Quicksilver, you simply make a $200 minimum deposit to open an account with an initial credit line of $200. 

Unsecured credit cards don’t require a deposit to open the account.

An illustration of the Capital One Platinum Secured card and the Capital One Quicksilver Secured Rewards card, along with each card’s deposit requirements. 

What does it mean to upgrade a secured credit card? 

With responsible use over time, you may become eligible to upgrade your secured card to an unsecured card with the same issuer. This process is sometimes referred to as unsecuring, upgrading or graduating. 

Check with your issuer to understand your options and how unsecuring will affect your account. 

Can you upgrade a Capital One secured credit card to an unsecured card?

By doing things like paying on time and paying off your entire balance each month, you may be able to switch to an unsecured card. If this happens, Capital One will send you a notification that your card has been upgraded to an unsecured credit card.

How do I get my security deposit back? 

When you’re upgraded to a Capital One unsecured credit card, your security deposit is returned to you as a statement credit that’s automatically applied to any balance on your card. Or Capital One may refund your deposit if you pay your balance in full and close the account. 

You can check that your deposit has been returned by signing in to your account or looking for it on your next credit card statement.

An illustrated GIF of a phone screen showing how a security deposit can be returned as a statement credit. 

How to upgrade your secured credit card 

There isn’t one set of guidelines on how to upgrade from a secured card to an unsecured card. Each issuer has its own policies, timelines and requirements for changing to an unsecured card. 

However, there are a few rules of thumb that can help guide you on your journey toward upgrading your secured card. 

1. Use your secured credit card responsibly

Using credit responsibly is a key part of financial health. And if you want to upgrade to an unsecured card, it’s important to show the issuer that you know how to manage credit.

Using your card responsibly can also help you build credit. Here are a few tips to keep in mind, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

  • Always pay on time. Payment history is a major factor in calculating credit scores. Setting up AutoPay is an easy way to help you avoid late or missed payments—and the fees and penalties that may come with them. 
  • Pay more than the minimum. The CFPB says to pay as much toward your balance as possible. And when you can, paying off your entire balance can help improve your credit scores. Plus, paying off your entire balance can help you avoid interest charges.  
  • Only apply for credit you need. Applying for new credit triggers a hard inquiry. And too many hard inquiries may hurt your credit. 

2. Keep an eye on your credit 

Regularly monitoring your credit is another important part of using credit responsibly. It can help you track your progress and spot any credit reporting errors that may be impacting your scores. 

CreditWise from Capital One lets you access your free TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 credit score anytime. CreditWise is free and available to anyone, even if you’re not a Capital One account holder. And using it won’t hurt your scores. 

You can also get free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus—Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion—through AnnualCreditReport.com

3. Get to know your credit card issuer’s policies 

Remember, each issuer has its own policies and requirements for upgrading a secured card to an unsecured card. Some issuers may automatically upgrade your secured card once you become eligible. Others may not. Look into how your issuer handles secured card upgrades, and get in touch if you have any questions. 

Are unsecured cards less secure? 

Not at all. Unsecuring simply means that you’ve upgraded from a secured credit card to an unsecured credit card, and you get your security deposit back. 

After the upgrade, your card still has all the same security and fraud protection features it has always had. For Capital One cards, that might include things like:

  • Fraud alerts 
  • Instant purchase notifications
  • Card lock1
  • Eno, your Capital One assistant

Upgrading a secured credit card to unsecured FAQ

Find out more about secured and unsecured credit cards with these frequently asked questions:

Some secured credit cards charge an annual fee. Others don’t. Before applying for any credit card, make sure you understand all the card’s terms and conditions, including things like interest rates and fees. 

The Capital One Platinum Secured card and the Quicksilver Secured Rewards card from Capital One don’t have annual fees. View important rates and disclosures.

It’s also important to note the difference between annual fees and security deposits. An annual fee is the amount a cardholder has to pay to keep a credit card open. It’s typically charged once a year as long as the card remains open. And only some credit cards charge annual fees. 

A security deposit, on the other hand, is a one-time refundable payment that a cardholder makes to open a secured credit card account. Remember, you can generally earn your deposit back by doing things like paying on time and paying off your entire balance. 

You might become eligible to upgrade to an unsecured credit card when you consistently use the secured card responsibly. 

Responsible credit card use includes always paying on time, keeping your credit utilization ratio low and only applying for the credit you need. The CFPB also recommends paying off your entire balance when you can. 

There isn’t a set timeline for when you can expect to upgrade to an unsecured card. Policies and requirements vary by issuer. And remember, Capital One will notify you if your secured card is upgraded to an unsecured card. 

Upgrading to an unsecured card doesn’t typically involve a hard inquiry into your credit. That’s why unsecuring on its own likely won’t impact your credit scores. 

Upgrading from a secured to an unsecured credit card in a nutshell 

Using a secured credit card responsibly can help put you on a path toward upgrading to an unsecured credit card. 

Explore Capital One secured credit cards to see if one is right for you. You can also check for pre-approved card offers before you apply. Pre-approval is quick and won’t hurt your credit scores.

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