- How Long Does It Take To Build Credit With a Secured Card?
How Long To Build Credit With a Secured Credit Card?
Remember the good old days when paying bills on time was a piece of cake? Suddenly, life throws a curveball—and before you know it, you’re struggling to keep your credit score afloat.
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But no worries, you’re not the only one to fall on hard times. A secured credit card can help you rebuild your credit, get back on track, and start reaping the rewards.
Before you take the leap, though, let’s find out if a secured card is the right fit for you.
This article will show you:
- How long it takes to increase your score.
- How to raise your credit score quickly with a secured card.
- The best cards to boost your credit.
- How to Build Credit
- How to Build Credit at 18
- How to Establish Business Credit
- How to Build Credit With a Credit Card
- How Long Does It Take to (Re)Build Credit?
How Long Does It Take To Build Credit With a Secured Card?
It can take six months to a year to start building up your credit with a secured card, depending on where you’re starting from.
Here’s a breakdown of how long it takes to boost your credit score with a secured card:
No credit history
Up to 6 months
Bad to fair score (300-699)
Good credit score (670–739)
- No credit history: It typically takes up to six months to establish a credit score from scratch if you show good payment history, including paying your bills on time.
- Bad to fair score (300-699): You can be waiting around 12–18 months to get a good credit score—but you’ll need to consistently pay your bills on time, repay loans, and manage your finances responsibly.
- Good credit score (670–739): If you’ve made it to this range, you’re already in the credit bureau’s good books and you should be enjoying the benefits. But if you want to climb even higher, it can take between 7–10 years.
- Rebuilding credit: There’s no quick fix for rebuilding or fixing credit. Negative information like late payments and bankruptcies can stay on your credit report for 7–10 years (but the more time passes, the less impact these mishaps will have on your overall credit score).
Why do you need to wait so long to see your credit score go up?
The credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are a bit like parents—they want to see a track record of responsible behavior before they give you the keys to the credit kingdom.
With a secured credit card, it’s all about showing them that you’ve got what it takes.
Regular on-time payments and keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30% are the best ways to show off your responsible credit usage. By earning the trust of the credit bureaus, you’ll be well on your way to building up that credit score.
Not all secured cards are created equal, though—some can be more beneficial than others for building credit.
For example, some secured cards report to all three major credit bureaus, while others only report to one or two.
Does a secured card build credit as well as a regular credit card?
Yes, a secured card can build credit just as well as a regular credit card, as long as you use it responsibly and consistently.
In some cases, it can even be easier to build credit with a secured card as the entry requirements are less restrictive for those with poor credit (requiring only a security deposit instead of a credit score check).
But no matter what the card, you’ll only be able to improve your credit score if you practice positive financial habits, such as making payments on time, staying out of debt, and keeping that credit utilization low.
What Is a Secured Credit Card?
A secured credit card is like a traditional credit card, except it requires a cash deposit from the cardholder.
This acts as collateral on the account and gives security to the card issuer in case you can’t make payments.
To make sure you’re spending within your means, the credit limit on a secured credit card is usually equal to the security deposit.
Because you’re providing collateral, many secured card issuers will accept those with below-average credit scores.
This is great news if you have limited or poor credit history, as it can be pretty tough to get approved for traditional credit cards.
How Does a Secured Credit Card Work?
So you’re ready to take on the world of credit, but you’ve got no credit to your name. What do you do?
Enter the secured credit card—it’s like training wheels for your credit score.
To get started, you’ll need to make a cash deposit with the card issuer. It serves as collateral in case you miss payments or default on the card.
As you make purchases and on-time payments on your secured credit card, you’ll start to build a positive credit history—as long as you’re using it wisely.
But don’t just go for any card. Do your research and compare secured credit cards to find one that works for you.
Look out for the ones that report to all three credit bureaus, and have decent fees and interest rates.
If you’re just getting started, check out the best credit cards for 18-year-olds.
How to apply for a secured credit card?
Ready to get started? Applying for a credit card is easy, just follow these steps:
- Do your research: Look for cards with low fees and interest rates, as well as those that report to all three credit bureaus to help you build credit over time.
- Read the fine print: Consider the deposit amount required, credit limit, and any additional benefits (or drawbacks) offered by the card issuer to find the right match for you.
- Provide your details: You’ll typically need to provide personal information such as your name, address and Social Security number, and proof of income. You’ll also need to have the cash deposit ready to secure the card.
- Apply for the secured credit card: Follow the instructions provided by the card issuer and complete the application with the right information (it never hurts to double-check).
- Wait for approval: If all your details stack up, the card issuer will review your application and credit history and tell you if you’ve been approved within minutes.
- Activate your card: Once you’re approved, you’ll get your new secured credit card in seven to ten working days. But you’ll need to activate it before you can start spending (just check the card issuer’s site for instructions).
- Use the card responsibly: You’ve got your hands on a credit card—so make the most out of it. Start demonstrating responsible credit usage and watch your credit score start to rise up.
Applying for a secured credit card is just the beginning, though. To truly conquer the credit mountain, you’ve got to monitor your credit report and score (try using Credit Karma for a free report).
Keep a close eye on your credit behavior and make changes when necessary—maybe you need to reduce your credit utilization or pay your bills on time more consistently.
Whatever it is, stay on top of it—and you’ll start improving your credit score in no time.
Struggling to make payments? Try our free budget calculator to stay on top of your finances.
How To Build Credit Fast With a Secured Credit Card
Time to dig a little deeper into how you can raise your credit score with your secured credit card.
Here are some tips to help you build credit fast—
Make on-time payments
Payment history makes up 35% of your credit scorei —it’s essentially the backbone of your credit reputation, so you have to take care of it.
Make those on-time payments like they’re going out of style, as any late or missed payments have a negative impact on your credit score.
Be sure to pay the minimum balance on time each month—and even more if you can afford it.
And if you’ve got an old loan still lingering around, it’s not all bad news. By making those punctual loan repayments, you’re showing the credit bureaus that you’re a responsible borrower and they’ll give you a little credit boost in return.
Keep your credit utilization low
Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of credit you’re using compared to your credit limit.
To figure out your credit utilization ratio, you just need to do some simple math:
- Add up all your revolving credit balances.
- Add up all your credit limits.
- Divide the total balance by the total limit and multiply by a hundred.
Easy peasy. The harder part is keeping your credit utilization below 30% if you want to maintain and build your credit score.
To keep that utilization low, try limiting your credit use and paying off your balance before the due date (or even pay twice a month to really boost your score).
Remember, anything below 30% is considered a good utilization cit@tation. (If you’re below 1%, you’re basically a credit utilization pro.)
Use the card for small purchases
Turns out regular purchases can mean more than just swiping your card for that daily latte fix.
By making small purchases on your secured credit card and paying them off in full each month, you’re showing those credit bureaus that you know what you’re doing.
Regular purchases show card issuers that you’re making the most out of your account—instead of leaving it unused.
After all, the length of your credit history (how long you’ve been using your accounts) makes up 15% of your credit score, so it’s something to keep an eye on.
So, use your secured credit card for small purchases and pay them off in full each month to build credit quickly.
Choose a secured credit card that reports to all three credit bureaus
When you’re on the hunt for a secured credit card, make sure to find one that reports all your credit activity to all three of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
Why is this important?
Spreading the good word about your credit behavior can boost your score, as it shows the credit bureaus how responsible you are with your credit card usage.
Do your due diligence then, find that secured credit card that’s not afraid to shout your credit behavior from the rooftops—and watch your credit score rise.
Consider increasing your credit limit
Not only will increasing your credit limit make loans more accessible and help lower your credit utilization ratio—it’ll also give your credit score a push in the right direction.
But nothing is ever simple. First, you’ve got to show some responsible credit behavior over time, keep that credit utilization low, and prove you’re financially stable.
Once you’ve got that down, it’s time to ask your card issuer for a higher credit limit. You can do it online or call them up and chat with a real, live human being.
Now, a word of caution—raising your credit limit will add fuel to the credit fire if you’re already struggling financially.
In these cases, it could easily backfire and leave you with a pile of credit card debt. So tread carefully and use your newfound credit limit power wisely.
Building credit signals a great deal of financial responsibility—but there’s no need to rush.
Increasing your credit score takes time, patience, and plenty of responsible credit card usage.
Remember, it can take up to a year to see any significant change—but consistently using your secured credit card responsibly and making on-time payments each month can help you improve your credit score over time.
Pros and Cons of Secured Credit Cards
If you’re still weighing up your options, here are some pros and cons to keep in mind when you’re considering a secured credit card—
- Helps build credit: A secured credit card can help you establish or improve your credit. If you use the card responsibly, make on-time payments, and keep your credit utilization ratio low (below 30%), you can build a positive credit history.
- Easy to qualify: Because secured credit cards require a cash deposit as collateral, they’re often easier to qualify for than unsecured credit cards. This can really help you out if you have a poor or no credit history.
- Can offer rewards: Some secured credit cards offer rewards programs, such as cashback or points for purchases—so you’ll be able to earn some money back or enjoy other benefits for using the card.
- Requires collateral: Back to that cash deposit. Even though it opens doors for those with low credit, it can also be a barrier if you don’t have the initial funds, or prefer to use that money for different things (hard to say no to that summer vacation).
- Extra fees: Secured credit cards can come with high-interest rates and fees, such as annual or application charges. Don’t skip the terms and conditions and choose a card with reasonable fees if possible.
- May have lower credit limits: Because your credit limit is usually the same as your cash deposit, secured credit cards may have more restrictions than unsecured credit cards. This is bad news if you have any larger purchases coming up.
What Are the Best Secured Credit Cards To Build Credit?
Choosing a credit card can help or hinder your credit score-building efforts, so make sure you make the right choice.
To ease the pressure, here are some options to consider—
What’s the best secured credit card for bad credit?
Like most secured credit cards, the Chime Credit Builder doesn’t require a credit check, meaning it’s ideal if you have a low credit score or you’re starting to build your credit history.
And it gets better—the card doesn’t have an annual percentage rate (APR) either, so even if you don’t pay your balance off in full, you won’t be penalized.
Remember that credit builder cards are there to help you establish a positive credit history and learn how to not blow your budget. That being said, you still have to use the card responsibly and start practicing those good financial habits.
What’s the best secured credit card with a low deposit?
One of the drawbacks of secured cards is the security deposit—not everyone has $200 laying around to hand over and open an account.
That’s where the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card comes in with a low deposit of only $49, much lower than other secured cards.
But a word of warning—the security deposit you put down for a secured credit card usually acts as your starting credit limit.
And if the deposit is too low, it can be tricky to maintain a low credit utilization ratio—which is the second largest influence on your overall credit score.
On the plus side, Capital One Platinum Secured reports all your credit activities to the big three credit bureaus—so make sure you impress to boost your credit score over time.
There’s also no sign of any annual fees, which is a big thumbs up.
What’s the best secured credit card with rewards?
If you’re starting from scratch—or your credit score isn’t the best—the Discover It Secured Credit Card can be the ideal sidekick.
It’s a secured card but has the perks and rewards often missing from other secured cards.
What stands out about this card is that it tells you when you can upgrade to a regular card and get your deposit back.
After seven months, Discover will check your account to see whether you qualify for an upgrade. And there’s no annual fee, which is always a win.
Back to the rewards—you can earn 2% cashback on up to $1,000 per quarter on gas and restaurant purchases and an unlimited 1% cashback on all other purchases.
And, there’s more—at the end of your first year, Discover will automatically match all the cashback you’ve earned. No minimum spending or maximum rewards, just a dollar-for-dollar match.
Check out the best cashback credit cards.
What’s the best secured credit card to rebuild credit?
Looking for a credit card that won’t judge you based on your bad credit? The OpenSky Secured Credit Card is here to save the day.
All you need is a deposit to qualify—and with an 87% approval rate, you’ll have better odds than a roulette wheel.
Sure, this card doesn’t offer rewards—but you can still use it to rebuild your credit and in six months, you can upgrade to an unsecured card with more perks.
Just be aware that to apply for this card, you’ll need to be equipped with a $200 minimum security deposit and be prepared to pay the $35 annual fee and 21.89% variable APR.
Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Cards
When you’re on a mission to build credit, getting a secured credit card isn’t the only way to achieve victory.
Unsecured cards will take you down a different path but will (hopefully) lead you to the same destination.
Here are the key differences between secured and unsecured credit cards:
Secured credit cards
Unsecured credit cards
You’ll need to hand over a cash deposit as collateral, which is used as security in case you miss payments or default on the card.
Doesn’t require a cash deposit, but the card issuer will check your credit score, income, and other factors.
Typically has lower credit limits, as your credit limit is usually equal to the amount of your deposit.
Typically has higher credit limits than secured credit cards, as your credit limit is based on your creditworthiness and ability to repay the debt.
It can be easier to qualify for than unsecured credit cards, as the deposit provides added security for the card issuer.
Can be more difficult to qualify for than secured credit cards, particularly if you have a limited credit history or poor credit score.
May come with fees, such as annual fees or application fees.
May come with rewards programs, such as cashback or points for purchases.
Can be a useful tool for building or rebuilding credit, as long as you use the card responsibly and make on-time payments.
Can be a useful tool for earning rewards, as long as you use the card responsibly and pay off your balance in full each month.
Overall, the main difference between secured and unsecured credit cards is the collateral.
That’s why secured credit cards can be easier to qualify for, but often have lower credit limits and may come with high fees.
You won’t need any collateral with unsecured cards, but they can be tricky to qualify for—especially if your credit score is on the low side.
So there you have it. Now you’re ready to choose the credit card that works best for you.
Alternatives Ways To Boost Your Credit Score Fast
Building credit takes time and patience, but there are some alternative ways to potentially speed up the process.
Here are a few options to consider—
Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card
If you know someone with a killer credit score, why not ask them to add you as an authorized user on one of their cards?
By doing so, you can use the card like it’s your own, but the payments are on someone else’s shoulders. If they’re a responsible credit card user and make those on-time payments, your score will increase too.
It’s like a credit score piggyback ride—you get to reap the benefits without doing all the hard work.
So don’t be afraid to ask your credit-savvy friends and family for a little credit boost, just make sure they haven’t got any debt or financial problems hiding in their closet.
Take out a credit-builder loan
Some financial institutions offer credit-builder loans, which are specifically designed to help people build credit.
Here’s how it works: You make regular payments towards a savings account, which you can then access once the loan is paid off.
As you make payments, the lender reports your activity to the credit bureaus, so you get all the credit-boosting benefits without the hassle.
Now for the drawbacks—depending on the lender, interest rates on credit builder loans can be higher-interest than other types of loans. So you could end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan.
Credit builder loans can also come with longer repayment terms, which can make it more tricky to build credit quickly without being tied down.
Remember to only take out a loan if you need the cash and are confident you can pay it back.
Pay bills on time
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again—paying bills on time is one of the most important factors in building and maintaining a good credit score.
If you’re late to payday or miss it altogether, your credit score will be in trouble.
Imagine if you tried to bag an A* at school but kept showing up late or missing classes—your teachers will be less than impressed and they’re the ones handing out the scorecards.
The same goes here—the credit bureaus decide your score, so you need to impress them with responsible credit behavior.
Even if you don’t have any credit cards, paying bills such as rent, utilities, and your cell phone on time can help you establish a credit history.
And if you’re the forgetful type, many banks and credit card issuers will let you set up automatic payments for bills or credit card balances, so you never miss a beat.
Limit new accounts
With promises of cashback and high credit limits, it can be tempting to open a new card. But keep in mind that too many credit applications can have a negative effect on your score.
It’s just a minor factor that affects 10% of your credit, but adding a new credit account to your portfolio can cause a slight dip in your score.
This happens when the creditor makes an inquiry on your credit report to open your account.
Try to focus on the credit cards you currently have and use your credit-building tips to start seeing those positive changes.
- If you’re starting from scratch, it can take up to six months to build a credit score without a secured card. But this can shoot up to 18 months if you’ve got bad credit—or even ten years if you’re trying to fix broken credit.
- Building credit means practicing good financial habits: making punctual payments, keeping your credit utilization low, and choosing the right card for you.
- If you’re still trying to get your hands on a credit card, you can improve your score by signing up as an authorized user, paying your bills on time, and possibly taking out a credit builder loan.
What are the benefits of a secured credit card?
A secured credit card is a great option for those who have no credit history or a low credit score.
Generally, secured credit cards are easier to get approved for than unsecured cards, and they offer several benefits.
One of the top pros is that by using a secured card responsibly and making timely payments, you’ll establish a positive credit history and build your credit score.
Plus, you can control your credit limit by choosing a security deposit amount, which can help you stay within your budget and avoid overspending.
After using a secured card responsibly for a period, you may be able to upgrade to an unsecured card or increase your credit limit.
How to build credit with a credit card?
Here are some tips to build credit with a credit card:
- Use your credit card responsibly by paying bills on time and in full each month.
- Keep your credit utilization ratio low by using no more than 30% of your credit limit.
- Consider a secured credit card or a credit-builder loan if you have no credit history.
- Don’t apply for too many credit cards at once, as it can negatively impact your credit score.
- Regularly check your credit report for errors or fraud.
Taking these steps will help you establish a positive credit history and improve your credit score over time.
What is the best way to use a credit card to build credit?
The best way to use a credit card to build credit is to use it responsibly.
This involves making timely payments, keeping your balances low, using them regularly, monitoring your credit, and avoiding applying for too many cards or loans at once.
Making timely payments is crucial to building a positive credit history. Late payments can cause significant damage to your credit score, so it’s essential to pay your bills on time each month.
Keeping your utilization below 30% is also an excellent way to build a strong credit.
Tracking your credit score is a good way to check if you’re making progress and also helps you catch mistakes or fraud.
What are the best credit cards to build credit?
The Chime Credit Builder is perfect for those with low credit scores or if you’re building a credit history. No credit checks are required.
The cherry on top is that no APR means no penalty for not paying your balance in full.
The OpenSky Secured Credit Card is another card that can boost your credit.
A low deposit is all you need to qualify, and with an 87% approval rate, your odds of getting accepted are really good. Just keep in mind that there are no rewards, plus the card comes with a $35 annual fee and a 21.89% variable APR.
How to start building credit for beginners with a secured credit card?
Here are some steps to follow if you’re using a secured credit card as a beginner:
- Apply for a secured credit card: Choose a card that requires a security deposit that matches your budget.
- Use your card responsibly: Only charge as much as you can afford to pay off each month. Make sure to make timely payments in full, or at least the minimum payment amount.
- Monitor your credit: Keep track of your credit score and report to make sure that no errors or suspicious activity are bringing down your score.
- Gradually upgrade to an unsecured card: After using the card responsibly for a few months, you can ask for a credit line increase or upgrade to an unsecured card.
- Build credit history: As you use your card and make timely payments, you’ll begin to establish a positive credit history that can help you qualify for other types of credit in the future.
Which banks offer secured credit cards?
There are plenty of reputable banks that offer secured credit cards, including:
- US Bank
- Capital One
- Bank of America
If you’re looking for a card to increase your credit score, we recommend looking at the Chime Credit Builder or the OpenSky Secured Credit Card.
If you’re keen to earn rewards, it’s also worth checking out the Discover It Secured Credit Card, which comes with 2% cashback on all purchases.
Here are some more top cashback credit cards to consider.
How to get a secured credit card?
Getting a secured credit card is a fairly straightforward process. Here are some steps you can follow:
- Find a reputable issuer like Capital One or Discover.
- Choose the card that fits your needs, and apply online.
- Be prepared to provide a deposit to secure your line of credit.
- Make sure the issuer reports your activity to credit bureaus so you can build credit.
- Keep your balance low, and pay on time every month to establish a positive credit history.
Secured cards can even offer perks like cashback rewards or low deposits—so keep an eye out for the card that suits you.
How are FICO Scores Calculated? | myFICO. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2023, from https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/whats-in-your-credit-score
(2023, April 4). What Should My Credit Card Utilization Be? https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/what-should-my-credit-card-utilization-be/
Editorial teamMeet the team
Lauren is a published content writer and journalist. In the last five years, she has written about a range of subjects, including business, technology, and finance.
Kacper is an editor, writer, and multilingual translator with expertise in producing tailored content for global online brands.
Founder/Personal Finance Expert
Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially—one email, one article, one person at a time.
Content writing and marketing professional with 5+ years of experience in the B2B and B2C sectors. Deepti has written about several subjects, including finance, project management, human resources, and more.
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