September 1, 2004
Secured Credit Cards
Recently, I obtained a secured credit card through my bank in an effort to maintain my credit standing. However, I have heard about banks that offer secured cards that match your account deposit dollar for dollar. Could you please send me a list of such banks and their addresses?
–M. Green, Rosharon, TX
Getting a secured credit card is a great way to begin rebuilding your credit. Since a secured card requires a cash deposit as protection, it’s highly unlikely that any bank will match your deposit. In fact, the funds used as collateral, typically $100 — $500, are frozen while you have the account. If you fail to make payments on your credit card accounts, these funds will be used to cover your obligations.
Once your account is in good standing (say six months to a year), some creditors may offer to double the amount you have on deposit, where part of the credit line is secured and part is unsecured, according to Consumer Action (www.consumer-action.org). However, the “matching funds” are not yours to keep once the account is closed -they are returned to the original issuer.
To find competitive rates on secured cards, log on to www.bankrate.com and www.cardweb.com. These Websites offer a wide range of secured credit cards including annual percentage rate, annual fee, and grace periods for the cards. Also, make sure that the card company reports your payment history to all of the major credit reporting agencies regularly. By making payments on time and staying within your credit limit, you will increase your credit score and, eventually, you can apply for an unsecured credit card.