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Unable to get a credit card? If so, it may be harder for you to build a good credit rating, making everyday life tasks like making a hotel, plane or car reservation a little more difficult. The same goes for loan approvals.

A secured card can help those who don’t qualify for a regular credit card to establish or repair a poor credit history. But what is a secured credit card and how do you get one?

You’ll Need a Deposit
These cards use your cash as a deposit for your spending funds, unlike regular credit cards which don’t require collateral.

For example, if you put $1,000 in the account, you can charge up to $1,000 with the secured credit card. You won’t be able to charge more than that unless the bank extends your credit limit because you made timely payments or you add more money to the account. The deposit is taken by the lender if you don’t pay your credit card bill on time.

Where to Get One
Banks offer secured credit cards, though you might have more luck getting one from a small bank or as a member of a credit union. The annual fees may be waived and interest rates should be lower at a credit union.

Some issuers may only give secured cards to people who are new to credit.

Look Out for Fees
Be sure to shop around for a secured credit card. Don’t apply for one that charges an application fee—there are plenty of options that don’t include this fee.

Most secured cards charge an annual fee. Read the contract carefully and look for other fees so that you know how to avoid them.

How to Best Use Them
The main benefit? You can build up your credit score. Although some choose this option to avoid carrying around a lot of cash.

To improve your credit score with a secured card, pay off the card every month. The card won’t allow you to spend more than your deposit, but it won’t stop you from making late payments. Set up automatic payments, if necessary, and only keep a secured card for as long as you need it to build your credit. Why? Because they have higher annual fees and interest rates than regular, unsecured cards.

You don’t want to dig a bigger financial hole for yourself by paying more in interest and fees with a secured card. The point is to improve your credit, so try to keep that as your end goal.

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