With so many consumers looking for ways to rebuild their credit, secured and prepaid credit cards are growing in popularity. Some people swear by them, and others try to avoid them. If you’re new to credit cards, you may have wondered how a prepaid card differs from a secured card, and how either kind can be used to build credit.
Secured credit cards work much like regular credit cards, but with less risk to the card issuer. The cardholder deposits money into an account, which is used to secure a line of credit. Typically, the cardholder needs to deposit enough money to cover 100-200% of the card’s credit limit. For example, a one thousand dollar deposit would result in a credit limit of five hundred to one thousand dollars.
Secured cardholders are responsible for timely payments, just like regular cardholders. This is a good thing, because it teaches good repayment habits and helps to establish a positive payment history – a very important part of rebuilding damaged credit. If a secured cardholder does default on a payment, the card issuer is protected; they can recover their loss by taking it out of the cardholder’s deposit account.
Critics of secured credit cards point out the difficulty of coming up with a lump sum of cash to use as the deposit, and they do have a point; if cash is that tight, perhaps it isn’t the best time to get a credit card of any type.
By contrast, prepaid credit cards are not actually credit cards at all. They look like them, and can be used like them, but they are really more similar to debit cards. The cardholder deposits money into an account and the prepaid card is then used to draw on these funds. No actual credit is offered by the card issuer. Setup fees and small monthly fees usually apply.
Prepaid cards can be issued to minors. These cards are popular with parents of teenagers who want their kids to have access to a credit card, but one with a definite spending limit in place. No large, up-front deposits are required to obtain a prepaid credit card. The prepaid card limit is up to the purchaser, who can load the card’s account with an amount of their choosing.
Prepaid cards can also be used to establish or rebuild credit. Some issuers give out cards with the Visa or MasterCard logo on them, and these cards can be used anywhere those brands are accepted. Setup fees and monthly fees vary by issuer, so do a bit of research to find the best prepaid card for you. You will find that your options are plentiful, and competition between issuers is steep – which is good news for potential cardholders.
Secured and prepaid credit cards are similar in form and function, with a few notable differences. If your credit is damaged or nonexistent, these cards present an opportunity to improve your situation. If you have a teen or young adult with an allowance, but don’t want to worry with cash or checks, prepaid cards can be a safe and convenient way to store their money. Likewise, if you have trouble limiting your own spending, you might want to try one of these cards.
But if your credit is average or better, and you’re able to control your spending and pay off your credit card balance each month, you might be better off going for a standard, unsecured credit card. The interest rate and fees will almost certainly be lower, and you won’t have to worry about putting up a big deposit. There are many available cards to meet many needs. A little research should turn up the card that best meets yours.