Discover it® Secured Review

Jordan Wathen is a personal finance expert with a deep professional and personal expertise on credit cards. His articles have appeared on sites such as MSN, CNBC, and Yahoo.

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Packed with features that are rare in the secured card category, Discover it® Secured is an undisputed leader. With no annual fee, and high approval odds, this card is a top pick if you have bad credit, or no credit at all. In the Discover it® Secured review below, I’ll explain the card’s main pros and cons, and discuss key points to consider before applying.

Ratings Methodology
Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured

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Why Apply

An unmatched leader with a laundry list of perks and focus on reducing pesky fees. It's rare to find such a rich rewards program in this category, even more impressive that there's no annual fee.

Top Perks:
  • Low security deposit
  • No annual fee
  • FICO® score for free
  • Bonus cash back
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 24.49% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: 10.99%, 6 months
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
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Rates & Fees

What I like

Secured cards aren’t known for their bells and whistles, but Discover it® Secured is in a league of its own for offering features that even some high-end cards don’t have. Here are the five major benefits that make Discover it® Secured one of the best secured cards, hands down:

No annual fee -- The vast majority of secured credit cards carry annual fees that can range from as low as $29 all the way to $200 and more. Discover it® Secured doesn’t have any annual fee.

Up to 2% cash back -- It’s almost unheard of to get cash back from a secured credit card, but Discover it® Secured offers 2% cash back on the first $1,000 of spending at gas stations and restaurants each quarter. In addition, the card offers 1% cash back on all other spending. Discover also doubles your rewards in the first year (with no limit!).

You can pick your own credit limit -- Whereas most secured credit cards have a strict limit that is prescribed to new applicants, Discover it® Secured allows cardholders to make a larger deposit in exchange for a larger limit, up to $2,500.

Tools to build your credit and watch your progress -- Discover it® Secured reports your payment activity to all three major credit bureaus, which helps you build credit over time.

You can graduate to an unsecured card -- One of the biggest perks of Discover it® Secured is that it can convert into a traditional unsecured Discover credit card. After as little as eight months of on-time payments, you may be eligible to have your security deposit returned, thus turning your secured card into an unsecured credit card.

What could be improved

The truth is that secured cards largely exist for one reason: To help people build better credit over time -- period. Anything beyond that is really just icing on the cake. That said, if I could make a few changes to Discover it® Secured, here’s how I’d change it:

A lower deposit requirement -- Discover it® Secured sets your credit limit equal to the deposit. It requires you to deposit $200 for a $200 limit, or $500 for a $500 credit limit, and so on, up to $2,500. In contrast, one secured card offers a $200 credit limit in exchange for a deposit of $49, $99, or $200, depending on your creditworthiness at the time of the application.

Frankly, I’m really nitpicking to come up with improvements. Discover it® Secured already leads on so many features that other cards need to catch up to it, not the other way around.

What to look for in a secured card

It’s important not to lose the forest for the trees. After all, secured cards primarily exist as a way for people who have bad credit, no credit, or limited incomes to build or rebuild their credit reports. With this in mind, there are a few features that you should expect from any secured card.

  • No annual fees -- I consider no annual fees to be a minimum requirement of any secured card, and many fail on this criteria alone. Because there are so many no-annual-fee secured cards out there, it doesn’t make sense to apply for one that has an annual fee.
  • Credit score reporting -- A secured card should report your account to at least one, if not all, of the big three credit bureaus. Discover it® Secured reports to all three
  • An affordable deposit requirement -- You shouldn’t have to put up $1,000 just to open a credit card. It’s my view that cards that require a deposit of $250 or less are in the sweet spot for being accessible, while still offering credit limits that are useful.

As you can see, Discover it® Secured checks all the boxes for features you’d expect from a good secured credit card.

Suggested credit score

Your credit score is almost irrelevant for a secured card -- seriously. Because secured cards require you to put up cash as collateral, whether you have no credit at all, or seriously bad credit (a FICO® Score under 600), you can get approved for a secured credit card. There isn’t much risk for the card issuer, since it will keep your deposit if you fail to make payments.

How to make a secured card work for you

When used correctly, a secured card is the single best way for you to build credit. But you have to be sure to use a secured card intelligently in such a way that it works for you, rather than against you.

Here’s how to use a secured card so that it helps your credit report and score:

  • Keep your spending to a minimum -- It sounds counterintuitive to sign up for a card, get it, and then barely use it, but that’s exactly what you should do if you want to get a good credit score. Ideally, you should strive to keep your balances at less than 30% of your credit limit at all times. Thus, if you have a credit limit of $200, a balance of $60 or less is ideal. Use your secured card to pay for a tank of gas once a month, or use it to pay a recurring monthly charge (Hulu or Netflix work here), and then pay it off every month.
  • Pay on time every single month -- Secured credit cards may require a deposit, but that doesn’t mean you get a pass on making payments. You have to make payments on a secured card just as you would an unsecured credit card. Making payments late can result in late payment fees, penalty interest rates on your balance, and negative marks on your credit score.
  • Pay in full every single month -- If you’re ever wondering how much of your balance you should pay off in a given month, the only correct answer is “all of it!” When you receive your monthly statement, look for a number called your “statement balance.” The statement balance is the amount of money you must pay by the due date to avoid any interest on your balances. If you always pay the statement balance by the due date, you’ll never carry a balance over into a new month, and thus never pay a dime in interest. It is a myth that carrying a balance and paying interest helps your credit score.
  • Set your sights on graduation -- One thing I really like about the card is that it offers a clear path to an unsecured credit card. Beginning with the eighth month after receiving your card, Discover begins automatic monthly reviews to see if you can be upgraded to an unsecured card. It’s quite possible that you could start with a $200 secured card, graduate to an unsecured card with a $1,000 limit, then watch as the credit limit is increased time and time again thereafter. When your credit card graduates to an unsecured card, you’ll receive a check in the mail for your deposit.

If you do each of these five things, I have no doubt that your credit score will start improving with each passing month. One secured card, used correctly, can easily vault you to a “prime” credit score in excess of 700 in a relatively short period of time.

This card is right for you if...

The truth is that a secured credit card isn’t right for everyone. Used wisely, it can help you tremendously. Used incorrectly, it will only add more problems to your credit report. If all of the statements below apply to you, Discover it® Secured would be a great pick.

  • You have bad credit or no credit and/or limited income. Though it may be annoying to have to put up collateral to get a secured card, it also means that secured cards are easy to get. It doesn’t matter if you have been denied for five different unsecured cards; your odds of approval for a secured card are very high.
  • You can set aside $200. It only makes sense to apply for a secured card if you have enough cash to digest the deposit requirement. Discover it® Secured requires a $200 deposit. If you can afford to part with the money, it’s a good option. But don’t do it if it means being late on rent or skipping payments on another obligation.
  • You will pay on time and in full. It doesn’t make sense to give your money to a bank open a secured card, and then borrow your money from the bank at a 20%-plus APR. Only open a secured credit card if you are capable of paying in full each month. Paying late will cost you in the form of interest, late payment fees, and potentially negative marks on your credit report.

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