Secured MasterCard® from Capital One Review: Build Credit With Low Deposit

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The Capital One Secured Mastercard offers a chance at a secured credit card with a low deposit requirement.
Image Credit: Capital One / Clark.com

If you are looking for a first credit card or a way to do some credit repair, the Secured MasterCard® from Capital One may be a low-cost option in the secured credit card market.

Secured credit cards, which are primarily for people with a poor credit history or no credit history at all, require that the credit-seeker make a security deposit to receive a card.

Typically, the deposit amount required matches the credit limit of the card, but this Capital One card has a way to get a larger credit limit without having to match the funds with a deposit.

With a deposit requirement as low as $49 for a $200 credit limit and the possibility for a higher credit limit after five on-time payments, Capital One stands out against its competition in the secured credit card market. Read on for more…

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We measured it by the standards money expert Clark Howard keeps for choosing a secured credit card, which include characteristics like no annual fee and a pathway to traditional credit.

What Is the Secured MasterCard® from Capital One?

The Secured MasterCard® from Capital One is a secured credit card aimed at helping card seekers build or rebuild credit.

It is a real credit card, not a debit card or prepaid credit card. This means your spending and payment habits with this card will be reported to the three credit bureaus and can impact your credit score.

The difference between a secured and an unsecured credit card is the requirement of a security deposit.

This Capital One secured card requires a minimum deposit that ranges from $49 to $200 in order to open the account. This amount is refundable if you close the account or qualify for unsecured credit, but also could be used by Capital One to cover the unpaid balance on your card should you fail to pay your bill.

How Does the Secured MasterCard® from Capital One Work?

So let’s get down to business on what makes Capital One stand out among its peers in the secured credit card market.

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The industry norm is that secured card issuers require a dollar-for-dollar match in security deposit and credit limit. For example, if you deposit $200 you would get a $200 credit limit.

Capital One is breaking that mold with this card by offering as much as a $1,000 credit limit on what could be as small as a $49 security deposit.

Here’s how it works:

Gain A Larger Credit Limit Through Capital One’s Secured Card

  • Capital One requires that you start with a minimum $200 credit limit, but it doesn’t necessarily require an accompanying $200 deposit to go with it.
  • Instead, Capital One assesses your individual application and credit history to determine if you fall into one of three tiers for security deposit requirement: $49, $99 or $200.
  • Once your deposit is made and the card is issued, you use this credit card for purchases just like a traditional unsecured card. It doesn’t even have a “secured” marking on it.
  • If you decide you need an immediate credit line beyond the initial $200 limit, Capital One will allow you to make an additional deposit within the first 35 days. That deposit will raise the credit limit dollar for dollar.
  • Capital One is looking for you to make successful and on-time payments for the first five billing cycles.
  • After successfully completing five billing cycles, Capital One says you’ll get access to a bigger credit line with no additional deposit needed. That could be as much as $1,000.
  • Beyond the five billing cycle goal, Capital One also notes that you may earn credit line increases based on payment history and creditworthiness.
  • After a period of time, Capital One may determine that your security deposit is no longer needed. If you meet that criteria, the deposit will be returned to you as a statement credit and you’ll be treated as an unsecured cardholder.

While the timeline for each individual may vary based on personal financial factors, it does appear that this Capital One secured card has a clear path to traditional credit. That’s one of money expert Clark Howard’s important factors in choosing a secured card.

Secured MasterCard® from Capital One Specs and Perks

Let’s take a look at some of the perks and drawbacks of the card from the fine print:

Cardholder Benefits

  • No Annual Fee: This is an important component to Team Clark’s recommendations for secured credit cards. Because these are designed to be a short-term and temporary pathway to unsecured credit cards, it is recommended that you avoid an annual fee for a secured card.
  • Security Deposit as Low as $49: Capital One will set you up with an initial credit limit of $200 for this type of card. The amount you’ll be required to put down as a deposit for that initial limit is either $49, $99 or $200. Capital One makes that decision after an assessment of your credit application.
  • Virtual Card Numbers: Capital One provides separate card numbers for online purchases, which should leave your actual card number protected from online predators and scammers.
  • Free Credit Score Updates: Through CreditWise, Capital One will alert you when your TransUnion or Experian credit report changes. Since you’re likely getting a secured credit card to improve your credit score, getting free monitoring of your credit score is a nice perk.
  • $0 Fraud Liability: Just like their unsecured offerings, Capital One says that you will not be responsible for unauthorized charges made with the secured credit card.
  • Travel Coverage: Capital One offers three perks that are worth noting for travel: Travel Accident Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver and 24-hour Travel Assistance Services. If you travel often, perks like getting quick card replacement and access to cash advances can create peace of mind.

Cardholder Fees

There is no annual fee for using the card, but there are some associated rates and fees that could impact you as a Capital One cardholder:

  • Cash Advance: You’ll be charged either $10 or 3% of the total amount of the advance, whichever is greater.
  • Late Payment: If you miss your payment due date, you could be subject to a late fee of up to $39.
  • Balance Transfers: There is no balance transfer fee for the Capital One secured card, which is great. However, any existing balance you transfer to the card is still subject to interest charges.

Please note that annual percentage rates also apply to balances, but your individual rate will vary based on credit history factors.

Team Clark recommends that you avoid carrying a balance on a secured credit card to both avoid the interest charges and keep your credit utilization in check.

Secured MasterCard® from Capital One vs. Citi Secured Mastercard

One of Capital One’s top competitors in this space is the Citi Secured Mastercard. Since you may be trying to decide between one of these two popular card issuers, we felt it prudent to point out some of the similarities and differences in the secured card offerings.

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First, here are some core items that you’ll find are either the same or similar:

  • No annual fee for either card
  • Minimum credit limit of $200
  • Acts as a real credit card
  • Free access to credit report updates
  • $0 liability on unauthorized charges
  • No cash back or rewards program

There are some important distinctions between the two cards:

  • While Capital One will allow for a credit limit that is higher than the security deposit required, Citi sticks to a dollar-for-dollar match on the two
  • Citi offers a credit limit as high as $2,500 for its secured card
  • There is a $5 or 3% (whichever is greater) balance transfer fee with Citi; Capital One does not charge one
  • Citi also charges a 3% foreign purchase transaction fee; Capital One charges no foreign transaction fees

How to Use a Secured Credit Card

If you are considering adding the Secured MasterCard® from Capital One card to your wallet, we want to make sure you’re fully equipped to get the most out of your secured credit card experience.

Money expert Clark Howard has four areas of concern that you should assess when choosing a secured credit card. Those include annual fees, interest grace periods, junk fees and a clear path to unsecured credit. You can read more about these guidelines for secured credit cards here.

Fortunately, this Capital One card rates really well in those areas and is included in Team Clark’s best options for secured credit cards.

No matter which secured card you decide on, Clark wants you to do the following:

  • Make multiple small purchases each month
  • Keep your credit utilization under 30% at all times
  • Pay your bill in full and on time

Follow those steps and you’ll be well on your way to an unsecured credit card and an improved credit score.

Final Thoughts

Are you considering applying for the Secured MasterCard® from Capital One? Let’s review some of the pros and cons of the card before you make your final decision:

Capital One Secured Mastercard: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Deposit required can be as low as $49 No cash back or rewards program
Can jump to $1,000 credit limit after 5 months Maximum $1,000 credit limit
Strong travel protections included with card Security deposit required

Bottom Line: If you are in the market for a secured credit card, Capital One presents a strong option. The chance to get in with as little as $49 deposit and expand it to as much as a $1,000 credit limit within five billing cycles will put you on the path to an unsecured card.

Do you have experience with the Secured MasterCard® from Capital One? Let us know how you like it in the comments below!

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