Guide to Applying for a Credit Card With No Security Deposit

By Timothy Moore · May 20, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Guide to Applying for a Credit Card With No Security Deposit

Getting a credit card with no deposit can be easy if you have an established credit history with a good or excellent credit score. But if you’re just establishing your credit history or are trying to build your credit score, it can be much more challenging to apply for a credit card with no deposit.

For some, a secured credit card (one requiring a security deposit) might seem like the only option, but there are other paths to building your credit history. In this guide, we’ll cover how to find and apply for credit cards with no deposit — and what steps you can take to get closer to approval if you’re getting denied.

What Is a Credit Card Security Deposit?

Because of their established credit history and decent credit scores, many borrowers can open credit cards with no money down (or any other kind of collateral). This is called an unsecured credit card. However, if you don’t have any credit history or have a low credit score, you might find that credit card issuers will only offer you a secured credit card — meaning it requires a security deposit.

A credit card security deposit is refundable and often equal to the value of the credit limit on the card. Typically, the deposit amount ranges from $50 to $300.

While going this route can’t help you with unexpected expenses (as with a debit card, you are technically only able to spend money you already have), it can be a good way to build credit. However, you’ll want to ask the card issuer if they report to the credit bureaus, just to ensure they do.

Eventually, you may be able to graduate to an unsecured card if you consistently make on-time payments — one of the cardinal credit card rules.

Applying for a Credit Card With No Security Deposit

Applying for a secured credit card requiring a deposit might not be appealing to every potential borrower, especially because you need the money for the deposit upfront. These cards also typically have higher interest rates and fees. Fortunately, you have other options when shopping for a credit card.

Checking Your Approval for a Card

There’s no such thing as guaranteed credit card approval with no deposit. However, if you’re receiving emails or snail mail with credit card offers saying you’re preapproved, you might find success when you apply. You’ll still have to go through the formal application process and could ultimately get rejected, but getting a preapproved offer is a good start towards getting a credit card.

You can also proactively check your approval for a credit card online. Take a look at your credit score and then search online for offers for credit cards with no deposit that include your credit score in their target range.

Becoming an Authorized User

If you aren’t having success getting approved for a credit card on your own, ask a parent, family member, or trusted friend about being an authorized user on their credit card. As an authorized user, you’ll receive a credit card with your name on it and can use it like a traditional credit card, but you will not be the primary account holder.

The primary account holder is the one responsible for making on-time payments and monitoring credit usage. As an authorized user, you won’t have control over things like credit limit, and the primary cardholder can even set spending limits on your card.

However, if the primary cardholder uses the credit card responsibly — making regular, on-time payments and keeping credit utilization low — you will likely see a positive impact on your own credit score. Eventually, your score might improve enough for you to try applying for your own card again.

If someone makes you an authorized user on their card, however, it’s important to pay them what you owe each month. Never rack up credit card charges beyond what you’ve discussed with the cardholder. If you abuse your card privileges, it will affect your credit score and the score of the account holder — and the friend or family member will be solely liable for paying off your debts.

Getting a Student Credit Card or a Subprime Card

If the thought of affecting someone else’s credit score as an authorized user makes you uncomfortable, you aren’t out of options. You might be eligible to apply for a student card or a subprime card.

•   Student credit card: Most student cards do not require a security deposit and are designed for students who have no credit history. Some cards might even offer cash back rewards and no annual fees. However, as the name implies, you must be able to prove you are a student as part of the application process.

•   Subprime credit card: A subprime card is an unsecured card (i.e., no-deposit card) designed for borrowers with bad credit (generally a score below 580 in the FICO® score model). While subprime credit cards provide a way for bad-credit borrowers to get a credit card with no deposit, they often come with their own drawbacks. Typically, subprime cards charge an application fee; some might have annual or even monthly fees. Credit limits tend to be low.

Transitioning to an Unsecured Card

If you have no luck with a student or subprime card and can’t become an authorized user, you may need to consider applying for a secured credit with a deposit after all. Although it might not be ideal, it can be a good first step toward building your credit history.

If you make regular on-time payments, the credit card issuer might eventually transition you to an unsecured card. Alternatively, you can be proactive: After building your credit history and score over several months with a secured credit card, you can apply for a credit card with no deposit through another issuer. You might find that you’re more successful this time around.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

What to Know About the Effects of Your Credit Score

An unsecured credit card can potentially affect your credit score if the credit card issuer reports to the credit bureaus. Before opening a credit card with a security deposit, ask the issuer if they report to the bureaus.

If they do, regular on-time payment could build your score over time. On the flipside, late or missed payments could adversely affect your score.

Getting a No-Deposit Credit Card: What You Should Know

So, should you get a no-deposit credit card? In general, these unsecured cards offer greater flexibility at the start because you aren’t required to pay a security deposit.

However, opening a credit card of any type is a big decision — and not one to be taken lightly. It’s important to consider the potential effects of opening a credit card and to be aware of how much a credit card costs. For example, if you max out a credit card with a high interest rate, you might find yourself drowning in the fast-growing debt it creates.

Before opening a no-deposit credit card (or any credit card), think about the implications it can have on your finances. You might consider alternate ways of establishing credit, like credit-builder loans or even small personal loans.

However, these options don’t offer some of the same perks and protections that a credit card does, such as credit card chargebacks. If a credit card feels like the right step for you, begin your research process online.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

The Takeaway

Credit cards without a security deposit, called unsecured credit cards, can be appealing because there is no money down at the start of the loan. However, borrowers without a credit history or who are struggling with bad credit may find it challenging to get approved for a no-deposit credit card. If applying for a secured credit card (i.e., one with a security deposit) is not ideal for your financial situation, you can ask to become an authorized user on someone else’s card or apply for a student or subprime credit card.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Do all credit cards require a deposit?

Only secured credit cards require a security deposit. Those with no credit history or bad credit scores might only be eligible for secured credit cards. If you have a good credit score, you can apply for a credit card without a deposit.

Can I get a credit card if I have no credit history?

It is possible to get a credit card with no credit history. A secured credit card requires a security deposit but makes it easier for borrowers with no credit history to get approved. Students can also consider student credit cards, which are often issued to student borrowers without any credit history.

What credit score is required for approval?

While having a good to excellent credit score (typically 670+) is ideal for getting the best credit cards with the lowest rates, some credit card issuers do offer cards for borrowers with fair or even poor credit (meaning scores between 580 and 669). These cards might have higher fees and fewer perks and may require a security deposit.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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