How Long Does It Take for a Secured Credit Card to Become Unsecured?

Secured credit cards that become unsecured require that you manage your finances well.

Last Updated: 3/11/2022
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Depending on the secured credit card you get, it might be possible to transition to an unsecured card with responsible use of your card. Not all card issuers follow the same guidelines when it comes to how long it takes for a secured card to become unsecured, although it typically ranges from six to 18 months. During this period, you need to use your card correctly and keep an eye on your credit score to qualify.

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MoneyGeek’s Takeaways

Some card issuers perform automatic reviews for upgrades in six to 18 months.

Some issuers require that you submit upgrade requests on your own.

Not all secured credit cards can be converted to unsecured cards.

Does a Secured Credit Card Ever Become Unsecured?

People who get secured credit cards usually have poor or no credit history. Since these cards require security deposits, it’s normal to wonder if a secured credit card can ever become unsecured. Simply put, the answer is yes: a secured card can become unsecured. However, it depends on the card you get and how well you manage your credit.

Several issuers of secured credit cards automatically review cardholders’ accounts after a predetermined time to determine if they qualify to make the switch. That time frame can be anywhere from six to 18 months. If your card provider conducts these periodic reviews and if your secured card graduates to an unsecured version, you stand to get your deposit amount back. If your card issuer doesn’t conduct automatic account reviews, you may consider asking them for a review on your own after using their cards for at least six months.

Not all secured cards allow graduation to unsecured cards. If your card does not offer this functionality, you may ask your issuer if it’s willing to upgrade you to a new unsecured card. If this is not possible, you may consider looking at cards from other issuers for which you might qualify.

How Long Does It Take for a Secured Card to Be Unsecured?

How long it takes for a secured card to become unsecured depends not just on your card’s issuer but also on how you manage your credit. In addition, not all secured cards can be converted to an unsecured alternative. However, a few cards may increase your credit limit after some time without requiring an additional security deposit. If in doubt, it’s best to ask your card’s issuer whether you have the option to graduate from unsecured to secured.

Some issuers of secured credit cards review accounts for upgrades after the first six months. Others, on the other hand, might review your account for an upgrade only after 18 months. It is good to keep in mind, however, that a review does not guarantee that you will qualify for an upgrade. What can help is building your credit score from the time you get your new card to the time it’s up for review.

Bank of America suggests that people who have the BankAmericard Secured Credit Card or the Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card may expect periodic reviews of their accounts to determine if they might qualify for their security deposits to be returned. However, it does not provide any specific timeline. This is also the case with the Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card.

If you get the Quicksilver Secured Rewards Card or the Platinum Secured Card from Capital One, you may expect a review that might bring with it a higher credit limit after the first six months. Capital One also states that you might be able to upgrade to an unsecured card.

Citi takes longer than most other issuers to review its Citi Secured Mastercard accounts. It determines if you qualify for a deposit refund after 18 months.

U.S. Bank does not review secured credit accounts for upgrades automatically. However, if you’ve been using its Secured Visa Card, Cash+ Visa Secured Card or Altitude Go Visa Secured Card for at least a year, you may contact the bank to submit a request to upgrade to an unsecured card.

People who use the Discover it Secured Credit Card may look forward to monthly account reviews that determine if they qualify for unsecured cards after the first seven months.

How Long Card Issuers Take for a Secured Card to Become Unsecured

  • Card Issuer
    Period
  • American Express
    No secured cards on offer
  • Bank of America
    No predetermined time period
  • Capital One
    After six months of account opening
  • Chase
    No secured cards on offer
  • Citi
    After 18 months of account opening
  • Discover
    After seven months of account opening
  • U.S. Bank
    After 12 months of account opening
  • Wells Fargo
    No predetermined time period
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In addition to the time it takes to upgrade, pay attention to aspects such as annual fees, APRs and rewards when selecting a secured credit card. Additionally, be cautious of secured cards that require application fees, monthly fees and others that make it harder to build your finances. We have subjected all the top secured cards to our unique ranking methodology so that you can find one to suit your needs with ease.

How Do You Make a Secured Credit Card Unsecured?

While some issuers of secured credit cards evaluate your account automatically after a predetermined time, others require you to submit upgrade requests on your own. In both cases, if the evaluation works in your favor, you get your deposit back and graduate to an unsecured card. However, not all secured cards give you the option of upgrading to unsecured cards.

If you have a secured card that comes with the possibility of an upgrade, there are a few guidelines you can follow to increase the probability of a favorable outcome. Take time to learn what goes into calculating your credit score and then take steps to build your creditworthiness. Bear in mind that the eventual decision rests with the card’s issuer.

  • Make payments on time: You need to make payments toward all your existing credit accounts on time because this factor accounts for 35% of your FICO score.
  • Don’t apply for credit too often: Your credit score drops a few points every time you apply for credit, and this aspect accounts for 10% of your FICO score.
  • Don’t use too much of your credit: Your credit utilization ratio accounts for 30% of your FICO score. It refers to the amount you’ve borrowed from your total revolving credit limit and should ideally remain below 30%. For example, if you have two secured credit cards with a combined limit of $2,000, you should strive to keep your total outstanding balances below $600.
  • Add to the mix: Your credit mix accounts for 10% of your FICO score, and it refers to the different types of credit you use. If you have some spare money in the bank, you may consider getting a credit-builder loan. You might also consider adding to the mix by getting a personal loan, provided you have a clear repayment plan in place.
>> MORE: WHAT IS A FICO SCORE AND HOW DOES IT WORK
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Some secured credit cards also provide higher credit limits when you use your card responsibly. Even if you can't upgrade to an unsecured card right away, having a credit limit higher than your security deposit is a good interim step. — Lee Huffman, credit card expert at BaldThoughts.com

Other Questions You May Have About Secured Cards

If you’re considering getting a secured credit card, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible to make the decision that’s right for you. Learning the answers to a few of the other commonly asked questions about how long it takes for a secured card to become unsecured can help.

Next Steps

If you plan to get a secured credit card and then hope for it to become unsecured, you need to manage your finances well. In your search for a new card, pay attention to factors such as security deposit requirements, annual fees and APRs. You might also benefit by understanding how to improve your credit.

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About the Author


Rajiv Baniwal has been writing about different financial topics for over 15 years. Meticulous in his research, he makes sure he provides accurate and up-to-date information. His areas of expertise include mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, insurance and international money transfers.


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