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How Do I Switch from a Secured to an Unsecured Credit Card?

Last Updated: January 21, 2024
3 min read

Key points about: switching from a secured credit card to an unsecured card

  1. Starting with a secured credit card may help you build credit history and qualify for an unsecured card later.

  2. Keeping your credit utilization low on your secured card is key to proving your creditworthiness.

  3. With Discover, you could upgrade to an unsecured card after 6 consecutive on-time payments and maintaining good status on all your credit accounts.1

Changing a secured credit card to an unsecured credit card is a serious financial accomplishment. Starting with a secured card usually means you have little or no credit history, or you're working to rebuild your credit history. Learn the steps to demonstrate responsible use of your secured credit card and how to make the switch to an unsecured card. 

Using your secured credit card responsibly may allow you to graduate to an unsecured credit card

Before you can go from a secured credit card to an unsecured card, you need to demonstrate that you use credit responsibly. Use your card regularly but try to keep the amounts you charge to a small percentage of your credit limit. This is because having a lower debt utilization is considered positive when factored into your FICO® Credit Score.2

It’s also very important to pay your bills on time because missed or late payments will likely negatively affect your credit score

How long does it take to go from a secured credit card to unsecured?

Some secured credit card issuers may let you convert to an unsecured account after you’ve built credit history and displayed a pattern of paying bills on time.

Did you know?

To build enough credit history for an unsecured card, you’ll have to use your secured card responsibly for a certain time frame. For example, if you have a Discover it® Secured Credit Card, after 7 months, we begin automatic monthly account reviews to see if you qualify to upgrade to an 'unsecured' card and get your deposit back.1

If you’re unsure about your card issuer’s timeline for graduating to an unsecured card, you may want to contact them and discuss options.

How to use your new unsecured credit card to build credit history

You’ve already demonstrated creditworthiness, which can help open up more financial opportunities in the future. Here are three simple tips that build on those habits that can help you graduate from a secured to an unsecured credit card:

Avoid opening multiple credit cards at once

Now that you have established credit, you might notice an uptick in the amount of pre-approved card offers you receive.

While it can be flattering to see pre-approved credit card offers pour in, keep in mind that opening several credit cards in a short time frame may cause lenders to perceive you as a riskier borrower. Resist the temptation to jump at every credit card offer promising free cash, bonus rewards, complimentary airfare, and low interest rates. After you build your credit history and improve your credit score over time, you’ll qualify for a wider range of credit cards.

New accounts could lower your average account age, which could have a larger effect on your credit score if you're new to credit. 

Don’t use all of your credit

To maintain good credit—and perhaps help your credit score even more—keep your overall balances as low as possible.  If your credit utilization ratio is too high, your credit score may be negatively affected. To make sure you keep your balances in check, set up account balance alerts and automatic payments. 

Unsecured credit cards take more discipline than secured cards

Unsecured credit cards make it easier to spend than secured credit cards. Credit limits tend to be higher, and creditors are more likely to increase your available credit the longer you own the unsecured card and demonstrate responsible use.  

It’s important to stay in control of your personal finances by using available tools (think payment reminders and account alerts) that help maintain your financial discipline once you have an unsecured credit card.

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  1. Graduation Transparency (Secured Card): Monthly reviews start your seventh month as a customer. We will refund your security deposit if you have made all payments on time for the last six consecutive billing cycles on all your Discover accounts including any loans, and you've remained in “good status” on all credit accounts you are responsible for whether they are Discover accounts or not. “Good status” means: (1) your credit report shows no delinquencies, charge-offs, repossessions, or bankruptcies for the six months prior to our review; and (2) your Discover Secured Card is not in a prohibited status at the time of our review, including, but not limited to: closed, revoked, suspended, subject to tax levy, garnishment, deceased, lost/stolen, or fraud. Monthly reviews may be delayed if you change your payment due date. We typically process your refund in 2-3 business days based on your delivery preference. If you close your account and pay in full, we’ll return your deposit within two billing cycles plus ten days.
  2. FICO® Credit Score Terms: Your FICO® Credit Score, key factors and other credit information are based on data from TransUnion® and may be different from other credit scores and other credit information provided by different bureaus. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary account holders who have an available score. See [Discover.com/FICO] about the availability of your score. Your score, key factors and other credit information are available on Discover.com and cardmembers are also provided a score on statements. Customers will see up to a year of recent scores online. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as FICO® Credit Scores, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.