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. Learn the steps to demonstrate responsible use of your secured credit card, and how to make the switch to an unsecured card. 

  1. Using your Secured Credit Card Responsibly May Allow you to Graduate to Unsecured
  2. How Long Does it Take to go From Secured Credit Card to Unsecured?
  3. How to Use your New Unsecured Credit Card to Build Credit

1. Using your Secured Credit Card Responsibly May Allow you to Graduate to Unsecured

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 more positive by FICO® Credit Scores.

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

2. How Long Does it Take to go From Secured Credit Card to Unsecured?

You’ll need to use your secured credit card long enough to build enough credit history to qualify for an unsecured card. Many secured credit card issuers let you convert to an unsecured account, while some may not offer an unsecured card, so you’ll have to apply for a completely new card that’s unsecured. If you have a Discover it® Secured Credit Card, Discover will review your account after seven months to consider whether you can change to an unsecured card and to get your security deposit back.* 

3. How to Use your New Unsecured Credit Card to Build Credit

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 to help ensure that 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 these 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 points, complimentary airfare and low interest rates. 

New accounts will lower your average account age, which could have a larger effect on your credit score if you are 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 “debt to 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 compared to Secured Credit Cards: Credit lines tend to be higher, and creditors are more apt to increase your available credit the longer you own the card and demonstrate responsible use.  

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

Published May 24, 2016

Updated December 21, 2021

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.

FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

Secured Graduation:  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 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.