A partially secured credit card is a card whose spending limit is bigger than the refundable security deposit held by the issuer as collateral. So the credit card company only has a partial assurance of being repaid if the cardholder maxes out his or her limit. Only rarely are cards partially secured from the start. More frequently, a secured credit card will become partially secured, or even unsecured, after a while. This happens when the issuer grants the cardholder a credit-limit increase or a deposit refund as a reward for consistently paying the bill on time.
The Capital One Secured Mastercard is the only card available right now with the potential to be partially secured from the get go. Everyone starts with a $200 credit limit. But the deposit you’re required to place could be $49, $99 or $200, depending on your overall creditworthiness. So if your credit history, income and debt situation are all really bad, you’ll probably have to put down the full $200. But if you’re closer to fair credit, or have limited experience, it may be partially secured. There’s no annual fee, regardless of what your deposit winds up being.
Don’t get too bummed out about the lack of partially secured credit card options, though. As far as credit building is concerned, there’s no difference between a fully secured credit card, a partially secured credit card and an unsecured credit card. The amount of your security deposit, if any, is not listed on your credit reports.
There are only a couple added benefits that a partially secured credit card provides relative to a fully secured card. For one thing, they offer the ability to borrow. You can’t really get a loan from a fully secured credit card because you have to fully prepay your purchases. Perhaps even more importantly, you get to keep more of your money out of the credit card company’s custody.