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Editor's choice: Canada's best secured credit cards

By Daniel Workman

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Credit cards have become must-have payment tools for online shopping, car rentals, hotel reservations, emergency spending and other essential transactions. Yet those with bad -- or no -- credit history might find it difficult to get a card.

Secured cards present a possible solution because they require the cardholder to deposit funds in advance. Doing so virtually guarantees approval for a credit limit matching the deposit amount. However, cardholders shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of security. Fees and high average percentage rates (APRs) can quickly add

Here are some of the best -- and most affordable -- Canadian secured cards.

Secured credit cards without annual fees

One of the best ways to nurture a strong credit score is to regularly pay off monthly balances. To minimize expenses for conscientious cardholders, the following secured cards charge no annual fee.

1st place: No-Fee Scotiabank Value Visa Card
Several of Canada's major banks offer "secured" versions of their regular unsecured cards. Scotiabank's No-Fee Visa card requires a minimum $500 security deposit for a corresponding credit maximum. Cardholders pay an APR of 16.99 per cent and qualify for Visa Perks discounts.

Con: Breaching the card limit results in a $25 over-limit fee plus a $42.50 dishonoured payment penalty.

2nd place: BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard
The "secured version" of the BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard comes with a 17.5 per cent APR. That same rate applies to purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. The card features free extended warranty and purchase protection.

Con: The over-limit fee is $29, with a $40 dishonoured payment charge.

3rd place: Home Trust Equityline Visa Card
This hybrid secured card uses available home equity as collateral, rather than cash. APRs range from 4.99 per cent to 13.99 per cent, as determined by the card issuer. The credit limit can reach up to $250,000. Minimum monthly payments are 1.5 per cent of the outstanding balance, or even lower depending on your income, available home equity and credit history.

Con: The setup fee is 3 per cent of the credit limit, plus roughly $500 for title insurance and a $35 search fee.

Secured credit cards featuring low APRs

To minimize the cost of carrying a balance, some consumers focus on secured cards that impose lower interest rates. But be careful. If you miss payment deadlines, the secured APR can spike -- just as it would with an unsecured card.

1st place: RBC Visa Classic Low Rate
The RBC Visa Classic Low Rate card's APR is 11.99 per cent, with a modest $20 annual fee. What makes RBC secured cards highly competitive is the fact that your security deposit earns interest within a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) account, according to the Financial Consumer Association of Canada.

Con: RBC secured cards are ineligible for balance transfer promotions and introductory rates.

2nd place: TD Emerald Visa Card
This card has an APR of 12.75 per cent, based on a fixed 9.75 per cent plus TD's variable prime rate (currently 3 per cent). The TD Emerald Visa Card requires a minimum of $1,000 in collateral, which TD Canada Trust holds for up to three years. Most other lenders hold it for only two.

Con: The APR can rise dramatically if the underlying prime rate spikes.

3rd place: Capital One Low Rate Guaranteed Secured MasterCard
The Capital One product is one of the few Canadian secured cards that you can apply for online, requiring only an electronic funds transfer and satisfactory proof of identity. Subject to card issuer approval, the security deposit can be as low as $75 for a credit limit of $300. The card's APR is 14.9 per cent.

Con: For a deposit refund, the card's balance (including the $69 annual fee) has to be fully paid.

Regardless of which collateral-based card you choose, it's wise to check your credit score before applying and again after you've used the secured payment tool for a year or more.

See related: 6 common credit score mistakes; Can a higher credit score lower your insurance rates?


Published: January 23, 2012