I really like credit unions. Like regular banks, there are some duds, of course. But in general, credit unions have some excellent consumer-friendly credit cards. Let’s take a look at the SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card and see how it compares to other secured credit cards.
The State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) does report your payment history to all three major credit bureaus. So you can rebuild your credit history if you use this card responsibly. What I’m hearing suggests this card reports as “secured” to the bureaus. If any of you have seen it reported differently, please let us know.
Now, even if the card is reported as “secured,” that’s not a reason to avoid this card. Here’s why it might not be a big deal: Does the FICO Score Treat Secured Credit Cards Differently?
Good news! There are ways to join this credit union even if you don’t have family who work (or have worked) for the state department. But take note that you must be a member of SDFCU before you can apply for the SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum card, so don’t put this off. Joining isn’t complex. I promise!
There are several options for membership:
- You may join if you’re an employee of The U.S. Department of State.
- You may join if you’re an employee of an affiliate organization. See this list of companies to find out if you qualify. You’ll see the link under “Organization Affiliations.” If your company isn’t listed, you can apply for group membership. The application is right here.
- You qualify if you have an immediate family member who is a member. For example, your parents, siblings, stepchildren, and so on. This also includes those who aren’t family members, but who live in the house and maintain a residence with the member.
- If none of these work for you, then join through the American Consumer Council for $15 for a lifetime membership.
Credit check or not?
The website states this: “No income verification.” It used to state that there was no credit check, either. That has changed, but there’s no need to fret over this if your credit report won’t stand up to a thorough review by a lender.
Here’s the deal: They do now check your credit report and your credit score because Federal requirements for verifying identities has become stricter. If you read the comments below, you’ll see that many folks had trouble with that very issue. I do think SDFCU’s intentions are good; they want this card to be accessible to those who probably can’t qualify for other credit cards. But it might require some patience on your part as you navigate the application.
And here’s the best part: Even though they’re checking your report and score, it won’t have a negative impact on your acceptance. Okay, so it’s sort of like they’re checking your credit, but since it’s for verification purposes, they don’t care what they find in the report (but with some exceptions, I’m sure).
There are claims that this is a “soft inquiry (or pull)” so it won’t hurt your credit score. If it’s difficult to prove your identity, though, it could end up being a “hard inquiry,” which can knock anywhere from zero to five points off your score. But hey, if you’re already in a credit abyss, then this isn’t a bad price to pay for a way to climb back toward creditworthiness.
Rewards for the SCFDU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card
For every $1 you spend with your card, you’ll earn 1 Flexpoint. Not fabulous, but given that this is a secured card, it’s all gravy, right?
What’s interesting, is that if you have a checking account with them, you earn one Flexpoint for every two dollars you spend with your debit card. Not particularly exciting, but here’s the thing. After legislation (a few years ago) capped the interchange fees that banks can charge for debit card transactions, the rewards programs for debit cards fell off the map. Now, I’ve been seeing some rewards for debit cards again.
And look at this: You get five Flexpoints by paying a bill through Bill Pay. You can learn more about Flexpoints Rewards right here.
Rates and fees
Okay, let’s take a look at the numbers. You’re going to like this. Now, the APR for purchases has gone up considerably. It used to be below 8 percent, which was an amazingly low rate for a secured credit card. But the new rate is still pretty good when compared to other cards in this space.
APR for purchases: The website states that you can get “Rates as low as a variable 13.24 percent.” Now, read that carefully because it means you could actually get a higher APR than 13.24 percent. As I said, this is much higher than it used to be.
Balance transfers: I didn’t see a current offer, but if there is one in the future, there doesn’t appear to be a transfer fee. That’s pretty cool for a secured card. Heck, that would be cool for an unsecured card.
Annual Fee: None. Zip. Yay!
APR for cash advances: You get a variable 13.24 percent, which would be a good rate for an unsecured card, let alone a secured card. There’s a cash advance fee of $3 if you get the money at an ATM. There’s no fee for OTC transactions, but there’s a fee if you get an advance at an ATM. Did you know that interest starts accruing right away? Don’t do this and you won’t have to worry about cash advance fees.
Foreign transaction fee: It’s zero.
Deposit required: A minimum of $250. I couldn’t find information about how large your deposit can be. But if you apply by phone, ask the customer service rep how high you can go with your deposit. You do earn interest on the deposit. The amount will be determined by the type of account you choose for your security deposit. The return is low, but it’s still nice to get something.
Credit limit: Your limit equals the amount of your security deposit.
Overall, the SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card looks like an excellent option. This card from SDFCU gets top-tier status on my list of The Best (and Worst) Secured Credit Cards.
I don’t see any indication on the website that you’ll be offered an opportunity to graduate to their unsecured Visa Platinum Credit Card. But if you raise your FICO score enough over the course of a year, you might be able to qualify for the Visa Platinum Credit Card and apply for it on your own. Call customer service when you’re ready and see what they can do for you.
As always, if you have personal experience with this credit card, enlighten us below in the comments section.
Note: Credit card agreements change frequently. So my review is based on the information that I believed was in effect on the posting date. Be sure you read all the disclosure statements carefully before applying for a credit card.