Virtually every time we apply for a credit card, we run the risk of not only being rejected, but of our credit score taking a hit as well. This is a gamble for those that already have weaker credit scores and are looking to build them up.

Enter ‘Guaranteed Approval’ cards, like the Capital One® Guaranteed Secured Mastercard. It’s a good option for those who don’t have a stellar financial history and are looking to improve their credit without paying an exorbitant annual fee. Some applicants with higher credit scores will be offered an unsecured version of the card, while those with weaker credit will be referred to the Capital One® Guaranteed Secured Mastercard. There are few practical differences between the two, aside from the fact that cardholders of the latter need to provide security funds, and cardholders of the former do not.

Cardholders are guaranteed to be approved for at least one version of the card as long as they meet these basic requirements:

  • They’re the age of majority in their province or territory of residence.
  • They don’t already have a Capital One® account/product or a pending application for a Capital One account/product.
  • They haven’t applied for a Capital One® account/product in the 30 days prior to their application for the Capital One Guaranteed Secured Mastercard.
  • They can provide the security funds required *in the event that they’re approved for the secured rather than unsecured version of the card.

Pros and cons

Pros

Pros

  • Guaranteed approval for those with weak credit

  • Helps build or repair credit history with responsible use

  • Low annual fee

  • Purchase and travel benefits for available for those who qualify for the unsecured card version

Cons

Cons

  • High interest rate

  • Limited extra features for secured cards

  • Security funds are required for the secured version

Interest rates

The Capital One® Guaranteed Secured Mastercard has a standard interest rate on purchases of 19.80%, and the same rate applies to balance transfers and cash advances as well. Cardholders who plan on carrying a balance from month to month may want to consider whether paying an extra $20 annual fee ($59 versus $79) for the Capital One® Low Rate Guaranteed Mastercard is worthwhile, as the low rate card offers a purchase and balance transfer rate of 14.80%. That 5% can make a big difference depending on the amount of credit card debt in question.

Feature breakdown

  • $59 annual fee
  • Guaranteed approval (conditions apply)
  • Establish and repair credit
  • Purchase, cash advance and balance transfer rate: 19.80%
  • Mastercard benefits including Zero Liability
  • Extra purchase and travel benefits for unsecured cards

Applicants approved for the secured card must provide security funds between $75 and $300. Another difference between the secured and unsecured cards is that the unsecured Capital One® Guaranteed Secured Mastercard has extra Price Protection and insurance features.

Price Protection gives cardholders a 60-day window of time after their purchases, during which they can request reimbursement for the difference between what they paid for an item vs. a lower price that they see for the same item with another vendor. If a cardholder buys a set of speakers, for example, and 40 days later sees the same set for $50 less, they can be reimbursed for that $50 difference. In fact, they can be paid a per-item difference of up to $100, until a cardholder has been reimbursed $500 total annually. The next year, the cardholder will get another $500 cap of Price Protection. Purchase Assurance and Extended Warranties are added benefits that help cardholders cover their new purchases against damage and theft for 120 days, and lengthen original manufacturer warranties by up to two years.

Travel benefits for unsecured cardholders include common carrier travel accident insurance, as well as travel assistance (essentially an emergency concierge), coverage for delayed baggage and rental vehicle insurance. Regardless of which Guaranteed card an applicant is approved for, they’ll benefit from Mastercard’s Zero Liability feature and 24/7 customer service.

Who’s the card for?

Those who need access to credit but who also have a poor credit score (or exhibit a history of bankruptcies or consumer proposals) will appreciate guaranteed approval.

Applicants considering the Capital One® Guaranteed Mastercard should determine whether the slightly more expensive Capital One® Low Rate Guaranteed Mastercard is more worthwhile. For an extra $20 per year, cardholders will get a purchase and balance transfer rate of 14.80% instead of 19.80%. The answer as to which card suits them more depends on how much of their balance they may or may not carry month-to-month, including transferred balances.

For example, paying off $2,000 in credit card debt over a 6-month period will result in about $117 in interest payments at the 19.8% interest rate. At the 14.8% interest rate? That equals $87 in interest payments. In this case it’s worthwhile to pay a higher annual fee for a lower interest rate. 

Read: Best Capital One credit cards in Canada

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