If you have bad credit, repairing it can feel like a catch-22. You have a hard time obtaining credit because your credit score is poor. But to improve your score, you need to obtain credit. How do you break the cycle?

If you’ve tried everything to obtain a low-limit card but are still getting declined, it may be a good idea to opt for a secure credit card. With regular credit cards, the creditor has virtually no recourse if you don’t pay (other than hounding you incessantly for payment). With a secured card, you put down a cash deposit that gives a creditor some collateral.

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With a secured card, your credit limit will typically be half of or equal to the amount of your deposit. The creditor holds onto your deposit, and you make payments each month like you would with any other card. If you get too close to your limit, the creditor can freeze your card to keep you from maxing out.

The key is being diligent. Only charge things you can pay for in cash, and make more than the minimum payment every month.

By using a secure credit card and paying on time (and hopefully, paying off the balance) each month, you’re demonstrating to the credit bureaus that you’re working hard to get your credit back in shape. Be sure that you get your secured card from a company that reports to the three major credit bureaus each month so your progress is recorded.

After a year or two of successfully using your secured card, you should be able to transition it into a regular card (and get back your deposit as a nice reward!). Once this happens, you’ll have a better shot at getting offers on other credit cards, and even securing a loan for a home or car.