If you've been turned down for a conventional credit card, don't despair. More and more banks are offering secured credit cards to people who want to establish or reestablish good credit. To obtain a secured card, you must open a savings account with the bank or purchase a certificate of deposit; your credit limit will reflect the amount you deposit. Then, as you perform within your limit, the bank will raise your credit ceiling and eventually give you an unsecured line.

In the past many issuers of secured credit cards charged exorbitant interest rates and fees. But as more and larger banks have entered the market, the costs have become more competitive. Still, Gail Liberman, editor of "Bank Rate Monitor," a newsletter published in North Palm Beach, Fla., advises caution in choosing a bank. Stay away from institutions that advertise information lines with 900 numbers, she says, and make sure banks pay interest on security deposits.

Whereas secured cards are typically offered to individuals, American Pacific Bank, in Portland, Oreg., has recently introduced a corporate card. Companies can obtain up to four cards on the same account. A corporate card, moreover, may assist you in establishing business credit as distinct from your own.

For a list of reputable banks offering secured credit cards, contact Bankcard Holders of America (703-481-1110), a consumer group based in Herndon, Va. -- Michael P. Cronin