Hello jmhunter and welcome to the forums!
I’m glad to know the site has been helpful. About having a second secured card, well that’s not a bad idea. I currently have two and thinking about a third one. Having only one credit card on your credit report does not translate into enough credit history. In the other hand, having too much credit can also hurt you, so having too many cards might be a problem as well (I think I’m going to stop at 3, but that’s just a number I chose). Orchard sounds like a good option to have as a second card, just make sure you know what you are applying for.
Secured cards are for people with no credit or bad credit, and you need to provide a security deposit to qualify for one. It’s not that they are better, if you have bad credit, they might as well be your only option. Once you have shown a good payment history, you can qualify for an unsecured card. Always pay on time and never max out your card. As simple as that.
You should negotiate collections BEFORE you pay (and get it in writing). Once you pay, there’s really not much you can do as they already have your money. I doubt they’ll remove them if you’ve already paid. In this situation, you need to send what they call a “Goodwill Letter” and hope they’ll be nice enough to delete the tradeline. It’s not impossible but it’s a matter of luck.