Citi Secured Mastercard Review

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The Citi Secured Mastercard offers a path to build a stronger credit score, though, as with any secured credit card, you do have to put down a cash deposit to secure your line of credit. The fact that this card doesn’t charge an annual fee makes it a winner among many comparable secured credit cards.

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Overall Rating
3.3
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 22.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Minimum Deposit to Activate $200
Allows upgrade to unsecured card Yes
Pay deposit in installments No
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
1.7
for Fees
3.2
for Rewards
2.3
for Credit
5.0

Top Rated For

Who Is This Credit Card Best For?

  • Avatar for Savvy Saver Persona
    Prioritizes sticking to their budget while buying what they want and need See more cards
    Savvy Saver
  • Avatar for Credit Builder Persona
    Takes improving their finances seriously and wants recognition for using credit responsibly See more cards
    Credit Builder

The Citi Secured Mastercard is best for consumers with a limited credit history who need to build credit but can’t get approved for a traditional credit card, and who don’t need access to more than $2,500 in secured credit. Ideally, someone who applies for this card will use it to improve their credit score, so they can transition to an unsecured credit card with better rates and perks.

Pros
  • No annual fee

  • Easy qualification requirements

  • Reports to all three credit bureaus

Cons
  • Requires a bank account

  • Hefty penalty rate for late payers

  • Security deposit constraints

Pros Explained

  • No annual fee: It is common for secured cards to charge annual fees. Some even charge fees of up to $50 per year—but not this one. With the money saved you might be able to leave a bigger deposit or pay off other bills.   
  • Easy qualification requirements: As with all secured credit cards, you won’t need to have excellent credit to qualify, although you must not have any bankruptcies on your record within the past two years.
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus: The Citi Secured Mastercard will report your payment and usage history to all three credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If you use credit responsibly and make all your payments early or on time, this can help you boost your credit score.

Secured credit card fees can hit you twice—first in the wallet and next in the credit score. That’s because those fees are added to your account balance, which reduces your total available credit. You want to use as little of your available credit as possible—definitely less than 30%—to avoid risk to your credit score.

Cons Explained

  • Requires a bank account: To apply online you’ll need a bank account—or access to one—to transfer the security deposit to Citibank. If not, you’ll need to visit a Citibank branch. By contrast, some secured cards will allow you to fund the deposit via check sent by mail.  
  • Hefty penalty for late payers: If you’re late paying your bill or bounce a payment, your interest rate could rise to up to 29.99%. Many secured cards don’t charge a penalty rate at all. 
  • Security deposit constraints: Some cards allow you to deposit up to $10,000. Citi limits you to $2500 as a maximum deposit. Low maximums can be a challenge if you need access to funds or want to keep your credit utilization ratio low, month-to-month.

How to Get the Most Out of This Card

This secured card should be used as a stepping stone of sorts to a more traditional credit card, through building a positive credit history and credit score. Luckily, this card gives you free access to your credit score, so you can watch your score improve over time. 

One of the biggest components of a credit score is payment history, which you’ll build by paying your card bill on time, every time. 

Your utilization ratio is the second most important piece of the credit equation. You should only be using a percentage of the credit available to you, preferably 30% or less. To find this number, multiply your deposit by .30. With this card, if you have a $2500 deposit, aim to keep your charges and balance under $750 per month. 

Remember that your credit card can report your balance to credit agencies at any point during the month, not necessarily at month’s end. 

If you’ve recently moved to the U.S., building a positive U.S. credit history can be assisted by using a secured credit card. However, when traveling, watch out for foreign exchange fees on this card, which can add 3% to every transaction that takes place outside of the U.S.

Customer Experience

 In J.D. Power’s 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study, Citi is ranked as “about average” among U.S. credit card issuers. 

The card issuer does offer a mobile app with features like mobile bill payment, but J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Mobile App Satisfaction Study gave Citi a ranking of “among the best,” compared to other banking app providers.

The Citi Secured Mastercard gives you access to your FICO credit score for free on your credit card statement, making it easier to monitor your progress over time. You can also set your own payment due date, which may be helpful when managing finances.

Security Features

Citi offers basic protection against fraud for customers, including account monitoring and zero liability for fraudulent purchases. Citi credit cards also come with Citi Identity Theft Solutions, which can help you identify and remove fraudulent accounts and information from your credit reports once fraud has taken place. 

Fees to Watch Out For

While the Citi Secured Mastercard doesn’t charge annual or account maintenance fees, you’ll want to be careful if you plan to use your credit card abroad. You’ll pay a 3% foreign transaction fee on every purchase you make outside the United States. You should also pay bills on time and with adequate funding, or you could face a steep 29.99% penalty interest rate.

Next Steps
For Citi® Secured Mastercard®
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CURRENT CARD
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
overall rating
3.3
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 22.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Minimum Deposit to Activate $200
Our Methodology
At The Balance, we are dedicated to giving you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews. To do this, we collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances.
  • Our Reviews Are Always Impartial: No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive. The scores and reviews come directly from the data we collect and our editorial expertise, and we focus on three areas:
  • How Much Does It Cost? With credit card debt at an all-time high, we believe you should know the cost of carrying a balance. Because of that, we give regular purchase APRs significant weight in overall scores, and cards receive low marks if they have an array of pricey fees.
  • What Are the Rewards Worth? Cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely. To simplify the problem, we built a system that fairly compares rewards and gives them a dollar value. We do this by looking at the ways you can earn and use rewards, which includes evaluating Americans’ typical spending habits and analyzing common travel patterns.
  • Does It Make Your Life Easier? Our scoring system favors cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting customer service. Finally, we give preference to credit cards that have several tools for dealing with fraudulent charges.
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Article Sources

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  1. Citibank. "Citi Secured Mastercard." Accessed June 11, 2020.

  2. Citibank. "Citi Secured Mastercard." Accessed June 11, 2020.

  3. Experian. "What is a Credit Utilization Rate?" Accessed June 11, 2020.

  4. J.D. Power. "Credit Card Rewards War Reaches Inflection Point as Competition Grows, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed June 11, 2020.