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The Citi Secured Mastercard is designed with a single purpose: to help you improve your credit, whether that means establishing a positive history for the first time or rebuilding from poor scores. If you’re new to credit or have bad credit, it could be right for you.
This is a secured credit card, so it requires a security deposit when you’re approved. Your credit limit will be equal to the deposit you make, up to a maximum of $2,500.
You won’t have to pay an annual fee, so it doesn’t need to cost you anything at all. However, if you’ve had a bankruptcy within the last two years you’ll be ineligible for this card.
There are no rewards for spending with this card either. It’s meant to help build credit, rather than provide points or cash back. By laying down a record of on-time payments and maintaining good financial habits in general, eventually you can qualify for a better card with a valuable rewards program.
If you’re a responsible card user Citi may offer to give your deposit back, and upgrade you to an unsecured card as well.
The Citi Secured Mastercard is a simple, no-frills way to get on the path to better credit scores. Should it be a part of your credit strategy? Read on to find out.
We give the Citi Secured Mastercard 4 out of 5 Stars because you can build your credit with it for no fee. But it’s extremely basic with no rewards and few benefits.
Is this the best secured credit card? Not exactly, although it might be right for you. Compare the Citi Secured Mastercard to some of its competitors below, one of which actually offers some rewards.
The Citi Secured Mastercard requires a refundable security deposit of $200 to $2,500.
Your credit limit will be equal to the amount you deposit. A $200 deposit will get you a $200 credit limit, a $2,500 deposit will get you a $2,500 limit, etc.
When applying you’ll need to provide bank details like account type, bank account number, and routing number. You also must specify exactly how much you’d like to deposit, in increments of $100. You will not be able to deposit more later on. If you don’t have a checking or savings account, you can still apply for this card by visiting a Citibank in person.
If you’re approved for this card, the security deposit will be automatically withdrawn from your bank account via ACH transfer. In some cases the transfer may take up to 30 days to complete. The deposit will sit in a Collateral Holding Account for 18 months, where it will not earn interest.
We recommend depositing as much as you comfortably can, because a higher credit line will make it easier to keep your credit utilization low. And you won’t worry as much about hitting the limit and being denied for a purchase when shopping.
You can get your security deposit back by paying off the card balance completely, and then closing the card. The funds will be deposited back in your account.
We’re not sure whether or not Citi will upgrade the Secured Mastercard to an unsecured card. Unfortunately, Citi won’t tell you anything about this card over the phone. If you have experience with this card and know whether or not Citi will upgrade it to unsecured, we invite you to reach out and let us know.
You won’t earn any points or cash back with the Citi Secured Mastercard. This is normal for secured cards, with one notable exception being the Discover it Secured Card.
If you have poor credit, improving your credit history is more important than earning rewards. Use this card responsibly to build up your credit over time. Eventually, as your credit scores go up, you’ll be able to qualify for a more valuable card.
Citi does not publicly disclose all of the additional perks you’ll get with the Citi Secured Mastercard, only a few.
We suspect that this card will come with Platinum Mastercard benefits. And although we believe it will have the following benefits, we can’t guarantee that it will come with all of them, or that the details will be identical. After being approved for this card you can check your Guide to Benefits to learn which features it came with.
Citi will report your card activity to all three of the major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Most other secured credit cards from the major card issuers will do this too.
This is one benefit that Citi does state that it will provide. If an item you buy with your Citi card is damaged or stolen, Purchase Protection will repair the item or reimburse you for the the loss.
You must collect some documentation to prove your case, and follow quite a few guidelines:
File a Purchase Protection claim by calling 1-866-918-4670. You’ll be given instructions and sent a claim form. The claim form and any requested documents must be returned within 180 days of the date of the incident.
Quite a few cases are not covered by this benefit, including product defects.
As you can see, many situations are ineligible for this protection. It might be tough to figure out if a situation is obviously covered — if you leave your car unlocked and someone steals something out of it, does that mean you didn’t “reasonably care for” the item? What if the door was locked but the window was slightly open?
Purchase Protection is a pretty common feature that you’ll find being offered by many issuers today. However, Discover recently discontinued Purchase Protection on their cards, along with several other benefits.
If you think you’ve become a victim of identity theft or fraud, Citi is there to help. You can use this service in any case where you think your personal information has been stolen, it doesn’t have to be specific to your Citi card. That makes this a pretty useful feature, and Citi affirms that it will come with the Secured Mastercard.
Dealing with identity theft can be stressful and difficult. What are the first steps you should take? Who should you contact? And what can you do to stop the bleeding or reverse the damage?
Citi will help by doing some of that work for you, and will guide you through a step-by-step process of what else to do. They’ll assist you in contacting TransUnion to review your credit report, and applying an extended Fraud Alert to your credit file. This alert will also be transferred to the other major credit bureaus, Experian and Equifax.
Next, Citi will provide instructions on how to fill out a police report and any other required government forms. If you have any other compromised accounts, Citi will help you find them and contact the appropriate lenders. They’ll instruct you to place stop payment requests on any stolen checks, if required. Worksheets will be provided, laying out all the steps you should take and how to take them.
Your TransUnion report will then be monitored by Citi until the case is resolved.
While most credit cards come with a $0 fraud liability guarantee, most credit card issuers don’t go the extra mile by providing assistance for actual identity theft. It’s good to have a Citi card in your wallet for this reason, just in case.
Other card benefits may include:
Be sure to take a look at the Guide to Benefits that came with your card to see the specific features that are available to you.
|Purchase APR||Balance Transfer APR||Cash Advance APR|
|23.99% (Variable)||23.99% (Variable)||26.74% (Variable)|
|Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Balance Transfer Fee||Cash Advance Fee|
|$0||3%||3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.||5% of each cash advance; $10 minimum|
|Penalty APR||Late Fee||Returned Payment Fee|
|29.99% Variable||Up to $39||Up to $39|
Don’t be shocked to see such a high APR. That’s what you’ll usually find on secured credit cards.
A high APR isn’t a problem as long as you commit to paying off your statement balance in full each billing cycle. This will prevent interest from ever accruing on the purchases you make with the card.
Paying your full statement balance when the bill comes due helps you (and your credit) in many different ways:
You can set up automatic payments to always pay the statement balance in full when it’s due, or a few days before. This will give you peace of mind, ensuring that your bill is always paid on time.
We don’t recommend using this card for balance transfers or cash advances because interest will start accruing right away. Transferring a balance to a secured card seems like a poor strategy in general. You’d probably be better off just paying that account balance, using the money you would’ve deposited to open the secured card.
If you want to do a balance transfer, it would be better to look into cards with 0% balance transfer APRs. And we suggest always avoiding cash advances, no matter what card you have, because they’ll begin costing you money immediately.
The Citi Secured Mastercard requires a security deposit of $200 to $2,500 when you’re approved, as explained above. This card used to have an annual fee, but it was recently removed.
|Apply for a Credit Card||
We called Citi’s application team with some questions about their Secured Mastercard. But we were automatically routed to a different representative, for some reason, who couldn’t tell us anything about the card. So we were told we’d be transferred to the application team, who could help us.
The application team couldn’t give us anything beyond a simple description of the card, however. We learned that you can’t apply for this card over the phone — you must apply online or in person at a physical Citibank.
So we were transferred yet again to a different team who could supposedly tell us something about the Secured Mastercard. But we ended up in a phone menu that required a Citi ATM or debit card to continue, rather than a credit card. We were in the wrong section now, and we couldn’t proceed. So we hung up and had to try again.
This time we tried the regular customer support line, using a Citi credit card account to speak to an account specialist (I have the Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer (Review)). The rep said that she couldn’t tell us anything about the Secured Mastercard, and she would need to transfer us to the application team. We had made that stop already, in our first journey through the phone menu, but maybe we would have better luck this time.
But next, some bad news. The application team informed us that since you can’t apply for this card over the phone, they can’t tell you anything about the card over the phone. It seemed like they had no information about it at all, other than a brief description. It’s unclear why they couldn’t have told us this at the beginning, but apparently their knowledge is siloed like the CIA.
There were several things we wanted to ask — questions about the security deposit, the potential to upgrade to an unsecured card, the Mastercard benefits it comes with — but the only way to learn more about this card is to go to a physical Citibank, apparently.
We haven’t gone to the trouble to do this, at this point. And we suspect that even if you did, you’ll have a hard time learning anything about the specific benefits this card comes with. They might tell you to call customer support!
These days, being told to visit a Citibank for more information seems a bit ridiculous. It probably won’t be a surprise to hear that in 2017, Citi came in 8th out of 11 major credit card issuers in J.D. Power’s annual Credit Card Satisfaction Study. We certainly weren’t satisfied with our experience.
This was unfortunate, but usually you’ll be able to get card information from Citi over the phone. The Secured Mastercard seems like a special case.
|Twitter Customer Support||@AskCiti|
The Citi Secured Mastercard is simple, so it’s easy to see most of the main features on Citi’s website. However, you won’t be able to learn much about the extra benefits it comes with.
Citi cardholders can contact customer support through their live chat. They’ll be able to help you out with many issues, but in some cases, for more complicated problems, it could be easier to call them.
You can also chat with them on Twitter, @AskCiti, whether you’re a cardholder or not. They probably won’t be able to help with any account-specific issues, though. Be sure not to reveal any personal or account information on Twitter or other social networks.
The only reason to get the Citi Secured Mastercard is to improve your credit. If you have bad or limited credit, you’ll have a hard time qualifying for most credit cards, especially those with rewards programs.
Secured cards like this provide a road to better credit scores — as long as you commit to using them responsibly. Pay your statement balance in full to avoid accumulating credit card debt. Make it a priority to always pay on time.
This isn’t a card to get if you want to enjoy nice rewards or benefits. Instead, focus on good financial habits to build or rebuild your credit. As you establish a positive credit history you’ll qualify for better cards, with great cash back programs and valuable perks.
With responsible card use — which basically means always paying on time, and paying the full statement balance whenever possible — you may be given your security deposit back, and offered an upgrade to an unsecured card.
Many credit card companies offer secured cards. While most of them are pretty similar, there are also important differences that make some stand out. Read a bit about some of those alternatives below.
You can apply for this card by clicking the Apply Now button below. Citi will check your credit reports with one of the three major credit bureaus.
If you don’t have a bank account, you can apply for this card in person at a Citibank location.
Many applicants will get an instant decision, but in certain cases it could take longer. Citi may request more information from you to process the application.
If approved, the security deposit you specify will automatically be withdrawn from your bank account.
The security deposit is pretty similar to the Citi Secured Mastercard. The Discover it Secured requires a minimum security deposit of $200. But your maximum possible credit limit will be determined by your creditworthiness, with a up to $2,500 at the most. So this is a bit different than the Citi card, which lets you deposit up to $2,500 regardless of your credit.
With the Discover card, your credit limit will be equal to whatever amount you deposit.
Discover will automatically review your card account every 8 months, along with your overall credit. If you’ve been using this card responsibly, and have been keeping good credit habits in general, they may refund your security deposit and allow you to continue using the card. You’ll have the same rewards and benefits, but it will technically be an unsecured card at that point.
There is no option to upgrade to a different card account. If you want a different Discover card, you’ll need to apply for it specifically.
This cash back is unusual to find here, as mentioned earlier. You’d be lucky to get 1% cash back with a secured card, normally. But the Discover it Secured provides 2% cash back on certain categories. And that’s even doubled to 4% cash back in your first year, with 2% back for every other purchase.
So the Discover it Secured allows you to earn rewards while you improve your credit. A win-win.
The Discover it Secured used to offer a pretty inclusive set of extra benefits, probably better than what you’d get with the Citi Secured Mastercard. However, Discover has recently removed many of these features due to low usage by cardholders.
Now Discover only offers a few benefits, fewer than what you’d get with the Citi card.
You can use Discover’s FICO Credit Scorecard to monitor your FICO Score 8, as based on your TransUnion credit report. This is a great feature to have on a secured card, providing a way to track your progress. Discover also shows the key factors affecting your score and helpful tips to improve it.
Anyone can actually use this service; you don’t need to be a Discover cardholder. So if you already have a card you like but it doesn’t offer a free credit score, you can use Discover’s service to keep an eye on your credit.
But other than that, Discover doesn’t offer many benefits anymore. They recently removed the following benefits:
So you’re likely to get a better selection with the Citi card.
There’s no annual fee for the Discover it Secured card. And there are also no foreign transaction fees, although Discover isn’t accepted very widely outside the U.S.
The Discover it Secured offers an intro balance transfer offer of 10.99% APR Variable, for 6 months. Most intro APRs are at 0%, but this is a secured card so it has a different kind of offer.
However, we recommend avoiding balance transfers with this card because you’ll just end up paying interest at this rate. Instead, we suggest trying to pay down the debt you owe rather than spending more money on a security deposit to open this card. There are other cards with better balance transfers offers, though you’ll likely have a hard time being approved with poor credit.
Given the level of cash back you can earn here, the Discover it Secured should probably be first on your list of secured cards. Rather than seeming like a punishment for bad credit, it’s actually more rewarding than many rewards cards designed for good credit.
Read more in our Review of the Discover it Secured Credit Card
The Deserve Classic Mastercard (Review) isn’t a secured card. But Deserve is a unique card issuer, specifically serving people with poor or limited credit, including those without a traditional credit history.
When you apply Deserve will look at more than the usual factors, like credit reports and financial status. They’ll also check your:
Deserve has wider application criteria, without requiring a security deposit. Depending on your credit situation the Deserve Classic might be the right way to start improving your scores.
The Deserve Classic is a Platinum Mastercard, which is probably what the Citi Secured Mastercard will come as. But you’ll get more Mastercard benefits from the Deserve card than the Citi card.
Deserve also offers a couple of additional perks on top of what you’ll get from Mastercard. You’ll get a waiver for your first late payment fee. And, if you refer friends to Deserve, you’ll get a $30 statement credit for every friend who’s approved for a card. A $200 bonus will be awarded for referring 10 friends, for a possible total of $500 to earn.
You’ll pay no annual fee for the Deserve Classic, which is a good deal for an unsecured card for limited credit. Your credit limit will be determined by your creditworthiness, with a maximum of $1,500.
This is $1,000 less than what you can get with the Citi Secured Mastercard. But in this case, when it comes to these two cards, you’ll have to decide which situation would be more appropriate for your specific finances.
Would you rather pay less for the Deserve Classic and get a smaller potential credit line? Or would you rather pay a large deposit up front for the Citi Secured Mastercard, funding a bigger credit line? You can eventually get that security deposit back, but the money will be unavailable until you close out the card.
Read more in our Review of the Deserve Classic Mastercard
After you’re approved for the Capital One Secured Mastercard you’ll be required to make a minimum security deposit.
The required deposit will be one of the following amounts:
The amount required will depend on your creditworthiness. The better your credit, the lower the required amount will be.
No matter which amount you’re required to deposit, your initial credit limit will be $200. This is different than how most secured cards work, which will provide a credit limit that’s equal to the deposit.
However, $200 is pretty low for a credit limit. Capital One will allow you to deposit a maximum of $1,000 to fund your credit line, which you should usually do if possible.
If you want to deposit more than your required minimum amount, you must do so within 80 days of being approved, and before activating the card. You can make partial payments if you’d like. Deposits must be at least $20 each.
Capital One does not have a program to upgrade your card to an unsecured account.
This Capital One card is a Platinum Mastercard, just like the Citi Secured Mastercard. But the Capital One card will come with better network perks than the Citi card.
Other than that, Capital One also offers a few nice perks that you won’t get from Citi. One of the most notable is Access to a Higher Credit Line. If you pay your first five monthly payments on time, you’ll automatically be given a higher credit line. It might not be a huge increase, but this boost is nice to have on a secured card (especially because your maximum initial credit limit is only $1,000).
Another is the Capital One CreditWise® service. This is a credit monitoring tool, providing your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report. And more than just that, this tool provides access to your actual TransUnion credit report, something that other card issuers don’t offer. This is a great feature to have on a secured card because it can guide you towards more responsible card usage and better credit scores.
Price Protection is one more handy benefit you’ll get from Capital One. This will provide reimbursement, up to $250, if you pay more than was necessary for a particular item. Many card issuers offer a benefit like this, but you don’t usually find it on a secured card.
The Capital One Secured Mastercard has no annual fee, just like the Citi Secured Mastercard. It also charges no fee for foreign transactions, unlike the 3% you’d need to pay with the Citi card. That makes it an obviously better choice for spending outside the country.
There are a few differences between these cards, mainly in their security deposits and benefits. The Citi card has a larger initial credit limit, potentially, but the Capital One card comes with superior benefits. You’ll have to ask which is more valuable to you, in your current financial situation.
Read more in our Review of the Capital One Secured Mastercard
If you’re looking for an option from a different issuer, the BankAmericard Secured Credit Card might be right for you. There’s no annual fee, and you’ll also get access to a higher credit limit than the other cards on this page.
You’ll need to make a minimum security deposit of $300 with the BankAmericard Secured. Your maximum security deposit will determined by your creditworthiness, up to a potential $4,900 at the most. Your credit limit will be equal to the amount you deposit.
So this security deposit upper limit is almost twice as much as what you’d get with the Citi Secured Mastercard. If you’re looking for a secured card with a high credit limit, the BankAmericard should be a contender. But, as mentioned, your maximum limit will be based on your credit, so it might not be as high as $4,900.
Bank of America will review your account account periodically, along with your credit history in general. If you’ve been a responsible credit user, they may refund your security deposit and allow you to continue using the card.
Although you may hesitate to deposit a lot for a secured card, in this case you may be able to get your money back without needing to close out the card. But not all cardholders will qualify to have the deposit returned, so there’s no guarantee this will happen.
The BankAmericard Secured is a Platinum Mastercard, just like the Citi Secured card. That means they’ll have similar extra features, though you’ll likely get more from Bank of America.
Bank of America credit card users can also check their FICO 8 Credit Score any time, for free, based on their TransUnion credit report. This is a pretty common benefit to find these days, although we’re not sure if you’ll get credit score monitoring with the Citi Secured Mastercard.
At no annual fee, the BankAmericard Secured won’t cost any more than the Citi Secured Mastercard.
The other costs and terms of these cards are basically the same as well.
Are you building or rebuilding your credit with the Citi Secured Mastercard? How’s it going? Let us know how you feel by leaving your own review!
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