2021 Review: Citi Secured Mastercard – Is It a Path to Better Credit?
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The Citi Secured Mastercard is Citi’s solution for poor or non-existent credit. It offers few benefits and no rewards, but the main point is to get your credit in shape so you can apply for stronger credit cards that have more extensive features.
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Our Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars
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.
Why We Like It
- No annual fee
- Reports card activity to the three major credit bureaus
- The security deposit can be up to $2,500
- If you don’t have a bank account, you can apply for this card in person at a Citibank location
- Upgrade path to an unsecured card
Why It Could Be Better
- No rewards, like points or cash back
- Only basic benefits from Mastercard
- Can’t increase credit limit after the initial deposit is made
The Citi Secured 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 give your deposit back, and/or 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.
Insider Advice: Getting the Most Out of Your Card
- Practice responsible habits: Pay your bills on time every month to establish a positive credit history. Your activity will be reported to the three major credit bureaus, so always use the card responsibly.
- Utilize automatic payments: Set up automatic payments for the full statement balance. This will ensure your bill is always paid on time, it will help keep your credit utilization lower, and it will let you avoid any interest charges on purchases.
- Be aware of the deposit: After being approved for this card your security deposit will be automatically withdrawn from your bank account. The minimum deposit is $200, and the maximum deposit is $2,500.
- You can apply in person: If you don’t have a bank account you can visit a physical Citibank to apply for this card.
- Put down as much as you are able: We recommend making as large of a security deposit as you can, to help your credit utilization. This will also make spending with the card easier, but remember that your deposit will be unavailable to you until you close out the card.
- Earn your deposit back: If you use the Citi Secured Mastercard responsibly, you may be given your security deposit back and offered an upgrade to the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card (Review).
- Check for cards you might pre-qualify for: You can check to see if you qualify for a better card by looking into any pre-qualification offers you might have waiting.
- Continue your credit journey with a better card: When your credit scores have improved and you can qualify for a better card, pay off the balance on the Citi Secured Mastercard completely. Then you can close it out and get your security deposit back.
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 typically upgrade the Secured Mastercard to an unsecured card. Unfortunately, Citi probably won’t tell you much 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.
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. After being approved for this card you can check your Guide to Benefits to learn which features it came with.
- Purchase Protection: This is one benefit that Citi does state that it will provide. If an eligible item you buy with your Citi card is damaged or stolen, Purchase Protection will repair the item or reimburse you for the loss.
- Citi Identity Theft Solutions: 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.
- Free FICO Score 8: Check and monitor a credit score from your Equifax credit report.
- $0 Liability on Unauthorized Charges: You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges to your card account.
The Terms & Fees
|Purchase APR||Balance Transfer APR||Cash Advance APR|
|22.49% (Variable)||22.49% (Variable)||25.24% (Variable)|
|Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee|
|Balance Transfer Fee||Cash Advance Fee|
|Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum||5% of each cash advance; $10 minimum|
|Penalty APR||Late Fee||Returned Payment Fee|
|Up to 29.99% (Variable)||Up to $40||Up to $40|
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 won’t be charged interest on purchases, making it easier to stay out of credit card debt
- You can improve your credit completely for free, since there’s no annual fee (assuming you avoid using the card for balance transfers or cash advances)
- It will keep your credit utilization lower, which is good for your credit scores
- The credit line will be freed up so you can use the card again
- Establishing a history of timely payments will show the card issuer and the credit reporting agencies that you’re a responsible card user
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.
If you want to conduct 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.
The Bottom Line
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 avoiding maxing out your cards — 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.
How Do I Apply for the Citi Secured Mastercard?
You can apply now for this card by clicking the link 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.
What Credit Scores Do I Need to Qualify for the Citi Secured Mastercard?
The Citi Secured Mastercard is designed for people with bad credit or a limited credit history, so you don’t need very high credit scores to qualify.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be approved. If there are irregularities with your application, or if Citi can’t verify your identity, for example, you could be denied.
Qualifications and Requirements
- Must be 18 to apply
- Personal information: Name, date of birth, SSN, email address, and phone number
- Financial Information: Total annual income, source of income, monthly mortgage payment/rent, bank account information for the security deposit, name on account, account number, and routing number
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Citi Secured card graduate?
Yes, there’s a chance Citi will upgrade you after showing responsible habits. You can do that, in part, by paying all of your bills on time.
Can I deposit more money later to the Citi Secured Mastercard?
No, you won’t be able to make any additional deposits after your initial security deposit.
Can I increase my line of credit?
No; your credit limit will be equal to your initial deposit, and you won’t be able to increase your credit limit beyond that amount.
Is my Citi Secured Mastercard security deposit refundable?
Yes, once you pay off and close out your card, your security deposit will be returned to you. Or, if you get upgraded to an unsecured card, you’ll get your deposit back as well.
Alternatives to the Citi Secured Mastercard
Brendan has been writing about personal finance for over eight years, and is now taking on the challenge of bringing high-quality credit education to the masses. He makes sure that Credit Card Insider is covering the most important credit topics transparently and precisely, and that we have up-to-date reviews of credit cards so you can find cards that are right for you.
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