Updated Jan 22, 2021 | Published Sep 03, 2020 • 11 min read
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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 Mastercard® is a no annual fee credit card that helps you build your credit when used responsibly.
Unlike a debit card, it helps build your credit history with monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus. Once available, you will also have free access to your FICO score online.
Use your card anywhere Mastercard® is accepted — worldwide.
A security deposit is required. Once approved, your credit limit will be equal to your security deposit (minimum of $200).
Get help staying on track with Auto Pay and account alerts.
With Flexible Payment Due Dates, you can choose any available due date in the beginning, middle or end of the month.
Manage your account 24/7 online, by phone, or in our mobile app.
The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 22.49%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.
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.
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.
Update: We heard from a reader who used the Citi Secured Mastercard for less than a year, and was given the security deposit back and offered an upgrade to the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card (Review). She always made on-time payments and didn’t keep her credit line maxed out, and that responsible behavior paid off.
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
Balance Transfer APR
Cash Advance APR
Foreign Transaction Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Cash Advance Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
5% of each cash advance; $10 minimum
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)
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
The Discover it® Secured (Review) stands out among secured cards because it actually has a decent rewards program, a very rare find on cards designed for poor or limited credit.
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 deposit and credit limit will be determined by your creditworthiness, with a maximum of $2,500. 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 your security deposit.
Discover will automatically review your card account every eight 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.
Discover only offers a few benefits, fewer than what you’d get with the Citi card. So you’ll have to determine if you’d rather earn cash rewards while building your credit, or have a few extra benefits.
After you’re approved for the Secured Mastercard from Capital One 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.
As for the benefits, this and the Citi card are both Platinum Mastercards, but the Capital One card will come with a few extra perks, like access to a higher credit line and Price Protection.
Access a higher credit line: You may be automatically considered for a higher credit line after six months.
Capital One CreditWise: The Capital One CreditWise service lets you monitor your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, based on your TransUnion credit report. This is a great feature to have because it gives you a way to track your progress as you improve your credit, which is the basic goal of a secured card.
Price Protection: If you make an eligible purchase with your card and find the same item being advertised for a lesser price, you can be reimbursed for the difference.
24-Hour Travel Assistance Services: Call Travel Assistance Services when you need help away from home. This benefit is available when traveling 50 miles or more away from home, unless you live in New York in which case there is no mileage requirement.
Extended Warranty: Doubles the manufacturer’s warranty on eligible items, for warranties of up to one year
MasterRental Coverage: Auto rental collision damage waiver to cover your eligible rented vehicles against damage and theft (when you decline the rental company’s own insurance)
Identity Theft Resolution Services: Provides help if your identity is compromised in some way
$100,000 Travel Accident Insurance: Covers you, your spouse, and unmarried dependent children against accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech, or hearing while traveling by common carrier
Purchase APR: 26.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% (Variable)
No foreign transaction fee
Annual fee: $0
No annual fee
Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Make the minimum required security deposit and you’ll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
We will monitor your account, and as you use it responsibly by doing things like making on-time payments, you may be able to earn back your deposit as a statement credit
Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
The BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card is very similar to the Citi Secured, but it’s issued by Bank of America. It also has a higher potential credit limit than the other alternatives here.
You’ll need to make a minimum security deposit of $300 with the BankAmericard Secured. Your maximum security deposit will be determined by your creditworthiness, up to $4,900. Your credit limit will be equal to the amount you deposit.
So this security deposit upper limit is almost twice that of 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, and that means they’ll have similar extra features.
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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