The Smart Investor has collected card information independently. Issuers did not provide the details, nor are they responsible for their accuracy. The review is not a recommendation, the actual rates/fees may be different.
Anyone with limited credit or absolutely no credit at all can find plenty of comfort in the Citi Secured Mastercard. It lets you put down a deposit upon signing up that equals your credit line, allowing you to easily build a strong credit score from there.
The card’s appeal stems from its secured status, meaning you can easily sign up for it by paying a cash deposit up front. You receive that deposit back once you make enough monthly payments to move on to an unsecured card requiring a more substantial credit score.
But what the card offers in accessibility it lacks in just about everything else. It’s specifically designed for beginners not concerned with the salacious perks that customers with elite credit look for, including rewards and sign-up bonuses. Not to mention the card’s secured status entails a variable APR of 24.74%, which is far above average.
Citi Secured Mastercard Card
On Citi’s Secure Website
Our Bottom Line
A Solid Start for Beginners
Credit Rating Requirements
Poor – Average Credit
Here’s a summary of the main pros & cons (click to see explanation or scroll down):
Citi Secured Credit Card – Benefits
Let’s take a look at the benefits of the Citi Secured card and see if it’s the right one for your wallet or not.
Exceptional card for Customers with limited credit histories – secured credit cards are often backed by a collateral payment, which for the Citi Secured Mastercard is your deposit between $200 and $2,500. This structure reduces the risk for the issuer and makes the card a prime choice for those with limited or no credit, as it allows you to set your own parameters for strengthening your creditworthiness.
For example, let’s say you pay an initial deposit of $400 when you sign up. Once you receive your Citi Secured Mastercard, your limit – or the most you can spend on your card in a given period – is equal to $400. As you continue to pay off the card and build credit, you’ll eventually receive that deposit back once you upgrade to an unsecured card with higher credit requirements.
The card boasts a $0 annual fee, meaning you don’t have to worry about swiping your card enough to cover a fixed yearly payment. This is a highly competitive benefit, as the average annual credit card fee sits near $147. It’s particularly unique among Citi cards since their average annual fee is $190, the highest of all major U.S.-based issuers.
Citi Secured Credit Card – Drawbacks
Here are the most important cons you should consider before apply to the Citi Secured card:
The Citi Secured Mastercard doesn’t have any kind of rewards system in place. That’s a huge repellent for American customers, considering purchases on rewards cards make up more than 25% of all card purchases a year. While rewards are rare among secured credit cards, many others stand out with generous rewards structures. For example, the nRewards Secure Credit Card lets you earn 1 point per every dollar spent, which can be redeemed for gift cards or merchandise.
Another perk common among standard unsecured cards yet not often found across secured cards like the Citi Secured Mastercard is intro 0% APR periods. Many issuers typically provide an initial grace period – often ranging anywhere from 6 to 21 months – in which customers don’t pay interest on purchases and/or balance transfers. This incentivizes new customers to swipe as much as possible without paying interest fees. Also, The card doesn’t offer any kind of sign-up bonus, a benefit commonly used to show generosity and attract new customers to sign up. Many of the Citi Secured Mastercard’s peers offer sign-up bonuses, including the Best Western Rewards Secured Mastercard, which gives you 5,000 points after your very first purchase.
In addition to no intro 0% APR periods, the Citi Secured Mastercard has a high ongoing variable APR of 24.74%. That rate is far above the U.S. average of 15.96% across all domestic cards, not to mention it’s overwhelmingly high for the majority of customers who carry balances from month to month.
The card charges a reasonable balance transfer fee of 3% or $5, depending on which is greater in regard to the amount being transferred.
Alternatives to Citi Secured Credit Card
There are other credit cards that do offer comparable cash back rewards – we’ve summarized the most popular cards which can use as an alternative to the Citi Secured card:
The Discover It Secured credit card is one of the best-secured credit cards on the market. With most secured credit cards, there are no cash back rewards or 1% at best. But with the Discover It Secured Credit Card, not only do you get 2% back on gas and at restaurants, all the cash back you earn in your first year will be doubled. This makes it an ideal credit card solution for those with no credit or bad credit history that need time to repair their credit and can earn rewards in the meantime.
This card is much more flexible in that you don’t necessarily have to put down a $200 deposit to receive a $200 credit line. Instead, this card can offer a $200 credit line even if you deposit only $49 or $99, depending on your credit history. It also lets you raise that credit line if you make your first five payments on time, providing the chance to quickly strengthen your credit score. However, it charges a much higher variable APR of 26.99%.
This is a smart choice for those with bad credit since the application process requires neither a credit check nor a bank account. But customers pay for this lack of due diligence with an annual fee of $35. This card also doesn’t offer the option to upgrade to an unsecured credit card once you’ve built credit strength, which is largely the purpose of obtaining a secured card in the first place.
This option stands out among secured credit cards thanks to its low variable APR and solid rewards program. It boasts an extremely low rate of 14.24%, far below not just secured cards but also the national average. Customers can also earn 1 point for every dollar spent on purchases, giving you a strong incentive to swipe.
Is the Citi Secured Credit Card Right for You?
The card’s no-frills nature will surely deter any elite-credit customers looking for a long-term option with rewards and bonuses. But if you have a limited credit history that’s stifling your credit-card applications, the Citi Secured Mastercard is an effective and easy way to quickly build credit in order to graduate to an unsecured and more rewards-friendly card.