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Citi Secured Mastercard Review

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A Standard Secured Card

Credit Needed: No Credit History/Poor Credit

If your credit score hasn’t been looking so great and you’re ready to boost it, you could use a secured credit card. A secured credit card allows you to spend on a line of credit based on a security deposit you make. Secured credit cards are also geared toward people with less than ideal credit scores, making them a solid option for almost anyone.

The Citi Secured Mastercard (a SmartAsset advertising partner) is no different. After applying for the card, you submit your security deposit of between $200 and $2,500. The amount you put in determines the credit line your secured card will have. Citi® holds the security deposit in a collateral holding account for 18 months where it won’t earn interest. Not only will the security deposit set your credit limit, but Citi® will also use it to cover costs in case you default on the credit card. You will want to avoid defaulting on the card at all costs, since you’re trying to improve your credit. Be diligent about only spending what you can afford and then paying your bill on time and in full every time.

To qualify for a Citi Secured Mastercard you do have to meet Citi®’s credit qualifications. Citi® will review information like your income and debt. You must not have any history of bankruptcy within the last two years either.

The Citi Secured Mastercard does come with a high APR of 23.24% that will vary based on the Prime Rate. This applies to purchases and balance transfers. The APR for cash advances is 25.99% Variable, and will also vary with the Prime Rate. Citi® will apply a penalty APR of up to up to 29.99% Variable, depending on your credit score. The penalty APR activates when you make a late or returned payment and will stay active indefinitely. In terms of fees, cash advances cost $10 or 5% of the transaction amount, whichever is greater. Balance transfers will cost 5% or $5 or the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater. There will also be a 3% foreign transaction fee in U.S. dollars for each foreign purchase.

Smart Features

No annual fee - Without an annual fee to worry about, you can focus on paying your bill on time every time and getting your credit score where you want it to be.

Fraud protections and assistance - In case of identity theft, Citi® Identity Theft Solutions will get you back on track by helping work on your accounts, filing police reports and more. You will won’t be held accountable for any fraudulent charges made on your card.

Who It Benefits

The Citi Secured Mastercard will benefit people who have a less than ideal credit score and are ready to fix that. Secured cards in general are great for building or repairing credit. So if you’re just starting out and have no credit at all, you can consider this card. Or, if you fell on some hard times and watched your credit score plummet, this card can help you get back up. Then once your score is looking good, you can ditch your secured credit card and its high rates and fees for a better, more rewards-heavy card!

This card can doubly benefit those who also need some discipline when it comes to money. With the set credit limit, you can’t spend more than that on the card. It will also be hard to get the limit raised, especially if your credit is already not great. And, if you make any faulty payments and activate the penalty APR, hopefully you’ll learn your lesson about paying on time.

How It Works

As with any other credit card, you will need to apply for the Citi Secured Mastercard. You might need to provide a bit more information, however, since Citi® will want to know your financial history. Again, Citi® will want to look at your income and debt history. You cannot have any history of bankruptcy within the past two years. Additionally, Citi will look at your credit score.

You will need to submit a security deposit between $200 and $2,500 via Automatic Clearing House. If you apply online, you will need to provide your bank account information in order to make the deposit. You could also go to a Citi® branch to apply for the card and make the deposit. The amount you deposit is the amount your card will carry as its credit limit. So, if you put in the minimum of $200, you can spend up to $200 on the card.

Once approved, your security deposit funds will be withdrawn from your bank account and placed in a collateral holding account for 18 months. The funds won’t earn interest while they are being held. You will have to make sure that you have enough in your account to cover the amount decided upon for your security deposit.

Since the card does not come with rewards or special categories, you use the card as you wish. This means for travel, groceries, movie tickets, etc. as long as you spend within your set credit limit. It’s just as important to pay your bill on time every time. It would benefit you even more to pay your bills in full, that way you don’t accrue interest. Paying only the minimum could dig a hole in your funds and prevent you from fixing your credit score. Citi® offers options like autopay, online bill pay and alerts to make it easier for you. You should note that Citi® will send monthly reports to the credit bureau about your account. So even one late or returned payment could hurt your credit score and slap you with a variable penalty APR of up to 29.99%.

The card’s regular APR is 23.24%, varying based on the Prime Rate, for purchases and balance transfers. Cash advances carry an APR of 25.99% Variable that varies with the Prime Rate. Any cash advances you make will also cost either $10 or 5% of the transaction amount, whichever is greater. Your balance transfers will also cost a fee of either 5% or $5 or the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater. Be careful when traveling abroad, as well, since foreign transactions carry a fee of 3% of the transaction amount in U.S. dollars.

What’s the Catch

Well, as a secured card, the Citi Secured Mastercard is pretty straightforward. You can only spend within your limit that was set by your security deposit. You have to pay your bills on time (and hopefully in full) in order to avoid further wrecking your credit score or defaulting on the card.

Certainly, a drawback to this card is the high APR rates and fees. You will especially want to avoid activating the penalty APR of up to up to 29.99% Variable by making any late or returned payments. Additionally, despite the worldwide travel benefits you gain, using this card abroad will trigger a foreign transaction fee of 3%. So basically you’ll want to be careful about how you use the card.

Just the Math Please


There are no rewards of the cash back or points variety with the Citi Secured Mastercard.

Balance Transfers

Balance transfers made within two months from account opening will have an APR of 23.24%, varying based on the Prime Rate. They will also cost a fee of either 5% or $5 or the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater. 

Rates and Fees

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for Purchases

23.24% Variable, will vary based on the Prime Rate.

APR for Balance Transfers

23.24% Variable for transfers completed within two months from account opening. It will vary based on the Prime Rate.

APR for Cash Advances

25.99% Variable, will vary depending on the Prime Rate.

Penalty APR and When It Applies

Up to up to 29.99% Variable, based on your creditworthiness.

Applies when you make a late payment or make a payment that is returned. The penalty APR will apply indefinitely.

How to Avoid Paying Interest on Purchases

Your due date will be a minimum of 23 days after the close of each billing cycle.

Citi will not charge you interest on purchases if you pay your entire balance by the due date each month.

Annual Fee


Transaction Fees

  • Balance Transfer 5% or $5 or the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
  • Cash Advance $10 or 5% of each transaction, whichever is greater
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction 3% of each transaction in US dollars.

Penalty Fees

  • Late Payment: Up to $40
  • Returned Payment: Up to $40

How It Stacks Up

Of course, there are many other secured cards out there for you to check out - like the Capital One Platinum Secured. This card from Capital One lacks an annual fee, a foreign transaction fee and a penalty APR. The lack of these charges poses a huge plus to anyone who can’t afford getting hit with extra and heavy charges. Just know that you cannot make balance transfers with this card. To start, you must make a minimum deposit of $49, $99 or $200, depending on your credit. However, your credit limit will be at least $200 no matter your deposit amount. You can raise your credit limit by making additional $20 deposits until you reach the maximum of $1,000. Or, Capital One can decide to raise your credit limit upon review within the first 6 months. Like Citi and many other issuers, Capital One will require your financial history and information to make sure you can handle the card.

Bottom Line

All in all, the Citi Secured Mastercard is a solid secured credit card. Its APR rates and fees are pretty standard as far as secured credit cards go. The lack of an annual fee is a plus, however, since not all secured cards have that feature. That way you can focus on spending within your limit and paying off your bills without worrying about paying to keep the card.

The security deposit/credit limit amount between $200 and $2,500 is a relatively low range. For some, the maximum of $2,500 isn’t nearly enough. However, if you’re trying to build or repair your credit, you won’t want to have a super high limit. That way, you can keep yourself in check, paying your bills on time and in full. This card will definitely require you to be diligent about your spending and repayment habits. You’re trying to improve your credit with this card. You won’t want to get hit with high fees and penalties due to carelessness.

Citi is also great when it comes to providing customer service and assistance in case any problems or questions should arise. So if you’re looking at the Citi Secured Mastercard, it’s not a bad way to go. Just make sure you’re prepared for the high rates and fees that come with a secured credit card.

Next Steps

  • Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors that serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Saving money is easier said than done, but having a high-yield savings account is a great start. To see what's available today, take a look at our overview of the top savings accounts.

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