Citi Secured Mastercard Review: Will It Help You Build Credit?
The Citi Secured Mastercard is a credit card designed for people with low credit scores who don’t mind putting down a deposit to get a card.
The card is the only one among Citi’s credit cards that requires a deposit, but that’s relatively standard among credit cards that are marketed to people with bad credit. The idea is that the bank holds the deposit and, if you don’t pay your bill, they use the money from your deposit to cover what’s unpaid.
Citi’s Secured Mastercard is one of many secured cards that we’ve reviewed, so we were really curious to find out what makes the card different from the competition.
In order to get to the point where we could confidently say how the card is unique, we did some in-depth research on its rates and fees, any rewards it offers and the benefits it has.
Once we worked through all of that, we did a quick review of what the card’s customers were saying about it as well as how the card compares to other secured credit cards.
The Citi Secured Mastercard’s Rates and Fees
Rates and fees are a really important part of owning a secured credit card because tend to be a lot higher than what you’d get from other credit cards.
The reason behind this is that banks are worried that you’re a risky customer. You see, according to banks and lenders, your low credit scores indicate you aren’t as financially responsible as other consumers and that, because of past mistakes like delinquent payments, tax liens, bankruptcies, and collections accounts, you’re more likely to cause the bank or financial institution more headaches.
So, to avoid those headaches or at least make them worth their while, the financial institution offering the card will ask you for a deposit and, in some cases, demand up-front or yearly fees for owning the card.
That being said, here’s a list of the Citi Secured’s interest rates:
- Purchase/balance transfer APR: 23.49%
- Cash advance APR: 26.24%
- Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
These three APR’s each serve different purposes. For example, the purchase and balance transfer APR applies to any purchases you don’t pay off at your due date and the balance transfer APR applies to all balance transfers you make.
The cash advance APR is what you’ll be charged whenever you use your credit card to withdraw cash.
And, finally, your penalty APR applies when you make a late payment or have a returned payment. That APR will stay on your account indefinitely unless Citi notifies you otherwise.
The Citi Secure card’s fees are split up into three categories: annual fee, transaction fees, and penalty fees.
Thankfully, the Citi Secured has no annual fee, which is a departure from many of the secured cards you’ll come across.
As for transaction fees, the card has a 3% balance transfer fee, a 5% cash advance fee and a 3% foreign transaction fee. Each of these fees applies to each transaction. So, if you make three cash advances, you’ll be charged three 5% fees. Same goes for balance transfers and transactions made in foreign countries.
The penalty fee is $35 for late payments and/or returned payments.
All of the fees you see here are pretty standard for credit cards; nothing is out of the ordinary.
Citi accepts deposits of between $200 and $2,500. This deposit is held in a bank account that Citi will tap into if you default on your payments. The amount you deposit will be your credit limit.
Citi doesn’t say if you can get your deposit back and transition the card from secured to unsecured. What they do say, however, is that your deposit is good for up to 18 months.
The Citi Secured Mastercard’s Benefits
Normally when we write our credit card reviews, we really showcase the card’s rewards because rewards are a big draw for many consumers.
However, the Citi Secured Mastercard does not have a rewards system. This isn’t entirely out of the ordinary and has a lot to do with banks not wanting to surrender rewards to risky consumers.
The good news is that the benefits this card offers are really impressive and could be worth more to you than the 1% cash back that a competing card like the Discover it Secured offers.
Citi will provide you with an extra two years on the manufacturer’s warranty of nearly everything you purchase with your credit card.
Here’s how it works. Citi gives you 24 extra months on top of the existing manufacturer’s warranty (extended warranties from places like Best Buy don’t count) that covers pretty much anything you buy with your card. If the item breaks, then Citi’s insurance company will pay to have it repaired or replaced or, in some cases, they’ll reimburse you a certain amount of the original purchase price.
Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance
This benefit is something that many people don’t know about but can come in handy should there be an emergency after you book a trip or during your trip.
The program provides reimbursement and some expenses should you suffer a severe injury that prevents you from traveling or that occurs while you’re traveling. The protection also covers you in the event of death.
There are some exclusions to this, so you’ll need to read the benefits guide you get with your credit card to know what’s covered and what’s not.
Public Opinion of the Citi Secured Mastercard
The most recent customer reviews of the card are positive, with many consumers saying the card helped them raise their credit scores.
Negative reviews about the card complained about customer service.
These reviews reveal two important factors in your decision making about this card. First, any secured credit card is a good way to bump up your credit scores.
The main reason why your scores can go up has a lot to do with you paying on time. If you can pay your card on time every month, the credit bureaus and the scoring systems they use will see this as responsible behavior.
Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score, which is why it’s so important.
Some of the review sites other than HighYa spoke poorly of the Citi Secured, knocking the card because there are other cards out there with rewards programs and/or better interest rates.
Comparing the Citi Secured Mastercard to Other Secured Cards
The one card we think reigns supreme over the secured-card kingdom is the Discover it Secured because it offers 1% cash back rewards and has no annual fee. The APR is slightly higher than Citi’s secured card but, assuming you don’t carry a balance on the card, APR won’t be an issue.
The USAA Secured Card from American Express has a much better APR than the Citi Secured: 10.65%-20.65%. However, the card has an annual fee of $35. First Progress’ Platinum Prestige card is similar to the USAA card in that it has a great interest rate (9.99%) but also carries an annual fee ($49).
» For Further Reading: Best Secured Credit Card for Bad Credit
Our Final Thoughts About the Citi Secured Mastercard
In a general sense, we believe the research shows that the Citi Secured is a solid secured credit card. Its APR is lower than what you get on the Discover it Secured and its lack of annual fee is a good perk compared to what you’ll pay for the USAA Secured from American Express or the Platinum Prestige from First Progress.
We like how the card has the extended warranty benefit and the travel accident insurance; remember to read through your benefits guide to make sure you’re aware of the exceptions and restrictions.
The downside to this card is that there is no rewards program to speak of. The truth is, this isn’t as much of a downside as we or other sites say it is, mainly because there are very few credit cards for bad credit that offer rewards.
Consider a rewards card your goal as you build up your credit score using the Citi Secured MasterCard.
As your score creeps up into the 600s and approaches the 700s, you’ll start to get offers from great rewards cards that will give you free cash, points or miles you can redeem for all kinds of stuff.
For now, we think the Citi card is a solid option. If you aren’t convinced that it is, read through our article about five credit cards for people with bad credit. In it, we talk about each card’s benefits, rates and fees and their pros and cons. You’ll find it helpful as you decide which secured card is best for you.