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Citi® Secured Mastercard® review: A bare-bones card for building credit

This card is a decent choice for credit builders who can keep their balance paid in full each month. But there are more rewarding options if you’re looking to build or rebuild credit.

 /  8 min
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Snapshot

3.0

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Bottom line

While the Citi Secured Mastercard has little in the way of perks and absolutely no rewards, it’s still a solid credit-building tool when used correctly. Its standard security deposit and competitive interest rate make it a good choice for people who want no distractions or temptations when repairing credit with a credit card.

Image of Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

*
No Credit History
Info
Recommended Credit

N/A

Intro offer

Info

$0

Annual fee

27.74% (Variable)

Regular APR

Citi is an advertising partner

Citi® Secured Mastercard® Overview

Although it doesn’t earn rewards or carry special perks like some of the top secured cards, the Citi® Secured Mastercard® is an accessible entry-level credit card if you have limited or no credit history. It’s easy to build your credit with all three major credit bureaus for no annual fee — especially if you already have a banking relationship with Citi.

Since Citi determines your credit limit by looking at other financial indicators like income and debt, having a positive financial history with Citibank might help you qualify for a higher security deposit and credit limit. Plus, you can earn rewards with eligible Citibank accounts that you can later transfer to a reward-earning Citi credit card.

If you aren’t able to pay your balance in full each month, or are likely to make a late payment, this may not be the best card. Like many secured credit cards, it carries a high variable APR. But it’s also one of the few secured cards that threatens cardholders with a penalty APR if they make a late payment.

Check out our review of the Citi Secured Mastercard to learn more and to see which cards could be a better alternative.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Checkmark

    No annual fee, so you don’t need to worry about additional costs

  • Checkmark

    Only $200 minimum needed for the security deposit, which is standard among secured credit cards

Cons

  • No rewards and few additional benefits, dropping it to the middle of the pack compared to other cards in its category

  • A few competing secured cards offer better rates and benefits with fewer fees

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: N/A
  • Welcome offer: N/A
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 27.49 percent variable

Welcome offer

The Citi Secured Mastercard doesn’t currently offer a welcome bonus, which is not uncommon for a secured credit card. If you want a secured card with a welcome offer, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a rare exception, giving cardholders the Cashback Match™ welcome offer found on Discover cards.

Rewards

Like many secured cards, the Citi Secured Mastercard doesn’t earn rewards. This isn’t a deal-breaker though, since cardholders should use secured cards as stepping stones to bigger and better rewards cards.

Other cardholder benefits

Unfortunately, this card doesn’t carry extra perks aside from basic account management features and the Citi Entertainment program, which is available to nearly all Citi cardholders. These features add up to a perfectly serviceable experience while you shore up your credit score but. Alternatively, a student credit card may carry a stronger roster of benefits for someone enrolled in college.

Account management features

Features like automatic account alerts, auto-pay, choice of payment due dates and identity theft protections are standard perks you should look for on any card. These standard perks are all present on the Citi Secured Mastercard and can help you keep your credit score journey on track. You can also monitor your progress online with free access to your FICO score at any time.

Digital wallet access and contactless pay

Your Citi Secured card can join your digital wallet for easy access on and offline. Plus, the physical card comes with a contactless payment chip-enabled for quick, safe transactions.

Citi Entertainment

With Citi Entertainment, you gain access to exclusive travel, dining and entertainment events. If you’re already planning excursions in the future, Citi Entertainment is a great way to snag presale concert tickets and more before the general public can.

How the Citi Secured Mastercard helps build credit

Citi looks at areas of applicants’ finances like income and debt to determine credit limits. This bodes well for users who already practice good financial habits. For instance, a positive history of banking with Citibank could secure you a higher credit limit, which will make keeping your credit utilization low a lot easier.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a defined timeline for Citi’s card graduation process like you may find on other credit-building cards. However, the Citi Secured Mastercard terms state that Citi may upgrade your card by refunding your deposit at 18 months. Depending on where you are in your credit-building journey, a year and a half is plenty of time to demonstrate responsible use and boost your credit score through on-time payments and low credit utilization. However, you may have already built up enough credit by then to spring for a better card anyway.

Plus, because this is a secured card, your credit activity is reported to the three major credit bureaus. Making on time payments and exercising financial responsibility can lead to credit recovery or help new users build credit. If you’re currently using a prepaid or a debit card, a secured card like the Citi Mastercard could be a good option to start establishing credit history.

Rates and fees

The main appeal of the Citi Secured Mastercard is its low-cost, no-frills approach to credit building. There is no annual fee, and the $200 minimum security deposit falls in line with many secured cards. As long as you can pay your balance in full each month, this is a solid credit builder card to have in your wallet. 

Like many cards, there are some fees to watch out for. Citi’s secured card isn’t the best to use abroad since it charges a 3 percent foreign transaction fee (after USD conversion). 

It also has a  late payment fee (see terms) and the potential for a penalty APR of up to 29.99 percent (variable), which could last indefinitely. While the late fee is common for most credit cards, that penalty APR and indefinite time period is a negative feature you won’t find with many cards, including Capital One and the Discover it® Secured Credit Card. 

The card carries a 27.49 percent variable APR. That is slightly lower than competing cards but is still well above the current average interest rate

Keeping your credit card paid off each month is the safest option to stay out of credit card debt. But if you can’t, a low interest credit card may be a safer choice than the Citi Secured. If you carried a $1,000 balance with the Citi Secured and could only make $200 payments each month, it would take you six months to pay off the card and cost $73 in interest. If you do that twice in a year, you’d lose $146 to interest. 

Even a secured card with an annual fee, like the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card could help reduce amount of money you lose to interest charges — especially if you carry a balance for a long time. But to be sure, use a credit card calculator to see for yourself. 

How the Citi Secured Mastercard compares to other secured cards

Though the Citi Secured Mastercard may be a good choice thanks to its bare-bones structure, some other secured credit cards carry fewer fees and more benefits — even rewards, in some cases.

Unless you’re already a loyal Citi customer, you might want to consider one of these alternatives.

Image of Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History
Info
Image of Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Cashback Match™
Info

Rewards rate

1% - 2%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History
Info
Image of Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History
Info

Citi Secured Mastercard vs. Discover it® Secured Credit Card

If you must carry a balance from one month to the next, the Citi Secured barely edges out the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, making these two cards close contenders.

Where these two credit-building secured cards differ is in the perks. While the Citi Secured card has benefits standard for most secured credit cards, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card comes with cash back and a valuable welcome offer. Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year with the account and you get one-time late payment forgiveness (no late payment fee the first time you pay late; after that, up to $41). The Citi Secured is the best card if you have no credit history, are loyal to Citibank and plan to use a secured credit card only for building credit instead of earning rewards.

If you want to earn modest cash back on the side while you build credit, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card outshines the Citi Secured Mastercard.

Citi Secured Mastercard vs. Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Again, the Citi Secured Mastercard is a middle-of-the-road secured credit card option, just like the Capital One Platinum Secured. Both cards have no annual fee, no rewards and no introductory APR benefits (Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card - (See Rates & Fees)). However, the Capital One Platinum Secured has a slightly higher variable APR, so if you’re someone who tends to carry a balance, the Citi Secured is the better option here.

That said, the Capital One Platinum Secured is more lenient with its credit limits. Applicants can put down a deposit as low as $49 (the security deposit could also be $99 or $200 based on your creditworthiness) to access a $200 credit limit with the opportunity for a credit limit increase after the six-month automatic account review. To serious credit-builders, this credit limit increase is a boon for keeping your credit utilization ratio under control without expensive deposits. For that reason, the Capital One Platinum Secured is a slightly better option, despite its slightly higher APR.

Best cards to pair with this card

Using more than one card when you’re building or rebuilding credit is generally not recommended. In this case, there is no best card to pair with the Citi Secured Mastercard. If you choose the Citi Secured card as your first credit card, you should pair it with a free credit-monitoring tool, like Experian, and connect your non-traditional accounts for reporting. Using Experian Boost or UltraFICO will link utility, subscription and certain rent payment accounts and report positive payments to aid you in improving your credit.

Bankrate’s Take — Is the Citi Secured Mastercard worth it?

The Citi Secured Mastercard offers an opportunity to build credit at a low cost. Its rates and fees make it a decent choice for any credit-builder who can keep their balance paid in full each month. But the bare-bones Citi Secured is a few ranks shy of being crowned the top secured card. Its penalty APR and lack of credit-building features make cards like the Discover it® Secured Credit Card and the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card better overall choices.


The information about the Citi® Secured Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Written by
Garrett Yarbrough
Writer, Credit Cards

Bankrate expert Garrett Yarbrough strives to make navigating credit cards and credit building smooth sailing for his readers. After regularly featuring his credit card, credit monitoring and identity theft analysis on NextAdvisor.com, he joined the CreditCards.com and Bankrate teams as a staff writer to develop product reviews and comprehensive credit card guides focused on cash back, credit scores and card offers.

Edited by Senior Editor, Credit Cards

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.