Citi® Secured MasterCard® Credit Card Review


Bad credit can be a real bummer, especially if you’re trying to get a loan or refinance debt. Even worse than having bad credit is having no credit at all. In either case, your credit score could be held against you when it comes to approval or the interest rates you’ll pay on what you borrow.

Fortunately, the Citi® Secured MasterCard® can help you build up a solid credit rating. This card is designed for people who are either starting out fresh or trying to repair damaged credit. It has no annual fee and a competitive annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases, which is good if you carry a balance.

Besides that, this card comes with Citi’s exclusive travel, shopping and security features. If you’re ready to get your credit on the right track, take a look at MyBankTracker’s review of the Citi® Secured MasterCard®.

Start Building Better Credit

Your credit score is a measuring stick lenders use to gauge how financially responsible you are. There are several different scoring systems but FICO scores are used most often. These scores are based on the information in your credit report. They’re calculated using these five elements:

FICO Credit Score Factors and Their Percentages

FICO credit score factors Percentage weight on credit score: What it means:
Payment history 35% Your track record when it comes to making (at least) the minimum payment by the due date.
Amounts owed 30% How much of your borrowing potential is actually being used. Determined by dividing total debt by total credit limits.
Length of credit history 15% The average age of your active credit lines. Longer histories tend to show responsibility with credit.
Credit mix 10% The different types of active credit lines that you handle (e.g., mortgage, credit cards, students loans, etc.)
New credit 10% The new lines of credit that you've requested. New credit applications tend to hurt you score temporarily.

So how does the Citi® Secured MasterCard® fit into the picture when you’re trying to improve your credit rating? It’s simple. This card is a credit card, not a prepaid debit card. That means things like your payment activity and balance are reported to the three major credit bureaus.

If you’re making your payments on time each month, that’s going to help your score over time. Keeping your balance low is another way to boost your credit rating. That’s because your scores consider your credit utilization ratio (how much of your borrowing potential is being used).

Simply put, that’s how much you owe compared to your total credit limit. Using less of your available credit (ideally, 30% or less) can help your score. Maxing out your cards, on the other hand, can hurt it.

How the Citi® Secured MasterCard® Works

The Citi® Secured MasterCard® is a secured card. When you apply, you have to put down a cash deposit that is held in a Citibank account. The minimum is $200, but you can deposit up to $2,500. If you’re approved, your credit line is equal to the amount of your security deposit.

Citi holds the deposit in a separate account for 18 months. Unfortunately, it doesn’t earn any interest during this time. If you default for any reason, Citi can apply the deposit to your balance and close your account.

Who Can Apply?

Anyone can apply for a Citi® Secured MasterCard® but not everyone will be approved. This card is specifically geared towards people with little or no credit history. Besides your credit score, Citi checks your debt and income as part of the application process. You can’t have gone through a bankruptcy filing within the last two years if you want to be approved for this card.

Is This a Rewards Card?

If rewards are what you’re after, look elsewhere. The Citi® Secured MasterCard® comes with lots of nice features but a rewards program isn’t one of them. Your purchases can help you build credit but they won’t pay you back with miles, cash back, or points.

Citi® Secured MasterCard® Perks

Even though you don’t get any rewards with this card, you do get some other extras. Citi extends many of the same shopping and travel benefits to this card as they do with their premium credit cards. Here are the details on what you get.

Travel Benefits

If you need help when you’re away from home, you’re covered by all of the following travel protections:

  • Roadside assistance dispatch service. When car trouble strikes, help is just a phone call away. Citi will send someone to assist with towing, tire changes, and other car issues if you get stranded on the road in any of the 50 states or D.C.
  • Worldwide travel accident insurance. Citi believes in making sure you’re prepared for the worst. As part of your cardmember agreement, you’re covered by complimentary travel accident insurance in case disaster strikes while you’re traveling.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption protection. Having a trip derailed can be a headache if it means losing money. Fortunately, you may be able to get certain expenses reimbursed using Citi’s trip cancellation coverage.
  • Worldwide car rental insurance. Citi also covers you if you get into an accident with a rental car or if it gets damaged. Just remember that you’d need to charge the rental to your card and opt out of the rental agency’s insurance to be eligible.

Shopping Benefits

Your Citi® Secured MasterCard® is a convenient way to pay when you’re shopping online or in-store. When you make purchases with the card, they’re covered by:

  • Extended warranty protection. Citi offers an automatic extended warranty program so you have more peace of mind about the things you buy.
  • Damage and theft protection. If something you charge to your card is stolen or damaged within 120 days of purchase, Citi may reimburse you for repairs or replacement costs.
  • $0 liability guarantee. If someone uses your card to make unauthorized purchases, you won’t be stuck footing the bill for what they charge.

Security Protections

Your card also includes a number of security features to keep your information safe. Besides having EMV chip technology, you have access to Citi® Identity Theft Solutions. This service helps you to resolve identity theft if your account is compromised.

How the APR and Fees Add Up

Every credit card charges something for fees and interest and the Citi® Secured MasterCard® is no exception. You’ll pay the same regular variable APR for purchases and balance transfers. The APR for cash advances is pretty stiff, so you should use those sparingly, if at all.

There’s no annual fee for this card. Foreign transactions will cost you 3% so you may want to pick a different card to use when you travel outside the U.S.

The balance transfer fee is either $5 or 3%, whichever is greater. Cash advances will cost you a little more. That fee increases to $10 or 5%, whichever is more. The fee for late payments and returned payments can be up to $35.

How It Measures Up Against Other Citi Cards

The Citi® Secured MasterCard® is great for establishing credit or raising your score but another card may be a better fit. Here are two other Citi cards you might want to take a look at.

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

citi-thankyou-preferred-xlargeThe sooner you can begin building good credit, the better. The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is a good way to get a head start. This is a rewards card designed for students who are new to credit. It offers two points per dollar on restaurant and entertainment purchases, plus one point per dollar on all other purchases.

New members can qualify for a 2,500 point bonus when they meet a minimum spending requirement. Like the Citi® Secured MasterCard®, this card can help you build credit. The difference is you get the added benefit of earning rewards and you don’t have to put up a cash deposit.

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

If you’re not a student, you can still earn rewards and build credit with the regular Citi ThankYou® Preferred card. It has the same rewards structure as the student version and it comes with no annual fee. One other reason to consider this card is the introductory promotional financing offer on purchases and balance transfers.

With this card, you can enjoy a 15-month interest-free period on both. That’s great if there's something expensive you want to buy or an existing balance on another card with a higher rate. It has some of the same built-in perks as the Citi® Secured MasterCard®, with a few extras thrown in. You also get access to Private Pass, Citi Price Rewind, and Citi’s concierge service.

Final Verdict: Should You Get This Card?

The Citi® Secured MasterCard® is aimed at helping you get a better credit rating. If you don’t have any serious delinquencies on your credit history and you’ve got the cash for your deposit, it’s a good starting point. On the other hand, you might like a different Citi card if you want to earn rewards on purchases. Your choice of cards all comes down to what it is you hope to get out of a credit card and your current credit health.

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