Citi® Secured Mastercard® Review: A No-Annual-Fee Card to Improve Your Credit

Lyle is a writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

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For consumers who don't have the best credit, Citi offers the Citi® Secured Mastercard®. Like most secured credit cards, you'll need to pay a deposit as collateral and can then build your credit score by making regular on-time payments.

These cards don't normally have a ton of benefits, but this one does have all the features we look for in the best secured credit cards. This Citi® Secured Mastercard® review breaks down what the card does well and where it could be better.

Ratings Methodology
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
Rewards

None

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

22.49%, variable

Bonuses & Perks

FICO® score for free

Highlights
  • The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a no annual fee credit card that helps you build your credit when used responsibly.
  • Unlike a debit card, it helps build your credit history with monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus. Once available, you will also have free access to your FICO score online.
  • Use your card anywhere Mastercard® is accepted - worldwide.
  • A security deposit is required. Once approved, your credit limit will be equal to your security deposit (minimum of $200).
  • Get help staying on track with Auto Pay and account alerts.
  • With Flexible Payment Due Dates, you can choose any available due date in the beginning, middle or end of the month.
  • Manage your account 24/7 online, by phone, or in our mobile app.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 22.49%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Top perks

No annual fee: Many credit cards charge a fee every year to keep the account open, which is something you don't need while you're working on your credit. The Citi® Secured Mastercard® has no annual fee, so all you pay is the security deposit.

Can graduate to an unsecured card: Another important feature to look for in a secured credit card is the opportunity to graduate. Graduation is when the card issuer refunds your deposit and upgrades you to an unsecured card. This will happen if you pay on time and don't use too much of your available credit. If you can't graduate, you'll need to either cancel your card or let the card issuer hold on to your deposit indefinitely, neither of which is a good option.

You can graduate from the Citi® Secured Mastercard® to other Citi credit cards. It's not always the fastest process, with the typical timeframe being 18 months, but there are also cardholders who have graduated in under a year.

Choose your credit limit: The security deposit you pay when you get this card is your credit limit, and you can choose any amount between $200 and $2,500. It's helpful to have that kind of flexibility. You can pay less if you need to save money, or pay more for a higher limit to keep your credit utilization ratio lower.

Payments reported to all three credit bureaus: Citi reports your payments to the three credit bureaus that handle consumer credit scores: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. That means you can build a positive payment history with all three, instead of having one or two where your credit isn't improving.

Free FICO® Score tracking: Citi provides your FICO® Score free of charge so you can check your credit building progress. Your score is updated monthly by Equifax, so you can stay on top of whether it's going up or down.

Note that there are many different types of FICO® Scores, and the one Citi shows you is the FICO® Bankcard Score 8. This score ranges from 250 to 900, which is a bit different from the more commonly used range of 300 to 850. But don't worry, it will still give you an accurate idea of how good your credit is.

What could be improved

Minimum deposit amount: You need a security deposit of at least $200 to open the Citi® Secured Mastercard®. This isn't a huge issue, but some consumers may need a cheaper deposit. There are secured credit cards that offer lower minimum deposit amounts, even under $100.

The ability to increase your credit limit: Citi won't let you increase your credit limit by adding to your security deposit. The amount you deposit when you get this card will be your credit limit for as long as you have it. That could be frustrating if you decide you want a higher credit limit later.

Foreign transaction fee: Since this card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, it's not one you'd want to use while traveling internationally.

Suggested credit score

There's no minimum credit score to get the Citi® Secured Mastercard®. Although you can use this card to rebuild your credit, Citi won't approve your application if you have any bankruptcy history in the last two years.

Keep in mind that upon approval, you'll have 14 days to provide your bank account information and pay the security deposit.

Alternatives to consider

The Discover it® Secured has everything you could want in a credit card designed for improving credit. There's no annual fee and it can graduate to an unsecured card. But what really makes it stand out is that it earns cash back on every purchase, and it even includes a sign-up bonus matching all the cash back you earn in the first year. Those are perks you almost never see in a secured credit card.

If you don't have much credit history yet, then the Petal Visa® Credit Card may be just what you need. Petal lets you link your bank accounts when you apply, and it can use the transaction history there to approve you for a card, even if you have no activity on your credit file. This card also earns cash back on every purchase, charges zero fees, and doesn't require a security deposit.

As of May. 21, 2020
Discover it® Secured

Petal Visa® Credit Card

Rating image, 4.0 out of 5 stars.
4.0 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Read Full Review
Rates & Fees

Credit Rating Requirement: Fair/New to Credit: Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Credit Rating Requirement: Fair/New to Credit: Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Bonus: Double cash back in the first year Bonus: N/A
Rewards Program: 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter, 1% cash back on all else Rewards Program: 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments. 1% cash back on purchases right away
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: 10.99%, 6 months Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Regular APR: 22.99% Variable Regular APR: 14.49% - 25.49%
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $0

Highlights:

  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.

Highlights:

  • Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments. 1% cash back on purchases right away
  • No fees whatsoever. No late fee, international fee, annual fee, or any-other-kind-of-fee, fee
  • Build credit alongside tens of thousands of Petal Card members
  • Cash flow technology can help applicants without credit history get approved
  • $500 - $10,000 credit limits
  • Petal's mobile app makes it easy to manage your money, track your spending, and automate payments
  • See if you're pre-approved within minutes without impacting your credit score
  • Petal reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • No deposits required.

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Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

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This credit card is right for you if:

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® will be a good fit if you're trying to either build your credit history or fix your credit after past problems, as long as all of the following are true:

  • You can pay at least $200 to cover the security deposit.
  • You don't plan to use your card internationally.
  • You don't have a bankruptcy on your credit file within the last two years.

What's most important with credit cards for bad credit is that they allow you to raise your credit score without costing you money through dubious fees. By that standard, the Citi® Secured Mastercard® has everything you need.

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