Citi Secured Review: Good for Building Credit and Moving On

This card is designed for those with no credit or limited credit, rather than folks with bad credit. There's no annual fee, but you must put down a deposit of at least $200.
By Kimberly Palmer 

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Our Take

4.8

NerdWallet rating 
The bottom line:

If you have no credit or limited credit, this card is a good choice: It reports to all three major credit bureaus and comes with no annual fee.

Jump to: Full Review
Citibank Citi® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
26.74% Variable APR
Intro APR
N/A
Rec. credit score
630-689 (Average)

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Qualify with limited/bad credit

Cons

  • High APR

  • No rewards

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$35

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

27.24% Variable APR

Regular APR

21.64% Variable APR

Regular APR

29.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
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Full Review

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a little different from other secured credit cards: It's designed specifically for those with no credit or limited credit, not bad credit. And if you're eligible, it's a good choice, too, since it charges an annual fee of $0 and reports to all three major credit bureaus. It can help you establish good credit if you use it to borrow responsibly and pay on time.

But it falls slightly short of the best secured credit cards, in part because it can take up to 18 months for the issuer to determine if you're eligible to have your deposit returned early. And you have to pay the full $200 deposit within 14 days of opening the account, which might be a stretch.

Key features of the Citi® Secured Mastercard®

  • Card type: Secured.

  • Annual fee: $0.

  • Security deposit: $200 minimum, $2,500 maximum.

  • Sign-up bonus: None.

  • Rewards: None.

  • Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 26.74% Variable APR.

Benefits of the Citi® Secured Mastercard®

No annual fee

Unlike some secured cards on the market, this one charges an annual fee of $0. While you have to provide a security deposit of at least $200 to open the card, that money will be returned to you when you close the card in good standing.

That makes it preferable to many unsecured cards that target people with no credit and pile on outrageous fees — annual fees of up to $99, monthly fees and even application fees.

Reports to all three credit bureaus

While Citi doesn’t outline a direct path to qualifying for an unsecured card as a next step, this card is designed to help you build credit. If you make on-time payments each month, they will be reported to the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — and allow you to build your credit history over time. Then you will be able to apply for other credit cards that require good to excellent credit and come with rewards and other perks.

Drawbacks of the Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Not available to applicants with bad credit

If you have bad credit, you likely won't qualify for this card. You also might not qualify with certain negative marks on your credit report. The card requires, for example, that you not have experienced bankruptcy in the past two years. Bad credit isn’t an obstacle for qualifying for other great secured cards, though, such as the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card and the Discover it® Secured Credit Card. More on those cards below.

Deposit needs to be funded relatively quickly

This card requires a security deposit, or collateral, of at least $200. That's about standard among secured cards. But it needs to be paid within 14 days of opening the account, and for some, that might not be quite enough time.

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card offers more flexibility. With this card, you may qualify for a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, which you can pay in installments within 35 days of approval. The annual fee is also $0.

Relatively long timeline for getting upgraded

With the Citi® Secured Mastercard®, your account will be automatically reviewed within 18 months of opening to determine if you're eligible to have your deposit returned early and continue using the card as an unsecured card. But that can be a long wait.

If you're interested in getting upgraded automatically on a faster timeline, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card card would be a stronger choice. Discover starts automatically reviewing your account at seven months to see if you qualify for an upgrade. If you get upgraded, you can continue to use your card and your security deposit will be refunded. The annual fee is $0.

For other options, see our roundup of the best secured credit cards as well as NerdWallet's best credit cards page.

Is the Citi® Secured Mastercard® right for you?

If you are looking for a card to help you build your credit, the Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a great choice. After months of on-time payments and responsible use, you might be able to qualify for a card with more benefits.

Methodology

NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.
Frequently asked questions

Exactly how long it takes to improve credit varies, but significant improvements can be visible after six months. The Citi® Secured Mastercard® reports account activity to all three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian). Pay your bill on time and keep your balances fairly low, and you'll build your credit.

Probably not. This card is designed primarily for people with no credit or limited credit, rather than those with damaged credit because of past missteps or certain negative marks, like a bankruptcy in the past two years.

You can put down as little as $200 for the deposit, or as much as $2,500. Your credit limit will match your deposit.

You must pay your deposit (of at least $200) within 14 days of opening the account.

After 18 months, your account will be reviewed, and Citi may decide you’re eligible to get your deposit back. If you are, you can continue using the card as an unsecured card.