The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a solid choice for most people looking at a secured credit card. It comes from one of the largest card issuers in the United States and doesn’t have an annual fee. After 18 months with the Citi® Secured Mastercard®, your account may automatically qualify for an upgrade to an unsecured account. That makes it a great option toward getting an unsecured credit card.

Citi® Secured Mastercard® Quick Review

Here are the highlights of the Citi® Secured Mastercard®:

Annual Fee: $0

APR:

Sign-Up Bonus: None

Benefits:

  • $200 minimum security deposit
  • Customize your credit limit
  • Graduate to an unsecured card in as little as 18 months
  • No authorized user fee

Minimum Payment:

Your minimum payment will be any amount past due, plus and over limit amount, plus the greater of:

  • If the new balance is less than $25, the new balance
  • $25
  • 1% of the new balance rounded to the nearest dollar, plus any interest charges and late fees
  • 1.5% of the new balance

Other Fees:

  • The greater of $5 or 3% for balance transfers
  • The greater of $10 or 5% for cash advances
  • 3% for foreign transactions
  • Up to $35 for late payments
  • Up to $35 for returned payments

Why Apply for the Citi® Secured Mastercard®

There are a couple of reasons to apply for the Citi® Secured Mastercard®.

You want a clear path to an unsecured credit card

When you apply for a secured credit card, your goal should be to improve your credit score to the point that you qualify for an unsecured credit card. Many secured cards force you to close your account and submit a new application if you want your deposit back and to move to an unsecured card. You won’t have to deal with that with the Citi® Secured Mastercard®. Citi will review your account after 18 months to determine your eligibility, and on a regular basis thereafter to determine if you qualify for an upgrade. To be eligible, you’ll need a good payment history and good credit score. When that happens, your deposit is returned and your card converts to an unsecured card.

You want a secured card with no annual fee

Secured credit cards are for consumers with poor or no credit. Because these consumers can’t get a credit card without first building their credit, many lenders take advantage of the situation by charging sizable annual fees. The Citi® Secured Mastercard® doesn’t charge any application fees or annual fees. That gives you the opportunity to build your credit without having to pay for the privilege.

Citi® Secured Mastercard®: Drawbacks and Downsides

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® does have a few drawbacks to consider.

High interest rate

In an ideal world, you pay off your credit card in full each month. If you do that, your credit improves, and you won’t owe interest payments. In reality, that’s not always the case. One of the Citi® Secured Mastercard®’s weaknesses is its high APR when you carry a balance. Even when compared to other secured cards, is pretty high. That’s an expensive rate for carrying a balance.

Low maximum credit limit

Having a high credit limit lets you buy more expensive things without having to carrying around a wad of cash. With secured credit cards, your credit limit is usually equal to your security deposit. Many secured card providers let you increase your deposit by thousands of dollars to increase your credit limit. But with the Citi® Secured Mastercard®, the credit limit is just $2,500. That’s lower than the maximum offered by many other cards. That’s generally not a problem, given the reasons behind using a secured card, but it’s something to think about if you’re considering a big purchase.

Citi® Secured Mastercard® Alternatives

If you’re looking at the Citi® Secured Mastercard®,  take a look at these alternatives, too.

Discover it® Secured Card

Few secured credit cards offer cash back rewards, but the Discover it® Secured Card bucks the norm. The Discover it® Secured Card earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, and 1% back on everything else. Using the card regularly can simultaneously improve your credit score and rack up potentially hundreds of dollars in rewards.

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

If you want a secured credit card with an even lower security deposit, look into the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®. This card offers many of the same benefits as the Citi® Secured Mastercard®, but has no annual fee, lets you customize your credit limit, and it makes it easy to track your credit score improvement. The low security deposit is definitely its biggest draw. You could be required to provide just $49 for a deposit, depending on your credit score. Others might have to provide $99, but the highest required deposit is $200, which is on par with the Citi secured card.

Other Things to Know

Here are some of the most common questions people have about the Citi® Secured Mastercard®.

Does the Citi secured card report to credit bureaus?

Yes, the Citi® Secured Mastercard® reports your activity to all three credit bureaus.

What is a secured Mastercard?

A secured Mastercard is a special type of Mastercard credit card. To qualify, you must provide a cash security deposit, which offers the bank protection if you fail to pay your bill. Otherwise, it functions just like any Mastercard and offers the same benefits.

How long does Citibank credit card approval take?

Citibank does not take long to approve applications. Your card should arrive within a week or two after your application is approved.

Bottom Line: Should You Apply for the Citi® Secured Mastercard®?

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a strong choice of secured card for most people. With no annual fee and a clear path toward an unsecured credit card, the Citi® Secured Mastercard® is one of the best secured credit cards on the market.