If you have little to no credit history and have tried applying for a credit card before, you probably understand the circular reasoning that goes into credit scoring and credit card approvals—you need a good credit score to get most credit cards, but to achieve a good score, you need to have used a credit card (or some other line of credit) over a period of time.
That’s where the Citi Secured Mastercard comes in. Available to those with thin credit files, this card offers the opportunity to build credit by spending responsibly and within your means—with the side benefit of perks such as extended warranty and certain travel protections for purchases made on your Citi Secured card.
- No annual fee
- An opportunity to build credit from scratch
- A restricted limit that means you’ll always spend within your means
- Travel benefits such as travel accident and car rental insurance for purchases made on your Citi Secured card
- Purchase protections such as extended warranty and theft and damage protection for purchases made on your Citi Secured card
At a glance
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
on Citibank's website
- No Annual Fee, and unlike a prepaid card, it helps build credit history with monthly notifications to the credit bureaus
- A security deposit is required for this product (minimum $200)
- Pay your bill on time every month to avoid damaging your credit. Citi can help keep you on track with Auto Pay, online Bill Pay and alerts.
- Use the card anywhere Mastercard® is accepted — worldwide
Citi Secured Mastercard deep dive
The Citi Secured card can be a great way to build credit from scratch, but that means it doesn’t come with some of the fancier perks you may have seen on offers from credit cards intended for higher credit scores. This section will outline the benefits you can expect from the Citi Secured card, as well as some downsides to consider as you make your choice.
Get it: If you’re looking for a straightforward way to build your credit
The Citi Secured Mastercard offers those with thin credit files a chance to build their credit without running the risk of spending more than they have in the bank. With no annual fee, purchases made on the Citi Secured card also benefits from a number of purchase and travel protections.
Some of the benefits of the Citi Secured card include:
- A chance to build your credit: The Citi Secured card can be a good way to start building a credit history, as any payments you make will be reported to all three credit bureaus
- Travel perks: While you won’t earn any travel rewards with the Citi Secured card, you will benefit from certain protections when you pay for a trip with your Citi card. These benefits include worldwide travel accident insurance, trip cancellation and interruption protection, and worldwide car rental insurance
- Purchase protections: Take advantage of extended warranty as well as damage and theft protection for purchases you make on your Citi card. In addition, you won’t be held accountable for unauthorized charges on your account
- No annual fee: Build your credit without paying for it, as the Citi Secured card charges no annual fee
- Get used to using credit responsibly: With a secured card, you’ll put down a deposit when you open your account (between $200 and $2,500 for this card), which will act as your credit limit. Unlike with most other credit cards, spending beyond your means isn’t an option with a secured card
Skip it: If you’ve experienced a recent bankruptcy, would like to accrue rewards, or are looking for a way to finance a large purchase
The Citi Secured card is a no-frills way to build credit, but it doesn’t offer the same benefits as some secured cards on the market. Because this card comes with high interest, no introductory APR offers, and low limits, it’s not the card to finance a large purchase with, nor is it a solution to high-interest debt that you might have on other cards.
Consider these downsides of the Citi Secured card:
- Not for all poor credit: While those with thin credit history may be eligible for the Citi Secured card, Citi makes it clear that this card is not available to anyone who has declared bankruptcy within the last two years
- No rewards: Unlike some other secured cards available to those without stellar credit, the Citi Secured card offers no rewards on your spending
- Sky-high interest: While high interest is to be expected amongst secured cards, it’s worth the reminder that you probably won’t want to carry a monthly balance on your Citi Secured card, as an APR of 23.49% can quickly amount to a significant amount of interest
- No APR offers: While some secured cards may offer a reduced APR for balance transfers to help new cardholders get their financial footing before having to pay high amounts of interest, the Citi Secured card starts charging interest right away
- You set the limit: If you’re looking to finance a large purchase and pay it off over time, this isn’t the card to do it with, as your credit limit for the Citi Secured card is equal to the amount of the deposit you put down when opening the card. This means you won’t be able to buy anything that costs more money than you actually have, unlike with other credit cards
The Citi Secured Mastercard offers those with thin credit a low-risk way to build their credit over time. But it lacks some benefits offered by other secured credit cards, that aren’t valuable options for those who qualify for rewards cards. If you’re not convinced the Citi Secured card is your best bet, take a look at some other options.