The modest Citi Secured Mastercard benefits won’t turn heads, but this card is quite good for what it does. If you’re trying to build credit from scratch, Citi Secured Mastercard can help you get there.
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The Citi® Secured Mastercard® won’t shower you with the perks and rewards that many people have come to expect from credit cards nowadays (even some secured cards offer cash back and other perks). However, the Citi Secured card checks off the most important box: As long as you do your part, it helps you build credit. Make timely payments, don’t spend more than you can afford and, with time, you’ll boost your FICO score and establish your creditworthiness, at which point Citi might upgrade you to an unsecured card.
Citi Secured Mastercard benefits at a glance
The main selling point of the Citi Secured Mastercard is that it has no annual fee. This card can be truly free as long as you pay your balances on time, don’t borrow money in cash advances and don’t use your card abroad (or online for international purchases) since it has a 3% foreign transaction fee.
Another important Citi Secured Mastercard feature is a high maximum credit limit, which, in this case, is the same as your security deposit. You can put down from $200 to $2,500, which is a reasonably high limit for a secured credit card. Having a high limit is important for keeping your credit utilization low, and it can help in buying a high-ticket item, which is something we all do from time to time.
Other benefits include free access to your FICO score and Citi Identity Theft Solutions, as well as some common credit card benefits, like Digital Wallets, Contactless Pay and more.
After you demonstrate responsible credit habits for 18 months, Citi might upgrade your account to an unsecured card in 18 months, then you can have some other options. You can go for a product change and replace your no-frills Citi Secured with a different Citi credit card – a rewards card, for example. Or you can get an altogether new, more lucrative card – but if you do, what are you going to do with the old one?
Whatever you do, you should think long and hard before closing it. Canceling your oldest credit cards can immediately reduce your credit utilization ratio and shorten your length of credit history, which are both FICO metrics that affect your credit score.
So even when you don’t have much use for your old, plain-vanilla credit card, it might still make sense to keep it open – especially if you don’t have to worry about paying an annual fee year after year.
Fraud and identity theft protection
As we’re getting more and more connected, ID fraud has become a scourge of our time. And in case you become a victim of identity theft, Citi can help even if the problem lies with a different card from another bank. The Citi Identity Theft Solution team can assist you in several ways, from applying an extended fraud alert to your credit file to monitoring your credit bureau report.
Citi can also help with filing a police report and other official forms that you might be required to submit.
How to maximize the Citi Secured Mastercard
Two main goals of secured credit cards are building your credit and eventually graduating to an unsecured card. But you also want to reach these goalposts while wasting as little money as possible, preferably nothing at all.
This is what you can do to maximize your Citi Secured Mastercard benefits:
Make sure you pay your bills on time to avoid the late fee
Procrastinating beyond the payment deadline can cost you up to $40. In the same vein, make sure you have enough money in your banking account if you pay by check because, should your check bounce, you’re on the hook for a returned payment fee, which is up to $40, too. If you make these two mistakes in the same month, you could be out $80, even if your credit card balance is relatively low.
Avoid using a cash advance if you can help it
Please do the math every time you’re about to dip your card in that ATM slot. Borrowing cash from your credit card is going to cost you either $10 or 5% of the amount, whichever is greater. For example, if you borrow just $300 from your Citi Secured, it’ll cost you $15.
On top of that, you’ll be paying the 25.49% cash advance variable APR, which starts accruing interest on the same day. Unlike your normal credit card spending, there is no grace period on cash advances.
If you absolutely have to use a cash advance, try to borrow as little as possible and pay it off as soon as you can.
Always try to pay your bills in full every month
Carrying a credit card balance month after month is never a good idea, but with secured cards (the Citi Secured Mastercard has a 22.74% variable APR) this can be especially costly.
If you can’t pay in full, always pay as much as you can. You can use our Payoff Calculator to devise your payment strategy.
The Citi Secured Mastercard is a no-frills starter card that helps you build credit and eventually graduate to an unsecured card. With no annual fee, free FICO score access and a relatively high maximum credit limit, it’s a good card to use as long as you make timely payments and don’t spend over your head.
The card also offers the valuable Citi Identity Theft Solution and some common benefits, like digital wallets and contactless pay. However, that’s about all the benefits you’re going to get.