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If you have limited or poor credit, with responsible use, a secured credit card can help to build your credit score over time.
Unlike a debit card, which has purchases directly debited from your account, a secured credit card helps build your credit history by offering a line of credit and regularly reporting to the three major credit agencies.
If you’re looking to build you credit with a secured credit card, the Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a good no-annual-fee option to consider. It reports to the three major credit bureaus monthly, and also provides free access to your FICO score. Staying informed and on top of your score is a great first step to managing your credit history and taking control of your financial future.
Another important way to improve your credit history is to make sure you’re paying your statements on time and in full. The Citi® Secured Mastercard® can help you stay on top of making your monthly payments with features like Auto Pay, flexible payment due dates, and account alerts. With Auto Pay, you can set up a payment account to have your credit card balance paid off automatically before your due date. This can help prevent the all-too-common occurrence of missing a payment due date just because you forgot to manually send in your payment on time. The flexible payment due date option allows you to choose any available due date in the beginning, middle or end of the month for your payment. This can be used to align your due date to when you have funds available to make your balance payment, like when you get your paycheck at the end of the month. With account alerts, Citi can help to remove some stress from your life by reminding you about your balance levels, payments due, or when you go over your credit limit. These alerts can be sent by email or directly to your mobile phone.
Other Citi® Secured Mastercard® features include:
If you are approved for the Citi® Secured Mastercard®, the approval comes with an initial credit limit between $200 - $2,500. As a secured card, the initial credit limit is the amount that is required as a security deposit to open your account. For instance, if you are approved for a $1,000 credit limit when initially applying, to open the card with that limit you will have to deposit $1,000 into a collateral holding account (CHA) for an initial term of up to 18 months without earning interest. Additionally, unless Citi determines your account is eligible to have your deposit returned, you must keep your CHA open for the full 18 months.
To receive the Citi® Secured Mastercard® you must meet the credit qualification criteria that Citi has in place. Citi bases eligibility on factors which include a review of your income and your debt. As this is a secured card meant for those looking to improve their credit or with a limited credit history, there isn’t a minimum credit score required in order to get the card. One item that Citi specifically addresses in its terms though is that you must not have any bankruptcy history in the last two years in order to be approved for the card.
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While there are many benefits to the Citi® Secured Mastercard® there are certainly some downsides that you should keep in mind before you decide to apply for the card. The first noteworthy drawback to the card is that it does require a credit check during the application process. While the impact of one credit check on your credit on your credit history can be minor, it is worth noting that you will have your credit file pulled while applying for this card.
This is not a requirement of every secured credit card on the market. For instance, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card (compared below) does not require a credit check while applying for the card. Another noteworthy downside is, as a secured card, you are required to put down an initial deposit in order to open the account. With a minimum of $200, the initial account deposit can be a difficult barrier for some to overcome. Next, the APR for the Citi Secured Mastercard is on the high side relative to other cards on the market, so it is important to stay on top of paying off your balance every month with this card. The standard APR for the Citi® Secured Mastercard® is currently 22.49% (Variable) which is subject to the Citi Flex Plan credit terms and made available at Citi's discretion. Finally, this card does have a foreign transaction fee of 3%, so it is best to not use it internationally as those fees can add up quickly when making purchases abroad.
With no credit check during the application process and no interest charged on purchases during the first billing cycle, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card could be a great alternative to the Citi® Secured Mastercard®.
Like the Citi card, the OpenSky card is a secured credit card that allows you to build your credit with responsible usage and reports monthly to the three credit bureaus. Both cards allow you to determine your credit limit with the amount of the initial deposit with a minimum of $200. Both cards have $0 liability guarantee for fraudulent purchases. Unlike the no-annual-fee Citi card, however, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card has a $35 annual fee.
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
The Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card has many similarities to the Citi® Secured Mastercard®. Both cards help you to build your credit if you have poor or no credit history. Both cards allow you to choose your initial credit limit based on your opening deposit. One downside of the Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card though is that it has an annual fee of $49.
One area that the Green Dot card has the advantage over the Citi card is the purchase APR. At 9.99% (F) APR it is significantly lower than the Citi® Secured Mastercard® APR of 22.49% (Variable).
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
Like the Citi® Secured Mastercard®, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® has no annual fee. Both cards require applicants to make a security deposit that will be equal to their credit limit, but the Capital One card doesn’t have the same 18-month requirement on the deposit being refundable.
While both cards are Mastercards, the Capital One card is a Platinum Mastercard with benefits like auto rental insurance, price protection and 24/7 roadside assistance. Also, unlike the Citi® Secured Mastercard®, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® has no foreign transactions fees so you can use the card while traveling internationally without the worry of incurring additional expenses.
The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is a good option for anyone working on their credit. It reports to the three major credit bureaus monthly, and also provides free access to your FICO score, and with features like flexible payment due dates and automatic payments, it offers tools to help you use your card responsibly.
Now, there are a few downsides to the card to keep in mind including the requirement to deposit an initial amount equal to your credit limit for up to 18 months and a relatively high purchase APR. There are alternative secured cards, like the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, that have no annual fee, less restrictive refundable deposits, and similar or better card features.