If you’ve already looked into the Citi Secured MasterCard, you might be a bit confused, since there doesn’t seem to be any mention of it in the Citibank website. Your eyes aren’t fooling you – it isn’t there. In order to get the details on this card, you need to head to a Citibank branch and talk with someone about it in person. They won’t even tell you over the phone. Pretty lame. Here’s another (better) secured card you can apply for right now – First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card.
Luckily, we did that leg work for you! Here’s the low-down on this secretive card.
As you might guess, you have to apply in person, and then it can take up to four weeks for your application to be processed. That’s a long wait for a secured card.
On the bright side, we were assured this card is easy to qualify for. That’s not saying much for a fully secured card such as this one, and customers report varying experiences. What’s clear is that not everybody gets accepted. However, the manager we interviewed claimed that there are few reasons not to accept an applicant, since the account is fully secured. Most likely, you should not have any major financial snafus such as recent bankruptcy, and not request a credit line that is too big.
Security Deposit/Credit Line
This card is “fully secured,” which means that your credit line will exactly equal your security deposit. The Citi Secured card functions on a “name your deposit” principle, with a minimum deposit of $200. Interestingly, the Citi representative informed us that there is no formal upper limit on requested deposits, but that the bank won’t issue something ridiculous like “thousands of dollars” to someone with a very low credit score. Other sources claim that you should consider this card to carry a $5000 maximum on the deposit.
If you can afford it, choosing a larger deposit can be a good way to accelerate rebuilding your credit score. That’s because if you have a higher credit limit but your spending remains the same, you end up using a lower percentage of your available credit. In other words, you have a lower credit utilization ratio, which helps improve your credit score. If this strategy interests you, you could check out the Wells Fargo Secured card, which offers a higher maximum deposit but doesn’t pay interest.
The Citi Secured card, on the other hand, does pay interest. Once you open the account, your deposit is put into a 1-year CD carrying a 1.01% APR. That’s pretty solid! If you were to establish the account with a $5000 deposit, you would get $50 after a year.
Remember, a CD is a special kind of account that you can’t touch for a specified period of time, or else pay a penalty fee. In the case of the Citi Secured card, the CD has to remain untouched for at least one year, if you want to avoid paying the penalty fee. Since the CD is linked to your secured card, the deposit remains completely inaccessible to you until you close the account.
There is no automatic graduation option for the Citi Secured card, but you are welcome to apply for a “real” credit card with Citi after some time. The Citibank manager we interviewed recommended waiting at least 18 months after opening the secured card to apply, keeping credit utilization below 50%, and always paying on time and in full for the best chances at getting accepted for a better card.
Unfortunately, if you do get accepted for a real card with Citi, there is no conversion option. That means that you will have to close the secured card account and open a new one for the new card. We prefer secured cards that allow you to simply convert the account into a non-secured version, because then you don’t affect the length of your credit history. (Having a longer credit history is good for your credit score.)
The Citi Secured card carries a $29 annual fee and 18.24% APR. These numbers are average for a secured card from a major bank. Unfortunately, the benefits are sparse – this card doesn’t offer purchase protections, insurance, warranty extensions, etc. But to be fair, secured cards that do offer those benefits are few in number. (One that does is the Digital Federal Credit Union Secured card.)
The Citi Secured card isn’t perfect, but it offers the best interest rate we’ve seen from a secured card. If you have to put a big chunk of cash away for a while, it might as well be growing while you wait.