Taking the first step in your journey to building credit isn’t always easy. The dilemma is you need credit to build credit. But companies and financial institutions are hesitant to offer credit unless you’ve already proven yourself. Self Lender is a platform that seeks to solve this dilemma.
Self Lender provides resources you can use to monitor your credit history and score. Beyond monitoring, there's a credit-building aspect of the platform as well. In partnership with Austin Capital Bank, Self Lender offers a credit-builder account to help you improve your credit history.
The credit-builder account is a CD-secured installment loan. This works similar to a secured credit card in the sense that your certificate of deposit (CD) is providing collateral against your loan. Since the loan is secured by a CD the qualifying criteria is less stringent than a typical personal loan. After getting approved, you're given a small loan that's held in the CD account until you repay it.
The purpose is to build credit history by making loan payments. In this post, we’ll discuss what the Self Lender service is and whether what it offers is a viable method for you to build credit. Read on for:
- How Self Lender works
- How much Self Lender costs and the terms
- The pros and cons
- Other methods of building credit
How Self Lender Works
*Terms and rates current as of Jan. 31, 2018.
Self Lender offers four loan amounts, each with 12- or 24-month terms. Borrowers can receive loans of $525, $545, $1,000, or $2,200 with interest rates up to 15.65% APR.
The fixed payment for each loan amount is:
- $525 - $25 monthly payment (24 months)
- $545 - $48 monthly payments (12 months)
- $1,000 - $89 monthly payment (12 months)
- $2,200 - $194 monthly payment (12 months)
Once you pay off the loan, you get the original amount of the loan plus interest earned. The APY (annual percentage yield) on the CD is 0.10%
Here's the expected interest each CD should earn by the end of the loan term:
- $525 - $1.05
- $550 - $0.55
- $1,000 - $1.00
- $2,200 - $2.20
Self Lender Costs and Account Terms
Self Lender allows you to have only one credit-building account open at a time. Starting a credit-builder account doesn't require a hard inquiry on your credit report. You don’t get access to cash from the loan while it's in the CD account, so this product won't be useful if you need money right away. You can, however, pay the loan back early without penalty.
Now, let’s talk about costs. The basic Self Lender service, including credit monitoring and credit score tracking, is free. However, the credit-builder account has a $12 administrative fee on top of the installment loan interest.
If you make a payment over 15 days late, the late fee is 5% of the payment due. A payment over 30 days late will be reported to the credit bureaus. If this happens, it will defeat the purpose of opening an account to build your credit. Fortunately, there’s an automatic payment feature to help you avoid making late payments.
Pros and Cons
Pro: Self Lender can help your credit score. Making on-time loan payments will help you build a positive payment history, which is the most important component of your credit score. An installment loan also adds account diversity to your credit report and can have a positive impact on the credit mix aspect of your credit score. Applying for an account doesn't require a hard pull, so as a bonus, Self Lender won't hurt your score either.
Con: The cost. The cost of this service is a red flag. Let’s take the $550 credit-building account for example. You make 12 monthly payments of $48.50, which equals $582 and makes the total cost of the loan $32. Add the $12 administrative fee and you’re spending $44 for credit building.
Pro: The cash windfall at the end. You do get a lump sum of cash from the account when you complete the loan term. If you have trouble staying disciplined enough to save, the money you get back could be used to start an emergency fund or to meet other financial goals. (Although, on the flip side, you can make scheduled payments to yourself without this product or its fees by setting up automatic transfers into a savings account each month. You can compare savings accounts here.)
Con: It encourages you to take out a loan you may not need. Building credit isn’t a good enough reason to take out an unnecessary loan. This loan isn’t free, and there are other ways you can build credit without it costing you.
Pro: Credit monitoring. Besides the CD-secured installment loan for building credit, Self Lender offers basic credit monitoring through TransUnion. Credit monitoring and score tracking are always worthwhile to have for free.
Other Ways to Build Credit
Here are a few other methods you can use to build credit from scratch:
Secured credit cards are credit cards that require an initial deposit for your credit line. You can find secured credit cards that require a deposit as low as $50. This does mean you need to fork over cash upfront, but the benefit is you can find a secured card with no fees, and the deposit is refundable (if you pay the credit card bill).
You can also avoid interest altogether on a card by paying off your balance in full each statement period. The credit card issuer usually sends you the deposit back after a set amount of time. You may even get a credit line increase after you prove your creditworthiness. Compare secured cards here.
Finding a co-signer is another option that can help if you can’t qualify for a credit line on your own. Since the co-signer takes on some responsibility for the debt, a financial institution or company may be more willing to approve your application. Eventually, your co-signer may be able to apply for a co-signer release if the account is in good standing, and you can get approved for other credit on your own.
Credit piggybacking is a credit history building shortcut you may be able to use if you know someone who has credit cards in excellent standing. Credit piggybacking is when you become an authorized user on someone else’s account. As an authorized user, the account shows up on your credit report to improve and lengthen your history.
Who Will Benefit the Most from Self Lender
Self Lender shouldn’t be the very first tactic you use to build credit because it’s not free and it makes you take out a loan. There are other free methods, including the ones above, that can help you build credit instead.
The most important aspect of your credit history and score is paying your bills on time. Before taking on a new debt payment, you should focus on keeping up with current bills first (rent, cable, utilities, etc.) to establish a payment routine. Afterward, a secured credit card could be a more affordable and less cumbersome way to build credit on your own.
Goldman Sachs Bank USA High-yield 12 Month CD
Ally Bank High Yield 12-Month CD
Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings
Barclays Online Savings Account
* All banks listed are a Member FDIC.