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In the past, it was next to impossible to find a credit builder loan online that you would qualify for – which is the catalyst for this Self credit builder loan review. 

This company is quite the pioneer as they were the first company to offer credit builder loans online NATIONWIDE!

In fact, that’s how I discovered Self Lender (now Self Financial, Inc).

Self credit builder loan website

I was looking for a credit building tool that would help improve my payment history but wouldn’t be a hard pull on my credit because I have plenty of inquiries and don’t need anymore.

I couldn’t find a local bank or credit union that offered credit builder loans and frankly when they run my credit, these financial institutions kind of treat me like the plague. 

Being able to apply online with Self, kept me from having to sit across from a judgmental tie-wearing corporate banker who would probably turn me away, anyhow.

I was able to apply online from my home, and get accepted in under 5 minutes for only $9 to start. 

In this review of their credit builder loans program, I will cover the basics, like, ‘What is Self credit builder loan?’, ‘How to obtain a credit builder loan?’, and more personal topics such as, ‘If a credit builder loan makes sense for your unique credit situation.’

Self Credit Builder Loan Review & Ratings

Self Credit Builder Loan

7.5 out of 10

Self online credit builder loans are straightforward to apply for and the application process is easy.

This type of installment loan is a great option for people trying to build their credit because there is no credit check and your payments will be reported to all three credit bureaus. 

Effectiveness
8/10
Cost
5/10
Ease of Use
9/10
Support
8/10

Pros

Easy to qualify

No credit check

Credit building tool

Cons

Slightly higher APR than competitor's

Largest loan options still small

Who Is Self?

Self Lender CEO and Co-Founder James Garvey has said the company was created to help people, ‘establish credit history for the first time.’ 

Credit builder loans have been available through local banks and credit unions for a long time and are totally legit. 

However, until Self Lender, Credit Builder Loans were not available online to U.S. residents in all 50 states. 

All credit builder accounts are held in FDIC Insured Certificates of Deposits (“CD”), in your name, at one of their banking partners; Sunrise Banks, N.A., Lead Bank, or Atlantic Capital Bank, N.A.

Update 11/21/2019: 

In August of 2019, Self Lender became Self Financial, Inc. a name that they feel fits their future product offerings better. 

I was a little surprised and taken back by the name change since Self Lender was a genius name for company that specialized in credit builder loans. 

There is no better way to describe these loans as lending to ones-self, thus their name made a lot of sense. 

The catalyst for the name change was that Self Financial was adding additional product lines and they didn’t want people to get confused. 

Their second product you can use to help build credit is their new Self Visa® Credit Card. 

You must have a credit builder account with Self Financial and you can secure this card with the balance of that account.

Self Visa credit card

Is Self Legit?

They have a B rating from the U.S. Better Business Bureau (BBB) which is a non-profit organization that ranks businesses based on an accredited letter grade system. 

Self BBB rating is almost the highest you can receive and the majority of the complaints seem to center around customers receiving their checks later than they had hoped when they canceled their accounts early. 

Self Financial Inc. BBB ratings

This financial pioneering company has already helped over 175,000 people obtain a credit builder loan with over 140 million in CD secured loan originations.  

In 2018, they completed their second round of Series B funding and were able to raise an additional 10 million dollars in capital. 

Self is working to offer additional credit building tools and seems poised to be a major player in the industry for years to come. 

Now if someone asks, ‘Is Self Lender Legit?’, you will be able to tell them that, ‘Self Lender is 2 Legit 2 Quit!’

What Are Self Credit Builder Loans?

Credit Builder Loans are a relatively new type of credit created primarily for people with Bad Credit, No Credit, New to Credit, Poor Credit, and looking to Build Credit.

They offer multiple loan amount options that you choose from anywhere in the U.S.

You make a small startup payment that is under $20 and low monthly payments for 12 months or 24 months.

Upon the last payment of your Credit-Builder loan, you will be given the original amount of the loan less interest and charges.

🚀 Credit Builder Loans help you establish a solid payment history and you’re able to do that with no credit check! 

It is very similar to a savings account but you will pay some interest and fees, and you won’t have access to your money until you complete the payment terms.

Each month, they will report your payments to the big three credit bureaus which helps you establish payment history and diversifies your credit mix.

Self credit builder loan customer testimonial

The best Credit-Builder Loans online are from Self Financial because of their ease of access and their ability to positively affect your payment history.

Consistent and a long payment history can help boost your credit score.

How to Apply for a Self Credit Builder Loan?

Guess what?

I have a CBL (Credit Builder Loan) from this very company!

I hope to answer any questions and/or concerns by sharing my thoughts on the experience of purchasing this credit-building tool. 

Applying for a loan with them was easy…

Here’s how to apply! 

My Experience Signing Up for a Self Lender Credit Builder Loan

The following screenshots are from the night I signed up for a credit builder loan. Some of the screenshots aren’t as crisp as I’d like them to be but that’s the cost of authenticity. The entire process took less than 5 minutes and upon completion, in all honesty, I was just amazed at how simple it was to apply and get accepted. 

Self loan application page
Signing up was really easy, I just had to enter some basic info as part of the login.

Step 1: Choose Your Loan And Payment Amount

Self loan application - Step 1

I chose the loan with payments of $89 a month for 12 months and am looking forward to getting $1,001 in February 2020. If you notice, there are four monthly commitment options, one of them is only $25 a month for Self Lender’s 24 months $525 loan. It’s very affordable, hell, if you are like me, you can easily spend $25 a week at 7/11, alone!

Step 2: Review the Loan Terms

Self loan application - Step 2

The terms of my loan are straightforward. I pay a $12 non-refundable administrative fee and 12 monthly payments of $89. The total amount of my payments will equal $1,068 (12 x $89). So the total cost of my loan is the $12 admin fee and $1,068 in payments for a total cost of $1,080. In February 2020 after my last payment, Self will send me a check for $1,001.

The actual cost of this loan to me is $79 for Self to report 12 payments to the three major credit bureaus which will increase my payment history and diversify my credit mix… all with no credit check!

Step 3: Authorize Payments

Authorize Them to Debit Monthly Your Bank Account, Credit Card, Debit Card, or a Prepaid Card

Self loan application - Step 3

I was torn between which account I should select to auto-pay my credit builder loan with.

OK, ‘torn between’ is probably misleading and if we’re honest, I was just lazy, and that’s how the decision was made. In the end, I chose my checking account because my wallet was across the room and I can’t remember the three-digit CV code on the back of any of my credit cards. However, I had my checking account and bank routing number at my desk, so I signed up for auto-payment directly through my checking account.

Funny how this decision was made, simply because I was too lazy to get out of my chair and walk 10 feet. If you later decided to walk that 10 feet, you can change your payment method in your account settings on their website or contact their customer service, and they will help you.

Step 4: Accept Autopay

Make sure your account has enough money each month to cover the monthly payment.

Self loan application - Step 4

If you are signing up for a credit builder loan then you are doing so for the positive increase in your payment history. Now, if you make a late payment, you are completely defeating the purpose of using this credit-building tool.

At the end of the 12 months, this is a product that I am paying $79 for, plus the loss of the use of the money I send them over those 12 months.

Make sure that you make all of your payments on time. You can do this easily by making sure the selected auto-pay account always has enough funds to cover the monthly payment.

Step 5: Start Making Payments

Upon your last payment, collect your selected loan amount, less any fees or interest.

Self loan application - Step 5

After making 12 monthly payments, on February 20, 2020, my CD matures and unlocks with $1,001! I’m going to Sizzler!!! Do Sizzler’s even exist anymore?

Remember that you can log in to your account online and make any changes or see the current status of your account. 

Do Self Credit Builder Loans Work?

Update 5/15/2019

Hey Guys, 

I wanted to add an update since I’ve received multiple emails asking things like; ‘Does Self Lender work?’, ‘What is Self Lender?’, and ‘How does Self Lender work?’.

Pretty much the same question over and over, how much will it increase my credit score?

On average I saw a 28 point increase between Experian, Equifax ad TransUnion. 

I’ve read that people have had their credit score increase as high as 75 points but those were people with no credit or limited credit history. 

I have already had installment loans in my credit history mix which I think is where these types of loans help the most. 

These really are a great option if you are trying to build your credit score fast.

Do I Qualify For Self Credit Builder Loan?

Qualifying for Self credit builder loan is pretty easy. We’ll take a look at a pretty low bar of requirements you must meet to qualify. 

👉 Keep in mind that if you qualify there will be no credit check and the cost to start the loan will be $9!


Remember, they were the first company to offer Credit-Builder Loans online to the entire U.S. Their loan application is easy and quick, too! Yeppers! 

Plus, remember, there is NO CREDIT CHECK!

In order to qualify for Self credit builder loan you must:

  • be at least 18 years of age
  • be a permanent U.S. resident
  • have a Social Security number
  • have one of the following: bank account, debit card or a prepaid card. 

⚠️ Your name will be reviewed through the ChexSystems report.

If you have had any negative reports, such as writing bad checks and bouncing them or any unpaid banking fee in the past 180 days, you will not be eligible for a Credit Builder Loan…you will have to wait 180 days from the last negative report to apply. 

What Are The Costs, Loan Options, And Fees?

At this time, Self offers four different credit builder loans for $520, $724, $539, and $1,663. 

Two loans are offered on 12-month terms with payments of $48 a month or $150 a month. Two other loans are offered on 24-month terms with payments of $24 or $35 a month. View the detailed breakdown of all loan costs in the table below.

Self Lender’s costs for their credit builder loans are very competitive with their competitors with whom they compete completely.

Installment loans aren’t considered in the credit utilization ratio (one of the five big credit score factors) so the size of the loan is unlikely to affect your credit score. The different loan amounts accommodate different customers’ payment ability and desired amount of money to set aside as savings. The size of the loan and terms may be more meaningful to lenders who will look at your debt to income ratio and may also give more weight to a larger loan amount that’s been repaid as that may show someone is more likely to be able to manage a larger loan, such as car loan or mortgage.

Jeff Smith VP of Marketing, Self Financial Inc.

Cost Of Self Credit Builder Loans

Loan AmountMonthly PaymentLoan TermsLoanAPR %Admin. Fee* Total Cost** Late Fee
$520$2524/mo15.92%$9$600$1.25
$724$3524/mo15.97%$9$840$1.75
$539$4812/mo15.65%$9$576$2.40
$1,663$15012/mo15.91%$9$1,800$7.50

*The Total Cost does not include late fees. 
**The Late Fees are only charged to you if you make a payment late.

⚠️ If you make late payments and incur late fees the total cost will increase by the total you pay in late fees.

What Happens If I Can’t Pay My Credit Builder Account On Time?

Considering that the whole purpose of obtaining a Credit-Builder Loan is to establish a good payment history, do not make late payments on this loan. 

You receive a 15 day grace period on late payments. 

If you are later than 15 days, you will be charged a 5% late fee penalty.

They will not report late payments to the big three credit bureaus until they are 30 days late. 

If you cannot make the payments within 30 days, contact them and discuss your options.

How Do I Cancel My Self Credit Builder Account?

If you are unable to make your payments on time or you need to cancel your credit builder loan, the first step will be to contact their customer service department. 

Be sure to request the cancellation before your payment is 30 days late so that a negative report is not made on your credit. 

☝️ Keep in mind that if you cancel after a payment is 30 days or more late a negative report will be made that will not be removed, even if you cancel the loan at a later date. 

When you cancel your loan, they will report the account closed and paid to the credit agencies. 

Give them 10-14 days to process the funds remaining in your CD.

If you go to your Self login under account preferences you will have the option to select the way that you would like to receive your funds. 

You can choose the funds to be direct deposited into your bank account or to receive a snail mail check that you will receive 7-10 days after the check processing period. 

Is There A Fee For Closing My Credit Builder Account Early?

There is no cancellation fee if you wish to close your account early. 

However, there is an early CD withdrawal fee of up to $0.54 (under $1.00)

The remaining funds will be sent to you minus interest and fees paid to date. 

The cancellation process is pretty painless with minimal penalties and fees. 

Self Financial Inc. Customer Complaints

I’ve read some Self BBB complaints by customers who have misunderstood the length of time it takes to receive their funds and I thought it would be a good idea to explain it because it can be kind of confusing. 

Most reviews and complaints about Self specifically talk about how long it took for them to receive their funds after canceling their account early. 

How Long Does It Take To Receive My Money After I Cancel? (Avoid Complaints)

10 – 14 Days from the date of the cancellation to the date the check is printed.

7 – 10 Days from the date the check is printed until you receive it. 


17 – 24 Days is the total estimated time from date of cancellation until check received. 

💡 Keep in mind that you have the option to receive your check electronically, which if selected, can help you receive your funds between 10 – 14 days from the date of cancellation.

The below complaint against Self Financial is a pretty standard complaint on the Better Business Bureau website. 

Self Financial Inc. customer complaint on BBB website

☝️ Make sure you understand the payment options!

The default option on your Self Loan Account is to mail your check to you. 

If you want the money wired to your bank account, be sure to log in and change the payment settings.

I have also seen some Self Lender BBB customer reviews that complain about their credit score not increasing.

However, there are multiple factors that contribute to a credit score.

If the only credit information in your file was a Self loan then over time it would build your credit and improve your credit score. 

It is unfair to blame the credit builder loan for not offsetting your late payment or maxing out your credit cards which would both push your credit score down even with a Self loan.

Just keep in mind that it is going to take a few weeks to receive your funds, so this is not a good option if you need to access money really quickly. 

Self Credit Builder Loan Pros & Cons

Many positives come with a Self Credit Building Loan.

Such as, adding a new credit mix to your credit history and making a positive impact on your payment history which can account for up to 35% of your credit score.

PROS

  • No Credit Check
  • Improves Payment History
  • Credit Building Tool

CONS

  • Higher APR %
  • Small Loan Amounts

Self Visa® Secured Credit Card

Self now offers a Self Visa® Credit Card that is secured by your credit builder loan deposit. 

In October 2019, Self introduced the Self secured credit card exclusively to their credit builder loan customers. This is a great additional product to help build credit history and boost your credit score. 

How It Works

After making three payments on your credit builder loan you are eligible to apply for the Self Visa Credit Card.

To qualify, you will have to have $100 paid into your credit builder savings account and your account must be in good standing. 

If you meet all of those requirements then you will be able to select your credit limit and get your new Self Visa Credit Card in the mail shortly after your third payment. 

Self Visa® Secured Credit Card

💡 This is a great way to add an additional tradeline to your credit history and start to build credit.

I didn’t find out about this option until later on my credit builder loan and ordered an $800 Self Visa Secured Credit Card. 

The baby blue color of the card is nice-looking and it is easy to make my payments through the same Self dashboard I used for my credit builder loan. 

Credit Build Loan vs Secured Credit Card

If you could only choose one new credit product and it was between a credit builder loan vs. secured credit card… which product is the best choice?  

First, both are excellent choices for someone who has bad credit, no credit, poor credit, is new to Credit, or is looking to build credit.

However, each of them offers something different.  

Credit Builder Loan Vs. Secured Credit Card – Credit Check  

The top-selling point for a credit builder loan is that there is no credit check. There will NOT be a new inquiry on your credit history record at the big three credit bureaus.  And more importantly, you don’t have to worry about your lack of credit or bad credit getting you denied.

With the secured credit card, there will be a ‘hard pull’ on your credit report and, you will see an additional inquiry added to your credit history record by the three big credit bureaus.  

Credit Builder Loan Vs. Secured Credit Card – Startup Costs 

When we look at the costs between a credit builder loan vs. a secured credit card, we have to consider the startup costs.  

With credit builder loans the startup cost is usually only the initial setup fee, which is $9 if you go with Self.

With a secured credit card, the credit card company will require you to make an initial deposit between $50 and $200 which will typically also be your credit limit.

So, the startup cost of a secured credit card is quite a bit higher than that of a credit builder loan.

Credit Builder Loan Vs. Secured Credit Card – Effect on Credit Score

Credit builder loans and secured credit cards differ a bit on how they affect your credit history.  

A credit builder loan will affect your payment history which the big three credit bureaus have said can affect your credit score by as much as 35%.  

Whereas, a secured credit card will affect your credit history by not only reporting your payment history but also showing an increase in available credit which is also an important credit scoring factor. 

Credit Builder Loan Vs. Secured Credit Card – The Verdict 

Both credit options bring a lot of value to your credit history and are the top tools to build your credit.

It is a tough call to say one is better than the other. The truth is, if you are trying to build your credit, you are going to need both of these products.

We recommend you start with a credit builder loan because the cost is as little as $9 down and $25 a month for 24 months.

Whereas, initial startup costs for a secured credit card will be much more. 

It stands to reason that you will get more credit tools for your buck with credit builder loans.

Self Loan Alternatives

Credit builder loans have been around for a long time and the list of Self alternatives is long. 

You can find credit builder loans offered by many local banks, credit unions, and even CDFI’s. However, many of these competitors only offer CBLs in a very small geographic area or are limited to members only such as credit unions. 

Where Self has an edge over its competitors is the fact that they can offer CBLs to the entire United States. 

The closest competitor to Self Financial, Inc. is Credit Strong who offers CBLs to almost all of the United States. At the time of this article, they offer services to about 42 states with the intention of offering their services to all 50 states in the coming years.

Credit Strong credit builder loans are competitive with Self’s prices and are a viable alternative. 

Loan AmountMonthly PaymentLoan Terms
$495$4412/mo
$1,000$8912/mo
$1,700$15012/mo
$500$2424/mo
$1,000$4824/mo
$2,000$9624/mo

Self Credit Builder Loan Review Recap

Hopefully, you find this review helpful.

Self credit builder loans are a great option to help build your credit through strengthening your credit payment history and adding to your credit mix.

The fact that there is no credit check and they are pretty inexpensive makes them our top choice for building credit. 

There is no worry that you will be denied because of your low credit score which I know is a huge deciding factor for many credit-related products for me.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.