UPDATED: September 18, 2022

If you’re looking for ways to rebuild your credit, you’re not alone. Thousands of Americans dream of fixing their credit health; thankfully, tools like credit builders exist for this purpose. 

Credit-builders are loans you can take when you have no or bad credit, and some of the most famous names include Credit Strong and Self. While both are popular credit-builder loans, you wouldn't want to just jump in without understanding how either works. 

To help you get started, we've looked deeply into Credit Strong and Self and checked their official sites. We’ve also read dozens of reviews and feedback from real users via independent sites like Trustpilot, BBB, Reddit, and more.

And from there, we’ve found the best tip to ensure that credit builder loans work for you. Don’t miss the opportunity to improve your credit and secure your financial future.

What is Credit Strong?

Credit Strong is a secured-lending fintech company, helping people build their credits through Credit Builder loans. 

It’s a division of the Austin Capital Bank, and it can cater to all states across the US except North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Vermont.

What is Self Lender?

Self, formerly known as Self Lender, is a financial services company founded in Austin, Texas, by James Garvey. 

According to its website, it has worked with over 175,000 people through its products designed to rebuild credit. It works similarly to Credit Strong and is available in all US states.

How are Credit Strong and Self similar?

Since both Credit Strong and Self are credit builder tools, they share many similarities. Here are the most apparent ones:

1. They offer credit-builder loans

Credit Strong and Self offer credit builder loans, which are great ways to improve your credit score. These loans may be viable options if you have no credit history or bad credit.

They’re not your typical lenders, and the loans they provide aren't technically loans in the first place. This can be perplexing, but it’s essential to understand how loans work.

When you apply for a typical loan, you receive the money and then work to pay it off. However, credit builder loans operate like reverse loans. You make monthly payments and need to pay everything off before you can access the amount.

Credit Strong and Self will store your monthly payments in a savings account you can’t access. You’ll get your money back once you reach the end of your loan term.

2. They don’t make hard inquiries

A hard inquiry is when a financial institution checks your credit to make a lending decision. They frequently occur when you apply for a mortgage, loan, or credit card, and you’re usually required to authorize them. A hard pull may lower your score by a few points or have no effect at all.

3. They don’t lend you money upfront

Credit Strong and Self, as previously stated, are not traditional lending services. Aside from not receiving any money upfront, you also pay higher fees than a conventional loan. If you just need a personal loan, it’s better to simply apply for an unsecured loan from a bank or credit union.

Both of these businesses exist to assist people in improving their credit scores and establishing a good payment history—not to get cash.

4. They allow you to cancel anytime

These services also allow you to cancel at any time without penalty. If you cancel before the end of your repayment term, you’ll get the amount you deposited minus interest. 

You also don’t have to worry about any negative marks on your credit reports, so long as you have no late or missed payments on record before canceling.

How do they differ?

While both tools come with striking similarities, they also have big differences.

1. Self is available in all states

Unlike Credit Strong, Self is available in all 50 states. This allows users across America to get better chances of building their credit, as it doesn’t factor in geographic location.

2. Self gives you a chance to own a credit card

Apart from availability, Self also offers users the opportunity to qualify for a credit card. If you have at least $100 in savings and have made three on-time monthly payments, you will be eligible for the Self Visa secured credit card.

You don’t have to worry about a credit check, as you only have to meet the requirements above. 

3. Credit Strong has lower interest rates

Credit Strong claims only to offer low-interest rates and minimal fees. Why is this important? When trying to build credit, it can be tempting to just apply for any bank account you see. 

People with poor credit or no credit history are usually victims of high-interest rates and monthly fees—mostly because they have no choice. Lenders only make their services available if you’re willing to pay more, likely to offset your bad credit. 

Simply taking what’s there can lead to disastrous cases, however. If you’re paying more than what you have just to build credit, you might have an even worse standing. 

4. Credit Strong loans have more significant effect on your credit score

Credit Strong offers you accounts with significantly higher balances compared to Self. While loaning a significant amount will not improve your credit score, showcasing that you can pay it off can! Coupled with a low debt-to-income ratio, you become more appealing to lenders.

Your payment history remains a significant factor in your credit score, and a Credit Strong account with a large sum paid off can be more compelling than just a minimal account. 

Between loan amounts of $10,000 via Credit Strong and $1,000 via Self, you’re better off with the former. 

So, how many points do you get from Credit Strong? The site claims that, on average, making timely payments for three months raises your score by 25 points, and doing so for 12 months can give 75 points.

Credit Strong vs Self: Pricing details and the plans they offer

If you’re wondering which one to get between Credit Strong and Self, it’s best to look at the plans they offer and whether they suit your needs.

Credit Strong plans and prices

Credit Strong offers seven plans, which you can customize depending on your needs. The loan amounts range from $1,000 to $10,000, and the terms can reach up to ten years. 

Here’s a table outlining the available plans:

PlanMonthly paymentsAdministration feeMaximum loan term
Subscribe 1000 ($1,000)$15 (flexible)$15120 months (ten years)
Subscribe 2,500 ($2,500)$30 (flexible)$15120 months (ten years)
Build & Save 1100 ($1,100)$38 (flexible)$8.9512 months (one year)
Build & Save 1000 ($1,000)$48 (flexible)$8.9524 months (two years)
Build & Save 2000 ($2,000)$96 (flexible)$8.9524 months (two years)
Magnum 5000 ($5,000)$55 (flexible)$25120 months (ten years)
Magnum 10000 ($10,000)$110 (flexible)$25120 months (ten years)

Because Credit Strong’s loan terms are flexible, monthly payments may also vary. If you stretch the loan up to ten years, you may pay lower rates every month.

Credit Strong’s large loan amounts and long loan terms are an edge above Self. This is because you can build a more solid credit history.

Self plans and prices

Unlike Credit Strong’s extensive range of plans, Self only has four options. They’re less flexible but have lower administration fees.

PlanMonthly paymentsAdministration feeMaximum loan term
Small builder ($600)$25$924 months (two years)
Medium builder ($840)$35$924 months (two years)
Large builder ($576)$48$912 months (one year)
X-large builder ($1,800)$150$912 months (one year)

Although Self has lower non-refundable administration fees, it has a higher interest rate of 15.97%, compared to the 5.83% to 14.89% annual percentage rate of Credit Strong. This means that Credit Strong is cheaper and more flexible in the long run.

However, one of Self’s notable features is its Visa credit card, which you can get once you have $100 in savings and have made three on-time monthly payments. The card allows you to diversify your credit, positively impacting your score.

Weighing the pros and cons of Credit Strong and Self

Credit Strong and Self have their pros and cons. So, we turned to online forums like Reddit for insights from real users. We also explored Self and Credit Strong reviews on independent sites like BBB and Trustpilot. 

Here’s what we’ve found:

Credit StrongSelf
ProsCredit Strong doesn’t perform a hard pull, so opening an account won’t affect your score.Its plans are flexible and have long loan terms.Self also doesn’t do hard pulls.It’s available in all states.It has an app available on Android and iOS, which can be more convenient for mobile users.It has a lower non-refundable administration fee.
ConsIt’s not available in some states.Credit Strong doesn’t have an app.It has a higher interest rate.Its loan terms are short, so the impact on your credit score will be less significant.

Credit Strong is a reputable brand and is not a scam. However, some users complain of cases wherein the platform doesn’t report to the bureaus on time. Others state that customer service isn’t too reliable and Credit Strong isn’t really worth it.

Meanwhile, is Self worth it to build credit? Some users say yes, but others complain that they didn’t get their money back immediately and that it’s hard to contact customer service.

Other tips for improving your credit

Aside from getting credit-builder loans, there are other ways you can improve your credit. Here are some tips:

1. Analyze your credit reports

If you want to ensure that credit builders work for you, you must carefully analyze your reports and see how much they help.

All three credit reporting agencies must provide you with one free credit report each year. Asking for copies shouldn’t affect your credit score, so never hesitate to request them. 

According to one government study, 26% of consumers have at least one material error in their credit reports. While some are simple errors like misspelled names and addresses, others can be damaging. 

Some people report to have incorrectly reported late payments, debts listed twice, and closed accounts still reported to be open. 

Examine each report thoroughly and dispute any errors you discover. Doing so is the best thing you can do for a quick credit repair, and this will help you increase your credit score.

2. Be picky about applying for new credit

Although having credit can increase your credit score, keep in mind that it can be two-pronged. 

The more credit you have under your name, the riskier it gets. This is because you need to maintain each and every credit line—a single missed payment could further decrease your credit score. 

It’s also important to remember that opening multiple accounts in such as short period will also reflect poorly on your report. 

Pro tip: If you truly wish to apply for new credit lines, however, users online suggest that setting up payment reminders can be a game-changer. Write down all your payment deadlines in a calendar or planner. In doing so, you can consistently pay your bills on time and boost your credit score.

3. Keep credit utilization in mind

Credit utilization, or the ratio between the amount you owe and your credit limit, makes up 30% of your credit score, so you mustn’t forget about it. 

Generally, you shouldn’t use up your credit lines to the limit—many experts consider 30% good credit utilization. So, if your credit card has a monthly limit of $10,000, your spending shouldn’t exceed $3,000.

Our Verdict

From what we’ve gathered, both Credit Strong and Self are valuable tools designed to help you build your credit. They have similarities that can make it difficult to choose, so you need to get down to the nitty-gritty details to understand which one works best for you.

If you want reliable customer service, both come up short. If you want to impact your credit score in a short time, however, Credit Strong is the better option—unless you live in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Vermont. 

You may still choose Self to enjoy a credit card and mobile convenience the other doesn’t offer. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. Choose what best suits your needs!