How does Self lender work (and is it a legit credit builder)?

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We all deserve second chances, especially when it comes to credit. Thankfully, there are ways to get a loan that won’t require credit checks. And by qualifying for a loan and repaying it on time, you have the chance to improve your credit score. 

Self, a credit-builder loan app, claims to help patrons do this. It’s never a good idea to blindly just sign up, however. 

It’s essential to understand the details because getting a loan for credit building means you need to be truly responsible. Otherwise, it’ll only make your credit worse.

To help you out, we've researched how Self works, checked its official sources, and read dozens of reviews from real users.

We’ve also discovered a top tip for building your credit, so keep reading until the end!

Key takeaways

  • Self lender helps improve your credit score by building credit history.
  • You can sign up for a Self loan even with bad credit.
  • Self requires you to pay a non-refundable fee.
  • Interest rates for Self can be high.
  • Self is a legit credit builder, and we recommend it because it allows you to improve your credit score.

What is Self?

Formerly known as Self Lender, Self identifies as a financial services company. It was founded by James Garvey and is based in Austin, Texas. 

Self offers two products it claims to help customers deal with bad credit history, and it claims to have already worked with over 175,000 people.

One of its premium products, the Credit Builder Account (CBA), allows users to enjoy a credit-building loan through a certificate of deposit (CD). This matures as soon as you complete your payments. 

It also offers a credit-building card, which you can obtain within three months of opening the CBA account. 

All these products don’t require a credit check, and you’ll also have access to a mobile application (iOS and Android) and online account management features for better accessibility. 

How Self works

Once you get a loan, Self allows you to pay a small amount each month over a year’s course. It’ll report each repayment to the three credit bureaus monthly. 

So long as they are on time, you significantly boost your credit score. The website claims that, on average, it helps raise your score by 32 points.

In essence, your Credit Builder Account acts like a reverse loan. You pay first and then receive the money after. You technically will just be allocating money for later use. But since it counts as a loan, you’ll also enjoy a boosted credit standing. 

Your CBA is a controlled environment for credit. As a result, you also have to put in the work of making timely payments to enjoy both rewards. 

So, does Self perform credit checks? It does, but only to confirm your identity. 

What does Self offer?

If you’re planning to join Self, we’ve looked into the following features users can enjoy:

1. Credit Builder Account

Once you open a Credit Builder Account, you also open a Certificate of Deposit (CD) in your name. You can choose the following amounts, which can be paid to the bank within 12–24 months at a certain price level. 

Users can choose full-term amounts between $600 and $1,800. Depending on your chosen amount, monthly payments range between $25 and $150. 

Once you complete your payments, you can get a mature CD. However, remember that since this is technically a loan, you also have to consider interest rates. You’ll get your money back, but not in full.

If you choose the $724 amount, for instance, you’ll pay more than $840 in total. This includes interest charges and the non-refundable administrative fee.

If you want to improve your credit quickly, paying on time is always best. Otherwise, Self will label you late or delinquent in your credit report. That defeats the purpose of getting a Self loan to build your credit in the first place.

2. Self Visa Secured Credit Card

You'll be eligible for the Self Visa secured credit card if you have at least $100 in savings and have made three on-time monthly payments. 

Thankfully, this also doesn’t require a credit check. Self will approve you for the card if you meet the requirements. Additionally, owning an additional credit line can help further improve your credit score. 

Apart from the Self Visa card, your $100 savings and good track record will allow you to use a portion of your savings as your security deposit.

How does Self help improve your credit?

As previously discussed, Self aims to help its customers boost credit scores through credit builder loans. These loans fall under personal loans, but the difference is that you’re gaining not just instant money but a good history of paying off debt.

You must first pay the loan in full before receiving the money, making it seem like a forced savings plan. In reality, you’ll have the chance to create a good repayment track record with the three major credit bureaus. 

Once your application is approved, Self improves your credit through this process:

  • Step 1: Self places your loaned amount into a savings account.
  • Step 2: You’ll receive a monthly bill from Self and you need to pay within the given timeframe.
  • Step 3: Assuming that you pay on time, Self will report positively about your repayment to the credit bureaus. However, if you miss payments, expect an even lower credit score. 
  • Step 4: Once you complete the entire year, it’ll return the money. 

So, if you’re wondering if you’ll get your money back from Self lender, the answer is yes. You’ll get your principal payment back (minus the 14%-16% interest) once you’ve finished paying your loan.

What happens if you pay Self lender off early? While paying early may be a good idea for other lending institutions, it may not be the best strategy for Self. 

This is because you’ll shorten the age of your credit account and your payment history. 

Important

You might not get your money’s worth or improve your credit score significantly if you pay Self early. The best way to build your credit on this platform is to make regular, timely payments over time.

Does Self do a hard pull on credit checks? Again, you don’t have to worry about it when opening an account or applying for a loan. Self will only check your credit score for verification and only proceed to impact your credit score once you have an existing loan. 

How much does the Self Credit-Builder Account cost?

Unfortunately, the Self Credit Builder Account isn’t free. While you won’t get access to the funds upfront, you’ll pay an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on the loan, which can be up to 15.97%. You’ll also need to pay a $9 fee to open your account. 

The Self Visa Card, on the other hand, comes with a current variable interest rate of 23.99%. You can also expect to be charged an annual $25 fee, but bear in mind that the card doesn’t pay any rewards. 

How can you apply for a Self loan?

If you want to push through with building your credit through a Self loan, you need to comply with the following requirements first:

  • Must be 18 years old
  • A U.S. citizen or resident
  • Owns bank account, a debit card, or a prepaid card
  • Valid email address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number 

And if you’re ready to apply for a Self loan, follow these simple steps:

  • Step 1: Visit the official Self website. Look for “Get Started” or the “Start Building Today” button and enter your email address.
  • Step 2: Create your Self account. Make sure to provide complete and accurate details. 
  • Step 3: Choose a loan term that best fits your budget. 
  • Step 4: Input your payment information. As part of the verification process, answer all security questions.
  • Step 5: Wait for the loan to reflect on your account. 

If you have any issues, you may contact Self customer support online or call 877-883-0999.

What are the pros and cons of Self?

Self is a legit credit builder that many users like, but it also has its downsides. If you want to know if it’s right for you, here’s what we gathered from numerous Self reviews from online forums and sites like Trustpilot:

Self lender pros

Here’s what users liked about Self:

1. Self is available for individuals with poor or no credit

Some lenders don’t accept people with bad credit, which can be detrimental if you want to improve your score. Fortunately, Self isn’t as strict as many traditional financial institutions.

The platform doesn’t give you cash directly—it only puts the money in a savings account for you. The platform can take the money back easily if you can't pay it back. 

Because of this low-risk business model, Self has lax requirements. So, if you want to improve your score, Self is a good place to build your credit. 

2. It has a user-friendly interface

Many users like the Self app’s intuitive interface. It’s easy to use, even for those who aren’t too tech-savvy. The application is available on iOS and Android, so you can use it anywhere as long as you have a secure internet connection.

Self helps build your credit score

As mentioned, Self helps build credit if you make regular on-time payments. 

Moreover, the platform reports to all three major credit checking bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Paying on time each month can help enhance your record on these agencies. 

Self lender cons

Here are some aspects some users complain about:

1. It asks for a non-refundable administration fee

Choosing a Self plan isn’t free; you have to pay a non-refundable $9 fee. Although it’s a small amount, it can still be inconvenient if you’re working on a very tight budget.

2. You may find your credit reports confusing

Self works with partner banks to provide loans, so different bank names will appear on your credit report. You and other lenders may find this confusing.

What are the alternatives to Self?

Aside from Self, you may use other platforms to build your credit. Here are some examples:

MoneyLion

Like Self, MoneyLion provides credit-building loans and reports to the three major credit checking bureaus. You can loan up to $1,000, and the platform claims not to check your credit score. As a result, you can apply for it even with bad credit.

MoneyLion also doesn’t give you the entire loan amount once it approves your loan. You can access some of the money, while some of it’ll remain in a separate account until you pay fully.

Kikoff

Kikoff is another credit-building platform you can try. It also offers several low-rate loans that may suit your budget, and it has an easy approval process. 

Like Self and MoneyLion, Kikoff also reports to the major credit checking bureaus. If you pay on time, you can start building your credit.

Our Verdict

If you’re someone looking to build your credit, Self could be a good option. The combination of its key features, the Credit Builder Account and Self Visa Card, can be a powerful way to boost your credit score and rewrite your payment history. 

Based on user reviews, however, don’t expect its service to be perfect. The legwork will still depend on you and your ability to pay monthly and on time. Simply missing one payment can damage your credit score. 

It’s also important to take costs into account. Interest rates and fees can be high, and many users feel that they’re paying for the convenience of quick credit repair.

We would recommend Self because of its benefits, but the choice boils down to you—your budget, current circumstances, and financial goals. So long as you’re aware of the potential drawbacks, Self can be a valuable credit-building tool.

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