Self credit-builder loan review: A loan to build credit and savings

Woman looking out of a window while she has her laptop open, reading a Self credit-builder loan review Image: Woman looking out of a window while she has her laptop open, reading a Self credit-builder loan review

In a Nutshell

If you’re looking for ways to build your credit and can’t qualify for a traditional loan, a Self credit-builder loan may be an option. But keep in mind that you’ll face a nonrefundable administrative fee, and you’ll still pay interest even though you don’t get access to your loan funds until your account is paid off.

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Pros Cons
May help you build credit Nonrefundable administrative fee to set up the account
Could help you save money Fee for paying off your account with a debit card
Can close the account early

 


What you need to know about a Self credit-builder loan

Self, previously known as Self Lender, is an online lender that offers credit-builder loans meant to help people build credit and save money. Self recommends its credit-builder loan for people with “a very poor or fair FICO® credit score (below 670).”

A credit-builder loan is a small loan that typically ranges between $300 and $1,000, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Self’s credit-builder loans range from $520 to $1,663.

You can apply for a Self credit-builder loan directly on its website. But instead of receiving the loan amount within a few days, you can make monthly payments toward your account to pay off the amount you’ve been approved for. After it’s paid off in full, the loan funds will then be distributed to you.

Self lets you choose between four different monthly payment options: $25, $35, $48 or $150. And you can choose a loan term between 12 months and 24 months to pay off your loan. The company will place your money in a certificate of deposit, or CD, and you’ll receive the funds once you pay the full loan amount.

Can help build credit

Self reports on-time payments to the three major consumer credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, which makes its credit-builder loan a good way to build credit — as long as you make payments on time and in full. Self says this loan is ideal for anyone with fair to poor credit. So if you’ve had a hard time qualifying for a traditional loan or credit card, this lender may be a good fit for you.

Save money

Opening a credit-builder account can also be a good option for anyone who struggles to save money. Self will place your payments in an FDIC-insured CD until your full loan amount is reached.

That may help you build an emergency fund or save for another financial goal down the line.

Pay off or close the account early

You have the option to pay off or close the account early — but you’ll incur a maximum fee of $5 if you do that. Self will also report the loan as paid off early to the credit bureaus, which helps you avoid a delinquent account if you can no longer afford payments.

Fees and interest

Self charges a non-refundable $9 administrative fee for setting up an account.

And if you want to make your monthly loan payments with a debit card, you’ll have to pay a $0.30 + 2.99% convenience fee per transaction.

Keep in mind that you’ll also pay interest on the loan, even though you won’t receive your funds until your account is paid off.

A closer look at Self credit-builder loans

  • Eligibility — You must be at least 18 years old and be a valid permanent U.S. resident or U.S. citizen to qualify.
  • Banking history — Self says it doesn’t turn down applicants based solely on credit scores, but it does partner with ChexSystems to help determine eligibility by analyzing your banking history.
  • No hard inquiry — Self doesn’t perform a hard inquiry on your credit, so applying won’t hurt your credit scores.
  • Nationwide availability — Self’s credit-builder loan is available in all 50 states.

Should I get a Self credit-builder loan?

A Self credit-builder loan may be a good option if you need to improve your credit scores. Building a positive credit history may help you achieve future financial goals like taking out an auto loan or buying a house.

And unlike a secured credit card, there’s no upfront payment required to get a Self credit-builder loan. Instead, you’ll choose the payment plan that works best for you and continue to make monthly payments until you’ve paid the full loan amount.

But there are some things to keep in mind with Self’s credit-builder loan. First, your payments are reported to the three major consumer credit bureaus. If you routinely miss your monthly payments, then the loan may end up hurting your credit in the long run.

Make sure you choose a monthly payment amount that makes sense for you financially. Self lets you choose between monthly payments of $25, $35, $48 and $150.

Second, if you’re just looking to save money, a credit-builder loan won’t make sense for you because you’ll pay interest on your loan amount. So consider looking for a high-yield savings account or CD instead.

How to apply with Self

If you’d like to apply for a credit-builder loan with Self, you can start the application process on its website by creating an account. Here’s some information you should know before applying.

  • You’ll need a bank account, debit card or prepaid card for payments and must be at least 18 years old and a valid permanent U.S. resident or U.S. citizen.
  • Self doesn’t have income restrictions to apply, but you may be denied if you have negative marks on your ChexSystems report.

Not sure if a Self credit-builder loan is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • MoneyLion: MoneyLion offers credit-builder loans of up to $1,000 with a lower APR than Self. But you’ll have to pay a monthly $19.99 membership fee to gain access to these loans.
  • Earnin: Earnin is an app that lets certain workers get early access to their paychecks. It may be a good option if you’re more concerned about quick access to money than building credit.