Self Credit-Building Review: Build Credit with Rent Payments for Free (2024)

Who is Self best for?

Self and its credit-building services are best for renters who want to build their credit history or those who want to improve their credit score with a credit-building loan. Self’s rent-reporting service is completely free, and it reports your rent payments to all three major credit bureaus. The credit-builder loans, called Credit Builder accounts, can improve your credit rating with timely payments and give you a nice little nest egg at the end of the term.

Self plans and cost

Self offers two main credit-building services: Rent reporting and credit-building loans.

Rent reporting plans

Get your rent payments reported to all three credit bureaus for free, or pay a monthly fee for additional perks.

Rent reporting planCostDetails
  • Get rent payments reported to all three major credit bureaus
  • Track your Experian VantageScore credit score
Paid$6.95 per monthEverything with the free plan, plus:
  • Report utilities such as cell phone, water, electricity and gas to TransUnion
  • Credit monitoring and notifications of changes
  • Identity theft insurance up to $1 million

Credit building loans

The Self Credit Builder Account offers four different credit-building loan plans. The credit-builder loan payments are held in a certificate of deposit (CD) account. Once you’ve completed the term, the funds are released to you, minus interest and fees. But watch out if you’re going to be paying with a debit card.

Credit-builder loan planMonthly paymentTermAmount released to you at the end of termDebit card convenience payment fee
Small Builder$2524 months$520$1.20
Medium Builder$3524 months$724$1.85
Large Builder$4824 months$992$2.50
X-Large Builder$15024 months$3,076$4.75

What we like about Self

Formally LevelCredit and a recent merger with Renttrack, Self has established itself as a top credit-building service to help you improve your credit score. Its offerings are clear, transparent and, for the most part, rather affordable.

Free rent reporting

You can’t get much better than free: Self reports your rent payments to all three credit bureaus at no cost. Most rent-reporting services charge a monthly fee, so Self is a much more affordable service than most competitors. Self also partners with the credit-scoring model VantageScore to offer your Experian-generated VantageScore to track your credit-building progress.

With the paid rent-reporting plan for $6.95 per month, you’ll get credit-monitoring notifications and identity theft protection for up to $1 million. You can also add utility payments to your TransUnion credit file.

There’s also Lookback, which is a paid service that sends up to two years of previous rent payments to the credit bureaus. You’ll pay a one-time fee of $49.95, but if you’ve been renting for a while and you’ve got a history of timely payments, that additional payment history could be well worth the cost.

Credit Builder accounts

Self’s Credit Builder Account is a credit-builder loan. Credit-building loans offer a way to build payment history to improve your credit score, and you get the majority of the funds at the end of the term. There’s no hard credit pull, and payments are reported to all three major credit bureaus.

Here’s how it works: You pick a plan and pay monthly installments to Self. Those payments are reported to the three major credit bureaus. The funds are held in a CD, which acquires interest that’s paid to Self as a fee for the service. At the end of the 24-month term, the CD matures and the funds you’ve accumulated in the CD are released to you, minus the interest and fees paid to Self.

Self’s Credit Builder accounts have a 15.97% APR that’s paid to Self. There’s also a finance charge of $125, a one-time $9 non-refundable admin fee and debit card payment fees between $1.20 and $4.75, depending on the loan you choose.

Self secured credit card

The Self credit card is among some of the best low-deposit secured credit cards in the market, called the Self Visa Credit card. But you’ll need a Self Credit Builder account to be eligible for the account. You also need to deposit at least $100 in the account and have at least three on-time payments on the account.

The secured card doesn’t require a deposit upfront, because it’s secured by your credit-builder account that holds at least $100. You also get to choose your own credit limit, and you may be eligible for a credit line increase after six months. Most secured credit cards require a minimum opening deposit of at least $200, which also sets your credit limit.

The Self credit card charges a variable APR, which ranges from 26.99% to 28.24%. While that seems high at a glance, it’s a rather typical range for secured cards. But the card charges a $25 annual fee, and there’s a hard credit check.

Where it falls short

Self’s utility reporting is only sent to one credit bureau: TransUnion. Rent payments could be sent to all three — with both the paid and free plan — so there may not be a ton of incentive to upgrade to the $6.95 monthly plan for limited utility reporting.

Also, like most fintechs, Self doesn’t have any physical locations for customer service, but it does offer live chat and a customer phone line.

If you’re going for the Credit Builder accounts, we recommend you avoid paying the credit-builder loan with a debit card. There’s a convenience fee each time you use a debit card, so you’ll end up paying anywhere between $28.80 to $114 over 24 months just to make your payments.

Compare Self to other credit-building products

Narrow down top credit-building services by fees and benefits. For a better look, tick the Compare box on multiple options for a quick side-by-side comparison.

Customer experience

Self offers decent products, but its track record isn’t the cleanest. On its Better Business Bureau (BBB) profile, there are multiple complaints about its credit reporting — which isn’t ideal considering it’s largely a credit-reporting service. The majority of complaints are from customers claiming they never opened an account with Self and that Self isn’t removing the account from their credit reports.

Self responded to these BBB complaints, stating that many of these fraudulent accounts were, in fact, opened by the consumer and aren’t fraudulent. Self told the BBB that the “claiming of ID theft continues to be a tactic promoted in social media circles as a method to remove delinquent tradelines.” After some back and forth between the BBB and Self, the BBB stated that Self Financial’s responses don’t reflect a summary of actions to resolve these numerous complaints. As far as we’re concerned, the many complaints from customers and Self’s response aren’t ideal — even if the complaints are “false.”

Self also doesn’t do too well on Trustpilot, with a poor rating resulting from a handful of reviews. Some customers complain of the hard credit pull when they apply for a Self credit card, and numerous complaints about customer service and how it’s not based in the US.

Frequently asked questions

Is Self legit?

Self is a legitimate business and isn’t a bank itself. Its banking products are FDIC insured up to $250,000 through its bank partners: Sunrise Banks, Lead Bank, SouthState Bank, or First Century Bank.

How does Self credit builder work?

Self’s Credit Builder Account is a credit-building loan. They’re called “loans,” so many people think they’re getting funds upfront, but it’s actually the opposite.

Credit-building loans are more like savings accounts that require a contribution each month, and each contribution is a payment that’s reported to the credit bureaus. Typically, once the term is over, you’ll receive the funds you deposited minus the interest charged by the provider and any fees.

Self Credit-Building Review: Build Credit with Rent Payments for Free (2024)
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