How to Build Your Credit With a Credit Builder Loan

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If you have poor credit, you might find yourself in a Catch-22: You want to improve your score but don’t have the income or funds to do so. For example, you might want to use a secured credit card to improve your credit but be unable to afford the security deposit.

That’s where credit builder loans come in handy. Like other financial products, they can help increase your credit score.

Here’s how credit builder loans work and your best options if you need to get one.

How credit builder loans work

Credit builder loans, sometimes called “fresh start loans,” are typically small personal loans for about $500 to $1,000. You make monthly payments with interest over about six months to two years. These payments are reported to the credit bureaus and, if made on time, can improve your credit score.

Although credit builder loans function much like any other loan, there’s one major difference. To limit risk, the lender puts the money you borrow into a savings account, which you can only access once the loan is paid off.

However, you could also try using a traditional secured personal loan or unsecured personal loan to build credit.

A secured loan requires you to put up collateral, such as savings or property. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender keeps the collateral. However, your rates could be lower than with an unsecured loan.

With an unsecured loan, you don’t have to offer collateral. However, you might pay higher rates or not qualify for the loan if you have poor credit. If you do qualify, you’ll get the money you borrowed upfront.

Before applying, be clear about your intentions for getting the loan in the first place. Ask yourself if you need money to pay for something or just want to build your credit score.

Where to find credit builder loans

Credit builder loans can be hard to find. However, you can often find them at community banks, credit unions, or nonprofit organizations.

Banks

National banks might not offer credit builder loans, but you could find secured personal loans. If you’re looking for a financial product specifically tailored to help build your credit, though, get in touch with local banks.

Sunrise Banks in Minnesota, for example, has a credit builder program where you can borrow up to $1,500. That money is placed into a certificate of deposit (CD), which earns interest as you pay back the loan.

Once the loan is repaid, you get the money in full. You’ll also earn a refund of 50% of the total interest you paid on the loan if you made all your payments on time. The bank also says that it’ll report your loan payment history to Experian, Transunion, and Equifax.

Programs vary depending on the bank, but this is an example of how local banks help their communities with credit builder loans.

Credit unions

Like a local bank, credit unions are community-based financial institutions. But they’re owned and operated by their members, so they don’t have any obligation to stockholders. This community focus means these organizations are keen to help locals grow a positive financial portfolio.

For example, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union in Missouri offers credit builder loans for up to $1,000, which you pay back with interest over 12 months. Your payment history is shared with the credit bureaus, and you’ll get 50% of the interest you paid refunded if you made on-time payments.

Do your research to see what credit unions are available in your area and if they offer similar credit builder loans.

Nonprofit organizations

All over the country, there are nonprofit organizations with the goal of helping people rebuild their credit.

Consumer Action is a nonprofit advocacy group that offers resources to help you build credit. It also offers tips for filing your taxes, protecting your identity, identifying scams, and more. Resources such as this one can help you develop positive habits for managing your finances.

Online

Some companies are seeing the value of bringing credit builder loans to the masses by offering them online. Self Lender, for example, works with Lead Bank and Sunrise Banks to offer such loans in all 50 states.

You can take out a small loan with a 12- to 24-month term. The money you borrow is put into a CD, which earns interest. After paying off the loan, you get your money from the CD.

The program is similar to those you might find at your local bank or credit union. However, if you don’t have access to a credit builder program in your community, an online lender is a great resource to turn to.

Know the pros and cons of credit builder loans

While credit builder loans vary by state and financial institution, each is intended to help you build a positive credit history. As these personal loans were created for people with bad credit, you’ll be more likely to qualify. You might also find that the interest rates tend to be lower than those found on a credit card or personal loan.

However, you can’t access the money you borrowed until you’ve paid off the loan. This isn’t helpful if you’re in dire need of cash.

Remember: This is just one way to rebuild your credit. You can also review your credit report to check for errors affecting your score or reduce your expenses and then put the savings toward debt. Debt consolidation companies can also help you better manage your payments.

Each of these strategies can boost your credit score and put you on the path toward financial success.

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Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

RATES (APR)loan amount
7.73% – 29.99% $1,000 to $50,000
6.26% – 14.87%1 $5,000 to $100,000
7.99% – 35.89%* $1,000 to $50,000
56.00% – 199.00%2 $500 to $4,000
5.99% – 24.99%3 $5,000 to $35,000
4.99% – 29.99%4 $10,000 to $35,000
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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 6.990% APR to 14.865% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.255% APR to 12.555% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 1, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.255% APR assumes current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 4.425% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

    To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.See Consumer Licenses.
  2. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  3. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  4. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
2 Important Disclosures for Opploans.

Opploans Disclosures

Direct Deposit required for payroll.

Opploans currently operates in these states:

  1. To qualify, a borrower must (i) be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; (ii) reside in a state where OppLoans operates; (iii) have direct deposit; (iv) meet income requirements; (v) be 18 years of age (19 in Alabama); and, (vi) meet verification standards.
  2. This information is current as of October 10, 2017 and is subject to change. Opportunity Financial, LLC lends or arranges loans in the following states: Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. We do not lend or arrange loans in all states. Opportunity Financial offers line of credit products in: Kansas, Tennessee and Virginia. Please note: This is an expensive form of credit. This service is not intended to provide a solution for longer-term credit or other financial needs. Loans made or arranged by Opportunity Financial are designed to help you meet your short-term borrowing needs. Loan amounts may vary and are dependent upon qualification criteria and state law. Refer to Loan Cost & Terms at www.opploans.com for additional details. Complete disclosures of APR, fees and payment terms are provided within the transaction documents, such as the Loan Agreement. First-time Opportunity Financial customers typically qualify for an installment loan of $1,000 to $5,000 with an APR from 59% to 199%. For example, a $1,000 loan made or arranged by Opportunity Financial with 12 bi-weekly payments of $130 has a 199% APR. After the 12th successful payment, the loan would be paid in full.
  3. Applications processed and approved before 7:30 p.m. ET Monday-Friday are typically funded the next business day. In some cases, we may not be able to verify your application information and may ask you to provide certain documents. Some customers applying for a loan may be required to submit additional documentation due to state law and qualification criteria.
  4. Lower APRs and longer terms when compared to a typical payday lending product. According to the Consumer Federation of America, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, payday loans range in size from $100 to $1,000, depending on state legal maximums and carry an average APR of 400% and an average loan term of two weeks. The maximum APR for a loan offered by OppLoans is 199% and loan sizes range from $1,000-$5,000 with a typical term of six months dependent on the state law.
  5. As of October 17, 2017. Ratings on third-party websites may periodically change; please check the third-party websites for up-to-date reviews and ratings. Google+ Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 1,824 reviews. Facebook Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 270 reviews.
3 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.
4 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 4.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 4.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan of $15,000 with a term of 24 months, and qualify for at least two of the following discounts: (1) add a co-borrower who has sufficient income; (2) use at least fifty percent of the loan proceeds to directly pay off existing debt; or (3) show proof of having at least forty-thousand dollars in retirement savings – contact FreedomPlus for further details.
* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.