When you’re starting out on your financial journey, you might not have a credit history yet. Or if you do have some credit built up, it’s not great. But anyone who’s attempted to build good credit from scratch knows it’s a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation.
Often, you need to have a credit card or loan in order to build your credit, but many credit cards and lenders won’t approve you unless you already have good credit. Talk about frustrating!
So what are you to do if you have bad credit or no credit at all?
This is where Self Lender comes in. Read on to learn more about who they are, what they do and get an in-depth Self Lender review.
Self Lender review
Self Lender is a new startup that helps people establish or rebuild their credit. Through credit builder loans, they aim to empower consumers and put them in the driver’s seat of their own credit history.
Those with little to no credit history have what is typically referred to as a “thin credit file.” This usually means they don’t have a credit score, which makes it difficult to get approved for an apartment, car loan, mortgage, and just about anything else that requires good credit. And for anyone with poor credit, it can be just as hard.
In order to solve the chicken and egg problem, Self Lender offers a special type of loan to borrowers who would otherwise be ineligible for any type of credit. As they pay back their loans, the payment history is reported to the credit bureaus. And after about 12 months — voila! Credit history is born.
In this Self Lender review, we’ll walk you through how the process actually works.
How Self Lender’s credit builder loans work
Self Lender loans are credit builder loans — in technical terms, they are also called “savings-secured installment loans” or “CD-secured installment loans”. According to the Self Lender website, “Credit builder loans have helped people save money and establish credit history in a safe, responsible way.”
Here’s how it works: Self Lender’s partner, Austin Capital Bank, will lend $1,100 to “Self lenders” (their clever name for borrowers). The funds are held in an FDIC-insured certificate of deposit (CD) for the next 12 months.
The CD, which serves as the loan collateral, earns 0.10% APY over the 12-month period; borrowers make monthly payments of $97, which includes principal and interest at 12.65% APR (which is paid to Self Lender). The positive payment history is then reported to the credit bureaus, which can help generate a credit score.
After completing the one-year repayment term, the credit builder loan is paid off and borrowers can cash out their CD — which is now worth $1,101.10 thanks to the interest earned.
Currently, Self Lender loans are only offered with 12-month repayment terms, though their site says additional repayment options will be available this year.
Also, it is possible to pay off the loan early with no prepayment penalties. And you’ll still receive your CD with interest earned when it matures. However, there may be little benefit to paying the loan early, as it could take several months of payment activity to generate a credit score or make a significant difference.
Once the loan is paid off, borrowers have a few choices regarding how to handle the CD:
- Cash out your CD worth $1,101.10 (hello emergency fund!)
- Roll it over into another CD
- Get another credit builder loan
Keep in mind, even though the loan is held in a CD account, you still need to make on-time payments in order to have a positive effect on your credit score.
If you don’t pay back the loan, it can be reported as a late payment to the credit bureaus and could eventually end up in default. Basically, you’d undo any progress made toward boosting your credit score — and potentially make your credit situation even worse.
Payment history is the biggest factor in determining a credit score (attributing to 35% of your overall score). Before applying for a Self Lender loan, be sure you can afford the $97 monthly payment.
Using the Self Lender online platform
In order to join Self Lender and set up an online account, you’ll need to have the following handy:
- Email address
- Home address
- Phone number
- Social Security number
- A bank account or debit card
Self Lender users must be 18 years of age. According to their website, most users can join Self Lender in five minutes or less.
Once you create an online account, you can access a variety of tools and resources including:
- Credit alerts, credit score updates, and credit monitoring
- Access to exclusive products and services
- Tools for improving your money management skills
You can easily apply for a credit builder loan through the online platform. At this time, Self Lender doesn’t offer a mobile app.
Self Lender interest rates and fees
Joining Self Lender is free. But if you take out a credit builder loan, there are some fees you will need to pay.
First, you must pay a non-$12 administrative fee in order to open up a credit builder loan. This fee is non-refundable. While users do earn interest on the loan in the CD, users also have to pay interest on the loan as well. Self Lender interest rates are 10.57%, with a total APR of 12.65%.
With the $12 administrative fee, plus the 12 payments of $97, the total amount paid for the loan would be $1,176 — so $76 in extra charges. However, you only earn back $1.10 in interest over the course of the year.
So essentially, $75 is the investment you make towards getting your credit score in good shape.
Also note that if your payment is late by 15 days or more, Self Lender will charge a fee of five percent of the monthly installment amount (about $5). To avoid missing a payment, you can sign-up for auto-pay.
Self Lender eligibility requirements
Self Lender loans are ideal for people with low to no credit who want to take a proactive role in improving their credit scores.
In order to create an account with Self Lender, users must be 18 years of age and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You must have a Social Security number, as well as a bank account to get a credit builder loan. Anyone in the U.S. who meets these requirements can apply for a credit builder loan, though approval is at the discretion of Self Lender.
How to reach Self Lender customer service
If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact Self Lender during regular business hours — Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 7:00 pm CT — at (877) 883-0999. Additionally, you can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Self Lender currently has a rating of A- through the Better Business Bureau.
More about Self Lender
Self Lender is a startup based in Austin, Texas. It’s backed by several organizations, including Silverton Partners, Kickstart Seed Fund, Techstars, and Galvanize Ventures. Self Lender was founded in 2014 by CEO and co-founder James Garvey.
Watch James Garvey talk about Self Lender (via TechCrunch)
In 2016, Self Lender was officially made available to the public after confirming Austin Capital Bank as their lending partner and building a team to serve its customers.
Self Lender contact information
Interested in learning more about Self lender or have additional questions? You can contact them in the following ways:
Phone: (877) 883-0999
Self Lender, Inc.
515 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
They also offer a live chat at the bottom right corner once you enter the site.
Interested in a credit builder loan?