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Credit builder accounts are one of the best ways to start establishing your credit history. The Chime credit builder card is a competitive option, but it might not be the right fit for everyone.
Here’s what you should know about the Chime card at a glance:
- Chime won’t check your credit when you apply
- There’s no annual fee or interest on the Visa credit card
- Chime reports to each major credit bureau
- Borrowers must provide deposits before using the account
- The account doesn’t build savings like credit builder loans
Of course, you’ll need to know a lot more to make an educated decision on whether the account is a good fit for you. Take a look at our in-depth review below for more information.
How Do You Start With Chime?
To start with Chime, you’ll need to fill out a standard application. Chime will verify your identity in the usual way (name, social security number, etc.).
Next, you’ll have to download the Chime app, which you can use to manage your Chime account, as well as take advantage of their banking services.
Chime is a completely online bank. Through the app, you’ll have access to the Chime savings account, checking account, Chime Visa Debit card with overdraft fee protection, and more.
You can take advantage of the additional services like the Chime debit card if you want, but it’s not necessary for building credit.
Finally, you’ll need to fund your Chime spending account, so you can get started making your purchases and building your credit rating. You can either set up a qualifying direct deposit with your employer, use ACH to transfer funds from your bank account, or deposit cash at retail locations.
How Does A Chime Credit Builder Card Work?
Most credit builder accounts operate like an inverse installment loan. The borrower makes monthly payments first and gets the proceeds at the end.
The Chime credit builder card uses a different model. The account doesn’t require installments, and in fact, functions more like a secured credit card.
Here’s how it works:
- You open a Chime account (with no credit check)
- You deposit cash into the secured account
- The deposit becomes your credit limit for the billing period
- You make charges on the account up to that limit
- At the end of the billing period, Chime automatically pays off the balance, on time and in full
- Chime reports each payment to build your credit
Note that if you’re looking for something to finance a purchase, Chime is not the way to go.
What Chime Credit Builder Card Offers
The Chime credit builder card offers people with a poor credit score a safe way to build credit without taking on an additional monthly loan payment, interest charges, or fees.
In fact, it shouldn’t impact your budget or spending habits at all. Just swap out your debit card for the Chime credit card, and continue as usual. The only difference is that, with the app, your purchases contribute to your credit score.
Each time you or the app pay your statement balance, Chime will report a timely payment to the major credit bureaus. That contributes to your payment history, which is worth 35% of your FICO credit score.
Because the Chime credit-builder account is a credit card, you won’t ever have to close it. It can remain on your credit report and contribute to your length of credit history (which is worth 15% of your credit score) indefinitely.
Chime Credit Builder Features
What It Means For You
Safer Credit Building
The defining advantage of the Chime credit builder card is the Safer Credit Building feature. Once you activate it (you must do so manually), the app will pay all of your balances in full each month automatically.
Reports to All Major Credit Bureaus
If your goal is to build credit, you should stick to accounts that report your activities to Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Fortunately, Chime shares with all three.
No Credit Utilization Reporting
Your credit utilization ratio equals your outstanding balance divided by your total available credit limit. If it gets above 30% on your statement date, it could hurt your credit score. Chime doesn’t report credit utilization, so your score is safe.
No Interest or Fees
Credit cards are notorious for their high-interest rates and often have both late and annual fees. Chime has none of the above.
No Minimum Security Deposit
A standard secured credit card will require a minimum deposit to qualify, but if you only have $10 to spare this month, you can use that as your deposit for the credit card and still reap the benefits of another timely payment.
Fund with Direct Reposit
You can arrange a direct deposit agreement with your employer so that a flat amount of your paycheck goes directly into the account. Once you set it up, your credit building process is essentially automated.
• No Credit Check to Apply
Credit builder accounts are all about finding creative ways to keep lenders safe so they feel comfortable working with potentially risky borrowers. Chime does this by requiring a deposit, which becomes your credit limit.
As a result, they don’t need to run a credit check, and you can qualify for the account whether you have no credit or bad credit.
It’s better than working with a traditional secured credit card because, while those might accept someone with no credit history, they still trigger a hard inquiry.
• Safe and Efficient Credit Building
When you take out a traditional secured credit card, there’s always the possibility that you could miss a payment. The potential for a backfire is a problem with a lot of credit accounts.
Chime’s Safer Credit Building feature eliminates that risk. Once you activate it (do not forget to do this), the app will always automatically pay off your balance in full when it’s due.
Because Chime reports these payments to all three major credit bureaus, your activity will show up in whichever credit report your future lenders prefer.
• Revolving Credit Account
Credit builder accounts are usually installment debt, even though they don’t pay out until the end. While that has its advantages, there are also benefits to having a revolving credit-builder account.
- Diversification opportunity: Your credit mix is worth 10% of your FICO credit score, and it’s always best to have both types of debt.
- Increased affordability: Because your balance will never carry over to the next billing period, you can’t accrue any interest. There’s also no required monthly payment, so you can always decide not to use the account.
You can take out a Chime account and a traditional credit builder loan to get the best of both worlds.
While Chime does have a lot to offer, it’s not the right fit for everyone. Here are some of the most significant drawbacks to be aware of, especially if you’re comparing the account to other credit builder loans.
• Fund Your Own Deposits
Credit builder accounts always use a form of collateral to make the account safe for the lender. If the borrower fails to pay their balance, the lender can always seize the deposit to avoid losses.
Credit builder loans allow borrowers to benefit from this without having to contribute their own funds because the loan proceeds serve as collateral for the account.
Chime’s model doesn’t offer this advantage. It forces borrowers to contribute their own money upfront to access the account.
• No Cash Savings
One of the primary benefits of a credit builder loan is that you get to walk away at the end with a pile of savings, but Chime’s credit builder card is a revolving account. That means you don’t receive a lump sum at any point in the process, beginning or end.
It won’t help you fund a purchase upfront like a traditional loan (or even a traditional credit card), and you don’t ever get to cash out any savings either.
• Qualifying Criteria for the Credit Card
Because there’s no credit check, qualifying for a Chime credit card is relatively easy. Here’s what you’ll need to do to get approval for their credit-builder account:
- Hold U.S citizenship
- Be at least 18 years old
- Open a Chime spending account
- Show proof of at least $200 in direct deposits over the last year
You’ll also need to fill out their application, which will ask you identifying questions such as your name, contact info, and social security number.
Who Is It Right For? Our Verdict
The Chime credit builder card is great for people who need to build credit from scratch. It’s highly accessible (no credit check) and affordable (no interest, annual fee or monthly fee, or minimum monthly payment). Chime also reports to all three credit bureaus.
However, it’s a revolving credit account that essentially requires borrowers to fund a new security deposit every time they want to make a new purchase.
It won’t help you pay for anything you don’t already have the cash for, and it won’t let you build savings like a traditional credit builder loan.
Chime is best for people with tight budgets who don’t care about building savings and want to diversify their credit mix into revolving credit. If that doesn’t appeal to you, consider a credit builder loan instead.
Nick Gallo is a Certified Public Accountant and content marketer for the financial industry. He has been an auditor of international companies and a tax strategist for real estate investors. He now writes articles on personal and corporate finance, accounting and tax matters, and entrepreneurship.