Best Credit Builder Programs

Best Credit Builder Program

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What is good credit? Score-wise, the experts say it is 670 and above. This makes for a great goal, but how do you get there?

Ideally, to achieve a good credit profile and score, a balance of 3 revolving credit accounts (i.e. credit cards) and 1 installment account (personal loan, auto loan, etc.) is the best mix.

Making timely payments, and keeping your utilization low (around 10%) is also critical. These things combined can put you on the path to a perfect 850 FICO credit score. 

But if you are just starting out, carrying a lot of debt, or trying to rebuild your credit, trying to hit the 670 mark, let alone 800+, can seem nearly impossible.

The good news is there are credit builder programs and products out there that can help you, even if you have bad credit.

The Best Credit Builder Programs

Compare Credit Builder Programs

TypeScore IncreaseCost
CreditStrongCredit builder loanBig$15/month
Extra Debit CardDebit card that builds creditBig$8/month
BoomPayReports rent to credit bureausBig$3/month
SelfCredit builder loanBig$25/month
Grow CreditReports bills to credit bureausBigFree
Experian BoostBill reportingSmallFree
Secured Credit CardsCredit cardBig$300+
Authorized UsersCredit cardBigFree

What Is the Best Credit Builder Program?     

Credit building programs are designed to help you improve your credit report and increase your credit score. There are a variety of different credit builder programs out there, and the one that is best for you will depend on your individual needs.

It used to be that secured credit cards and credit card authorized user access were the only way for people without credit to build it. But thanks to new credit-building programs, that’s no longer the case.

Now, anyone can report their rent payments to the credit bureaus. There are debit cards that build credit. And there are loans specifically designed for people building their credit – these didn’t use to exist!

Also Read: Debit Cards That Build Credit

Or, if you just need that final push to get your score high enough to qualify for a better interest rate on a loan, then maybe you can visit the purple cow (and John Cena) at Experian Boost.         

Credit Strong Credit Builder Loan        

Credit Builder Program Highlights
Average credit score increase: 25-70 points
Timeline to Score Increase: 3 months
Cost: $15/month

Credit Strong offers a variety of credit builder loan amounts and plans that can help you accomplish your goals.

Each of their loan plans locks away the funds for your selected loan amount in a savings account. Once you finish the loan term, you get the full value of the loan returned to you (minus any fees).

Credit Strong did a study of their customer base and found that, on average, their customers see a 25-point increase within three months of signing up. Within 12 months, customers see an average 70-point increase.

And if you’re new to credit? Customers with no credit score saw their score go up to about 640 after 12 months of on-time payments.

That’s quite the success rate!

If you are just looking to add an installment loan to your credit report to build a better credit score, then their Subscribe loan with its low loan values ($1000 or $2500) and a customizable loan term (up to 10 years) might be a good fit for you.

You can do a monthly payment for as little as $15 per month, and cancel anytime for free.

The Build and Save plan is similar to the Subscribe plan, but with a shorter repayment time (up to 24 months), you get your funds faster ($1000 or $2000) and lose less money to interest fees.         

For those wanting to build a good credit history ahead of launching a business, Credit Strong offers their Magnum plan (not to be confused with the ice cream bar).

This is a high-dollar credit builder loan that can demonstrate to a prospective lender that you can handle serious commitments.

Credit Strong also provides resources to help you learn more about credit and other finance topics.

Try Credit Strong

 

Extra Debit Card

Credit Builder Program Highlights
Average credit score increase: Anywhere from 5-100 points
Timeline to Score Increase: 1-3 months
Cost: $8/month

The Extra Debit Card is the first debit card that builds credit. It reports your debit card payments to the credit bureaus, which raises your credit scores.

It’s great because:

  • Almost anyone qualifies, even if you have bad credit or no credit
  • You can’t get into debt like you can with a credit card
  • You get to keep your current bank account

When you get your debit card, it links to your current bank account. After you make a purchase, it automatically takes the money from your bank account within one business day.

It is accepted anywhere that takes Mastercard, which is pretty much everywhere in the US.

It’s great because there is no credit check and no security deposit. It costs $8 per month for their basic plan, and there is a discount if you pay for 12 months upfront. You can cancel your card at any time.

They also have a $12 per month plan that allows you to 1% cash back on your purchases. 

It reports payments to Experian and Equifax. Unfortunately, it doesn’t report to TransUnion at this time.

The Extra Debit Card allows you to build credit for the price of an annual credit card fee, and anyone can be accepted and even earn rewards.

For this reason, it’s one of our top credit builder program picks.

Try Extra

 

BoomPay

Credit Builder Program Highlights
Average credit score increase: 40 points
Timeline to Score Increase: 15 days
Cost: $25 for past payment reporting, $3/month for ongoing reporting

Rent payments don’t usually get reported to the credit bureaus. So paying your rent doesn’t normally help you build your credit.

That’s where BoomPay comes in. BoomPay is great because it allows you to build credit from paying your rent.

For a one-time $25 fee, it reports up to 24 months of past rent payments all at once to all 3 credit bureaus. It connects to your bank account with secure, read-only access, and verifies that you paid your rent every month.

This gets reported to the credit bureaus, and within two to three weeks, your credit score goes up!

Your landlord/property manager doesn’t have to get involved. (Or even know about it!) All that you need is your lease and bank access.

For an ongoing fee of $3 per month, BoomPay can also report your ongoing rent payments to the credit bureaus.

This is one of the fastest ways that you can boost your credit. BoomPay claims that their customers see an average credit score increase of 40 points within 15 days.

If you have no credit score at all, they claim that BoomPay could boost it up to a credit score of 670.  

Try BoomPay

 

Self Credit Builder Loan        

Credit Builder Program Highlights
Average credit score increase: 32 points
Timeline to Score Increase: 6-12 months
Cost: $25/month

The credit builder loan offered by Self Financial (formerly called Self Lender) is similar to Credit Strong’s Build and Save Plan in that it works like a savings account. You can customize the value of your loan using the dollar value of the monthly payment you would like.

For example, a $25 monthly loan payment would get you a $600 loan, while a $150/month payment would get you a loan for $1800.

The repayment terms on these loans are 12 or 24 months. They don’t have the option to have loans with terms up to 120 months, like Credit Strong.         

And, if your credit needs work beyond just obtaining a loan, Self offers a Visa credit card that is backed by your credit builder loan. As you make regular payments on the loan, your loan funds are used to secure your credit card.

So you can leverage your credit-builder account to get your first credit card. This can boost your low credit score twice as fast!

Try Self

 

Grow Credit

Credit Builder Program Highlights
Average credit score increase: 10-100 points
Timeline to Score Increase: 30-60 days
Cost: Free plans or paid plans up to $8/month

Grow Credit allows you to build credit on monthly bills that you already have. Their free plan allows you to build credit through subscription bills including:

  • Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime
  • Spotify and Pandora
  • DoorDash, GrubHub and Uber Eats

With their paid plans, you can report other types of bills like cell phone or internet bills from companies like:

  • Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint
  • Comcast Xfinity, Cox and Spectrum
  • Geico or AAA
  • DirecTV

The way it works is that they issue you a Mastercard credit card that can only be used to pay one of these pre-approved bills

They report your monthly payments to all three credit bureaus, and your credit grows just the same as if you were using a normal credit card.

Grow Credit is the best way to build credit from paying your monthly bills! 

Try Grow Credit

 

Experian Boost

Credit Builder Program Highlights
Average credit score increase: 40 points
Timeline to Score Increase: 15 days
Cost: $25 for past payment reporting, $3/month for ongoing reporting

The Experian Boost program, well known for its commercials featuring John Cena riding a purple cow, lets you quickly boost your credit score.

The way it works is that you link your bank and/or credit union accounts and Experian evaluates bills like utilities and subscriptions that don’t normally appear on your credit history unless you are delinquent.

Using this information; how much you pay, how regularly you pay, and how long you’ve been paying can give you a boost to your FICO credit score.

The downside is, this information is only added to your Experian report, and the boost amount is not very much. According to their own website, the average increase is only 12 points. If you pay your bills using a credit card instead of a debit card, you might not see a boost at all.

The reason that we included this on the list is that it is quick, easy, and free. If you pay utility bills or watch Netflix or Hulu+, it’s a painless and risk-free way to score a few extra points.

Try Experian Boost

 

Secured Credit Cards         

Another option for building your credit is to open a secured credit card.

A secured credit card uses a cash deposit (that you put down) as insurance to the lender in case you don’t pay your balance. Even though you put a cash deposit down, all the charges you make are still using the credit line the bank or credit union gave you on the card.

When your statement cuts, you then make payments just as you would a regular credit card. This means that a secured credit card will report to the credit bureaus just like a regular credit card would.

When shopping around for a secured credit card, there are a few features you want to watch out for. Some secured credit cards have annual fees. And many of them have a high interest rate that could cost you a sizable chunk of change if you carry a balance.

A secured card that offers you the option to upgrade to an unsecured product later on is the best since it allows you to get your deposit back by converting your card into an unsecured credit card.

Become an Authorized User on Someone Else’s Credit Card        

One option for building credit history is to become an authorized user on someone else’s card, usually a family member.

This is an especially appealing option for young people, including college students (under 21) who find it difficult to qualify for their own credit card.

While becoming an authorized user can help your credit, being an authorized user is not weighted the same as having an account in your own name. So credit score changes are not as good as they are for owning your own card.

Also, using this method to help build your credit only works if the primary account holder (the person who holds the account you became an authorized user on) pays the bill on time and keeps a small balance. Otherwise, their bad habits could damage your fledgling score.

If you have a responsible parent, spouse, or sibling willing to let you on their account as an authorized user, it can be a fast and easy way to boost your credit.

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