Credit Strong vs Self: Which One Is Better For You?






Credit Strong vs Self

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Credit-builder loans are an increasingly popular product, and the competition for market share is fierce, but there are significant discrepancies between even the top contenders.

We studied two of the most popular credit-builder lenders on the market today; Credit Strong and Self (formerly Self Lender), and put them head to head. Here’s how they compare.

Credit Strong vs. Self Lender Summarized


Reports To


Interest (APR)*

Minimum Monthly Loan Payment

Term Length

Loan Amount

Credit Strong

TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian

Instal: $15 CS Max: $25 Revolv: $99

Instal: 15.51% to 15.73%

CS Max: 3.02% to 7.31% 

Revolv: 0%

Instal: $28 CS Max: $49

Revolv: No minimum

Instal: Up to 48 months 

CS Max: Up to 60 months Revolv: Indefinite

Instal: $1,000 to $1,100

CS Max: $2,500 to $25,000 Revolv: $500 (may increase up to $1,000 over time)


TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian

A one-time admin fee of $9



Up to 24 months

$600 to $1,800

*Rates are as of the time of writing and are subject to change.

What You Get With CreditStrong vs. Self

CreditStrong and Self both offer credit-builder loans, which are a type of credit account designed to help people with bad credit or limited credit history start to improve their scores.

These credit-builder accounts don’t require a credit check, but CreditStrong and Self still report them as a credit line to the major credit bureaus. However, they don’t provide you any money upfront and are not a form of financing.

Most of the account options function like an inverted installment loan. When you sign up, CreditStrong and Self put your loan proceeds into a locked savings account as collateral.

Next, you make principal and interest payments over the life of the loan term, thus building your payment history. Once you reach the end of your repayment term, they unlock the savings account so you can access your funds.

Ideally, you’ll finish the process with a better credit score, a more diverse or substantial credit profile, and a thousand dollars or more in extra savings.

While CreditStrong and Self both offer credit-builder accounts, there are significant differences between their products. CreditStrong has a much broader selection, including options with higher principal balances and longer repayment terms.

However, Self offers a plan with a slightly more affordable admin fee and monthly payment. Ultimately, which one makes the most sense for you may depend on your unique needs and preferences. You can also consider Chime if you’re interested in building your credit, check out our Chime Credit Builder Review.

Pricing and Plans

Both CreditStrong and Self offer a variety of credit-builder account options. As a result, borrowers can customize their repayment terms with both providers to suit their circumstances.

Here’s a high-level summary of each of their product and plan options.

Credit Strong




CS Max


Monthly Payment

$28 to $48

$49 to $449

No restrictions

Annual Percentage Rate

15.51% to 15.73%

3.02% to 7.31%

No interest charges

One-Time Admin Fee




Credit Line Size Reported

$1,000 to $1,100

$2,500 to $25,000

$500 to $1,000

Max Repayment Term

24 to 48 months

60 months


Try Credit Strong


CreditStrong offers three distinct credit-building products: Instal, CS Max, and Revolv. Each one is designed to help you fulfill a different function in your efforts to establish or repair your credit.

Instal is the most straightforward of the three. It’s a traditional credit-builder loan that follows the inverted installment loan structure discussed in the previous section.

You can choose from several Instal plans. The most significant differences between them are their monthly payments and maximum repayment terms, which range from $28 to $48 and 24 months to 48 months, respectively.

The second product, CS Max, also follows a traditional credit-builder installment loan structure. However, its plan options include much higher principal balances and monthly payments.

In fact, you can use it to report a credit line of up to $25,000. That doesn’t improve your credit score any faster, but it shows you can handle high loan amounts, which may help you qualify for more substantial credit accounts, such as small business loans.

Finally, CreditStrong’s Revolv account strays from the typical credit-builder loan pattern. It’s the only credit builder account to show up in your credit report as a revolving line like a credit card and has no fixed repayment term.

You need a few revolving credit lines in your credit mix to optimize your score, and since Revolv has lower upfront costs than most secured cards, it’s a great option to fill out your credit profile.

In addition, since Revolv can’t facilitate purchases, your monthly payments don’t include interest charges. Instead, they go directly into your locked savings account, and you’ll get them back in full when you close the account.


Monthly Payment Plan





Admin Fee





Loan Term

24 months

24 months

12 months

12 months

Amount You Pay Over the Life of Loan





Credit Line Reported





Overall Financing Charge





Annual Percentage Rate





Self’s product offerings aren’t as diverse as CreditStrong’s. It only provides a traditional credit-builder loan, and the plan options are less flexible than those available with CreditStrong’s Instal and CS Max products.

You have the most control over your monthly payment, which you can set from $25 to $150. At the low end, that’s a few dollars less per month than Instal’s cheapest option.

However, you must choose between a low monthly payment and a high loan amount. The most you can report with Self is $1,663, and the monthly payment for that plan is $150.

It’s easier to have the best of both worlds with CreditStrong’s account options. For example, CS Max lets you report a $2,500 installment debt and only incur a $48 monthly payment.

Credit Strong Pros and Cons:

Pro 1: Much Greater Flexibility

CreditStrong could give Burger King a run for its money because borrowers really get to have it their way with CreditStrong’s account options.

Whatever you care about most in a credit-builder loan, CreditStrong lets you make it a priority. Even better, you can usually satisfy your primary goal without compromising too much in other areas, thanks to the diversity of the Instal and CS Max options.

CreditStrong also offers the only revolving credit-builder account on the market. Revolv can be a great way to diversify your credit mix without having to undergo a credit check or pay a security deposit for a secured credit card.

Pro 2: Build Longer Payment History

One of the most significant factors in your credit score is your payment history. It’s worth a whopping 35% of your FICO Score and is also one of the most impactful variables in your VantageScore.

In general, the more timely payments you make, the better your credit score. That means a longer repayment term will benefit you more than a shorter one, and CreditStrong’s maximum repayment terms are noticeably longer than Self’s.

You can’t maintain a Self plan for more than 24 months, and half of the account options only last for 12 months. Meanwhile, you can build up to 60 months of payment history with a CS Max account, and Revolv accounts can remain open indefinitely.

Pro 3: Report Higher Principal Balances

When you apply for a new credit account, your prospective creditor may do more than check your credit score. When underwriting for significant financing arrangements, they also tend to review the details of your credit report.

If a lender sees that you’ve previously managed to handle a $25,000 loan with a $449 monthly payment, they’ll be much more inclined to offer you an account with a similarly high credit limit.

That’s what makes CreditStrong’s higher account balances so valuable. It might not build your credit any faster, but it can help you qualify for larger personal loans or small business financing through your personal credit score.

Con 1: Potential Personal Loan Mixups

There aren’t many bad things to say about CreditStrong compared to Self, or any of the other best credit-builder loans, for that matter.

However, one of the few consistent complaints customers have made across various crowdsourced reviews is that they expected to get their loan proceeds upon approval as you would from a personal loan.

Of course, that’s not how any of these credit-builder loans work. Their job is to build credit and savings, not help you finance your next big purchase.

Con 2: Higher Initial Administration Fee

This next one may be a bit of a reach, but it’s still worth noting. CreditStrong’s initial admin fee is $15 for Instal, $25 for CS Max, and $99 on its Revolv account, while Self’s is $9 across the board.

Fortunately, that’s only a one-time thing, and the difference between the CreditStrong and Self installment accounts shouldn’t be enough to impact your finances significantly.

Self Pros and Cons:

Pro 1: A Jack of all Trades

Self does a lot of things well. They report to all three major credit bureaus (so activity will show on each credit report), have relatively affordable payment plans and startup fees, and partner with FDIC-insured banks for their loans and savings accounts.

They’ll even let you check your monthly bank statement on the savings account, so you can rest assured that your savings are coming along nicely.

More importantly, their credit-builder loans get results, and that’s the whole goal of a credit-builder loan: to get away from having no credit history or bad credit.

Self Lender claims account holders see an average increase of 32 points to their credit score after completing their loan, which is not insignificant. Some account holders reportedly see an increase as high as 70 points.

Ultimately, Self is one of the leading credit-builder loans on the market, and you could do a lot worse.

Pro 2: Account With Lowest Cash Outlay

For consumers who want to try a credit-builder loan but are afraid of committing to an account that’s too big, Self might actually be a better option than CreditStrong.

Their $25 monthly payment account lets borrowers take out a credit-builder loan that only amounts to a $600 cash outlay over the entire loan term.

You won’t be able to build your payment history as much as you would with one of CreditStrong’s accounts, which might mean you won’t improve your credit score as much, but that’s not a dealbreaker for everyone.

Con 1: Potentially Higher Interest Rates

Self most affordable credit-builder loan plan has a slightly lower admin fee and minimum monthly payment than CreditStrong’s cheapest installment options. However, Self’s effective APRs actually tend to be higher.

All Self’s products carry interest rates between 15% and 16% APR. Meanwhile, CreditStrong’s CS Max 49 has an APR of just 6.99%. CS Max 449 costs just 3.02% APR, though it’s only for borrowers who want the highest possible principal balance.

All that said, keep in mind that your actual costs will be higher with both providers if you cancel your account before the end of the repayment term. As with traditional installment loans, your early payments primarily go to interest until you reduce your principal balance.

Con 2: Less Effective Product Suite

One of the primary considerations when choosing a provider for your credit-builder accounts must be how effectively their products improve your credit score.

Unfortunately, Self just isn’t likely to increase your creditworthiness as much as CreditStrong. Not only do its accounts have much shorter repayment terms, but they also only offer installment plans.

Meanwhile, CreditStrong has multiple 60-month account options and the only revolving credit-builder account on the market. It has the potential to be much more effective at building your payment history and diversifying your credit mix.

Our Verdict: CreditStrong Wins

CreditStrong and Self both provide attractive credit-building accounts for borrowers with limited or poor credit. However, CreditStrong has so many more product and account options that they’re probably going to be a better fit for most borrowers.

If you have a limited credit history or a poor credit score and need to choose a provider for your credit-building accounts, we at Digital Honey suggest you go with CreditStrong.

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