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If you are looking for a way to build your credit history and you are a Navy Federal Credit Union member, there are a selection of personal loans they offer that could help you reach your goals.
While Navy Federal does not offer a traditional, no-minimum-score-required credit builder loan, they do offer two different types of secured loans that operate in a similar fashion.
Navy Federal Credit Union also has a credit building secured credit card that can speed you towards qualifying for one of their unsecured credit cards.
But, if you don’t qualify for one of Navy Federal Credit Union’s credit building products, either because your credit score is too low or because you are not a member of Navy Federal, there are other banks that do offer credit builder loans.
And there are always additional alternative credit building solutions that you can consider.
So Does It Actually Have a Credit Builder Loan?
Navy Federal Credit Union doesn’t have a dedicated credit builder loan to help those with bad credit.
But here are the details on their personal loans, including ones that are secured like a credit builder loan would be.
Their Savings Secured loan allows you to secure your loan using the money already in your savings. So if you want a $10,000 loan, you’ll need a Navy Federal Credit Union savings account that has at least $10,000 in it.
Once you take out the loan, the matching amount of your savings is frozen or locked. As you make monthly payments, the money is unlocked. This is very similar to how a credit builder loan operates, except that you need to already have a significant amount of money in savings.
You can get this loan with repayment terms up to 180 months, that’s 15 years! Though there are minimum loan values required for that length of loan term.
Navy Federal Credit Union also offers a certificate-backed loan. In this case, the loan is secured using a CD (certificate of deposit) that you already have. This loan type comes with repayment terms as high as 60 months.
What Navy Federal Credit Products Build Credit?
In addition to their two secured loan products that can help you build credit while building your savings, Navy Federal Credit Union also offers other loans, like student loans, auto, and mortgages. Keep in mind that any loan, probably managed, can be beneficial for your credit.
One product that Navy Federal has designed for those with less than awesome credit is their nRewards secured card.
To apply for the card, you’ll need to first have a savings account with Navy Federal with at least $200 in it. This is used as the credit card’s deposit.
This secured credit card allows you to earn rewards points on all of your purchases that you can then redeem for cash back into your savings account. And they don’t charge any balance transfer fees.
The best part about this secured Navy Federal Credit Union’s credit card is that it can help you build credit history and expedite your chances of qualifying for an unsecured card.
At the 3-month mark, Navy Federal Credit Union will review your account and could extend a credit limit beyond your deposit amount. At the 6-month mark, they will review your account again and could upgrade you to the unsecured nRewards credit card.
In addition to the loans and credit cards available, Navy Federal Credit Union offers several resources to help their customers build/rebuild credit, including budgeting worksheets, financial health calculators, and articles on personal finance tips.
Our Recommendations for Credit Builder Loans
There are two downsides to Navy Federal Credit Union’s credit building products.
The first is that you have to be a Navy Federal Credit Union member. Membership requires that you, or an immediate family member, have served in the armed forces (marines, navy, etc.) or be a DoD (Department of Defense) employee.
The second downside is that since their products are not specifically geared towards those with bad credit, approval for the loan or credit card is not guaranteed. And, applying will result in a hard inquiry which could hurt your credit score further.
If you can’t qualify to be a member at Navy Federal Credit Union, or your credit is too low to get approved for their loans, pursuing a traditional credit builder loan from another lender might be a better course of action.
Here are our top 4 picks for credit builder loans.
This lender only issues credit builder loans. Their sole focus is to help people build/rebuild their credit history through one of their loan plans.
The folks at Credit Strong did a study about their customers to see how well their product worked. On average, credit builder loan customers who made their payments on-time saw a 25-point credit score increase after 3 months, and a 70-point increase after 12 months.
For customers starting with no credit score, they were able to reach a credit score of 640 after 12 on-time payments. Not bad!
At Digital Honey, we like Credit Strong because it’s very customer friendly. In our Best Credit Builder Loans comparison article, it won our “Best Overall” designation after a thorough review of many factors.
Of the credit builder loans that we reviewed, Credit Strong’s has the:
- Longest repayment term length (10 years)
- Smallest monthly payment available ($15)
- Largest reported loan amount and final savings
- Third-lowest APR (only 0.83% more than our second place place pick)
They offer a variety of plans to suit their customers’ needs. Remember that loan term length affects your credit score significantly! The longer the term of the credit builder loan, the better for your credit score.
If you want to boost your credit while also building your savings, they have a dedicated plan for that (Build and Save).
If you are looking to demonstrate to a bank that you can handle larger financial burdens, they have a Magnum plan designed to do just that.
Credit Strong offers loans amounts up to $10,000 and customizable repayment terms up to 10 years. All with guaranteed approval and no hard inquiry. Plans start at just $15 per month, and can be cancelled at any time with no penalty.
Self Financial (formerly called Self Lender) issues relatively short-term credit builder loans to help their clients build their credit quickly.
Their loan values go up to $1800 and repayment terms extend up to 24 months. Plan payments start at $25 per month.
According to Self’s data, their customers see a 32-point credit score boost, on average. (We cover more on Self in our Self Review article.)
And to help their customers build their credit twice as fast, Self also offers their own co-branded secured Visa credit card. All you need to qualify for the credit card is an open credit builder account in good standing with 3 payments made and an unlocked balance of at least $100.
Neither the credit builder loan nor the secured credit card results in a hard inquiry, which prevents your credit score from being dinged as you are trying to build it up.
We love that Self’s credit builder loan can qualify you for automatic approval of their secured credit card – with no upfront cas needed.
Because of the shorter loan term length, higher monthly payment amount, and other factors, Self comes in second place in our credit builder loan rankings.
If you’re looking for a second credit builder loan after Credit Strong, look at Self.
Chime is a financial institution primarily known for being a premier mobile-banking app, but they also offer a credit builder product. Instead of a loan, Chime’s credit building product is actually a credit card.
Their secured credit card operates in a similar fashion to the Navy Federal Credit Union secured nRewards card.
You’ll first need to open a checking account and savings account with Chime. You can then use part of your savings balance as a deposit on the secured credit card. This deposit is actually used to make automatic payments every month.
Unfortunately, this means that Chime’s secured card will only report payment history to the credit bureaus and not a credit limit, meaning that the positive impact to your score won’t be as significant as the boost other credit building products can give you.
Still, it’s a great start for many people looking for their first credit card. Because it’s super easy to qualify for and has great features, we include it in our list of best credit builder accounts.
MoneyLion is also largely focused on online banking and mobile banking, but they do offer the Credit Builder Plus loan.
There are not any customization options available here though. The loan value is set at $1000 and the loan term is 12 months. So the ability for this loan to help your credit score will be much less than that of the other credit builder loans on this list.
The upside to MoneyLion’s product is the availability of your loan funds.
You will receive immediate access to a portion of the funds in case you have some unexpected bills that you need to take care of and you can obtain a 0% APR cash advance on your credit builder account.
Alternative Ways to Build Credit
If you are looking to build your credit history, a credit builder loan is a good option, but it is not the only option. In fact, depending on your individual situation, opening a credit builder loan may not even be the best choice for your credit.
The below alternatives can help you build credit while also conforming to your financial needs.
Open a Secured Credit Card
A good mix of credit for achieving a good credit score includes having installment loans and credit cards reporting on your credit profile. So, if you already have an installment loan, opening a credit builder loan may not be the best choice for boosting your FICO score.
Instead, opening a secured credit card may be the better option. In fact, our Digital Honey recommendation is that each person building credit has three credit cards in their credit profile.
A secured credit card usually has lower (or no) credit score requirements to obtain, which increases your chances of approval, even if you have poor credit.
The secured card will report as a credit card on your credit profile, which will help with your credit mix if you were lacking in revolving debt on your credit reports.
And the best secured credit cards can earn you rewards and help you upgrade to an unsecured credit card with a lower interest rate once your credit score improves.
Take Out a Personal Loan
Having an installment loan on your credit profile is a great way to build credit. But a credit builder loan works by reporting the loan without actually giving you access to the loan funds until the loan is paid off or you close the account.
If you need these loan funds to consolidate debt or pay for auto repairs, then a credit builder loan will not be able to help you.
To have loan funds deposited into your bank account immediately, a traditional personal loan might be the better choice.
While this loan type is often unsecured, there are secured options like the Navy Federal Credit Union’s savings-backed or certificate-backed personal loans.
A personal loan will help you build credit just like a credit builder loan does, the only downside is that you usually need a much higher credit score to qualify for a traditional unsecured personal loan. So, if you have bad credit, your loan application will likely be rejected.
Consider Becoming an Authorized User
If you are starting with no credit, or you are young and struggling to obtain a credit line on your own, you might want to consider becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.
This gives you access to their credit line while also building credit for yourself. In fact, if you are under the age of 18, this is the only way to build your credit.
There are downsides to this method of building credit.
Being an authorized user is weighted much lower on your credit profile than being the primary account holder.
And, if the primary account holder is not responsible with the card, becoming an authorized user on their account could actually hurt your credit instead of helping it.
Fortunately there are many paths to effectively building credit – you don’t have to rely on any single company or tool. Just get started and you’ll make quick progress!
Amanda Garland is a personal finance blogger living in Dallas, TX. 10 years ago she was living paycheck to paycheck and knew nothing about how credit works. She learned some hard lessons in her fight for financial stability. Now she has a friendly competition going with her husband to see who can reach a credit score of 850 first. She is also a poet, having obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.