Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card Review [2024]: A Simple Path to Building Credit

CREDIT CARDS - SECURED CARDS
Self offers a Credit Builder Account and a Secured Visa® Credit Card. These tools can help you build credit over time, but you'll pay some fees for the service.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Building credit can be hard. You must prove you're a responsible borrower to earn a good credit score — and you can only demonstrate that if someone actually lets you borrow.

That's where Self comes in. Self offers a Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card.1

Using the Credit Builder Account involves taking out a loan with a bank partner, paying it back while the money is held securely in a certificate of deposit, and then receiving the funds (minus interest and fees). Self also offers a Secured Visa®, and you can use the money in your Credit Builder Account to secure it. These tools work together to help you help you build credit.

This Self Credit Builder review will explain how these programs work. By understanding the Self Credit Builder Account and the Self Secured Visa® Credit Card, you can decide if this financial product makes sense for you.

Key takeaways

  • Self's Credit Builder Account is an installment loan account.
  • You borrow from a lender but don't get the money until you pay off the loan.
  • You can use the money in your Credit Builder Account as collateral to qualify for a Secured Visa® card.
  • You do not need a hard credit check to qualify for the Self Secured Visa®.
  • The minimum credit limit for the Self Secured Visa® is $100.
  • The Self Credit Builder Account and Self Secured Visa® Card report to all three major credit reporting agencies.

No Hard Credit Check Required

Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card
4.1

Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card

Current Offer

May become eligible for a secured card by opening a Credit Builder account, making 3 on-time payments, having $100 or more in savings progress, satisfying income requirements, and keeping your account in good standing

Annual Fee

$25

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

In this Self Credit Builder Account and Self Secured Visa® Credit Card review

Who should get the Self Credit Builder Account?

Self's Credit Builder Account offers the chance to build credit using an installment loan. You apply for a loan with a partner bank and make monthly payments. You determine the amount of your monthly payment when you sign up. The money builds up in a certificate of deposit (CD) for a designated time and you are eligible once you pay off your Credit Builder Account, minus interest and fees (that’s when you can access it).

This account could be a great option for people who don't have good credit and may not have the money to put down upfront for a secured credit card. You can work on building up savings over time, while also making on-time payments reported to each of the three credit reporting agencies. And you do not need a hard credit check to begin.

To qualify for the Self Credit Builder Account, you must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Have a Social Security number
  • Have a bank account, debit card, or prepaid card to make loan payments
  • Live in the U.S.

You must pay some fees for your Credit Builder Account, though. You pay interest on the loan, which is deducted from the amount you receive once you pay off the loan.

Tip
If you can come up with a deposit for a secured card offered by a card issuer that charges no annual fee, you may prefer that option to help you build credit so you don’t incur added costs.

Ensure you're ready to make on-time payments and fulfill your commitment to pay your Self Credit Builder loan each month until the end of your loan term. That's important because you'll owe a late payment fee of 5% of your monthly payment if you are 15 or more days late, and a $15 fee for failed payments.

Payments over 30 days late are reported to the credit reporting agencies, which can hurt your credit. There's also a small additional fee of less than $1 if you close your account early.

While this is an installment loan, it doesn't work like a traditional loan where you get the money upfront and pay it back over time. Instead, your payments are held in a certificate of deposit until you pay the loan in full. So, if you want to borrow money for immediate purchases, this will not help you.

The goal of the Credit Builder Account is to build credit by showing that you can make payments while also growing your savings with each payment you make.

Who should get the Self Secured Visa® Card?

The Self Secured Visa® Credit Card is another option Self offers people with a Credit Builder Account. This Self product also doesn’t require a hard pull on your credit.

You may become eligible for a secured card by opening a credit builder account, making 3 on-time payments, having $100 or more in savings progress, satisfying income requirements, and keeping your account in good standing.2

The money in your Credit Builder Account serves as the collateral guaranteeing or securing this card, so you don't need to put down any additional funds upfront. Most secured cards require a security deposit. Your credit limit is a portion of the money in your Credit Builder Account (which you pledge as security).

You must pay a $25 annual fee for the Self Visa® credit card, and you will not earn any rewards for using the card. These are big downsides because some other secured cards do offer rewards and don't have an annual fee.

You also can’t use your Self Secured Visa® for international transactions, so this card isn’t a good fit if you travel abroad.

Self Secured Visa® Credit Card basics

Card type Secured
Credit card issuer Lead Bank, First Century Bank, N.A., or SouthState Bank, N.A.3
Credit card network Visa
Annual fee $25
Intro bonus None
Intro APR None
Reward rate None
Recommended credit score Bad, Poor
Foreign transaction fee Cannot use card internationally

Why we like the Self Credit Builder Account and Secured Card: benefits and perks

  • It doesn’t require a hard credit check: You do not need a good credit history to qualify for the Self Credit Builder Account or the Self Secured Visa®.
  • Two separate approaches to building credit: The Self Credit Builder Account helps you build credit using an installment loan, while the Secured Visa® allows you to build credit using a credit card.
  • The Secured Card doesn’t require a separate deposit: You may become eligible for the Self Secured Credit Card after you've put enough money (at least $100) into your Self Credit Builder Account. You also need to have had a Credit Builder Account for at least three months and have made at least three on-time monthly payments. It doesn’t require an additional upfront deposit.
  • High maximum credit limit: Your Self Secured Visa® Card has a credit limit as high as $3,000.
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus: Self will report your payment history for both your Credit Builder Account and your Secured Card to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • You can cancel the loan: Tell Self if you can no longer make payments and you’ll get your savings progress back, less interest and fees.

What we don’t like about the Self Credit Builder Account and Card

  • You can't use the card outside the United States: It is accepted at all Visa merchants within the U.S.
  • Lots of fees: You must have a Credit Builder Account, which you pay a fee to open. You also must pay a $25 annual fee for the Self Credit Builder Account.
  • No rewards program: Unlike some other secured cards, you cannot earn rewards for purchases with the Self Secured Visa®.

FAQ

Is Self a good way to build credit?

Self could be a good way to build credit because it offers two options: Use the Self Credit Builder Account to show you can responsibly pay an installment loan and the Self Secured Visa® to show you can responsibly pay a credit card. A mix of credit options on your credit record could help you better your FICO score, as this is a factor in the credit scoring formula.

How fast does Self build credit?

The time it takes to build credit depends on many factors, including whether you are starting from scratch with no credit score or rebuilding credit (which could take longer). If you have no credit score, it usually takes about six months to generate.

A Self account could help you start the process, as it reports your loan and credit card payments to the three major credit bureaus on a monthly basis.

How many points does your credit score go up with Self?

The specific bump in your credit score from using Self will depend on many factors, including what score you started with and whether you can make payments responsibly. However, Self reports customers who make on-time payments will see their score better by an average of 49 points.4 Self allows you to track changes to your credit score over time at no extra cost.

What is the process to get a Credit Builder Account with Self?

You can get a Credit Builder Account with Self by visiting Self.inc, entering your email address, and providing the following basic information:

  • First and last name
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Social Security number (to verify your identity)

Here's where you'll enter your email address to get started.

Self Credit Builder and Self Secured Visa review

You will also need to specify the monthly commitment you want to make to determine your Credit Builder amount. You can choose $25, $35, $48, or $150 for your monthly payment.5

Self Credit Builder and Self Secured Visa review

The higher the monthly payment, the more you will get back at the end of your 24-month loan term. If you pay $25 per month, you’ll receive $520 back (as of March 9, 2023). If you pay $150 per month, you’ll receive $3,076 back.

Self Credit Builder and Self Secured Visa review

You do not need good credit for approval, nor must you undergo a hard credit check to open your Credit Builder Account.


Other cards to consider: Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card and OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

If Self isn't right for you, you have some other options. These include:

Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa Credit Card6

Like Self, Chime® offers a secured credit card — the Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card. But Chime charges a $0 annual fee, which could make the card more attractive than Self's offerings.6

However, you will need upfront funds to serve as your security deposit with Chime, so this isn't an option for you if you don't have money to put down to get started.7

Self doesn't require money upfront — instead, you make payments to your Credit Builder Account over time. That account becomes the collateral for your secured card.

Learn more in our full Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa review.

OpenSky Secured Visa

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is another Secured Visa card, but this one charges a higher annual fee — $35, versus Self's $25 fee. You will also need to make a minimum $200 security deposit upfront, which means you need much more money to get started than with Self.

The big benefit of this card, though, is that you may be able to unlock access to an unsecured card (one with no collateral) after six months of responsible borrowing.

Ultimately, you must consider whether you'd rather avoid annual fees and calculate how much money you have to put down for an upfront security deposit when deciding between Self and other credit-building options.

Learn more in our full OpenSky Secured Visa review

No Hard Credit Check Required

Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card
4.1

Self - Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card

Why We Like It

May become eligible for a secured card by opening a Credit Builder account, making 3 on-time payments, having $100 or more in savings progress, satisfying income requirements, and keeping your account in good standing

See how these cards compare:

Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card
Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card
  • No credit check needed
  • Build credit with payments reported to all 3 credit bureaus
  • $0 annual fee and no interest charges
  • No minimum security deposit required
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
  • Credit limit defined by your refundable deposit
  • Choose your limit between $200 and $3,000
  • No credit check when applying

Self Credit Builder Account and Secured Card review: bottom line

The Self Credit Builder Account and Self Secured Visa® Credit Card are both good options if you have bad credit or limited credit and don't mind paying a fee to help you build your credit score. The service is convenient and quick to use, and as long as you make your payments on time, Self’s regular reports to the credit agencies should help your score build. You can also use Self's credit tracking service at no cost to check your progress and stay motivated.

Author Details

Christy Rakoczy Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.