In a Nutshell
- Reports to all 3 major credit referencing agencies
- Funds guaranteed by government-backed FDIC scheme
- 256-bit AES encryption on accounts
- 24/7 customer support not available
- Late payments may damage your credit score
A brilliant solution for:
Anyone keen to build up a credit history or fix bad credit. According to Self, an individual’s repayment history makes up 35% of his or her FICO credit score.
Borrowers concerned about cybersecurity. Self uses 256-bit AES encryption on all of its accounts.
Those who may be able to repay their loan early. You can close your account at any time with an early repayment fee of less than $5.
How does it work?
If you’d like to improve your credit score through Self, the first step is to open a Credit Builder Account, offered by one of its banking partners, via its simple online application. These accounts effectively function as installment-based loans, which you can repay over 12 to 24-month terms.
Unlike conventional lenders, Self doesn’t pay the loan amount into your bank account. Instead, the money is held in a Certificate of Deposit (CD), which is insured by the government’s FDIC scheme. A month after you’ve been accepted to receive the funds, you’ll start to make repayments on your loan. Then, once you have cleared your debt, the funds in your CD will be unlocked and you’ll have access to the money you’ve paid in, minus the relevant fees and interest payments.
Every time you make a repayment, Self will report this information to the 3 main credit reference bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Demonstrating you can make these regular repayments should increase your credit score and enable you to secure credit at more attractive rates in the future.
In addition to its Credit Builder Account, Self also offers a Visa credit card. When you take out a credit card, you can transfer a portion of the money you have already paid towards your loan principal onto the card to cover new spending.
For more information about Self’s accounts, you can watch this short video on its YouTube channel.
How easy is it to use?
For some potential borrowers, the biggest challenge in using Self may be understanding its business model, as the company occupies a unique position within the credit repair market.
Once you understand how Self operates, however, its website and application process are extremely straightforward. In fact, the company claims that most customers are able to sign up in under 5 minutes.
When we trialed Self, we were able to quickly and easily find all the information we needed on the website or in its detailed selection of FAQs.
When you open a Credit Builder Account, you can set up a repayment plan to suit your budget. Here are some examples of the payment terms available:
Money-back at end loan term
Total amount of repayments
Help & Support
If you have a question about your account, you can contact Self via phone, email, webchat, or an online ticketing system.
Its customer service team is based in Austin, Texas, and support hours are 8 am to 5 pm (CT), Monday to Friday.
Self aims to reply to all questions submitted via its online ticketing system within 2-3 business days and those submitted via email within 24 hours.
When we contacted the company via email posing as a potential customer, we received a response within 30 minutes.
If your question is more general, Self has an extensive selection of FAQs and how-to guides within the help section of its website. These cover topics such as account management, data privacy, credit reporting, and account cancelation.
How does Self compare?
Thanks to Self's distinctive approach to helping customers build their credit, direct competitors are few and far between.
Its nearest rival may be Experian's Boost offering. By signing up to this service, members can increase their FICO score by receiving credit for the timely payment of regular household bills, such as their Netflix membership and utilities.
While Self’s service carries an admin fee and finance charges, Experian Boost is free to use, which puts the latter at an advantage in terms of pricing.
On the other hand, Self’s credit-boosting potential is arguably greater than that of Experian’s. While Boost claims to improve a customer’s FICO score by up to 12 points, making regular monthly payments through a service such as Self is likely to have a bigger positive impact.
If used correctly, Self offers an innovative solution for those with a poor or slim credit history who are keen to build up their score. As long as you keep up the repayments on your loan, opening an account could help prove to other lenders that you can be trusted to borrow (and repay) larger amounts in the future.
Having funds set aside in a federally backed CD could also be extremely valuable for those keen to build up a savings pot. Although you won’t earn any interest on your savings, you will be free from the temptation of dipping into your funds and can then use this money for whatever you choose at the end of your loan term, whether that’s taking a dream holiday or buying a new car.