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Personal Loans

Credit Builder Loans That Give You Money Upfront

Credit builder loans can help with establishing or re-establishing credit history, but they don’t work like traditional loans. 

Instead of getting the money when you’re approved, the lender holds the loan funds in a secure account. The borrower pays the loan back in installments, with the lender reporting their payment activity to the credit bureaus. Once the borrower pays the the loan amount in full—typically between $300 and $2,000—the lender turns over the loan proceeds to them.

Howeve, certain credit builder loans give you money upfront. If you’d like to build credit and get access to immediate cash, it helps to know what options you have.

In this guide:

Can you get a credit builder loan that gives you money upfront?

Yes, some lenders offer credit builder loans with an upfront cash advance. The specifics can vary by lender, but these loans may offer you access to small amounts of money with no credit check. You’ll repay the loan back over time, typically with interest, and the lender reports your payment history to the credit bureaus. 

If you’re considering a credit builder loan that offers instant access to cash, it’s wise to shop around—specifically to read the fine print so you know:

  • How much cash you can get
  • What you’ll pay in fees or interest
  • What the repayment schedule will look like

It’s also helpful to know which credit bureaus the lender reports to. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion can collect information about credit builder loans, but lenders may not report your account history to all three bureaus. 

Our expert advises

Andrew Steger


I’d only recommend credit builder loans and cash advances when all other options are exhausted or unavailable. But if one is necessary and used appropriately, it can be a wonderful instrument to make significant gains toward a much healthier financial situation. Building credit with one of these options can lead to larger loans with lower interest rates for purchases such as a vehicle and even a home.

Credit builder loans with immediate access to cash

Banks, credit unions, and fintech companies can offer credit builder loans, but options that give you money right away can be difficult to find. Credit builder loans that pay money upfront can present a greater risk to lenders if the borrower doesn’t make good on repayment. 

Still, options are available if you’d like to get a cash advance to build credit. We’ve selected five of the best credit builder loans that give you money upfront. 

Click the lender name in the table to drop to our profile below and read all the details.

LenderTypeLoan amountsSpecial features
MoneyLion Credit Builder PlusCredit builder loanUp to $1,000Monthly reporting

0% APR cash advances
Chime Credit BuilderSecured credit cardNo set limitNo hard credit check

No annual fee
OportunPersonal loan$300 – $10,000No prepayment penalties

Poor credit accepted
DaveCash advanceUp to $500No credit check

No interest
Varo BelieveSecured credit cardUp to $1,000 daily cash advance per day

Up to $2,500 daily spending limit 

Up to $10,000 per billing cycle
No credit check

No fees or interest

MoneyLion Credit Builder Plus

Credit builder loan

  • Build or rebuild credit with no hard credit check. 
  • Monthly reporting to all three credit bureaus. 
  • Get access to 0% APR cash advances.

MoneyLion Credit Builder Plus allows you to borrow up to $1,000 with no hard credit check. You can get some of the money upfront; the amount depends on your creditworthiness and MoneyLion’s underwriting standards. The lender will hold the remaining amount in a Credit Reserve Account. 

MoneyLion reports your account activity to all three credit bureaus. You’ll repay the loan in 12 monthly installments, with interest, and you can set up automatic payments so you never have to worry about missing a due date. Once you pay off your loan, MoneyLion turns over the rest of the funds in your Reserve account.

In addition to credit builder loans, you can take advantage of 0% APR cash advances. MoneyLion allows you to get up to $700 each pay period with Instacash Advances if you’re a Credit Builder Plus member. You’ll pay $19.99 per month for membership. 

  • Amount of cash upfront: Varies, based on creditworthiness
  • Loan amounts: Up to $1,000
  • Terms: 12 months
  • Rates: 5.99% to 29.99% APR
  • Fees: $19.99 monthly membership fee
  • Returned money: Funds remaining in your Credit Reserve Account

Chime Credit Builder

Secured credit card

  • No annual fee or interest.
  • Build credit with no hard credit check required. 
  • Chime Checking Account is required. 

Chime Credit Builder is a secured credit card, not a loan. Unlike other secured credit cards, no minimum security deposit is required. No annual fee or interest charges apply either.

To access Credit Builder, you must open a Chime Checking Account and set up $200 or more in qualifying direct deposits. No hard credit pull is required to apply, and there’s no set spending limit. You decide how much money to move from your Chime Checking Account to fund your secured credit limit each month. 

Chime reports payment activity to all three of the credit bureaus. Since there’s no set spending limit, you need have to worry about a high credit utilization ratio hurting your score. Credit utilization reflects the percentage of your credit limit you’re using at any given time. 

  • Amount of cash upfront: User-determined 
  • Loan amounts: No set limit
  • Terms: N/A
  • Rates: None
  • Fees: None
  • Returned money: N/A


Personal loan

  • Borrow up to $10,000. 
  • No prepayment penalties.
  • Accepts borrowers with poor or no credit.

Oportun is a direct lender that offers loans of up to $10,000 to borrowers with poor credit. If you’re approved, Oportun will release the full loan amount to you with nothing in reserve. You can then use the money as you see fit. 

You’ll pay interest to borrow. Compared to several credit building cash advance options, rates are higher with Oportun. An origination fee also applies, which can add to your overall loan costs. 

Making on-time payments to your loan can help you to build credit history. You can take up to 46 months to repay your loan, depending on where you live. If you reside in California, you also have the option of using a vehicle you own to secure a larger loan of up to $18,500. 

  • Amount of cash upfront: Up to $500
  • Loan amounts: $300 to $10,000
  • Terms: 6 – 46 months
  • Rates: 12%36% APR
  • Fees: Origination fee; late fee
  • Returned money: N/A


Cash advance

  • Get up to $500 in 5 minutes or less. 
  • No interest or late fees. 
  • Build credit history with Equifax. 

Dave is a personal finance app that makes it easy to spend, save, and borrow all in one place. With the ExtraCash feature, you can get up to $500 in your bank account in less than five minutes. You won’t pay interest charges or undergo a credit check to apply. 

Once you’re approved for an advance, you can transfer the money to your Dave Spending Account or a linked external bank account. If you’d like to get your funds instantly, you’ll pay a small processing fee to make the transfer. 

You’ll pay back your advance at a future settlement date, typically your next payday. If you’re unable to settle your advance in full at that time, Dave won’t charge you a late fee. Dave reports your payment history to Equifax, which can help you to build credit over time. 

  • Amount of cash upfront: Up to $500
  • Loan amounts: Up to $500
  • Terms: Settle on your next payday
  • Rates: None
  • Fees: $1.99 – $9.99 express fee
  • Returned money: N/A

Varo Believe

Secured credit card

  • Build credit with no fees or interest. 
  • Choose your own spending limit.
  • No credit check required to apply. 

Varo Believe works similarly to Chime’s Credit Builder product: It’s a secured credit card rather than a loan. You can choose your credit limit; no minimum security deposit is required. Varo doesn’t check your credit for approval, either. 

You transfer cash to your Believe Account, which you can then spend as you’d like. Varo covers those purchases with the SafePay feature and reports your payment history to all three major credit bureaus. The account offers a $1,000 daily cash advance limit and a $2,500 purchase limit. 

You’ll need a Varo Bank Account and $500 or more in eligible direct deposits to qualify. If you’re not quite ready for a Believe account, you could get cash advances from Varo ranging from $20 to $250. You must repay the cash advance within 30 days but won’t pay interest charges.

  • Amount of cash upfront: User-determined
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 per day for cash advances; $2,500 per day for purchases; $10,000 per billing cycle
  • Terms: N/A
  • Rates: None
  • Fees: None
  • Returned money: N/A

Our expert’s take

Andrew Steger


When considering a credit builder option, remember: You’re dealing with debt and repayment liabilities. It’s vital to look at interest rates, duration, and give whether each aligns with your goal of improving or building your credit score. It would be wise to establish a budget to see how the payment affects your cash flow and then weigh whether your situation dictates the need for cash today. Do you have time to consider alternatives?  

Are credit builder loans that give you money a good idea?

Getting a credit builder loan that gives you money right away can have pros and cons. It’s important to weigh both sides to understand how a credit builder loan with upfront money can help or harm you. 

Here’s how they compare.


  • Immediate access to funds without waiting until the loan repayment period ends. 

  • Build a positive credit history by making on-time payments.

  • Certain cash advance credit builder loans don’t charge interest or fees.


  • Loan amounts may be smaller than credit builder loans that don’t give you money upfront. 

  • Paying late or missing a payment could hurt your efforts to build good credit.

  • Credit builder loans that give you money upfront and charge interest may carry higher APRs than traditional loans. 

Our expert’s take

Andrew Steger


When using instant cash advances, borrowers must assess the interest rate and repayment period, which are typically higher and shorter, respectively, for cash advances. Don’t fall into a ‘’debt trap.” Due to the high cost of cash advances, borrowers may find themselves in a difficult position of having to take out additional loans to cover payments. Moreover, defaulting on repayment may harm the credit you’re working so hard to build.  

Credit builder loans that offer money upfront could be best for borrowers who have a one-time need for smaller amounts of cash and are committed to making their monthly payments as scheduled. When used responsibly, these loans can be a stepping stone for establishing credit and qualifying for other types of loans. 

Are credit builder loans worth it?

When deciding whether a credit builder loan is worth it, it’s important to weigh the cost against the convenience. A credit builder loan that gives you money upfront could help you solve a temporary financial gap, but consider what you’ll pay for it in the long run. 

Say, for instance, you decide to apply for a loan with MoneyLion. You’re approved for the full $1,000 loan amount and get half that upfront. Here’s what your loan payments and interest might look like, assuming the highest and lowest APRs offered. 

Loan APR 5.99%Loan APR 29.99%
Monthly payment$86$97 
Total interest$32.74$169.79
DifferenceThe higher APR would cost you $11 more per month and $137.05 more in interest. 

Calculating your payments and total interest charges beforehand can help you to decide whether a credit builder cash advance makes financial sense. If not, you might need to consider other borrowing options, a few of which we’ll discuss below. 

How to use the funds from a credit builder loan cash advance

Before you decide to apply for a credit builder loan with a cash advance, consider how you’ll use the money. 

For instance, credit builder loan cash advances could be useful for emergencies. If your dog gets sick and needs an overnight stay at the vet, you could use loan proceeds to pay the bill. A credit builder loan that gives you money upfront might be easier to qualify for than the vet’s in-house financing option or traditional personal loans.

You could also use a credit builder loan advance to pay for everyday expenses, such as groceries or gas. Or you might use the loan proceeds to cover the bills when money is tight. It’s crucial to remember you must repay the cash advance, and failing to do so can hurt your credit instead of helping it. 

Alternatives if you need cash and have poor credit

Poor credit can be a barrier to borrowing, but you might consider the following options in addition to credit builder loan cash advances when you need money.

The best ways to get cash when you have poor credit can include:

  • Selling items you no longer use or need on Facebook Marketplace or to a local pawn shop. 
  • Asking friends and family for a small loan. 
  • Using an app such as Earnin or Albert to get a small cash advance against your next paycheck. 

You could also explore personal loans for bad credit. These loans can put cash in your hands even when your credit is less than perfect. However, you’ll likely pay much higher interest rates to borrow. If you apply for a secured loan, you’ll need something of value to offer as collateral. 

Any other alternatives?

Andrew Steger


Peer-to-peer lending websites, 401(k) loans (although I cringe as a CFP suggesting this!) , and nonprofits may be able to help, depending on the need.  

Credit builder loan FAQ

What is the average interest rate for these types of credit builder loans?

The interest rate you’ll pay for a credit builder loan can depend on the lender and your creditworthiness. A decent interest rate for these loans is below 10%, but it’s not uncommon to see rates approaching or exceeding 30%. Shopping around can help you to find the best credit builder cash advance option. 

Can you pay off a credit builder loan early?

Credit builder loans can give you the option to pay off your loan early. However, it’s important to check with the lender to find out whether a prepayment penalty applies. Prepayment penalties help lenders recoup some of the lost interest they don’t collect when you pay a loan off early. 

What happens if you miss a payment on your credit builder loan?

If you miss a payment on your credit builder loan, your lender can report it to the credit bureaus. Should you default on the loan, the lender can use the money in your secure account to cover the remaining balance due. That’s assuming you have a traditional credit builder loan, not a cash advance loan. 

Are there tax implications for these types of loans?

Credit builder loans may have tax implications if you hold the loan proceeds in an interest-bearing account. For example, if the lender deposits the loan funds into a certificate of deposit account while you’re making payments, any interest earned is reported on a Form 1099-INT at the end of the year. You’d then have to file it with your taxes. 

Is it possible to upgrade your loan terms once your credit improves?

When you get a credit builder loan, the terms are often set until you pay off the loan. The only way to get different terms is to pay off your loan and take out a new one.