What we like:
Borrowers get to build their credit history and savings at the same time
|Rates (APR)||0% for Revolv|
3.02%, 6.99%, 7.21%, or 7.31% for CS Max
15.51%, 15.61%, or 15.73% for Instal
|Dollar amount of payments||$28 – $449 per month|
|Repayment terms||24 – 60 months for loans, unlimited for revolving credit option|
|Fees||$15 – $25 administrative fee|
The CreditStrong credit builder loans offer secured financing to help borrowers improve their credit scores when they have no or poor credit history.
Instead of borrowing funds immediately available to spend, you make payments to a savings account first. You receive the money you saved at the end of your loan term.
CreditStrong reports the payments to all three major credit bureaus and collects interest to cover the cost of the loan. As of March 2023, CreditStrong’s credit builder offerings are available in 48 states, with the exceptions being Vermont and Wisconsin.
In this review:
- How CreditStrong credit builder loans work
- How CreditStrong loans build credit
- Pros and cons of a CreditStrong credit builder products
- CreditStrong eligibility requirements and application process
- Alternatives to CreditStrong credit builder loans
How CreditStrong credit builder loans work
CreditStrong offers two installment-based credit builder loan products aimed at helping build or rebuild credit. These offerings are uniquely structured as monthly subscription plans, which you pay over two to five years. The larger your loan amount, the longer your repayment term.
Unlike with a traditional personal loan, you don’t receive your loan funds in a lump sum at the start of your term. Instead, you make payments into a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)-insured savings account.
The bulk of your payment goes into the account. A smaller portion is paid to CreditStrong as interest, and you get access to your savings once your loan term ends.
CreditStrong also offers a revolving credit option with an annual subscription fee, which works a bit differently. Here’s a closer look at CreditStrong’s products.
Instal is a credit and savings building plan for those with limited cash flow and wanting to build a credit history by showing they can make on-time, fixed monthly payments.
The Instal product line has three payment options to choose from:
- $28/month for 48 months
- $38/month for 36 months
- $48/month for 24 months
Depending on the plan you choose, you’ll save anywhere from $1,000 to $1,100 over the life of your loan.
The CS Max accounts are installment credit builder options for individuals with a higher monthly cash flow. This product lets you pay for larger credit amounts for 60 months. Payment options include:
- $49/month for $2,500
- $99/month for $5,000
- $199/month for $10,000
- $449/month for $25,000
CS Max is not for everyone and isn’t as much a savings tool as it is a method for showing you can repay more significant credit obligations and larger fixed monthly payments.
It’s specifically designed for those who plan to apply for larger personal loans and higher-limit credit cards, those looking to maximize their entire credit profile—not just their score, and those seeking to use personal credit for business purposes.
CreditStrong offers Revolv, a revolving credit option, to complement its installment credit builder loans. Revolv works like a digital credit card that can be used to advance funds into a locked savings account against a credit limit. You then make monthly payments to repay the advance.
The Revolv annual subscription is $99 to unlock a limit of $500. You can continue adding monthly payments to increase your limit to $1,000 and grow your utilization.
Revolv has a 0% APR, which means your entire monthly payment builds toward your savings and payment history. When paired with an installment credit builder loan, Revolv can further improve your credit score by diversifying your credit mix.
How CreditStrong loans build credit
An important part of the CreditStrong credit builder review process is determining exactly how your credit score increases.
As you make on-time monthly payments, CreditStrong reports those payments to all three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This helps four components of your credit score, which accounts for 90% of all contributing factors:
CreditStrong doesn’t guarantee how much your credit score can improve with its credit builder loans. But you can maximize your score by consistently making your payments on time each month.
With any CreditStrong plan, late payments are penalized in two ways: After a 14-day grace period after your due date, you’ll be charged a late fee. If you’re more than 30 days late, it will be reported to the credit bureaus—ultimately lowering your credit score.
Pros and cons of a CreditStrong credit builder products
There are advantages and disadvantages of using CreditStrong’s credit builder products to know before you apply.
- Easy to qualify even with limited or poor credit history
- Fast online application
- No credit check
- Can cancel your plan at any time with no penalty
- Payments are reported to all three credit bureaus
- No access to your savings until the end of the term for installment credit builder loans
- Late payments damage your credit score
- Must have a bank account or prepaid debit card in good standing
- Social security number or individual taxpayer identification number required
CreditStrong eligibility requirements and application process
CreditStrong boasts a five-minute online application process. No minimum income requirement or credit inquiry makes it a straightforward application process. You must be at least 18 years old as well as a permanent U.S. resident.
Be ready with the following information on hand to apply:
- Physical U.S. address
- A valid Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number
- A checking account, debit card, or prepaid card in good standing
- A mobile phone number (or a Google Voice account)
- A valid email address
If approved, you’ll pay a one-time administrative fee of $15 to $25, depending on your chosen plan. If you’re denied for any reason, CreditStrong sends an “adverse action notice” so you know the issue, fix it, and reapply after 30 days or more.
Alternatives to CreditStrong credit builder loans
There are many options for loans designed for lower credit borrowers. In addition to exploring other credit builder loans, check out these alternatives before you choose the right one for you:
- Secured personal loan: While CreditStrong builds your credit and savings, another option is a personal loan secured by existing assets. This could include a savings account, vehicle, or real estate.
- Secured credit card: You must make a cash deposit to qualify for a secured credit card. Then you make purchases and payments (including interest) to build a positive credit history. After a certain period, you can bump up to an unsecured card.
- Become an authorized user: If you have a close relative or friend with strong credit, you could become an authorized user on one of their established credit cards. You don’t need account access, but that credit history will appear on your credit report.