Updated June 1, 2022

Best Credit Builder Apps to Improve Your Score

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Want to improve your credit score? Explore the best credit builder apps to help you build excellent credit fast.

Looking to improve your credit score or build credit for the first time?

Explore this comprehensive list of the best credit builder apps available online.

In this article, review the different ways to improve your credit score naturally and how credit builder apps work. Plus, learn about the potential danger of using these services without doing your homework.

What is the fastest way to build credit?
  1. First, check your credit report for free (sites like annualcreditreport.com give you a free report once every 12 months)
  2. Negotiate or dispute derogatory remarks on your report with the bureaus or your creditors
  3. Become an authorized user on another person's credit card
  4. Purchase a tradeline
  5. Lower your credit utilization ratio (spend less and pay off more)

What's your credit score?

How Do Credit Building Apps Work?

The list below showcases the three different types of credit builder apps. Here's how they differ:

  1. The first (and most basic) type are credit monitoring services like Credit Karma. These apps allow you to view your credit reports in real time.

  2. The second type are credit building lenders, such as Self. These services provide credit builder loans or lines of credit to help you establish a positive payment history.

  3. The last type are credit reporting services like Experian Boost (not to be confused with credit reporting bureaus).

    These add additional services to your payment history that are not typically reported to the three major credit bureaus, such as utility payments and your cell phone bill.

The Best Apps for Building Credit Fast

Now that you know how credit builder apps work, let's check out some of the best apps on the market.

Experian Boost: Best Fast Score Increase

This free option works by adding additional bills, like your cell phone, streaming services, and utilities, to your credit report. This helps by increasing the amount of on-time payments included in your report.

The average reported increase is 13 points, but Experian Boost is really only helpful if you have a limited credit history with other financial services like credit cards and loans.

If you already have extensive payment history on your report, Experian Boost likely won't help boost your score.

Credit Karma: Best Credit Monitoring

CREDIT: CREDITKARMA

Since it was founded in 2007, Credit Karma has been the gold standard in credit monitoring.

It won't improve your score directly, but it can help you keep track of all the factors influencing your score and provide you with credit building recommendations.

Using Credit Karma, you can find hard inquiries still found on your report, credit utilization by account, and all your outstanding loan amount.

The free service will also explain to you how each factor contributes to your score.

Credit Karma will also suggest products like credit cards based on your personal approval odds.

myFICO: Best Identity Theft Protection

This paid service is primarily a credit score monitoring tool. However, myFICO also offers $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance with all three payment tiers.

Keep in mind that myFICO has a hefty price tag. Here are the prices and main differences between the three tiers:[1]

  • Basic ($19.95/month) only monitors your Experian credit report and only updates monthly
  • Advanced ($29.95/month) monitors all three major credit bureaus and updates every three months (including Social Security and dark web monitoring)
  • Premier ($39.95/month) monitors all three bureaus and updates monthly

myFICO also gives you your FICO score and approval odds for specific types of loans, like auto loans and mortgages. This is especially handy because your FICO score is the score most commonly referenced by lenders.

Credit Sesame: Best Rewards

This free option offers credit monitoring services similar to Credit Karma. But where Credit Sesame really stands out is cash rewards.

With Credit Sesame, you can get a free checking account and debit card, where you will receive cash rewards for improving your credit score.[2]

This debit card also comes with up to 15% cash back on qualified purchases at nationwide retailers like Airbnb, Walmart, and Burger King.

This app helps you build credit by qualifying a few debit card expenses each month as "credit card purchases" up to the maximum credit utilization you choose. Credit Sesame then reports your payment history to all three credit bureaus at the end of each month.

In addition to using services like Credit Sesame, you can also earn cash back by using cash back apps for your everyday purchases - check out our top picks.

KikOff: Best Free Credit Line

KikOff is a credit building lender that will give you a $500 credit line with no credit check, no interest, and no hidden fees.

Plus, approval is virtually instantaneous.

For the purposes of building credit, KikOff has very little downside. However, there are some stipulations you should be aware of.

KikOff is currently only available in 48 states. Residents of Delaware and Indiana can't open an account.

Also, your card can only be used to pay for items on the KikOff marketplace, which are primarily financial literacy guides ranging from about $10 to $20 — and you buy one item before KikOff will report your information to the credit bureaus.

Keep in mind: KikOff only reports to Experian and Equifax, not TransUnion.

Self: Best Credit Builder Loan

This credit builder loan company helps you build your credit score by allowing you to improve your payment history.

Think of credit builder loans as reverse loans.

With a normal loan, you get the loan amount upfront and then pay it off over time. With a credit builder loan, you make payments for the term of the loan and then receive the funds afterward in the form of a savings account.

Self offers payment options ranging from $25 per month for 24 months to $150 per month for 12 months.

Credit builder loans have been shown by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to work best for people who have no existing debt.

Apps Similar to Self
There are many credit builder loan services available. We recommend checking with your local banks and credit unions to find the best rates. However, there are several other national companies that offer credit builder loans, including:

Grow Credit: Best for Streaming Services

Similar to Experian Boost, Grow Credit works by reporting subscription service payments (like Amazon Prime) to the three major bureaus.

The difference is that Grow Credit provides you with a debit card you must use to pay for your subscription services.

Grow Credit offers a completely free subscription. If you don't qualify for the free plan or you want a higher spending limit, there are three paid subscriptions to choose from. A higher monthly spending limit increases the number of subscriptions services you can add to your report.[3]

  • Build Free (No monthly fee): $204 annual credit limit ($17 monthly spending limit)
  • Build Secured ($2.99 per month): $204 annual credit limit ($17 monthly spending limit)
  • Grow Membership ($4.99 per month): $600 annual credit limit ($50 monthly spending limit)
  • Accelerate Membership ($9.99 per month): $1,800 annual credit limit ($150 monthly spending limit)

Potential Dangers of Credit Building Apps

While free credit monitoring services like Credit Karma are risk-free, credit builder loan and credit line apps must be used wisely.

Making late payments or defaulting on these accounts will significantly lower your credit score. Additionally, many of these apps come with high fees in the form of monthly subscription costs or interest rates.

Make sure you can afford any credit builder service you use to avoid further damaging your score. Or better yet, opt for one of the free options listed above.

5 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

By creating a budget and setting a plan in motion, you can easily improve your credit score significantly over a relatively short period of time. Here are five ways to improve your score.

  1. Lower Your Credit Utilization Ratio
    This is the percentage of credit you are using compared to how much you have available. For example, if you have a $1,000 credit limit on your credit cards and have a $500 balance — your credit utilization ratio is 50%.

    Having a high credit utilization ratio tells credit agencies that you are close to financial disaster.

    Aim for 30% or less to avoid credit score penalties, but your goal should be to pay off your credit card statement in full each month.

  2. Join an Account as an Authorized User
    If you're just starting to build or repair your credit, joining a trusted family member or friend's credit card as an authorized user can be hugely beneficial.

    It will extend your credit age, increase your credit limit, and you will inherit all payment history for the credit card.

  3. Check for Fraudulent Information on Your Report
    To improve your credit score, be sure to monitor your credit report on a regular basis. Check for common credit report errors. Having incorrect or fraudulent information removed from your credit report can quickly improve your score.

    How to dispute an error on your credit report?
    If you believe there is an error on your credit report, contact the reporting company and the appropriate credit agencies (TransUnion, Equifax and/or Experian) in writing.[4]

    Include your name and contact information, any identifying information for the derogatory remark (such as the amount, date, and company name), an explanation of why you're disputing the information, and a request to have the information removed or corrected.

  4. Age Your Credit
    Credit age plays a significant role in calculating your credit score. For that reason, it's important to keep existing lines of credit open and avoid opening new lines of credit if possible. According to Credit Karma, the following ranges are how your credit age impacts your score:
    • 0 to 4 years: Needs work (likely harming your score)
    • 5 to 6 years: Fair (likely has little to no impact on your score)
    • 7 to 8 years: Good (likely has a modest positive impact on your credit score)
    • 9+ years: Excellent (likely has a significant impact on your score)

  5. Pay Down Balances
    Since your balances are such a big portion of your credit score, paying down any loans and credit cards is a good way to increase your score.

    There are two ways to pay off debt most effectively: the debt snowball method and the debt avalanche method.

    • The debt snowball method refers to paying off the smallest debts first and working your way toward more expensive debts. The snowball method is beneficial due to the psychological effect of accomplishing a goal, which can keep you motivated.

    • The debt avalanche method refers to paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first. The avalanche method is beneficial because it helps you pay less interest in the long run.

The Bottom Line

Credit builder apps can boost your score quickly by helping you to understand your current score, improving your payment history, or adding new accounts to your credit report.

These apps (and credit building strategies in general) tend to work best for people with subpar credit scores in the 500s to 600s.

Consider starting with a basic credit monitoring app like Credit Karma. This will allow you to review the factors currently affecting your score before moving on to more intensive measures like a credit builder loan or revolving line of credit.

References

  1. ^ myFICO. Choose a plan, Retrieved 3/16/2022
  2. ^ Credit Sesame. Sesame Cash, Retrieved 3/16/2022
  3. ^ Grow Credit. Memberships, Retrieved 3/16/2022
  4. ^ Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. How do I dispute an error on my credit report?, Retrieved 4/9/2022

Write to Justin Barnard at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

All Credit Builder Accounts made by Lead Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender, Sunrise Banks, N.A. Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender or Atlantic Capital Bank, N.A. Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. Subject to ID Verification. Individual borrowers must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security Number are required. All loans are subject to ID verification and consumer report review and approval. Results are not guaranteed. Improvement in your credit score is dependent on your specific situation and financial behavior. Failure to make monthly minimum payments by the payment due date each month may result in delinquent payment reporting to credit bureaus which may negatively impact your credit score. This product will not remove negative credit history from your credit report. All loans subject to approval. All Certificates of Deposit (CD) are deposited in Lead Banks, Member FDIC, Sunrise Banks, N.A., Member FDIC or Atlantic Capital Bank, N.A., Member FDIC. The Self Visa® Credit Card is issued by Lead Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender.

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What's your credit score?
5% Excellent (800-850)
9% Very good (740-799)
19% Good (670-739)
39% Fair (580-669)
28% Poor (300-579)
Source: CreditDonkey
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