Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card review

Garrett Yarbrough  in  Bad Credit How we rate our cards  |  Advertiser Disclosure
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Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

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Best for building credit with savings

Annual Fee:
One Time $9 + Secured Card $25
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
23.99% This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Bankrate Rating

Best for building credit diversity

  • Rewards rate: N/A
  • Welcome offer: N/A
  • Annual fee: One Time $9 + Secured Card $25
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 23.99% This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate

If you’re working on obtaining a credit card and you’ve considered self-reporting credit services or credit-builder loans to boost your credit score, then the Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® Credit Card might seem like a convenient one-two combo. By being in good standing after three months of on-time payments and $100 paid into Self’s Credit Builder savings account, you’ll automatically be eligible for the Secured Visa card—no credit history or “hard” credit check required.

However, its three-month minimum trial period means Self’s secured card isn’t a true “instant approval” credit card. It’s a good option if you can’t provide the upfront deposit for a traditional secured credit card, but like other credit-builder loans, the Self account and card combo might not be the most efficient or cost-effective way to build your credit.

Current welcome offer

Secured credit cards typically don’t offer sign-up bonuses or other intro offers, and the Self Secured Visa card and Credit Builder Account are no exception.

Although chasing a sign-up bonus shouldn’t be your priority if you’re trying to build credit, some credit-builder cards offer a chance to earn one. For example, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card’s welcome offer makes it a more enticing deal, as Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned within your first year.

Rewards

Neither the Self Credit Builder Account nor the Secured Visa card earn rewards, which is common among products designed for cardholders with no credit history.

While having no rewards program shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for credit-builders, there are a few credit cards for those with limited credit that do offer rewards. Student credit cards may carry the best rewards and benefits if you can qualify; otherwise, you might want to reconsider the Discover it Secured for its 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in spending per quarter, then 1 percent) and 1 percent back on other purchases.

Benefits

You won’t get many extra perks from Self outside the product’s credit-building potential, but you do get a few basic benefits through Visa with the secured card.

Improving your credit mix

The Self credit-builder products set themselves apart by reinforcing an often overlooked aspect of your credit score, your “credit mix.” This factor accounts for 10 percent of your FICO credit score and might be hard to nurture if you’re new to credit, so the opportunity to diversify your credit lines with both a loan and card could expedite your credit journey.

No deposit required

Unlike most secured credit cards, the Self Secured Visa card doesn’t require a security deposit upfront. The payments you’ve saved up in Self’s certificate of deposit (CD) savings account act as your security deposit and credit limit instead. Because of this, the only upfront costs are the one-time $9 administrative fee and the $25 annual fee once you receive your secured card.

Just keep in mind that you’re also paying monthly interest on your credit builder loan, which isn’t necessary for other secured card deposits. This also means that your credit limit is capped at the amount you’ve contributed to your CD so far. Self will also review your account periodically to grant you unsecured credit limit increases beyond your deposit, but you can’t request these reviews, and Self doesn’t specify how frequently they review your account or how much of a credit limit increase you could receive.

Visa Traditional Credit Card benefits

All Visa credit cards—including the Self secured card—come with these basic perks:

  • Cardholder inquiry service
  • Lost or stolen card reporting
  • Emergency card replacement and cash disbursement
  • $0 liability for unauthorized purchases
  • Pay-per-use roadside dispatch

Rates and fees

It’s important to remember that you’ll be paying any applicable rates and fees for both your credit-builder loan and your secured credit card. You can avoid the costly 23.99 percent variable purchase APR on the secured card if you don’t carry a balance, but you’ll still owe monthly APR and finance charges on your credit-builder loan.

Depending on what you choose to pay each month ($25 up to $150), you can expect an up to 15.91 percent APR and up to $146 in finance charges. You’ll also need to pay a $25 annual fee for your secured card, which eats into your credit limit. This downside is worth considering since it can increase your credit utilization ratio (30 percent of your FICO score) and hurt your credit. For example, your initial $100 credit limit is actually a puny $75.

Make sure you read the Self secured card’s terms and conditions carefully beforehand to see how they will impact your journey to a higher score.

How the Self Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa card compares to other secured cards

Self’s credit-builder loan and secured card combo may complicate the credit-building process with extra costs and restrictions, so it’s easy to see how ponying up a security deposit for a normal secured card may be better in the long run.

One of the most important elements to keep in mind while building credit with a credit card is your credit limit. Along with paying on-time and in full, maintaining a low credit utilization ratio is key to improving your credit score. Unfortunately, the Self Secured Visa card’s credit limit may be too low for many credit-builders, as your limit increases slowly with monthly credit-builder loan payments and a $25 chunk is taken out by the annual fee. Depending on your loan, your Self card’s credit limit may also only reach $500 to about $1,700.

Even with a limited or bad credit history, many secured cards allow you to set a much higher credit limit via an upfront security deposit. For example, the BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card offers a limit of up to $4,900 based on your deposit, and the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One only requires an initial deposit of $49 or $99 if you can’t swing the typical $200 deposit. Plus, cards like the Discover it Secured and Secured Mastercard from Capital One offer periodic account reviews that may allow you to upgrade to an unsecured credit card if you’ve shown responsible credit habits.

Unless improving your credit mix is a top priority, these other secured cards might be more valuable alternatives.

Card name Rewards rate Annual fee and security deposit/credit limit First-year offer Other details
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter, then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • $0 annual fee
  • $200 to $2,500 security deposit
  • Initial credit line matches deposit
All cash back earned in the first 12 months is matched.
  • Six-month 10.99% intro APR for balance transfers posted to your account (See terms) (3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% on future balance transfers (see terms)* )
  • 22.99% ongoing variable APR
  • Automatic monthly credit line reviews starting at eight months for a possible credit line upgrade
  • No penalty APR
  • Late payment fee: None the first time you pay late. After that, up to $40.
Secured Mastercard® from Capital One N/A
  • $0 annual fee
  • $49, $99 or $200 minimum security deposit (depending on creditworthiness)
  • $200 to $1,000 initial credit line (depending on creditworthiness)
N/A
  • 26.99% ongoing variable APR
  • Automatic credit line reviews starting at six months
  • No penalty APR
  • Up to $40 late payment
BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card N/A
  • $0 annual fee
  • $300 to $4,900 security deposit
  • Initial credit line matches deposit
N/A
  • 22.99% variable APR
  • No penalty APR
  • Up to $40 late payment

Bankrate’s Take—Is the Self Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa card worth it?

The Self – Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa Credit Card is a unique pairing that allows those with limited or damaged credit to build payment history on two different credit lines: a loan and a credit card.

This can be great if you want a card without a credit check and you want to shore up the “credit mix” factor of your credit score, but the additional costs and restrictions you’ll face from tacking on a credit-builder loan could make traditional secured cards a more appealing option.

Pros

  • Can qualify for a credit card with no additional security deposit or hard credit inquiry
  • Improves the “credit mix” FICO score factor (10 percent) by reporting loan and card payments
  • Reports to all three major credit bureaus
  • Provides basic Visa credit card benefits

Cons

  • Possible to owe both credit card and credit-builder loan interest simultaneously
  • $25 annual fee and credit builder account savings restrict your credit limit
  • Credit-builder loan charges $9 administrative fee and undefined “finance charges”

The information about the BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.