5 Best Credit Building Apps Like Self

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credit building app like self
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Self Financial, more commonly known as Self, is a fintech company that caters to people who might not have access to traditional financial products. They offer services specifically designed to build credit with the caveat that they cost more (in fees and APR) than the traditional financial products offered by banks.

Self currently offers these credit-building services:

Self Product Pricing
Credit Builder Loan $25 – $150 per month (in deposits)
Secured Credit Card $25 per year*
Free Rent Reporting Free
Rent + Bills Subscription $6.95 per month

đź’ˇ Note: Self’s Secured Credit Card is only available to those who have an open Credit Builder Loan account. So Self’s Secured Credit Card will cost you $69.50 – $290.50 annually if you factor in the Credit Builder Loan fees.

Self Credit Builder Loan

This service is designed to help users build a positive payment history. It may be called a loan but you don’t receive the loaned amount until you’ve completed the repayment process.

This means that the Self Credit Builder Loan acts more like a time deposit that charges you interest instead of the other way around.

On average, you’ll have to pay Self 14.7% of the total amount that you deposit in their Credit Builder Account.

💡 Pro Tip: Self’s Large Builder Plan gives you the most bang for your buck, since it charges you 14.50% of your final balance which is a little bit lower than the other plans.

self builder plan

Self Secured Credit Card

The Self Visa® Credit Card is an extension of their Credit Builder Account. Unlike other secured credit cards, Self uses the money deposited in a user’s credit builder loan to secure the credit card.

The upside is that you get two tradelines for what is essentially one service. However, this also means that you need a Self Credit Builder Loan to apply for this secured card.

self secured credit card

Another downside is the fact that this credit card can never be converted into an unsecured one, regardless of your progress as a credit builder. Worse yet, closing the account could negatively impact your credit by increasing your credit utilization and reducing your credit mix.

Aside from these caveats, the Self Secured Credit Card acts like any other secured credit card in the market. There are no rewards or perks for using it. It has an annual fee of $25. And it has a high variable APR of 29.24%.

Free Rent Reporting vs Rent + Bills Reporting

For these services, Self connects to your bank account to find and verify your rent and bill payments and then reports those payments to the credit bureau/s.

  • This used to be a single service but it was split into two on December 5, 2023. You can now report your rent payments to all the credit bureaus for free via Self’s Free Rent Reporting.
  • Rent + Bills Reporting is the original service and it costs $6.95 a month. This paid plan allows you to report your bill payments to TransUnion as well. This is in addition to reporting your rent to all credit bureaus, as well as Identity Theft Insurance and Credit Monitoring.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t a bill-pay service. You still have to use your bank’s bill-pay or auto-pay service to get a record of your rent and utility payments that Self will report to the credit bureaus.

Features Free Rent Reporting Rent + Bills Subscription
Rent Payments Reporting to All Credit Bureaus âś… âś…
Lookback Service âś… âś…
Credit Score Tracking âś… âś…
Bill Payments Reporting to TransUnion âś…
Identity Theft Insurance âś…
Credit Monitoring âś…

đź’ˇ Note: Both plans also offer the Lookback Service which is the option of retroactively reporting the last two years of rent and bill payments by paying a one-time fee of $49.95.

best credit building app like self

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What Are The Best Credit Building Apps Like Self?

In terms of finding a Credit Building App that offers all of the services that Self offers, Kikoff is the clear winner since it matches all of Self’s features. But we’ve also compiled a list of fintech apps that offer superior alternatives to specific Self Financial features.

1. Kikoff vs Self


Kikoff offers all of Self’s main services. Unfortunately, you’ll need to subscribe to Kikoff’s Credit Account ($5.00 – $20.00 per month) before being able to access these services.

  • Kikoff’s Credit Account has two versions: Basic and Premium. Kikoff Credit Account Basic costs $5 a month in exchange for a $750 line of credit that’s limited to purchases in their store. The biggest caveat is that Kikoff’s store only offers items on financial literacy. On the upside, anything you purchase in Kikoff’s store, using their credit account, is reported to all three credit bureaus.
  • Kikoff’s Credit Builder Loan becomes available after you make your first successful payment for a Kikoff purchase. And unlike Self, Kikoff’s credit builder loan doesn’t charge users any interest or even late fees. Keep in mind that this loan is only worth $120 which you’ll pay off in one year.
  • Kikoff Secured Credit Card is powered by Coastal Community Bank and requires a $50 deposit before it starts reporting your data to the credit bureaus. However, unlike Self’s secured card, Kikoff’s Card provides cash-back rewards and even overdraft protection. Best of all, it has 0% APR and no annual fee.
  • Kikoff Rent Reporting is a service that comes with Kikoff Credit Account Premium and it allows you to report your positive on-time rent payments to Equifax. You can also pay Kikoff a $50 one-time fee to report your past rent payments in the last two years to Equifax.

💡 Bottom Line: Kikoff’s Credit Builder Loan and Secured Credit Card are leagues better than Self’s offerings. Self takes the cake with its Free Rent Reporting and Lookback Service though.

Kikoff Requirements

Kikoff has no requirements whatsoever. They don’t do any credit checks and claim to instantly approve any sign-up application.

Kikoff Pricing

Service  Pricing
Kikoff Credit Account Basic $5.00 per month
Kikoff Credit Account Premium $20.00 per month
Kikoff Credit Builder Loan 1 successful payment on a Kikoff item
Kikoff Secured Credit Card Free*
Kikoff Rent Reporting Free with Kikoff Credit Account Premium

đź’ˇ Note: The Kikoff Secured Credit Card requires a direct deposit of at least $50.00 to unlock features like overdraft protection, physical card, and credit reporting.

2. Ava vs Self


Ava is an app that provides two main services: The Ava Card and The Ava Save & Build Credit Account. Its Save & Build Credit is almost identical to Self’s Credit Builder Loan with the exception of pricing since Ava doesn’t charge any fees.

The Ava Card isn’t an exact alternative to Self’s Secured Card because it’s technically not a credit card. But it’s arguably better than Self’s card in terms of credit-building and is most definitely better in terms of APR (0% vs 29.24%).

  • The Ava Card has a $2,500 credit limit on paper. However, Ava doesn’t allow cardholders to go over 30% credit utilization ($750). The listed credit limit is only there to reduce your credit utilization.

This combination of on-time payments being reported to all credit bureaus and decreased credit utilization is what makes the Ava Card so effective at credit building.

However, The Ava Card can only be used on select online subscriptions such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Walmart+, Xbox Live, Paramount+, Disney+, and more.

ava merchants

For a full list of Ava Merchants, go to this page: https://www.meetava.com/merchants

  • Ava’s Save and Build Credit service is for all intents and purposes, a credit builder loan. Although they market it as a locked savings account (which is honestly a much better descriptor for a credit builder loan).

And much like Kikoff’s Credit Builder Loan, Ava doesn’t charge any admin or interest fees. You basically deposit $25 to $100 a month into a savings account for 12 to 24 months then get all your money back. But instead of earning interest, you get a boosted credit score.

💡 Bottom Line: The Ava Card and Ava’s Credit Builder Loan are better than Self’s offerings. The only downside to Ava is its limited merchant partners. All in all, there’s no reason to use Self over Ava when it comes to Secured Credit Cards and Credit Builder Loans.

Ava Requirements

The only requirement to sign up for an Ava account is linking the bank account that you use for depositing your pay. Just like Kikoff, Ava doesn’t do any credit checks and claims to instantly approve applications.

Ava Pricing

Service  Pricing
Ava Credit Builder Card $9/month or $72/year
Save and Build Credit Free with the Ava Card

3. Cushion vs Self

cushion ai

Cushion is the most powerful way to make recurring payments. You can track and pay both your bills and Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) loans in the Cushion App. And if you pay them using the Cushion Debit Card, you can build your credit history with these recurring payments as well.

This is why Cushion is the best Self alternative for those looking for bill-reporting services. The cherry on top is Cushion’s ability to sync your due dates to your Google Calendar (that updates in real-time!) so you never have to miss a payment again.

Cushion currently offers two plans:

  • AutoPilot allows users to track all of their recurring payments in one dashboard and sync all of their due dates to their calendars if they want to.
  • Cushion Pro has all the features of AutoPilot while allowing users to build their credit history with their Bills and BNPL payments.

Cushion Requirements

Cushion requires you to link your bank account and email to your account so that it can automatically detect and organize your bills and BNPL payments.

You’ll also be provided with a Cushion Debit Card that you would need to put on file with billers so that you can start building credit with those payments.

Cushion Pricing

Service  Pricing
AutoPilot $4.95 per month
Cushion Pro $12.99 per month

4. Experian Boost vs Self

experian boost

Experian Boost is a free service offered by Experian, one of the three credit bureaus. Self can only report bills to TransUnion while Experian Boost allows you to report your bills and rent to Experian.

  • Experian Boost is essentially a way for Experian, one of the three credit bureaus, to update their records using information from a user’s bank account. And since the data is transferred directly to Experian, users can expect their FICO scores to be updated within minutes.

Experian Boost doesn’t hold up when compared to Self’s Free Rent Reporting since Self reports to all three credit bureaus while Experian Boost is limited to Experian.

Experian Boost is superior to Self’s Bill Reporting service, however, on the account that it’s free while Self’s Bill + Rent Reporting Subscription costs $6.95 per month.

Experian Boost can be used to supplement Self’s Bill Reporting if you don’t mind paying $6.95 per month. Self reports bill payments to TransUnion. While Experian Boost only applies to Experian. So you can use both to have your bills reported to both Experian and TransUnion.

Experian Requirements

Experian only requires users to connect the bank accounts that they use to pay bills and then verify the transactions that they want to add to their Experian file.

Experian Pricing

Service  Pricing
Experian Boost Free
CreditWorks Plus $14.99
CreditWorks Premium $24.99

5. StellarFi vs Self


StellarFi also overlaps with Self’s Bill Reporting service. And like Cushion, StellarFi also allows users to pay their bills using the app. The biggest advantage that StellarFi has over Self is that it furnishes data to Experian and Equifax.

StellarFi’s service is pretty straightforward. Pay your bills using this app and they will report those transactions to the three credit bureaus, increasing your credit score in time.

It’s important to note that the lowest pricing tier of StellarFi only allows users to report up to $500 worth of bill payments. So, if you have more than $500 of bills to report, you need to apply for StellarFi Prime.

Stellarfi Requirements

StellarFi only requires users to link the checking account that they use to pay their bills. And then manually add the bills that they want to pay using StellarFi.

Stellarfi Pricing

Service  Pricing
Lite $4.99/month
Prime $9.99/month

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are these apps safe to use with my personal information?

Yes, all the apps mentioned in this article prioritize data security and employ encryption to safeguard your personal information.

2. Can these apps guarantee an increase in my credit score?

While these apps provide valuable tools and recommendations, your credit score ultimately hinges on your financial habits and history.

3. Are there any fees associated with these credit-building apps?

Many of these apps offer free versions with basic features, but premium versions with advanced tools may come with subscription fees.

4. How long does it take to see improvements in my credit score?

The timeframe for seeing improvements can vary depending on your unique financial situation. Consistently following sound financial practices is crucial.

5. Can I use multiple credit-building apps simultaneously?

Only if they offer differing services. Doubling up on a specific service isn’t recommended.

6. Do these apps work for people with no credit history?

Yes, many of these apps are designed to assist individuals with limited or no credit history in initiating their credit journey.


Self offers three distinct services: Credit Builder Loan, Secured Credit Card, Rent and Bills Reporting. The best alternative for those looking for a credit builder loan is Kikoff or Ava. Kikoff also has a better secured credit card than Self but Ava’s unsecured credit card has the extra perk of decreasing your credit utilization.

In terms of bill reporting, though, Cushion takes the cake. Not only does the Cushion App allow you to track and pay your bill and BNPL payments to Experian, but it also allows you to sync your due dates to your Google Calendar!

Last Updated on June 06, 2024
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this website is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as financial advice. Consult with a financial professional for personalized guidance regarding your specific situation.

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