Reports to all major credit bureaus

Comparing StellarFi with Experian Smart Money™: Who Leads the Pack?

Choosing the right credit-building tool can make or break your financial health. Here’s everything you need to know when choosing between StellarFi and Experian Smart Money™ Digital Checking Account and Debit Card.

Big Savings. Bigger impact.

How do StellarFi and Experian Smart Money™ Digital Checking Account and Debit Card stack up? Compare features, perks, pricing, and more so you can choose the most effective and affordable option:

Checking account

StellarFi is not a bank account. You link the StellarFi Virtual Bill Pay Card to any of your already existing bank accounts through which you already make the eligible payments. Meaning, you do not need to open a new bank account to use StellarFi and you can use your already existing primary checking account.
Experian Smart Money offers both a checking account and a virtual debit card. To use the Experian Smart Money™ Debit Card, you need to be an active Experian member, open a new Experian Smart Money™ Checking Account which is associated with the Community Federal Savings Bank (CFSB), and transfer funds to it.

Credit score impact

StellarFi Virtual Bill Pay Card shows up like a line of credit on your credit report.
Experian Smart Money links to Experian Boost® which reports as alternative data. This does not have as much positive impact on your full credit profile.

Type of credit account

Almost all recurring payments can be used to build credit.
Uses limited bills and payment histories.

Debit card

The StellarFi Virtual Bill Pay Card is a streamlined virtual debit card that you can link to any existing bank account.
The Experian Smart Money Debit Card is also a virtual debit card, but can link only to your Experian Smart Money Digital Checking Account. Therefore, you will need to open up a new Checking Account to use it.


StellarFi’s $4.99/month plan reports up to $500 in bills; StellarFi’s $9.99/month plan reports up to a $25,000 limit.
The Experian Smart Money Digital Checking Account and Debit Card is part of an existing Experian membership (free or paid) without any extra cost. You will need to fund the account in order to use the Debit Card.

Eligible bills

StellarFi reports almost all recurring payments to help you build credit. You need to manually link the bills you want StellarFi to pay for you.
Since Experian Smart Money links to Experian Boost, it uses bills and payment history like cell phone and utility bills, streaming services, and rent. Experian Boost reviews your transactions and reports only those which can be added to your credit history.

Credit reporting

StellarFi reports to the major credit bureaus: Experian®, Equifax®.

Experian Smart Money only updates its own credit files.

Credit Reporting speed

Sign up for the StellarFi Virtual Bill Pay Card in two minutes and you can see an improvement in your credit score in 30 days.
Experian updates its own credit files immediately.

Credit monitoring

StellarFi members can view their current VantageScore 3.0 – a score generated by all major bureaus – credit score and fully updated credit report at any time.
You can only track your FICO® 8 Score through Experian. Though FICO core is widely used, FICO 8 is not yet the preferred FICO score version among many lenders.

Bill management

StellarFi conveniently compiles bills in one dashboard.

Experian Smart Money Digital Checking Account and Debit Card is not a bill management tool.

Additional features

StellarFi offers $5 credits for every new referral from an existing member.

Experian Smart Money offers a $50 bonus, but only if the direct deposit in the Checking Account amounts to $1,000 within 45 days.
You can also get your paychecks two days before they are due, but that depends on when the direct deposit file reaches them and isn’t always guaranteed.

1. Why is credit important?

Your credit score can be the determining factor in whether you’re able to rent a home, get approved for a mortgage, or get a good interest rate on a car loan. Having good credit can save you money in the long run, through access to better interest rates and more favorable borrowing terms. Here are some scenarios in which your credit score makes a difference:

  • Without a strong credit score, you may have difficulty getting approved for a mortgage.
  • Consumers with higher credit scores pay lower interest rates on loans and credit cards.
  • Landlords typically check your credit to determine whether or not to rent a home or business space to you.
  • People with poor or invisible credit pay higher deposits on utilities.
  • Some employers even check applicants’ credit before proceeding with the hiring process.

2. What is StellarFi and how can it improve my credit?

StellarFi is a simple but revolutionary way to build credit. With StellarFi, you can build credit without the downsides of other credit-building products and services. Get started with:

  • No minimum score to qualify
  • No interest charges
  • No deposit required
  • No surprise fees
  • No new debt

How StellarFi works

StellarFi is easy to use. You just need a bank account and monthly household bill payments — like your go-to streaming service, utility bill, and rent — to get started.
These are the steps to start building credit with StellarFi:

  1. StellarFi shows up on your Equifax®, Experian® credit reports as a line of credit.
  2. StellarFi reports on-time monthly payments to all major credit bureaus, improving your payment history.
  3. StellarFi optimizes your credit utilization ratio by providing a payment cushion — displayed as a credit limit on your credit report.
  4. As you continue to use StellarFi, the account’s age can also contribute to your score.
  5. StellarFi does not add hard credit inquiries to your report. Hard credit inquiries can put a dent in your credit score.
  6. Because a new account is created on your credit report, StellarFi can enhance your credit mix.

With StellarFi, your bills are conveniently automated and paid on time, and your bills help you build credit.

3. StellarFi Pros and Cons

StellarFi was built for anyone looking to build credit or improve their credit scores.

Here are some of the best reasons to use StellarFi:

  • StellarFi can report all your bills as a line of credit, with a $500 limit reported for those on the Lite plan and up to $25,000 for those on the Prime plan.
  • People with poor credit or no credit can use StellarFi.
  • There’s no credit check or inquiry to get started.
  • You don’t need to pay a security deposit.
  • You’ll build credit history with all major credit bureaus: Experian® and Equifax.®
  • You can view and track your credit score and credit report in your member dashboard.
  • You can manage monthly bills in one dashboard.
  • You can use your StellarFi Virtual Bill Card to link any recurring bills that you normally pay with a credit or debit card.

So, what are the downsides? Here are some examples of situations in which StellarFi may not be a good fit:

  • You’re currently in the underwriting, pre-approval, or under contract phase of buying a home and have been advised against any changes to your credit report.
  • You don’t have a bank account.
  • You pay all your bills by check or money order.
  • You don’t have an SSN or ITIN.

4. How does Experian Smart Money work?

Experian Smart Money works like StellarFi in that you can use it to pay your bills or any merchants which are reported to the major credit bureaus. The Experian Smart Money Debit Card is linked to your Experian Smart Money Checking Account, where you will need to deposit funds in the checking account in order to make your transactions.

To apply for an Experian Smart Money Checking Account, you need to:

  1. Enroll in a free Experian membership and open a digital Checking Account.
  2. You need to provide some personal information for ID verification like your name, phone number, address, and email ID.
  3. The account is FDIC-insured (up to $250,000) and your money is held in a pooled account at their banking partner, CFSB.

After opening your Checking Account, you will get a virtual Experian Smart Money Debit Card. To use the Debit Card:

  1. Deposit money into your checking account and add your digital wallet.
  2. You can start using it immediately with the tap-to-pay feature.
  3. You can also request for a free, optional physical debit card once you deposit money into your account.
  4. You can either set up a direct deposit, transfer from other accounts, or deposit cash at popular retailers like CVS Pharmacy and Walmart.

5. Experian Smart Money pros and cons

Here are some of the benefits of using Experian Smart Money:

  • It is not a new credit card, so there won’t be any hard inquiries into your credit files that impact your credit score negatively.
  • There are no monthly fees or minimum balance fees to set up an Experian Smart Money Checking Account.
  • The checking account is secure and FDIC-insured up to $250,000.
  • Monthly on-time payments build a positive payment history which is reflected in your credit report.
  • You can also use the Experian Smart Money Debit Card to withdraw cash for free at any of their 55,000 fee-free ATMs with the Allpoint ATM network.
  • Since the account is automatically linked to Experian Boost, you don’t have to worry about which regular payments are eligible to be reported to the credit bureaus.
  • You can also earn a $50 bonus if you set up direct deposits that make up at least $1,000 within 45 days. The bonus will be deposited into your account within 10 business days once earned.
  • You can also get your paychecks two days early depending on when the direct deposit file is received.

Here are some of the drawbacks of using Experian Smart Money:

  • Experian is the only credit bureau that is impacted through Experian Boost linked to your Experian Smart Money Checking Account and Debit Card (which is linked to Experian Boost). Not all lenders use Experian credit reports and not all of them use scores impacted by Experian Boost.
  • You need to open a checking account to qualify for the debit card. This adds to the number of financial accounts you may already be keeping track of.
  • It only impacts FICO 8 scores which many lenders and credit card companies may not consider.
  • Your Experian Smart Money Debit card is only linked to the Experian Smart Money Checking Account. You will need to bank with them in order to use the card.
  • To qualify for the $50 bonus, you need to have direct deposits of $1,000 in 45 days. This may not be possible for someone new to credit building and people with low income and high expenses.
  • Getting your paycheck early through direct deposits is also not guaranteed as it may vary from deposit to deposit. There may be daily deposit limits.

7. StellarFi vs. Experian Smart Money: What’s the best way to build credit?

Your credit history and credit needs are unique. Finding the right solution is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. That’s why it’s important to take an objective look at your options.

Experian Smart Money is a good fit for anyone with no or low credit scores. You don’t need to take on new debt to improve your credit score and use the bills you’re already paying to build it. Plus, the Experian Boost link means that you don’t have to worry about which of your payments qualify to be reported to the credit bureau.

However, not all lenders use Experian credit files, Experian impacts only FICO Score 8. So any lender not reporting to Experian or using FICO Score 8 will not see any change in the borrower’s credit score. Though the $50 bonus with no additional hidden monthly or maintenance fees looks attractive, terms like having $1,000 deposits within 45 days to qualify render the benefit meaningless, if the user cannot make direct deposits of that amount. The promise of getting your paycheck two days earlier is also not guaranteed. So if you are new to credit building, or you’ve only recently landed a job and started saving up, it may not be possible for you to meet these requirements unless you have other sources of income like an inheritance.

The StellarFi Virtual Bill Pay Card is the best option for people across their credit journey, whether you’re building from having low credit or want to boost yourself from “average” to “good.” This is a great fit if you want to make a more significant, long-term impact on your credit by paying the big and small monthly bills you’re already in charge of. The StellarFi Virtual Bill Pay Card also reports up to $25,000 of bill payments whereas the Experian Smart Money limit is not specified. Since the Experian Smart Money feature is not a new line of credit, it does not impact your credit mix in any way, unlike StellarFi that adds to your credit mix because it reports a line of credit. Those with mostly installment accounts on their credit report will see an improved credit mix when they join StellarFi. It’s also a great solution for those who want to manage their bills and view their credit scores and reports in one dashboard.

By comparing credit builders side-by-side, you’re sure to find the right tool, or combination of tools, for your goals.

How it works

Get your free credit report

View your current credit score and access your detailed credit report, just by creating your account.

Add and pay your bills

Make automatic bill payments using your StellarFi Virtual Bill Pay Card. Next, we report on-time payments to all major credit bureaus each month.

Build your score

See your credit score increase while we build your payment history, optimize your credit utilization, and more.

Credit monitoring

Join today and be eligible to win $5k!

Enter our “5 Ways to $5k” giveaway through your StellarFi dashboard and get a chance to win $5k in bills paid.

Read full terms here.