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 Self® Credit Builder.
Compare credit builders
How do StellarFi and Self stack up? Compare features, perks, pricing, and more so you can choose the most effective and affordable option:
Type of credit account
Reported like a line of credit
Reported like an installment loan
Credit bureau reporting
Reports to all major credit bureaus: TransUnion®, Experian®, Equifax®.
Reports to three credit bureaus
Interest-free credit building plans
All credit building plans charge interest up to 14.87%
StellarFi reports a high credit limit of up to $25,000.
Plans start at $25/month
Builds credit using bills you already pay
Builds credit using cash deposits
Credit factors impacted
Builds payment history and optimizes credit utilization. Can improve credit mix and credit age
Builds payment history and can improve credit mix
Does not harm your debt-to-income ratio
Can negatively impact debt-to-income ratio
StellarFi members can view their current credit score and full updated credit report any time
Self displays the user’s recent credit score.
Credit utilization impact
Enhances your credit utilization by reporting a high credit limit that increases with use
Does not enhance credit utilization
Bill pay tools
Helps you manage bills and pay them on time
Not a bill payment or management tool
Members can pause their credit builder plan and keep their StellarFi credit account open to avoid credit score damage
Credit account closes once the plan is paid off or canceled, which can harm credit scores
1. Why is credit important?
A good credit score is the key to meeting important milestones in your life and acquiring things you need, like housing and transportation. There are some surprising ways that bad credit can impact your life and finances, too.
Here are some of the main reasons why any consumer should focus on building credit:
You need good credit to qualify for a mortgage and become a homeowner.
Consumers with poor credit pay thousands of dollars more in interest expenses.
Having bad credit or no credit could prevent you from passing financial background checks by rental companies and landlords.
Many employers look at a candidate’s credit history before considering them for an open position.
People with poor or invisible credit pay higher deposits on utilities, phone plans, and more.
2. What is StellarFi?
StellarFi is a credit builder that helps anyone increase their credit score just by paying their existing monthly bills. With StellarFi, you can build credit without the usual downsides that come with other credit-building methods:
NO minimum score to qualify
NO interest charges
NO deposit required
NO surprise fees
NO new debt
How StellarFi works
StellarFi is simple to use. You just need a bank account and some recurring bills to get started.
Sign up as a StellarFi member.
Connect your primary bank account (the one you use to receive paychecks and pay bills).
Add your bills by replacing your current payment method with your StellarFi Virtual Bill Pay Card number.
StellarFi pays each bill on your behalf when it’s due, and simultaneously withdraws the payment amount from your connected bank account.
With StellarFi, your bills are conveniently automated and paid on time, AND your bills help you build credit.
How StellarFi improves your credit score
StellarFi impacts the key factors that make up your credit score:
StellarFi creates a credit account on your credit report, and will report your linked bills as a line of credit.
StellarFi reports on-time monthly payments to all major credit bureaus, which contributes to your payment history.
StellarFi optimizes your credit utilization ratio by providing a payment cushion, which appears on your credit report as a high credit limit.
StellarFi can enhance your credit mix by adding a new type of credit account to your credit report.
As you continue to use StellarFi, the account’s age can also positively influence your score.
3. StellarFi Pros and Cons
StellarFi is great for anyone looking to build credit or improve their credit score quickly without paying for a deposit or high interest rates.
Here are some of the best reasons to use StellarFi:
StellarFi reports as a line of credit, with a $500 high credit 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®, TransUnion®, 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 Pay Card to link any recurring bills that you normally pay with a credit or debit card
StellarFi is NOT a term loan and will not affect your debt-to-income ratio
So, what are the downsides of using StellarFi? 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 (in these situations, it’s usually best not to make 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
How does Self Credit Builder work?
Self is a credit builder that aims to build a positive payment history for their customers while also encouraging good money-saving habits. Here’s how Self builds credit:
New customers pick a monthly credit-building payment level and length. Plans start at $25/month and go up to $150/month, with durations of 12-24 months.
As customers make their monthly payments, the funds are deposited into a bank account.
The monthly payments are reported to all major credit bureaus.
Self shows up on your credit report like an installment loan.
At the end of the 12 or 24 month period, the monthly payments are released back to the customer MINUS interest and fees.
At the time of this post, the interest rate for the smallest Self monthly payment plan is 14.14% and the interest rate for the most expensive monthly payment plan is 14.87%.
If the customer doesn’t make the full monthly payment within 15 days of the payment due date, they will be charged a late fee of up to 5% of the monthly payment amount.
Self Credit Builder Pros and Cons
Here are some of the benefits of using Self credit builder:
Self can help you get into the habit of saving a certain amount of money per month
It can be nice to get your payments back (minus interest and fees) in one lump sum at the end of your credit building plan
If you have only revolving lines of credit (such as credit cards) on your report, using Self can help your credit by adding an installment loan to your credit mix
Self is an option to build your payment history without opening a credit card
Self reports to three credit bureaus
Here are some of the drawbacks of using Self credit builder:
Self charges interest rates up to 14.87%
Self charges a fee to use your debit card to make monthly payments
Self will assess late fees if monthly payments are not made on time
Self does not improve credit utilization and can negatively impact your debt-to-credit ratio
When you finish paying your credit builder plan, your Self account will close. This can cause your credit score to drop, especially if it is your oldest account or your only installment loan account.
StellarFi vs. Self: What’s the best way to build credit?
Each consumer’s credit profile and financial landscape is unique. It isn’t always easy to predict how a credit building product will interact with your credit report. Here are some general guidelines to help you choose between StellarFi and Self Credit Builder:
Who should use Self Credit Builder?
Self is a good choice for people who don’t have any installment loans in their credit mix. It would also be useful to people who don’t have a bank account, since Self can be paid using a prepaid Visa® card.
Self can also benefit people who have trouble stashing money away – although interest charges are deducted from the savings amount before being repaid to the Self customer.
Who should use StellarFi?
StellarFi is a great choice for anyone who wants help building credit and paying bills on time, at a low monthly cost. It’s also a good choice for people who would like to build payment history AND improve their credit utilization without opening a credit card.
Because StellarFi impacts more credit factors than Self, StellarFi may be the better choice for those who want to make a more significant credit score increase
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.