Like it or not, your credit score is one of the most critical numbers in your financial life. Financial institutions use it to measure your ability to take on debt and repay it. While it’s not a perfect measure of how you handle money, studies show it does have some predictive power when it comes to a borrower’s risk of defaulting on debt payments.
Lenders reward those with good credit scores with lower interest rates on home loans, better credit card offers, and even lower insurance premiums. During the 2008 financial crisis, one study noted that less than 1% of those with a 720 credit score or above defaulted on their debt. However, more than 30% of those with a score less than 600 fell behind on payments.
Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your credit score. Just like studying for the SAT, as long as you know what to focus on and are willing to put in a little effort, you can almost always achieve a higher score.
These seven credit building apps can help.
Experian Boost is a free service offered by Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus that report on your credit history. According to the company, average users saw a 13-point increase in their FICO score. That could potentially make the difference in bumping you into a higher credit tier.
Experian Boost works by connecting to the bank account that you use to pay your utility and phone bills. It then uses that positive payment history to impact your credit score. This feature can be useful for those with limited credit as it gives you access to additional accounts in your credit report instantly.
- The basic account is free, which includes the Boost feature
- Easy to set up and no work required
- Some users may not see improvement in credit score
- It only affects the Experian credit report and may not be used by all lenders
Credit Strong is a credit-building app that allows you to build credit history while setting aside money in a savings account.
The app sets up an installment loan for a small monthly payment and deposits the funds into a savings account. You contribute to unlocking that savings balance as you make the monthly payments. Your payment history is reported to all three major credit bureaus during the loan term.
The goal of the Credit Strong account is to be able to develop a credit history of on-time payments on a credit line. Both length of credit history and on-time payments are factored into your credit score. So as you continue to make payments, your credit score should increase over time.
Credit Strong currently offers two options, a $1,000 installment account for $15 a month and a $2,500 account for $30 a month. While you end the program with $1,000 or $2,500 saved that you can withdraw, it comes at a fairly high-interest rate of 7.75% – 13.5%, depending on your subscription.
- Easy approval without a credit check
- Reports to all three credit bureaus
- High-interest rates compared to alternative loans
- Must have a checking account or prepaid card in good standing to qualify
SeedFi is another credit building app that offers a similar product to Credit Strong.
With their Credit Builder Prime program, you commit to saving at least $10 every time you get paid. SeedFi then opens up a savings account and line of credit in your name and extends your credit in the amount you committed to saving from each paycheck.
Once you deposit money into the account, your line of credit is paid off, and the money goes toward a savings account.
This app helps you build your credit score by reporting the credit account balance and payments to the credit bureaus. SeedFi claims the average user sees a 41 point increase in their score after making on-time payments on all accounts for six months.
The best part about the Credit Builder Prime program is that there are fees and no interest charged. SeedFi makes money from its other loan products.
- No credit check or upfront deposit required
- No interest or fees
- Money is only accessible once your balance has reached $500
While Credit Karma is not a credit-building product in itself, it can be a handy tool in your journey to improve your credit score.
Credit Karma allows you to keep track of your VantageScore 3.0 from Equifax and TransUnion. (One of many ways to measure your credit score.)
The app will show you what positive and negative actions contribute to your credit score and suggest ways to help you increase your score. It also provides you with your credit report and what accounts and actions are reported to the credit bureaus. This feature helps keep an eye out for any fraudulent transactions or errors in your report.
Credit Karma is free to use, though they do recommend other products and services, and they get paid if you sign up for any of them through the app.
- Free to use
- Shows you your account history and actions affect your credit score
- Credit Karma uses your credit data for advertising products to you
- Does not report FICO score, which could differ from your VantageScore 3.0
Sesame Cash allows you to use a debit card to build your credit. You allocate a certain amount of cash to building credit, and they issue a virtual secured credit card, which reports the account and payment history to all three credit bureaus.
Unlike a traditional secured credit card, you don’t have to use a separate card. You can continue paying with your debit card, and the reporting happens in the background.
According to Credit Sesame, this works to increase your credit score because it affects your payment history and credit utilization, which account for about 65% of your overall credit score combined.
There are no fees or interest payments for the Sesame Cash credit builder program, and as an incentive, the app will pay you up to $100 depending on how much your credit score increases in the first 30 days.
- Free to use
- No fees or interest charges
- Requires an up-front deposit to set your credit limit
- Some users report problems with security issues and frozen accounts
Grow Credit offers a unique twist on the credit building model. With their Build plan, you are issued a virtual interest-free Mastercard, and you connect your bank account.
You then add subscription services you are already paying for, such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, etc. As you use your Grow credit card for your subscriptions and make monthly payments, they automatically report to the credit bureaus as on-time payments and boost your score.
Grow Credit offers several plans depending on your desired credit limit. If you are purely looking for a way to start building positive credit history, the free plan with a $17 monthly spending limit is a good option.
Other options with additional features and higher credit limits are available starting at $1.99 per month.
- The lowest tier plan is free
- Credit history is not a determining factor to qualify
- The low monthly credit limit on the free plan
- Not a good fit if you don’t have any monthly subscription services
Kikoff is a credit building app that issues you a $500 line of credit to use in the Kikoff store. There are no credit check, fees, or interest charges.
You can choose from various items in the store starting at $10, such as e-books on personal finance and wellness. Payment plans are as low as $2 per month.
The revolving line of credit is reported to the credit bureaus, and on-time payments and credit usage can help increase your score. Unlike some other apps, the credit card is only good in the Kikoff store, limiting your spending options.
- No interest or fees for a $500 credit line
- No credit check required to qualify
- Credit is only good in the Kikoff store
- With limited options for purchase, you may end up buying things you don’t need
Other Ways to Build Credit
While credit building apps can be a good fit for those who need extra help building credit or improving their credit score, they are not the best option for everyone.
As you can see, many of these apps charge high fees and interest rates or offer limited services. If you already have decent credit or no credit with a stable income, there are many other options to build your credit score.
Five factors contribute to your FICO score:
- Payment history (35%)
- Credit utilization (30%)
- Length of credit history (15%)
- Credit mix (10%)
- New credit (10%)
Based on these categories, having a mix of accounts, making payments on time, and not overextending yourself by using a large amount of your available credit can go a long way to a great credit score.
If you can qualify and responsibly make payments on time, opening a rewards credit card can be an excellent way to build your credit while also getting cashback.
Alternatively, financing a new car or house, if it makes sense for your financial situation, can help you build your credit history.
Are Credit Building Apps Right For You?
The credit-building apps discussed above can be a great way to jump-start the journey to better credit for those who have struggled in the past.
While nothing is a quick fix, these apps can build your credit score if used consistently over time. However, you have to be committed to improving your credit, as missing a payment with a credit building app can still hurt your score.
In the end, there is no magic bullet to increasing your credit score. But many of these apps can help point you in the right direction and provide assistance in the process.
About the Author
Andrew is the founder of Wealthy Nickel where he writes about all things personal finance. He has a passion for helping people pursue financial freedom through saving money, making money, and building wealth.