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CreditStrong
On CreditStrong's secure site
Fee
From $15 per month
Minimum deposit to open
$0

Our verdict

This division of Austin Capital Bank offers many credit-building loans to choose from, but they can be costly.

Part of Austin Capital Bank, CreditStrong offers FDIC-insured credit-builder loans through multiple divisions to help customers build a credit history. There are multiple plans to choose from, including revolving and installment credit-builder loans for individuals, kids and businesses. Unlike traditional loans, there’s no hard credit check when you apply. But you'll have to pay interest charges and a one-time administrative fee, which you’ll be informed of right before you sign on the dotted line. Also, before applying, pay attention to the term length, as most have terms as long as 120 months, so it's a commitment. And watch out for high APRs, considering these products don’t require a credit check.

Best for: Poor credit borrowers in need of credit repair.

Pros

  • No credit check
  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus
  • No opening deposit

Cons

  • $15 to $25 non-refundable administrative fee
  • APRs up to 15.88%
  • Pricing isn’t always transparent
  • Not available in Wisconsin or Vermont

In this guide

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Who is CreditStrong best for?

CreditStrong is best for someone with very poor credit who can’t get a credit-builder loan or a new line of credit through their bank or credit union. CreditStrong’s credit-builder loans don’t have a hard credit check, so a poor credit history isn’t a factor in approval.

How CreditStrong works

The majority of CreditStrong’s products are installment credit-builder loans. Credit-builder loans can help you build a better credit history and a little nest egg.

Unlike traditional loans, you don’t get funds upfront with credit-builder loans. Installment credit-builder loans involve making monthly payments deposited into a savings account. Once you’ve paid the full amount, you get your funds back and can walk away with a better credit score — provided you made timely payments throughout the loan. These monthly payments are integral to a credit-building loan, because those payments are reported to the credit bureaus so you can build credit history.

For example, if you choose a $1,000 credit-builder loan with a $15 monthly payment over X months. Once you’ve paid the full $1,000, the funds are released minus interest charges and finance fees.

Most credit-builder loans don’t require a monthly service fee. In most cases, including CreditStrong, the cost of a credit-builder loan is the acquired interest. These loans deposit your monthly payments in a savings account, and the bank collects APR as a cost for the service.

Provider planBest forCostAmount released at end of termAPR
Build 1000Personal$15/month and one-time $15 administrative fee$1,00013.50%
Build 2500Personal$15/month and one-time $15 administrative fee$2,5007.75%
Magnum 5000Personal$60/month and one-time $25 administrative fee$5,0007.86%
Magnum Self X-Large BuilderPersonal$150/month and one-time $25 administrative fee$3,07615.88%
Magnum XL 15kPersonal$175/month and one-time $25 administrative fee$15,000 to $30,0007.15%
Revolv (revolving credit line)Personal$99/year$1,000 to $3,000N/A
InstalPersonal$28 to $48/month$1,000 to $1,10015.51% to 15.73%
CS MaxPersonal$49 to $499/month and one-time $25 administrative fee$2,500 to $10,0003.02% to 7.31%
FreeKickBuilding children’s credit aged 14 to 25$149/year, or one-time $3,000 depositVariesUnclear
Credit Strong for BusinessBusinesses$200 to $2,000/month and a $349 to $999 one-time fee$5,000 to $50,000N/A

Where CreditStrong shines

CreditStrong’s biggest leg-up in the competition is the lack of a hard credit check. While many credit-building loans are designed for poor credit borrowers, traditional banks and credit unions typically check your credit and have credit score requirements. CreditStrong doesn’t check your credit when you apply, so your main approval variable is your ability to pay.

CreditStrong also reports to all three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This is comforting to see, as some credit-building products only report to one or two major agencies.

You can also close your account early if you want, with no early closure fees, and there are no prepayment penalties if you want to pay off the loan faster than planned.

Variety of options

CreditStrong features multiple plans to choose from, each varying in monthly payments, loan size and APR. The majority of CreditStrong’s plans don’t require an opening deposit — just a one-time administrative fee — and most have a monthly payment, with the exception of the revolving credit and FreeKick option that have yearly fees.

Most of the plans are for individuals looking to build credit, and there are also two divisions of CreditStrong suited for families, FreeKick, and businesses, Credit Strong for Business.

Where it falls short

One of CreditStrong’s strengths is its variety of products, but it’s a double-edged sword. There are almost too many options and terms to choose from, which makes it hard to sort through. On top of that, CreditStrong has multiple divisions of itself, and it’s also a division of another bank, which can easily create confusion and make you wonder who you’re really getting the loan from. If CreditStrong could do anything better, we’d narrow down its offerings.

Also, many of the plans have a $15 to $25 non-refundable administrative fee. There’s also a late fee if you’re more than 15 days on a payment, and the late fee amount isn’t disclosed.

These loans can be costly

After you choose a loan and apply, CreditStrong will inform you of your APR, finance charge, amount financed, account terms, and total number of payments. The APR and administrative fee you get will depend on your plan, and CreditStrong’s APRs can be as high as 15.88%.

Credit-building plans for kids are unclear

The kids’ credit-building plans are through FreeKick, which is part of CreditStrong. These plans have a heavy focus on preventing identity theft and building credit for kids aged 14 to 25. However, its products are downright confusing, and there are multiple discrepancies.

The site states that parents get their deposited funds back and earn interest once the loan is closed, but after speaking to several customer representatives, we were told that that interest is paid to FreeKick as a fee for providing the service. We were also told by one representative that the savings account currently pays out 5% to 7% variable APY, but then we were later told by another representative that the account has a 0.01% APR. So, while one rep told us that you’d accrue interest (APY), another one told us that you’d pay interest (APR) to FreeKick.

It’s unclear what this product actually is and how much it’ll cost, and based on all the extremely varying information we’ve received, we can’t recommend this specific credit-building loan at this time.

Compare CreditStrong to other credit-building products

Narrow down top credit-building options by monthly fees, interest charges and benefits. For a better comparison, tick the Compare box on up to four different options to see them side by side.

Name Product Fee Minimum deposit to open Requirements Credit Bureaus Offer
Experian Boost®
Not rated yet
Experian Boost®
$0 per month
$0
Requires Free Experian® membership and Experian Boost to build credit.
Experian
StellarFi
Finder Score: 4 / 5: ★★★★★
StellarFi
From $4.99 per month
$0
Must be at least 18 years old and a US resident with a valid Social Security number.
Equifax, Experian
Cushion
Finder Score: 4 / 5: ★★★★★
Cushion
From $4.99 per month
$0
Must be at least 18 years old, have an existing US bank account and a Social Security number
Experian
Chime® Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card
Finder Score: 5 / 5: ★★★★★
Chime® Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card
$0 per month
$0
Must have a Chime Checking Account with eligible direct deposits to qualify.
Equifax, Experian,TransUnion
Extra
Finder Score: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
Extra
From $20 per month
$0
Requires an existing bank account.
Equifax, Experian
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How to open CreditStrong

The first step in opening a credit-building loan with CreditStrong is choosing a plan you can easily afford. Since the goal with a credit-building loan is to improve your credit score, you don’t want to choose a plan that overextends your budget — or you’ll just worsen your credit instead of helping it.

After you’ve selected a CreditStrong option, you’ll need to create an account, apply for the loan of your choosing and start making payments.

CreditStrong has these eligibility requirements:

  • 18 years old and a permanent US resident
  • Valid SSN or ITIN
  • Checking account, debit card or prepaid card in good standing
  • Mobile phone number, Google Voice account
  • Email address

There are no set income requirements or credit score requirements to qualify for a CreditStrong product.

Customer experience

CreditStrong is a fairly new division of Austin Capital Bank and holds a decent B rating with the Better Business Bureau. There are a handful of customer complaints, but there’s a consistent theme among them: Customers claim that CreditStrong is keeping a majority of their payments made into the credit-builder loan and taking a lot of the funds through interest charges. Other customers feel bamboozled by CreditStrong, stating they never received their loan funds.

On the side of CreditStrong, credit-building loans don’t offer any funds upfront because that’s just not how they work. And, in most cases, the cost of these loans is in interest charges accrued throughout the loan.

Based on the majority of customer feedback, there looks to be a lot of confusion as to what CreditStrong’s products actually are and how they work. Regardless if that’s human error on the customer’s side or CreditStrong’s lack of transparency, we can say that CreditStrong doesn’t make it easy to locate the total cost of these products on their site, and it lacks detail on how these loans work.

Frequently asked questions

When do I receive my CreditStrong loan?

Unlike traditional personal loans, a credit-building loan won’t give you funds after you apply. Credit-building loans mean you’ll pay a monthly installment over the term, and once you’ve paid the full amount, the funds are released to you.

How much does CreditStrong cost?

The overall cost of a CreditStrong credit-building loan varies. You’ll pay interest throughout the loan, as well as a one-time, non-refundable administration fee between $15 to $25. APRs vary depending on the loan you choose but could be as high as 15.88%. And if you’re late on a payment by more than 15 days, there’s a late fee.

CreditStrong doesn’t charge membership fees or monthly service fees. These products make money from acquired interest over the term.

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Bethany Finder

Writer, Banking and Loans

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