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Methodology: Credit-building products

See how we rate credit-building cards.

Credit-building products are meant to build your credit history to improve your credit score. While traditional borrowing products, such as credit cards and personal loans, can build a credit history, those credit lines tend to require a good credit score to qualify. Credit-building products don’t typically follow the traditional path, either, so they require a unique methodology based on the person they’re best for, how they work and the cost.

Finder’s expert scores

Our Finder expert ratings are designed to help you compare the overall performance of a credit-building product at a glance. We based the star rating on how well the product performs against our unique methodology. We designed our ratings to provide a starting point and aid a decision based on your unique needs. Read through our comprehensive reviews before choosing a product to get the full picture.

Our ratings

We rate credit-building products using a system of one to five stars.

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

How we rate credit-building cards

We analyze and weigh evenly five distinct factors for credit-building cards: fees, credit score requirements, credit reporting practices, annual percentage rate (APR) and customer support options. We also compare additional features, such as cashback rewards and autopay, and award the products that have them without penalizing those that lack those features.

How we rate fees

Monthly membership or subscription fees are common with credit-building cards, and so are annual fees with secured credit cards. These fees can eat away at your hard-earned income, so the lower the fee, the better. If a product has an annual fee, we simply divide the fee by 12 to get the monthly cost to fit our methodology.

We reserve excellent ratings for accounts that don’t charge anything to open or maintain. We rate fees based on this scale:

★★★★★ — $0/month

★★★★☆ — $1 to $3.99/month

★★★☆☆ — $4 to $5.99/month

★★☆☆☆ — $6 to $11.99/month

★☆☆☆☆ — $12+/month

How we rate credit score requirements

Credit score requirements are common with loans and credit cards, but credit-building cards are a bit more lenient.

We award more points to credit-building cards that don’t perform a hard credit check. We rate credit score requirements based on this scale:

★★★★★ — No hard credit check

★★★★☆ — Performs hard credit check, but no strict credit score requirements

★★★☆☆ — 300 to 599 credit score requirement

★★☆☆☆ — 600 to 699 credit score requirement

★☆☆☆☆ — 700+ credit score requirement

How we rate credit reporting practices

One of the most important factors for a credit-building product is where the credit reporting action is recorded. Credit scoring models, such as FICO and VantageScore, use the information on your credit reports to generate your credit score. Ideally, you want your reporting action sent to all three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

If a product claims to be a credit-building service but doesn’t do any reporting action, they aren’t classified as a credit-building product by our Finder experts. We rate credit reporting actions based on this scale:

★★★★★ — Reports to all three credit bureaus

★★★★☆ — Reports to two major credit bureaus

★★★☆☆ — Reports to one major credit bureau

★★☆☆☆ — N/A

★☆☆☆☆ — N/A

How we rate APR

Interest on loans and credit cards is common, but many credit-building cards don’t charge interest at all. We reserve an excellent rating for cards that don’t charge APR, which saves you money in the long run. We rate APR based on this scale:

★★★★★ — No APR

★★★★☆ — 1% to 21%

★★★☆☆ — 22% to 24%

★★☆☆☆ — 25% to 35%

★☆☆☆☆ — 36%+

How we rate customer support options

Things happen, so it’s nice to know that the service you’re using has multiple support options. When a service lacks customer support options, it can limit your ability to ask questions or resolve issues — particularly troublesome when it comes to matters of your money or credit-reporting actions.

We award the highest ratings to companies with physical branches, a customer phone line and/or 24/7 live chat support. We rate customer support options based on this scale:

★★★★★ — Has customer phone line, 24/7 chat and/or branches

★★★★☆ — N/A

★★★☆☆ — Phone line and limited chat or email

★★☆☆☆ — N/A

★☆☆☆☆ — Online form only

How we rate additional features

If a credit-building product has extra features not normally offered by most, we award them extra points. Additional features that can boost a rating include cashback rewards and autopay. But if a credit-building card doesn’t have these features, they aren’t penalized for it.

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To make sure you get accurate and helpful information, this guide has been edited by Alexa Serrano Cruz as part of our fact-checking process.
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Written by

Editor, Banking

Bethany Hickey is the banking editor and personal finance expert at Finder, specializing in banking, lending, insurance, and crypto. Bethany’s expertise in personal finance has garnered recognition from esteemed media outlets, such as Nasdaq, MSN, Yahoo Finance, GOBankingRates, SuperMoney, AOL and Newsweek. Her articles offer practical financial strategies to Americans, empowering them to make decisions that meet their financial goals. Her past work includes articles on generational spending and saving habits, lending, budgeting and managing debt. Before joining Finder, she was a content manager where she wrote hundreds of articles and news pieces on auto financing and credit repair for CarsDirect, Auto Credit Express and The Car Connection, among others. Bethany holds a BA in English from the University of Michigan-Flint, and was poetry editor for the university’s Qua Literary and Fine Arts Magazine. See full bio

Bethany's expertise
Bethany has written 398 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Personal finance
  • Banking
  • Auto loans
  • Insurance
  • Cryptocurrency and NFTs

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