credit strong review
Updated June 02, 2020

Credit Strong Review 2020

Credit Repair

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There are a number of ways to successfully build your credit score. The most popular ways involve opening a credit card, taking out a loan (whether personal or for a car/home), or establishing a line of credit.

Unfortunately, all of these also make it easy to overspend or even spiral into debt, if you aren’t careful. Plus, most of these accounts require you to have a decent credit score to begin with, putting them out of reach for many consumers.

That’s where a credit-building loan, such as those offered by Credit Strong, comes into play.

What is Credit Strong?

Credit Strong is a division of Austin Capital Bank. They offer credit-builder loans to consumers who have poor or nonexistent credit, and who want to slowly build their credit reports without risk or high costs.

Credit Strong loans are a bit different than your average personal loan. With traditional loans, you would receive funding from the bank and then repay that money over the course of your loan term.

At the end of the repayment period, you would be out of debt… but the money you borrowed may or may not be long gone.

With Credit Strong, you will “take out” a loan that you don’t actually receive. At least, not right away.

Instead, your loan will be kept in a savings account, locked away until the end of your repayment term. You will still make monthly payments, which will be reported to the credit bureaus and serve to improve your credit score, and will pay interest on that loan (just as you would with a traditional loan).

After your loan term ends, the funds — which have been sitting in a savings account all along — will be unlocked. You’ll have access to them and can do whatever you want with the money, whether that means spending it or keeping it tucked away as a safety net.

In the end, you’ll have a nice little nest egg built up and will have established a healthy, installment credit history.

Options

At Credit Strong, loans are available in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Terms differ based on the installment loan type picked.

You can choose between a product like the Build & Save 1000 — with a loan term up to 12 months — or something like the MAGNUM 5000, offering terms up to 120 months.

In fact, there are three credit-builder loan products to choose from: Subscribe, Build & Save, and Magnum.

With the Subscribe option, you can build your credit for as little as $15 a month; this is a great option for those who want to keep costs as low as possible. You can pick a Subscribe loan for either $1,000 or $2,500, and with terms of 120 months.

The longer you utilize your Subscribe loan, the higher your rate of savings. Just like with most amortized loans, your first few years of payments are mostly going toward interest.

However, as time goes on, more and more of your payment will be directed toward savings. And if your credit improves so much that you want to cancel, you can do so anytime without penalty.

With the Build & Save option, you’ll be growing your savings in much less time. Loans are available for up to 24 months, and you’re able to save as much as $2,000 in that period ($1,000 for 12 months, $1,000 or $2,000 for 24 months).

As with the Subscribe option, your savings rate increases over time. However, since these loans are only one or two years long, you’ll reach your goal faster.

These loans do cost more monthly, however, and may not be enough to sufficiently grow your credit… so keep that in mind.

Lastly, you have the big dogs: the Magnum loans. These are available in amounts up to $10,000 and for terms up to 120 months.

Due to the larger loan, these will cost more monthly… but they are a great option if you need to demonstrate responsible management of a larger installment loan, such as if you’re planning to finance a vehicle or even a business line of credit in the near future.

Loan Requirements

In order to qualify for a credit-builder loan through Credit Strong, you’ll have to meet a few qualifications.

You need to:

  • Be at least 18 years-old
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • Have an email address and phone number
  • Have a valid checking account, debit card, or prepaid card

Additionally, you’ll need to live in any state except North Carolina, Wisconsin, or Vermont. Accounts are currently unavailable to residents of those three states.

Applying for Your Loan

The process for applying for a credit builder loan with Credit Strong is pretty simple. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete, and submitting an application won’t affect your credit.

To begin, you’ll need to enter some basic personal information. This includes your name, address, Social Security Number (to verify your identity), date of birth, and email address.

You’ll then be asked to specify which aspect of your loan is most important. For some, the most important factor might be opting for loan that has a low monthly payment.

For others, the priority might be choosing a loan that would report the largest installment account possible to the credit bureaus.

Based on your credit-building preferences and budget limitations, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of different Credit Strong options. The larger the installment loan reported, the more you’ll pay each month.

You’ll be able to view more details about each plan before making your final selection. This includes the date that your loan will begin, the initial fee requires, and the total loan term/length of payment history that will be reported.

If you aren’t happy with what you see, you’re welcome to choose another plan until you find the one that suits you.

Once you make your selection, you’ll simply need to click Apply Now to finalize the loan. Remember that this process won’t affect your credit, but you will need to pay your initial activation fee to begin.

Your first monthly fee will be due about a month from the date of application.

Pricing

There are two primary expenses involved with using a Credit Strong loan to boost your credit score and grow your savings: an administrative fee and your interest rate. Here’s a look at each one and what you can expect to pay.

Admin Fee

This fee is charged at the origination of your loan and covers the cost of opening an account. Depending on which installment loan option you choose, this fee will range from $8.95 to $15.

This one-time fee is non-refundable, and will be required in order to activate your credit builder loan.

Interest Rate

The interest charged on your loan will depend on which product you choose. This is an interesting change of pace, as interest rates are typically determined by your creditworthiness, in addition to the type of loan and loan terms you pick.

At Credit Strong, you can expect to pay an interest rate between 3.74% and 14.89% (3.74% to 13.97% APR).

Lost Savings Interest

There is an additional “fee” of sorts involved with a Credit Strong credit builder loan, and that has to do with the accrued interest on your savings account.

When you take out your loan, the funds will be placed in a savings account at Austin Capital Bank while you pay down the debt.

While Credit Strong doesn’t tell us the details of this savings account, it can be assumed that this will be interest-bearing with a reasonable rate of return.

But unfortunately, as the borrower, you won’t actually see any of this accrued interest, even though it’s being earned on your personal loan. In addition to charging a monthly interest rate on your loan’s repayment, Credit Strong will also keep any interest that your savings account earns.

Depending on market trends over the course of your repayment, your initial loan amount, and the total loan term, this interest could be substantial.

Credit Strong Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you repay your loan early?

    There are no prepayment penalties, or fees involved with paying back your Credit Strong loan ahead of schedule. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your payment history and average age of accounts are both factored into your overall credit score; cutting either of these short could mean missing out on an even higher score.

  • Can you have more than one Credit Strong account?

    You are only able to have one account open at a time through Credit Strong. Once you’ve paid off your existing product, you can apply for another one if you would like.

  • Can you withdraw funds as you pay down your loan?

    No, your funds are locked away in a dedicated savings account until the total loan is repaid. You will not be able to touch that money until the end of your loan term or until you’ve repaid the entire debt, whichever comes first. 

    At that time, the funds will be unlocked and you’ll be able to withdraw them, spend them, or keep them in the savings account to accrue additional interest.

  • Can two people cosign on a Credit Strong account?

    Credit Strong loan accounts are able to be held by one person. Cosigning is not an option.

Credit Strong Pros

1. There is no hard inquiry involved.

A hard inquiry is often required when opening, or even applying for, credit-based accounts. With Credit Strong accounts, however, there is no hard inquiry involved, so you won’t see a drop in your score from applying.

2. It automates a helpful credit-building process for you.

Building or improving your credit takes time, patience, and dedication. If you struggle with taking an active approach to your credit report, a credit-builder loan can help by automating the process with a scheduled and specific plan.

3. Your installment loan is reported to all three credit bureaus.

Credit Strong reports each month’s payment to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, helping you build your score across all three bureaus.

4. The application only takes a few minutes to complete.

You can apply for your credit-builder account in only a couple of minutes online. When we tested out the application, the entire process took about three minutes.

5. Creditworthiness isn’t an issue.

No credit? Bad credit? No problem. The point of a loan through Credit strong is to (re)build your credit score, so you won’t be denied due to poor or nonexistent credit.

6. It’s an easy way to force savings.

Many Americans struggle to build a savings account. With a Credit Strong account, you’ll be building your credit and savings at the same time; at the end of your loan term, your savings account will be unlocked and you’ll have access to those funds that you “saved” without even thinking about it.

You can then use that money for an emergency fund, the down payment on a car, retirement, or anything else you may need.

7. You can cancel at any time without penalty.

If want to cancel your Credit Strong account, you can do so at any time without penalties or early termination fees. Since Credit Strong held onto your loan funds, you won’t owe on the balance due, like with a traditional loan.

Any funds that you’ve paid down on your loan (savings that you’ve “unlocked”) will be available to you, minus interest.

8. You can track your credit score.

You’ll get a free credit score provided in your Credit Strong dashboard, so you can watch your progress over time. Currently, Credit Strong offers the FICO 8 score, as it’s the most commonly-used score among lenders.

Credit Strong Cons

1. Your savings are locked away to secure your loan.

At the end of the loan term, you’ll be given access to your savings. Prior to that, though, the total loan amount will be locked away and is untouchable.

If you need a loan for a specific and/or immediate reason, this is not the loan for you.

2. Credit Strong will still charge interest on the loan, even though it’s locked away in savings.

Technically, Credit Strong will keep your loan for you at their own institution, Austin Capital Bank. But even though they have the funds in-house at all times, you’ll still be required to pay interest on that loan as you pay it back.

Your interest rate may or may not be any different than with a traditional personal loan, either, though the funds would be available for use immediately with the latter.

3. You lose out on the interest accrued.

We already mentioned how Credit Strong will keep any interest realized by your personal loan while it is locked away.

Yes, those funds will be “unlocked” after you pay down your loan, but that money will not be earning interest for you in the process. This could mean significant savings lost.

For instance, let’s look at the MAGNUM10000 option, a $10,000 loan for a term of up to 120 months. If you were to instead take out a loan and put that money into a high-yield savings account earning 1.90% APY, and leave it alone for the entire 10-year term, you would wind up with a balance of around $12,091… a growth of $2,091.

Opt for a 10-year certificate of deposit, such as Discover Bank’s current 2.30% APY CD, and you could earn even more. That savings product would earn you $2,548 over the course of your 10-year loan repayment.

With either option, you’d get to keep the interest accrued (instead of the bank), which would be over $2,000.

Of course, credit builder loans are often designed for consumers who would not otherwise qualify for a $10,000 loan, so that might not even be a viable option.

Additionally, products such as those offered by Credit Strong can help consumers who may not have the self-control to leave a large loan untouched for such a long period of time.

In that case, losing out on any interest your loan might accrue could be a worthwhile trade.

4. It’s not fail-safe.

Yes, the intent of a credit-builder loan is to, well, build your credit. However, it’s still up to you to manage your account responsibly, or the entire loan could backfire.

If you don’t make your monthly loan payments on-time, you can still be reported to the credit bureaus as being late. This can have a negative impact on your credit score, sometimes quite significantly.

5. They’re not available everywhere.

Credit Strong accounts are not available in the following states: North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Vermont.

6. The loan can drop your credit score initially.

When your installment loan is first reported to the credit bureaus, you may see an initial drop in your credit score. This is because your debt ratio will increase overnight, and the new report will drop your average age of accounts.

Over time, however, your account will age, your installment balance will reduce, and your positive payment history will grow. All three of these will serve to grow your credit score.

Should You Open a Credit-Building Account with Credit Strong?

If you have a low credit score, or no credit established whatsoever, you are probably looking for easy ways to successfully build your credit. After all, having a less-than-average credit score can limit the accounts you can open, the services you can receive, and the interest rates for which you will qualify.

Credit building loans are one solution, allowing you to take out a secure loan that isn’t based on creditworthiness, and easily pay it down over time in a way that builds your credit history, credit score, and even your savings account balance.

With Credit Strong, this loan can come in a variety of different flavors, ensuring that you’re also able to find the product that meets your budget constraints. Whether you want to pay back a $10,000 loan over five years or a $1,000 loan over 10 years, you can find what you need most.

Credit Strong interest rates are reasonable and one-time fees are low. You won’t earn any accrued interest from your loan’s savings account, but you are able to cancel anytime without penalty or fee, and there are no early repayment charges.

Plus, when your loan term is over, you’ll have a nice nest egg established.

Credit building loans aren’t for everyone, but they are a good solution for those who need to build their score in a secure, affordable way. Rather than rack up credit card debt or risk overspending with a traditional personal loan, look into a loan with Credit Strong to see if it’s the right route for you.

Stephanie Colestock

Stephanie Colestock is a personal finance expert and writer who enjoys teaching people how to be financially independent and confident about their money choices, regardless of obstacles in their path (such as the crippling student loan debt she once held). Stephanie graduated from Baylor University, and is currently working toward her CFP certification. Her work can be seen on sites such as Forbes, Dough Roller, and Johnny Jet, among many others.

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