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Can Credit Building Loans Really Help You Build Credit?

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When you don’t have any credit history or your credit score is on the low side, common wisdom says to get a loan. With a new loan, you should be able to make payments and improve your score over time, right? Unfortunately, you can’t always just “get a loan” in the real world, and that’s especially true if your credit is nonexistent or really bad.

Secured credit cards have long been a good solution for consumers who need to improve their credit but can’t get approved for a  loan. With a secured credit card, you put down a cash deposit as collateral and you get access to a line of credit you can borrow against. Your credit card payments are reported to the three credit bureaus, and you get the chance to improve your credit score over time as a result.

Interestingly, another type of loan product for bad credit has made its way onto the market over the last decade. Credit builder loans work similarly to secured credit cards since they let consumers secure their own loan and make monthly payments that are reported to the credit bureaus. But, do credit builder loans really help?

A Closer Look At Credit Building Loans

According to Michael Broughton, CEO & Founder of Perch Credit, which helps consumers build credit using their rent payments, credit building loans can absolutely help consumers improve their credit scores. 

Take the credit builder loans or “credit building savings accounts” from Self, for example. With Self, you apply for a credit builder account, agree to monthly payments, and eventually pay off the amount you agree to. Plus, you get all the money you paid back in the end, less any fees.

“These types of loans help build your credit because the lender will report each of your successful payments to the three major credit bureaus,” says Broughton. “Given that the biggest impact on your credit score is payment history, over time the payments you make on these credit builder loans will increase your credit score.”

A credit builder loan can also be a great way to jumpstart your credit journey if you have little to no other credit history, he says. 

Adem Selita, CEO & Co-founder of The Debt Relief Company says the good thing about credit builder loans is that you can apply for a very low balance credit builder loan with low monthly payments. Since accounts from Self come with monthly payments as low as $25, this means most people can afford to build credit this way.

From there, payments to a credit builder loan offset the negative impact of any missed or late payments you’ve had in the past. Also, the act of completely paying off the credit builder loan on time will provide one more instance in which you demonstrate financial responsibility, which shows that you’re a good credit risk. 

Even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) agrees that credit builder loans can be a boon for consumers who need to build credit. According to a CFPB report, those who applied for one without an existing loan increased their likelihood of a good credit score by 24%. Not only that, but participants who took out a credit builder loan without any existing debt saw their credit scores increase by 60 points more than participants who had existing credit history and debt.

Further, credit builder loans work as a forced savings account. Based on this fact, users profiled by the CFPB said they increased their savings balance by an average of $253.

Credit Builder Loans: What To Watch Out For

For the most part, credit builder loans are pretty cut and dry. You agree to pay a specific amount each month, and the company that provides the “loan” saves that money for you in an account. They report each of your monthly payments to the credit bureaus and, over time, your score goes up. In the end, you’re rewarded with the money you paid to the account during the loan period. 

So, what’s the catch?

Broughton points out that, while a credit builder loan can in fact build credit over time, it does cost the borrower something. Take the credit builder loans from Self, for example. This provider is very transparent about the costs involved in their product, yet their numbers still show that nothing is free.

With Self, you could agree to pay $48 per month and a $9 upfront fee to get your account started. From there, you would pay $48 per month for 12 months. Once that year was over, you would receive $539 back — or $46 less than you paid in.

Another company in this space, CreditStrong, offers a similar fee structure. In their website example, you pay an upfront administrative fee of $8.95 to get your account started. From there, anywhere from 88% to 98% of your payment is applied to your account each month, the rest going to fees.

That’s not a lot of money to lose to build your credit, but it’s still worth noting.

One other “gotcha” with credit builder loans is the fact they may not work in your favor if you go through a rough patch. If you make late payments on your credit builder loan, those are reported to the credit bureaus as well. 

This means that, instead of having your on-time payments improve your credit score, late payments to a credit builder loan can actually make your credit score worse than it is. And if you started your credit builder loan because you had no credit history, you’ll definitely be starting your credit journey off on the wrong foot. 

That’s why credit builder loans should only be used by people who are serious about their credit goals and ready to commit. James Garvey, CEO and co-founder of Self, says that loan products like the ones Self can be a great entry-level tool for someone who wants to build credit from scratch or after financial hardship. After all, you get the chance to establish positive credit habits while working toward goals like buying a house or paying for college

“Like any tool though, in order for credit builder loans to help, you have to use them responsibly,” he says.

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Indigo Platinum Mastercard Review | NextAdvisor with TIME

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We want to help you make more informed decisions. Some links on this page — clearly marked — may take you to a partner website and may result in us earning a referral commission. For more information, see How We Make Money.

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

  • Intro bonus: No current offer
  • Annual fee: $0 – $99
  • Regular APR: 24.90%
  • Recommended credit score: 300-670 (Bad to Fair)

The Indigo Platinum Mastercard can help you build a better credit score (if you practice good credit habits) with monthly reporting to the three credit bureaus. Unlike many other options for building credit, this is an unsecured credit card, so it doesn’t require a cash deposit as collateral. But you may incur an annual fee, depending on your creditworthiness when you apply.

At a Glance

  • Monthly payment reporting to the three credit bureaus for people with limited credit history or poor credit
  • Annual fee of $0, $59, or $75 the first year, depending on your creditworthiness ($75 version charges a $99 annual fee after the first year)
  • Unsecured credit card with no security deposit required
  • Standard variable APR of 24.9% 

Pros

  • Available to individuals with no credit history or low credit scores

  • Unsecured credit card

  • Annual fee could be as low as $0 depending on your creditworthiness

  • Monthly payments report to all three credit bureaus

Cons

  • No rewards

  • Annual fees vary depending on creditworthiness, and you won’t know your fee until you apply

  • High variable APR

  • $300 credit limit

Additional Card Details

The Indigo Platinum Mastercard is geared toward people with “less than perfect credit” or minimal credit histories. Like other credit-building card options, it doesn’t offer a lot of perks.

You will get a few benefits, like online account access and reporting to all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can also choose from multiple card designs for no extra charge.

Prequalification is another benefit of the Indigo Platinum Mastercard. Prequalifying is a great way to gauge your approval odds and the terms of your offer without filling out a full application and undergoing a credit check, which can temporarily hurt your credit score. If you do choose to apply after pre-qualifying, you’ll still be subject to credit approval with a hard credit inquiry.

Should You Get this Card?

Many credit cards available to people with bad credit scores are secured credit cards that require a cash deposit as collateral. The Indigo Platinum Mastercard offers an alternative to secured cards for building better credit, but has its own drawbacks.

For one, your credit limit is capped at $300. If you’re approved for a version of this card with an annual fee, it’ll be automatically applied, which means your starting limit could be as low as $225. 

The annual fee itself is another drawback. The amount you’re charged will depend on your creditworthiness when you apply. If your approval comes with an annual fee, that $59 or $99 ($75 the first year) charge can quickly add up over time. Consider other cards with no annual fee (and even no annual fee secured credit cards) that may make better long-term options for building a healthier credit profile.

How to Use the Indigo Platinum Mastercard

Because the Indigo Platinum Mastercard doesn’t offer any rewards and your credit limit is just $300, you should use this credit card for the sole purpose of improving your credit score. Only make purchases you can afford to pay off when your statement is due, and pay your bill on time to avoid up to $40 in late fees and a penalty APR up to 29.9%. 

Pro Tip

Building a great credit score, whether you’re starting from no credit history or repairing damaged credit, requires a foundation of good credit habits your credit card can help establish — such as timely payments, low credit utilization, and paying off your balances in full each month.

The Indigo Platinum Mastercard’s low credit limit means you’ll need to be extra careful with your spending to improve your credit score. Using more than 30% of your available credit can hurt your credit utilization rate — one of the most influential factors in your credit score. With a credit limit of $300, that means you should keep your charges below $90.

The goal of a card like Indigo Platinum Mastercard is to, over time, improve your credit score enough to qualify for a better credit card. Use this card to establish and maintain the healthy credit habits (like timely payments in full, low utilization, and consistently paying down balances) that will improve your credit long-term, and help you qualify for a card that’s better suited for your spending habits in the future.

Indigo Platinum Mastercard Compared to Other Cards

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

  • Intro bonus:

    No current offer

  • Annual fee:

    $0 – $99

  • Regular APR:

    24.90%

  • Recommended credit:

    300-670 (Bad to Fair)

  • Learn moreexterna link icon at our partner’s secure site
Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

  • Intro bonus:

    No current offer

  • Annual fee:

    $0

  • Regular APR:

    22.49% (Variable)

  • Recommended credit:

    (No Credit History)

  • Learn moreexterna link icon at our partner’s secure site
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Intro bonus:

    No current offer

  • Annual fee:

    $39

  • Regular APR:

    26.99% (Variable)

  • Recommended credit:

    (No Credit History)

  • Learn moreexterna link icon at our partner’s secure site

Bottom Line

EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

If your credit score isn’t great and you want to start building the credit foundation to move in the right direction, the Indigo Platinum Mastercard can help by reporting your usage to the three credit bureaus — if you practice good habits that will reflect positively on your report. But you may also take on a pricey annual fee and risk high utilization due to the card’s low credit limit. Before applying, consider other cards for bad credit and secured credit cards with no annual fee that may better serve your credit-building goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Indigo Platinum Mastercard is a decent option for consumers with poor credit who don’t want to put down a security deposit on a secured credit card. Check your prequalification terms, and compare other options for people with fair credit or bad credit before applying.

The credit limit for the Indigo Platinum Mastercard is $300. If you get approved for a version with an annual fee, your annual fee will be deducted from your credit limit.

The Indigo Platinum Mastercard is an unsecured credit card, so you do not have to put down a cash deposit as collateral.

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Akron community supports council recommendations on police reform

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Doug Livingston
 
| Akron Beacon Journal

Critics on either side of the police reform debate see promise in what Akron City Council has done.

The union representing officers “can work with” the eight recommendations in council’s 22-page report on Reimagining Public Safety, which was released publicly this week.

The head of the Akron NAACP is applauding the time and consideration council committed to do “something that definitely needed done.”

And the Rev. Greg Harrison, a retired Akron detective a regular critic of local lawmakers who fail to understand the inner working of the city’s police force, praised council members for allowing officers to educate them on policing in Akron before putting together “substantial” and “solid” recommendations.

“I am very surprised, because really I did not think that the council was going to come up with such substantial recommendations,” said Harrison. “I am surprised, but I’m happy. I think the recommendations, if implemented, put us light years ahead of what any task force can come up with.”

Eleven of the 13 City Council members present Monday afternoon unanimously supported a resolution adopting the recommendations. But that’s all they are, at this point: recommendations to work with the next police chief, the mayor and community partners to craft legislation after collecting public input.

And some of these recommendations have been recommended before.

The first — to give the city’s independent police auditor enough staff and resources to do his job — has been sought by the community since the position was created in the early 2000s. It was a priority in a 2011 report by the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent firm of law enforcement experts who dived into policing in Akron when leaders kicked around the idea of reforms more than a decade ago.

“I want to applaud them for taking the time to do what they did,” Judith Hill, president of the Akron NAACP said after looking over the recommendations. “I think it was important and it was something that definitely needed to be done.

“And I know this is the beginning of a process,” she continued, “but I don’t see anything that sets aside funding to support changes.”

Some recommendations, like crisis intervention training to all officers, identify limited funding as a barrier.

On that, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 President Clay Cozart agrees with some of the loudest advocates for change.

“It’s going to require more officers. It’s going to require more training. And it’s going to require more funding, and that’s probably the most difficult issue to tackle,” Cozart said.

He added that he found it “disingenuous” that council, though reaching out to him Sunday, waited until 10 minutes before the recommendations went public on Monday to share them with him.

General approval of the eight recommendations, which can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3piHNyc, was not without some concern. The Beacon Journal sought but received no comment from Police Cheif Ken Ball, who is retiring in February, or Maj. Michael Caprez. 

Cozart said ramping up foot and bike patrols is fine, as long as an officer in danger isn’t left high and dry because backup is walking to get there.

Harrison paused when he got to language about hiring. Candidates are screened and questioned on their bad credit reports and drug offenses, which could be minor and nonviolent. This interview process, which involves a lie detector test, determines whether they get hired.

“They have absolute control of recommending or not recommending them,” Harrison said of sergeants doing the background investigations of potential cadets. “When they say it’s an honesty issue, that’s a judgement call. And when you’re talking about implicit biases, a lot of those biases come into play.”

Hill said she and members of her community have a strong interest in some citizen oversight committee. Council, instead, recommended strengthening the police auditor’s position, which Hill said she was something sought “across the board” in the community.

Now, she said, lawmakers need to find ways, in conjunction with the mayor and Akron police and community partners, to fund these recommendations and benchmark progress by collecting data today “to see how changes are affecting policies and procedure” after implementation.

“I was pleased to see all of the progress our city is making both in structure and inclusive thinking to better benefit Akron citizens and help our police department both reflect and serve the community more effectively,” added Bree Chambers, president of Akron Minority Council. The group of youth-led social justice advocates handed the mayor and council a list of police reforms in July, including a “great many” of that are “outlined or alluded to” in council’s recommendations.

As council works to legislate the recommendations, University of Akron Sociology and Anthropology Department Chair Rebecca Erickson has been asked to host virtual town hall meetings with residents in every city ward. Faculty and students will facilitate the conversations generated by the recommendations. Erickson said police officers will join the discussion by the end of the spring semester as a community survey solicits broader feedback.

Council President Margo Sommerville said that since council announced the special committee on Reimagining Public Safety in July, the public has asked when they would get the chance to speak on the topic of policing and community relations.

“Maybe there’s something that we missed that needs to be addressed,” Sommerville said. “So, we want to give the public that opportunity to do that. We’re really excited about this partnership and collaboration with the University of Akron because that too is something that we have not tapped into enough.”

Prior to approving the recommendations, council members thanked police officers and command staff who educated the special committee’s four working groups. It was enlightening, they said.

“We are probably far more advanced than many police agencies in terms of incorporating social services in to the police work that we do,” said Councilwoman Linda Omobien, the director of clinical services at Community Support Services.

“The Akron Police Department liaisons showed that this is an institution that has led the way on many of these issues, like on Crisis Intervention Team training. At the same time, they really showed that they want to keep moving forward,” said Councilman Shammas Malik, who was regarded by colleagues on council as critical to the success of a fact-finding, deliberative process that spanned five months and 22 meetings.

“It would not have been possible if not for him,” Sommerville said.

Malik credited Sommerville’s leadership as the driving force in “something that council hasn’t done before.”

“When we talk about building equitable policing, when we talk about improving community trust with law enforcement, here are ideas that I think we can all get behind,” Malik said. “Getting community input through the University of Akron is going to be important.”

Councilman Russ Neal said the process council started in September to better understand policing is a model for understanding and legislating solutions to other complex problems like housing high utility costs in the city. Neal asked council to consider more staff to help them dive deeply into other issues.

Along with involvement, Cozart said the union supports legislation that is grounded by facts. The process led to “more enlightenment and education on both sides,” he said.

“Change has to occur,” Hill said. “And it’s going to be a win-win for everyone once we get through the process.”

Reach reporter Doug Livingston at [email protected] or 330-996-3792.

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How Are Car Loans Amortized?

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Auto loans use simple interest, which means the balance of your auto loan determines your interest charges. An amortization schedule outlines how your interest and principal are paid in a simple interest loan. Here’s how simple interest works, and how you can save money when you finance a vehicle.

Auto Loan and Simple Interest

A loan that amortizes means that the principal is reduced over time, and requires monthly (or regular) payments. Your monthly payments are applied to both the principal of the loan and your interest charges that accrue. Most car loans use a simple interest formula. This means that your interest charges accrue daily based on the balance of your principal. The less you owe, the less you pay in interest charges.

The benefit of a simple interest formula is that with each on-time payment, you’re reducing your interest charges because you’re lowering your principal balance. This also means you’re charged less interest each time your payment rolls around.

To see how much interest you’re charged per payment, you can look up an amortization schedule and enter your auto loan terms. Here’s a quick example:

Auto loan terms:

$20,000 car loan / 60-month loan term / 10% interest rate / $424.94 monthly payment

  • First payment of $424.94:
    • Interest $167 / Principal $258 = Balance $19,742
  • Second payment $424.94:
    • Interest $165 / Principal $260 = Balance $19,481
  • Third payment $424.94:
    • Interest $162 / Principal $263 = Balance $19,219

As you can see, with each monthly payment you lower how much you pay in interest charges. Since there’s less interest accrued, more of your monthly payment is applied to your principal every month.

Planning Your Next Car Loan

How Are Auto Loans Amortized?Now that you know how auto loan amortization goes, you can plan your next car loan with confidence. It’s important to set yourself up for success and choose loan terms that benefit you.

While you may have some say in your loan terms, your credit score is a major player in qualifying for vehicle financing and determining your interest rate. With a low credit score, you’re more likely to qualify for a higher interest rate. If this is the case, then it’s typically more beneficial for you to choose a shorter loan term and/or a more affordable vehicle.

Opting for an expensive vehicle with a long loan term and a high interest rate puts you at risk for negative equity. Negative equity is when you owe more on the car than it’s worth. A higher interest rate can mean more of your monthly payment is applied to interest each month, and less to your principal – which can make it hard to lower your loan balance quickly.

If you’re a bad credit borrower and you’re concerned about paying excessive interest charges, it’s wise to choose a used vehicle. They’re usually more affordable, and you’re more likely to qualify for a loan on a lower sticker price.

Another way to reduce interest charges is by putting more money down on the loan. Saving a large down payment can take time, but lowering your loan amount means fewer interest charges can accrue.

If you have poor credit, a down payment requirement is customary. A good savings goal is at least $1,000 or 10% of the vehicle’s selling price. Most subprime lenders require at least that, and you can always put more down. The more cash you bring to the table, the fewer interest charges accrue over the course of your loan.

Take the Leap Into Vehicle Financing

Being prepared for an auto loan is a great first step in financing a vehicle. However, with a lower credit score, it can be difficult to find a lender that can assist you. There are lenders willing to help borrowers with credit challenges, though: subprime lenders.

These lenders look at more than your credit reports. Instead of just relying on your credit history, they examine your income, overall stability, and require a down payment. They’re signed up with special finance dealerships and we want to help you get in touch with one.

Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve created a network of dealers that are signed up with subprime lenders, and we’ve been helping borrowers find lending resources for over 20 years. Get started today by completing our free auto loan request form. Using our network, we’ll look for a dealership in your local area that has bad credit options. Take the leap into vehicle financing with us today, with no cost and no obligation!

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