By T.J. Porter, WCI Contributor
Your credit score plays a huge role in your financial life, even if you don’t notice it. It impacts your ability to qualify for loans and borrow money to do things like buy a car or a house. It can also impact the rates you pay for things like auto insurance. If you’re looking to improve your credit score, there are many apps on the market that claim they can help, but can they really boost your score?
The 4 Best Credit-Building Apps
There are many apps that claim they can help you build credit. Each works in a slightly different way, so choosing the right one for your situation is key. These are some of our top picks.
Experian Boost is an app offered directly by one of the three major credit bureaus, so it easily lands a spot at the top of the list. This app works by reporting payments that usually don’t show up on your credit report, adding them to your credit history. With Experian Boost, you can get credit for things like paying your rent and utility bills or paying for subscription services. To get started, all you have to do is connect the accounts you use to pay those bills.
- Immediate results
- Only looks at positive payment history
- Boosts credit by paying bills and rent
- You need to have regular bills to pay for it to work
- Only affects your credit score with Experian
Self is a company that offers credit builder loans through its website and app. With Self’s credit builder loan, you’ll pick a payment plan, selecting a monthly payment amount and the term of your loan. Self does not give you the money upfront. Instead, it works like a sort of forced savings plan.
Self deposits your loan funds into a CD for you. When you pay off your loan, you’ll get access to the balance of the CD. You’ll receive slightly less than you paid in total due to fees and interest charges, but each monthly payment you make can boost your credit, making this a way to build some savings and boost your score at the same time.
- Save money and build credit at the same time
- Choose your monthly payment and loan term
- Cancel or pay off the loan whenever you need to
- $9 upfront fee
- High interest rates
Grow Credit is an app that helps people improve their credit by paying for subscription services. The way it does this is by offering a specialized credit card with very low limits.
The basic plan, called Build Free, is entirely free to use. It comes with a credit card that has a $17 monthly spending limit, which is just enough to pay for one or two subscription services. Once you get the card, you swap your subscription billing to it and pay the balance off each month. Grow Credit reports those payments to the credit bureaus, improving your score. You’ll also get access to your FICO score so you can track your progress and financial literacy education.
For a monthly fee, you can get a secured card—which can help if you can’t qualify for the basic plan—or a card with a higher limit and access to exclusive discounts.
- Reports to all three major credit bureaus
- Free for the basic plan
- Low spending limit
- High fees for certain plans
They say that knowledge is power, and that’s especially true when it comes to your credit score.
Credit Karma offers an app that makes it easy for you to keep an eye on your credit score. You’ll be able to see your score as it changes over time and read about the factors that are impacting it. If you see your score dropping because of a specific issue, you can take steps to rectify that and improve your score. You can also get suggestions for loans, credit cards, and other services that you may qualify for based on your credit score.
- Get product recommendations
- Credit education
- Won’t boost your credit on its own
More information here:
Do Credit-Building Apps Really Work?
Whether credit-building apps work depends on a few factors. They can work quite well but only for some people.
One important consideration is why your credit score is low in the first place. If your score is low because you don’t have much payment history or have missed a payment or two, a credit-building app could help by letting you improve your payment history. On the other hand, if you have a huge amount of debt, which is likely for a physician who may be saddled with a lot of student loans, these apps won’t help too much.
Understanding whether a credit-building app will work for you will require knowing why your credit score is what it is.
What Goes Into a Credit Score?
Your credit score is determined using five factors. In order from most to least important, those are:
- Payment history
- Amount owed
- Age of credit
- Credit mix
- New credit
Your payment history makes up more than one-third of your score, so it’s key to make sure you don’t miss payments. The amount owed portion of your score considers both your total amount of debt, as well as your credit card usage as compared to your credit card limits.
More information here:
How Can You Maintain a Good Score?
Maintaining a good credit score is far simpler than many people think. If you can follow two simple rules, you should maintain a strong score.
First, never miss a monthly payment. Signing up for automatic payments—which most bills, credit cards, and loans allow—will help you follow this rule. Second, only borrow money when you need it. That means avoiding maxing out your credit cards and applying for loans or new credit cards unnecessarily. Getting a loan like a mortgage or auto loan is no problem, but avoid opening three new credit cards and a personal loan just because you can.
By following these rules, you’ll improve your ratings in each of the credit scoring factors, helping you maintain or improve your overall score.
The White Coat Investor is filled with posts like this, whether it’s increasing your financial literacy, showing you the best strategies on your path to financial success, or discussing the topic of mental wellness. To discover just how much The White Coat Investor can help you in your financial journey, start here to read some of our most popular posts and to see everything else WCI has to offer. And if you're inspired to build a sturdy financial foundation, make sure to sign up for our WCI 101 email series.