Product Reviews

Self Lender Review: A Painless Way To Save Money And Build Credit

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James Garvey discovered a clever way to help Americans do these two things at the same time — for almost nothing.

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A few years ago, Self Lender CEO James Garvey learned something fascinating about credit unions — which are wonderful institutions not known for being exciting.

“I was looking for a way to build credit,” Garvey tells “I discovered that some credit unions would allow you to deposit money into a savings account, and then make you a loan guaranteed by your cash deposit.”

It sounds odd, but it’s true.  Called “credit builder loans” or “share-secured loans,” credit unions offer them as a unique way to bump up your credit score. But they have drawbacks.

First, you need to have a chunk of cash to deposit, and many Americans don’t. Second, you need to take time to visit a credit union — which aren’t known for convenient locations and long hours.


Credit Builder Loan, Self Lender

That’s where Garvey’s genius comes in.

“I thought: What if we could partner with a bank and create a product where the bank lends me the money upfront, but I have to save the money in a CD for 12 months?” he recalls. “In other words, lend money to my future-self in order to build credit and save money.”

And that’s how Self Lender became a thing. Now it’s a trend.

What is Self Lender?

Here’s how Self Lender works…

  • Sign up with Self Lender. You can do so through your Facebook account without a credit score.
  • You apply for a “credit builder account.” This is a small 1-2 years installment loan that’s kept in a CD, so it earns interest for you.
  • Repay your own loan. The following month, you begin to make monthly payments. Each payment reports to the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
  • Your FICO score rises.  “Payment history” is the biggest factor when you want to determine your credit score. It represents a whopping 35 percent of your overall score.

For all this, you pay a one-time administrative fee of $12 to $15 and a $3 processing fee per month. You can learn more by using Self Lender’s credit builder calculator.

Best of all, you can use auto-pay so you don’t forget to make a payment.

Self Lender is everywhere

“We’re opening more than 400 accounts each day,” Garvey says. “Our goal is to scale Self Lender to help millions of Americans become financially independent. In 3-5 years, Self Lender will have millions of satisfied customers who depend on Self Lender for building credit, saving money, and making smart financial decisions.”

To Garvey, Self Lender isn’t just his job, it’s his mission.

“The American middle-class is becoming under-served by traditional financial institutions,” he insists. “We want to offer exceptional financial products for everyday Americans. Many people in the U.S. need to build credit but don’t know how to get started. Our vision is to give every American the opportunity to responsibly build credit.”

Concludes Garvey…

“Self Lender is the embodiment of the American dream: We’ve removed the barriers and made it easy to start building credit, but it’s up to you to determine the outcome. Meritocracy is a beautiful thing.”

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