Borrowell Credit Builder Review 2023: Boost Your Score Without Borrowing?

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    Is your credit in the crapper? It might be time to try the new Borrowell Credit Builder program. This handy new feature could help boost your score without borrowing a dime. No hard credit check, no debt, and no commitment required. It kind of feels like they just handed us another set of keys to the credit kingdom. And the best part? These keys open a safe with some cold hard cash in it too! Ready to revamp that cringe credit score and mank bank in the process? Here’s what to know about the new Borrowell Credit Builder program that builds and saves.

    What Is Borrowell?

    Founded in 2014, Borrowell is a Canadian fintech company renowned for offering financial products designed to help you better understand, manage, and improve your credit. Since then, it has quickly established itself as one of our country’s premier online platforms for free credit score checks and credit reports, a service once uncommon but now a staple for many people seeking financial transparency.

    Beyond just providing free credit scores, Borrowell offers a suite of tools and personalized advice aimed at helping you optimize your overall financial health. This includes personalized product recommendations based on your individual credit profile, from loans to credit cards, and bank accounts to insurance, to make sure you find the best financial products suited to your needs.

    The cherry on top is that they hand-pick the products you will most likely be approved for, minimizing the risk of rejected applications and potentially damaging hard credit checks. 

    One of Borrowell’s standout services is the new Borrowell Credit Builder program. This feature is designed for people who want to improve or establish their credit scores. Rather than a traditional loan, this program combines a savings plan with program fees, and the consistent payments help demonstrate financial responsibility, which in turn can boost your credit score.

    Why Is Good Credit Important?

    Channelling my inner Jack White, “I’ve said it once before but it bears repeating”: your credit score is the gatekeeper to financial wellness. It dictates everything from getting a basic credit card to getting approved for an apartment, mortgage, car loan, and even whether or not you land your dream job. 

    In the not-so-distant past, the only way to build credit was to access it. But you couldn’t access it unless you already had good credit. Welcome to the most epic catch-22 ever. That left credit-challenged people at the mercy of subprime lenders, or worse, shady loan sharks charging obscene interest rates. Uh, debt trap much?

    There basically weren’t any other options to build or rebuild your credit, unless you were willing to fork over a large upfront cash deposit on a secured credit card. That is, until a few fintechs, including Borrowell, answered the Bat Signal. Now, there are better ways to build credit popping up all around us. The new Borrowell Credit Builder is the latest tool to add to your belt. 

    What Is The Borrowell Credit Builder Program? 

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    If you’ve been struggling to build or improve your credit score, Borrowell now offers a tool that completely sidesteps this age-old conundrum. The Borrowell Credit Builder program is designed to help you build your credit score through responsible borrowing. Only, you’re not actually borrowing anything. 

    In fact, you’re saving money. It acts like an installment loan, allowing you to make fixed monthly payments over a specific period. And those payments are reported to Equifax every month. But there’s a catch. 

    Unlike a traditional installment loan, no cash is given to you upfront. Instead, a portion of your payments are set aside, like deposits to a savings account. At the end of the term, you get a decent chunk of cash returned to you. 

    And the best part? There is no interest charged on your payments. Instead, you pay a flat program fee each month for the first 24 months of the program. For the remaining 12 months, that “fee” is no longer a fee, because 100% of it now goes to funding your savings balance. This fee is set and remains the same throughout the duration of the program. By not charging interest, the Borrowell Credit Builder program aims to provide a transparent and predictable payment structure for users.

    How Does Borrowell Credit Builder Work?

    You have to apply through the app or online, but it’s quick and painless. There’s no hard credit check during the application process, and you can cancel anytime without penalty charges. To make life super easy, payments are automatically withdrawn from your bank account by pre-authorized debit (PAD). 

    The Borrowell Credit Builder program offers 3 different plans to suit your budget and goals: Starter, Plus, and Pro. Each program offers different payment amounts and savings potential. Even though you get to choose your own adventure, the term is always 36 months (3 years). Here’s a breakdown of how it all works:


    Monthly Payment: $10

    Total Savings: $240

    During the first 24 months, you make a monthly payment of $10. Out of this amount, $5 is allocated towards your savings, while the remaining $5 goes towards the program fee. From months 25 to 36, the monthly payment remains at $10, with the entire amount now directed towards savings. By the end of the 36-month period, you can accumulate a total savings of $240.


    Monthly Payment: $30

    Total Savings: $744

    Over the first 24 months, you make a monthly payment of $30. Out of this amount, $16 is allocated towards savings, and $14 covers the program fee. From months 25 to 36, the monthly payment remains at $30, with the entire $30 now directed towards savings. By the end of the 36-month period, you can accumulate a total savings of $744.


    Monthly Payment: $50

    Total Savings: $1,320

    For the first 24 months, you make a monthly payment of $50. The payment is split, with $30 going to savings, while the remaining $20 covers the program fee. During the last 11 months of the term, the entire $50 monthly payment then goes towards savings. By the end of the 3 years, you’ll have a total savings balance of $1,320 coming to you.

    Zero Interest Doesn’t Mean Zero APR

    The Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, is a crucial factor to consider when evaluating loan offers, including innovative credit-building tools that boast 0% interest rates. It represents the annualized cost of borrowing, expressed as a percentage. While the Borrowell Credit Builder program requires you to pay a monthly fee instead of traditional interest charges, that monthly fee is still a component of the overall cost of credit. 

    By converting the fee into an APR for each of the different Credit Builder plans, you can accurately compare it to the cost of other credit building tools on the market. So in the spirit of financial literacy, here’s how to calculate the approximate APR so you can make an informed decision: 

    APR = (Total Cost of Loan / Loan Amount) x (365 / Loan Term in days) x 100

    Now let’s calculate the APR for each Borrowell Credit Builder plan based on the program fee:

    Starter: 25% APR

    Monthly Payment: $10/month

    Allocation of Payments: $5 towards savings, $5 towards program fee for the first 24 months

    Total Program Fee: $5 x 24 = $120

    Loan Amount: $240

    Loan Term in days: (24 months / 12 months) x 365 = 730

    APR = ($120 / $240) x (365 / 730) x 100 = 25%

    Plus: 23.53% APR

    Monthly Payment: $30/month

    Allocation of Payments: $16 towards savings, $14 towards program fee for the first 24 months

    Total Program Fee: $14 x 24 = $336

    Loan Amount: $744

    Loan Term in days: (24 months / 12 months) x 365 = 730

    APR = ($336 / $714) x (365 / 730) x 100 = 23.53%

    Pro: 18.18% APR

    Monthly Payment: $50/month

    Allocation of Payments: $30 towards savings, $20 towards program fee for the first 24 months

    Total Program Fee: $20 x 24 = $480

    Loan Amount: $1,320

    Loan Term in days: (24 months / 12 months) x 365 = 730

    APR = ($480 / $1,320) x (365 / 730) x 100 = 18.18%

    Based on these calculations, you get the best bang for your buck with the Pro plan, coming in with the lowest APR of 18.18%. That’s lower than most credit cards on the market. If you have bad credit, you’d likely need a secured credit card which requires an upfront security deposit equal to your desired credit limit. Not very practical if you don’t have a lot of cash on hand. Not to mention, Borrowell Credit Builder is hella lower than most subprime lenders out there. 

    Why did I teach you this little math lesson? So you can accurately compare the cost of credit on a zero-interest product against an interest-bearing product touting the same credit-building benefits. The program fee essentially serves the same purpose as traditional interest, it’s how the company makes money. But unlike interest on something like a secured credit card – it doesn’t compound to screw you over. Oh, and you don’t need to fork over a big lump sum of money. So there’s that. 

    * Please note: these calculations are based on the program fees, savings amount, and term lengths disclosed on the Borrowell website and may vary depending on the specific terms and conditions of the Borrowell Credit Builder program. The formula used is a basic APR calculation that may differ from a more complex formula used by Borrowell that is tailored to the terms of its unconventional credit product. It is always recommended to refer to official documentation or consult with Borrowell directly for accurate APR calculations. 

    Can Anyone Use Borrowell Credit Builder?

    Unfortunately, no. Not just anyone can use the Borrowell Credit Builder program. First of all, it’s not available in Quebec, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick. Bummer, I know. But if you live anywhere else in Canada, you can use the program if: 

    • You’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
    • You’re currently living in Canada (in an eligible province or territory)
    • You’re the age of majority in the province where you live 
    • Have a credit file that is at least 6 months old
    • Have at least 2 tradelines on your Equifax credit file (credit card, loan, line of credit, etc.)

    Just create a free account, then sign up for Credit Builder through the app or online. They’ll ask you a few questions, request a piece of government-issued photo identification, and perform a soft credit check – don’t worry, it won’t hurt your credit score. The entire process takes just a few minutes. Make sure you have your bank account information handy because you’ll need that to set up automatic payments. 

    Pros & Cons Of Borrowell Credit Builder

    When it comes to your money (and your credit!) it’s essential to consider the pros and cons before making any financial decisions. Here’s what to consider before deciding to participate in the Borrowell Credit Builder program.


    ? Accessible Credit-building: The Borrowell Credit Builder program provides an opportunity for you to build or boost your credit score, even if you have limited or no credit history.

    ? No Traditional Interest Charges: Instead of charging traditional interest rates, Borrowell uses a monthly fee structure, making it easier for you to understand and manage your payments.

    ? Lower APR Compared to Alternatives: The Borrowell Credit Builder program offers varying plans with APRs ranging from 18.18% to 25%, which are lower than those offered by many credit cards and subprime lenders.

    ? User-friendly Process: Signing up for the program is quick and straightforward, with a simple web or app-based application process. Soft credit checks are performed, which don’t impact credit scores.

    ? Savings Component: Along with building credit, participants in the program can also save money, as a portion of the monthly fee is used to build your savings.


    ? Limited Availability: The Borrowell Credit Builder program is not available in Quebec, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick, restricting access for residents of these provinces.

    ? Monthly Fee Requirement: To participate in the program, users are required to pay a monthly fee, which may increase the overall cost of credit compared to programs or options that don’t have a fee structure.

    ? Program Fees Vary: The monthly fee amount for the Borrowell Credit Builder program varies by plan, so you need to carefully consider the costs associated with their chosen plan.

    ? Requires an Existing Credit History: To be eligible for this program, you need to have a credit file that is at least 6 months old and is currently reporting at least 2 tradelines on your Equifax credit report. That means this service is not accessible to those who have no credit history, are brand new to credit, or only have one tradeline reporting. 

    ? Requires Bank Account Information: Setting up automatic payments for the program requires providing bank account information, which may not be ideal if you prefer alternative payment methods.

    ? Not a Quick Fix: While the Borrowell Credit Builder program can help individuals improve their credit score over time, it’s important to note that it is not a quick fix and requires consistent participation and on-time payments.

    Borrowell Credit Builder vs. KOHO Credit Building 

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    However, Borrowell is not the only one in town offering credit-boosting tools. And they certainly aren’t the first to offer an interest-free credit building service either. If you’re looking to establish or boost your credit, KOHO offers two credit-building options you might want to consider: the Credit Building Line of Credit and Flexible Credit Building. Here’s how they work:

    Credit Building Line of Credit

    KOHO provides you with an unsecured credit line of $225, without requiring collateral, like a security deposit. You can access this credit directly from the KOHO app. Payments are made through pre-authorized debits from your KOHO Account each month and are reported to Equifax. The cost of the Credit Building Line of Credit is between $5 and $10 per month for a six-month subscription cycle. The actual cost depends on the account plan you have with KOHO. After six months, you can decide whether to re-subscribe or cancel the program.

    Flexible Credit Building

    With the Flexible Credit Building tool, you set aside $30 to $500 of your own money as a secured line of credit accessible through your KOHO account. You can withdraw the amount you need, and KOHO will collect what you owe at the end of the month. Making on-time payments helps build your credit score. You can choose to pay back the money early or wait for KOHO to automatically collect it on the due date. The fee for this service is also between $5 and $10 per month, depending on your KOHO account package. 

    A particularly cool feature is the ability to combine both options if you want to maximize your credit-building potential. To do that, just subscribe to both. 

    The KOHO Credit Building lines of credit give you the opportunity to establish and build your credit score, even if you don’t have an existing credit file. Additional benefits include the ability to repay your outstanding balance at any time without penalties, no interest payments on the Credit Building Line, no hard credit checks to apply, and no non-sufficient fund fees if you’re short on cash when the payment pulls. 

    Consider the KOHO Credit Building service if you’re looking for a way to establish or boost your credit but you prefer a shorter-term program. It’s also an ideal way to start building your credit if you don’t currently have a credit history at all.

    Is Borrowell Credit Builder Right For Me?

    Still on the fence? Borrowell Credit Builder is ideally suited for people who are looking to improve their credit scores and build a stronger financial profile. Its structure, which uses monthly fees as part of the credit-building process, makes it an effective tool if you’re comfortable with regular payments and are committed to long-term credit improvement. 

    Personally, I love the emphasis on saving money alongside credit building. This makes it a powerful way to develop healthier financial habits – especially if you respond well to incentives, like getting rewarded for all your hard work with a nice lump of cold hard cash. Not to mention, it reports as an instalment loan on your credit report rather than a line of credit, which helps diversify your credit mix – giving your score a little extra oomph on top of your payment history. 

    However, not everyone will vibe with the Borrowell Credit Builder program. For example, residents of Quebec, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick are ineligible for the program. Plus, people who are wary of monthly fees or prefer alternative payment methods might find other options more appealing.

    On the other hand, KOHO Credit Building could be a better choice if you value a broader range of services and features. With its cash back prepaid Mastercard, up to 4.5% interest on deposits, free daily banking transactions, and comprehensive budgeting tools, KOHO offers a more robust approach to financial management – especially if you’re looking for daily banking services.

    And since the fees are lower and the term is just 6 months, KOHO Credit Building could be a more cost-effective choice if you’re on a tight budget or prefer not to commit to three years of ongoing fees.

    While both offer unique advantages, the best choice depends on your individual needs, preferences, and circumstances. Whether you’re looking for a straightforward way to build credit, or want a more holistic approach to managing your money, both platforms provide valuable tools to help you achieve your financial goals.

    But since Borrowell stashes away a portion of your payments and gives them back to you at the end, Borrowell Credit Builder wins my vote. But it’s not a zero-game. Why not use both companies at the same time to get the best of both worlds? 

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    Heidi Unrau is a senior finance journalist at Hardbacon. She studied Economics at the University of Winnipeg, where she fell in love with all-things-finance. At 25, she kicked-off her financial career in retail banking as a teller. She quickly progressed to become a Credit Analyst and then Private Lender. This hands-on industry experience uniquely positions her to provide expert insight on loans, credit scores, credit cards, debt, and banking services. She has been featured in publications such as WealthRocket, Scary Mommy, Credello, and Plooto. When she's not chasing after her two little boys, you'll find her hiding in the car listening to the Freakonomics podcast, or binge-watching financial crime documentaries with a bowl of ice cream. Fun Fact: Heidi has lived in five different provinces across Canada and her blood type is coffee.