Trying to build up your credit history and improve your credit score, when you have no existing history, is a huge challenge.
It’s a classic chicken & egg scenario – you can’t get a credit card without credit history and you can’t build a credit history if you can’t get a credit card!
There’s now a third option – a debit card that builds credit and also earns reward points.
Best of all, you get to keep your existing bank.
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You set up an Extra account and then connect your existing bank to your Extra account. They work with 10,000+ banks. Then they issue you a debit card that has a spending limit based on your bank account balance.
You use the debit card, they will cover the purchase and then pay themselves back from your bank account the next business day. At the end of each month, they report your total purchases that month as payments to two credit bureaus – Equifax and Experian. Since they’ve extended you credit, albeit one business day, it’s accurate.
In addition to building credit, Extra also offers 1% rewards points on your purchases.
This is different than a secured credit card because you don’t have to give them a deposit. With secured credit cards, you typically give them a few hundred dollars and they give you a “credit limit” that matches. With Extra, you don’t have to give up a deposit.
The only cost to you is a subscription fee which is as low as $7 a month. (more on this below)
Extra is run by Thingy Thing, Inc. which also operates Down to Shop, an “interactive shopping experience that specializes in producing funny, shoppable shows featuring our own crazy characters selling the coolest products we can find.” My only takeaway from this is that they’re used to ecommerce and the quirkiness could be a nice change of pace for a financial tech company!
Their banking partner is Evolve Bank and Trust, which is FDIC insured, but they are not because they’re not a bank. They’re just a debit card linked to your bank.
For banking integration, they use Plaid. If your bank integrates with Plaid, which now numbers more than 10,000+ banks, then your bank works with Extra. Finally, the card you get is a Mastercard so it works anywhere Mastercard does (except outside the United States, Extra only works within the US).
Practically any adult with a United States or Canadian based bank account (again, they integrate with Plaid so it’s any bank Plaid supports) can use Extra.
Technically, you need to have a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number plus an address in the United States that they can send your card to. They will not send it to a Post Office box.
How do you know if you bank is supported by Plaid? You can check! Just go to https://get.extra.app/ and scroll down to the section that says “Does Extra Connect with My Bank” and enter your bank’s name.
The benefit of the paying back the card daily (and the fact that it’s a debit card) is that there is no interest. You can’t carry a balance beyond the one day so you’re never at risk of paying them a penny in interest.
Also, based on how they’ve structured the card, there is no credit check required (no impact to your credit score) and the daily payback means the impact to your credit utilization is negligible.
The only cost is the monthly fee and that depends on the level of service.
You can get just the Credit Building service or get Credit Building and Rewards. You can also pay on a monthly basis or pay it annually for a discount.
For Credit Building only:
- $8 per month, or,
- $84 per year ($7 per month)
For Credit Building & Rewards only:
- $12 per month, or,
- $108 per year ($9 per month)
In both cases, paying annually lowers the cost (especially for Rewards) so if you plan on using it for building credit, it seems to make sense to pay annually.
Extra Debit Card Pros and Cons
- You can build a credit history using a debit card
- It links with your existing bank account (as long as it’s supported by Plaid)
- You can earn 1% in reward points (but extra monthly fee)
- There is no credit check required
- Monthly fee starting at $7 a month, you must pay extra for rewards
- You cannot withdraw cash from your bank account using the debit card
- It cannot be used outside the United States
Like what the Extra Debit Card offers but not sure if it’s for you? Fair enough, paying $7 a month for this might be a good deal or a bad deal – what are some alternatives to this?
Chime Credit Builder
Chime is a fintech company that, among other services, offers a Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card. The difference between this and a traditional secured credit card is that because Chime also offers a Savings Account, they can offer credit card services without requiring a security deposit.
If you have a Chime Spending account with a $200 qualifying direct deposit, you can use Credit Builder to start building your credit. It’s in essence looking at your cashflow to offer a bit of credit, which is then building your credit history.
Chime Credit Builder is free and reports to all three bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.
Grain does something similar in that they look at your primary checking account and then pre-approves you for a line of credit. They say they used your “cash flow” and not your “credit” to determine how much to offer you (max is $1,000). Then you use Grain as your credit card and you can build your credit history since this is a line of credit, which is reported to the bureaus.
Sometimes, based on your cash flow, you may not qualify for an unsecured line. In this case, they require a security deposit and so it’s similar to a secured credit card.
Grain doesn’t charge you a monthly fee but they do charge a 1% finance charge if you withdraw (similar to a cash advance) and there is interest on your balance, 15% APR with auto-pay and 17.99% APR without, as of 12/22/2021).
If you have an existing bank you like and having trouble building a credit history, the Extra Debit Card can be a good option. The monthly fee is is higher than some secured credit cards but you don’t have to put a large deposit and you won’t be subject to interest. The all-in cost may be lower depending on your usage.
The rewards points are a nice benefit but the higher monthly fee might offset any rewards you get. If you pay annually, it’s only $1 per month more which you can “earn back” by spending at least $100 on the card each month. Rewards is a feature that doesn’t often come with secured credit cards or many debit cards.
In the end, you’ll have to do the math and see if the fees justify the benefits of the card.