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Put credit improvement on autopilot

Payment History Visualization - Financial Transactions Over Time

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Credit Sesame discusses how to put your credit improvement on autopilot.

How difficult is it to build your credit score? Does it take a lot of time? Many people think it is complicated and time-consuming to manage and improve their credit and so they don’t even try. Failing to manage your credit can block opportunities or make it more expensive to use credit.

The truth is, credit management and building do not have to be hard. You can even make it happen automatically. If you do not qualify for a traditional credit card, a Credit Sesame Credit Builder account can make it easy for you to start establishing a credit history. You can set up this account so it is self-maintaining and simplifies your bill-paying process. With ongoing responsible credit management, this account can help open the doors to credit access and increase your financial flexibility and opportunity.

Where to start your credit improvement journey

If you have low or no credit history or score getting started can be a challenge. In particular,

  1. It can be very hard to get started with credit for the first time.
  2. It is difficult to improve your credit standing once it is damaged.

Getting started

People who want to start their credit journey often run into a frustrating problem. In order to open a credit account, you usually need a credit history. But you can’t establish a credit history until you open a credit account.

This problem shuts a lot of Americans out of the credit system. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a U.S. government agency set up to keep an eye on how the financial industry treats consumers, found 45 million consumers in the United States either had no credit history at all, or did not have enough of a credit history to generate a credit score.

The CFPB found that this problem is especially common for young adults. People under 25 are more likely to have little or no credit history than any other age group. However, the problem exists to some degree across all age groups.

Some older consumers never found a way to establish a credit history. Others did but used credit so infrequently that their records are considered out of date. Others established the wrong kind of history and experienced credit problems that damaged their credit scores.

Credit mobility

“Credit mobility” is a term used to describe how readily a person can change their credit status. Whether it is getting started or improving your credit history, traditionally credit mobility has been very difficult.

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York looked at credit mobility. The researchers ranked people into five tiers based on their access to credit from “credit insecure” to “credit assured.” The New York Fed then defined counties in the United States using the same tiers indicating where their populations scored in terms of credit access.

Using this county-by-county measure of access to credit, the New York Fed then monitored credit mobility over time. Over an 11-year period, the study found that most counties did not change in terms of the overall credit access of their populations. 68% of the U.S. population lives in counties where the overall credit status did not change.

28% of the population lives in counties where the overall credit status of consumers declined over the 11-year period. Credit access for the populations of these counties got worse over time. 9.2% of the population lives in a county where credit access improved over the 11-year period. Overall, under 1 in 10 people saw their access to credit improve. One way to look at is that overall individuals had less than a 1 in 10 chance that their credit access would improve.

The 11-year period covered a range of different economic conditions, from just before a recession to several years into a recovery, which means low credit mobility cannot be blamed on a poor economy. The results of the study demonstrate how hard it is to overcome credit roadblocks in any circumstances.

Who uses credit and debit?

For everyday expenses, most people pay using either a debit card or a credit card.

  • Debit card. Debit cards are associated with accounts where you keep money on deposit and then use a debit card to spend on that account. These accounts are easy to get because you are using your own money rather than borrowing it on credit. However, since there is no credit involved, payments from a debit account do nothing to build your credit history.
  • Credit card. Credit card accounts borrow money from the credit card company each time you make a payment using the credit card. You then pay it back, either all at once or bit by bit. Those repayments are reported to credit bureaus and contribute to your credit history. However, getting this kind of account with an insufficient or poor credit history can be difficult.

A Credit Sesame survey found that people with low credit scores are far more likely to use debit accounts than credit accounts. In contrast, people with high credit scores use credit cards more often than debit accounts. How can consumers overcome this catch-22 situation and start building credit without an established credit history?

How to put credit improvement on autopilot

One way to establish payment history with the credit bureaus is using a credit building account. Payment history is the major factor contributing to credit score and establishing a positive and reliable payment history is usually good for improving credit score. Credit Sesame’s Sesame Cash with Credit Builder is en example of a credit building account.

When you add Credit Builder to your Sesame Cash account, you can start building credit with debit. Each time you p[ay using your Sesame Cash debit card, the transaction is cleared through a virtual secured credit card and funds are set aside to pay off the credit card at the end of each month. From your perspective, it seems you are paying by debit card. At the end of each month, the money set aside is used to pay off the virtual credit card, building positive payment history. This positive payment history can help improve your credit score. It may sound complicated but much of it is designed to happen automatically:

  • Credit Builder is easily accessible as an app on your mobile device.
  • Sign up online in minutes, with no security deposit or credit application.
  • Use your Sesame Cash card just like any other debit card.
  • When you use your Sesame Cash card, money is automatically transferred to the Credit Builder account.
  • No risk of missed credit payments. Money in the Credit Builder account pays off the credit balance at the end of each statement cycle.
  • These credit payments are reported to all three credit bureaus by Credit Sesame.
  • You can fund your Sesame Cash account with direct deposits from your paychecks.
  • As an alternative to direct deposit, you can set up autopay to replenish your account as needed from a bank account.
  • You can avoid monthly fees with monthly direct deposits of $500 or spending activity of $1,000.

This arrangement is different from having a traditional secured credit card, where you must set aside a security deposit that is not available for you to spend. With the Credit Builder option, all the money you put into your Sesame Cash account is available for your use at any time.

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Disclaimer: The article and information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.


Sesame Cash is a prepaid debit card issued by Community Federal Savings Bank (CFSB). Building credit with Sesame Cash requires you to also open a secured line of credit with CFSB that is reported to the credit bureaus. Use money from your Sesame Cash account to create a secured line of credit (Secured Account). Your debit card purchases are then added up to create a balance on your Secured Account. As you make these purchases, an amount equal to the balance on your Secured Account is also set aside in your Sesame Cash account to ensure you can make timely payments to pay off the balance on your secured line of credit at the end of each month, allowing you to build a positive payment history. Credit Sesame does not guarantee credit score improvement. Any predicted credit improvement from the use of your Secured Account assumes that you will maintain healthy credit habits, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning, and more.


Sesame Cash fees include a $9.99 monthly fee (“Monthly Fee”) and a $3 monthly inactivity fee (“Inactivity Fee”). However, we may waive these fees as follows: To qualify for the waiver of the Monthly Fee, you must either deposit $500 into your Sesame Cash account through direct deposit or spend $1,000 each month with your Sesame Cash account. Spending can be satisfied either through point of sale transactions or by using your Sesame Cash card to pay your bills. To qualify for the waiver of the Inactivity Fee, there must be money movement or a purchase made with your Sesame Cash account at least once within a 30-day rolling period. As a courtesy, we will not charge you the Monthly Fee or the Inactivity Fee within the first 30 days of account opening. Review the Sesame Cash Cardholder Agreement for the full fee schedule and additional details. International and out-of-network cash withdrawal fees apply. Third-party and cash deposit fees may also apply.

Richard Barrington
Financial analyst for Credit Sesame, Richard Barrington earned his Chartered Financial Analyst designation and worked for over thirty years in the financial industry. He graduated from St. John Fisher College and joined Manning & Napier Advisors. He worked his way up to become head of marketing and client service, an owner of the firm and a member of its governing executive committee. He left the investment business in 2006 to become a financial analyst and commentator with a focus on the impact of the economy on personal finances. In that role he has appeared on Fox Business News and NPR, and has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, CNBC and many other publications.

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See your score.
Reach your goals.

Begin your financial journey with Credit Sesame today.
Get your FREE credit score in seconds.

By clicking on the button above, you agree to the Credit Sesame Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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