Money Tips

Building Credit

Building Credit

Establishing credit is incredibly important to your financial life. Good credit is essential, whether you want to buy a house or a car, get insurance or an apartment, or maybe even pay less of a deposit for utilities.

Building Credit

Lending Circles

  • A safe and affordable option that is helpful for any consumer looking for a small dollar loan.
  • Especially useful for those with no credit or bad credit.

One non-profit organization that focuses on Lending Circles: Mission Asset Fund, visit for more information.

First, what are Lending Circles?

Lending Circles provide a zero-interest loan to help participants build credit and access an affordable, small dollar loan. Six to ten people come together for an in-person formation and decide on an amount for their group loan, for example ten participants for a loan of $1,000. Each participant may have a different goal for the money they borrow, medical bills, paying off debt or paying tuition.

For example, 10 participants each pay $100 monthly, that totals to $1,000 which will go to one of the 10 participants monthly until all participants have received a $1,000 loan.

Participants in the Lending Circle make the same monthly payment ranging from $50 to $200. This is what Mission Asset Fund (MAF) reports to credit bureaus. After completing the program, many participants establish credit score for the first time or improve damaged ones.

Lending Circles Program steps:

  1. Apply
    • Fill out an online application
    • Take financial education
    • Complete online survey
  2. Join
    • Set loan amount and loan order
    • Sign loan documents
  3. Participate
    • Payments reported to credit bureaus
    • Statements emailed monthly
    • Receive loan when it's your turn

MAF is located in San Francisco, California but partners with organizations across the country to expand access to Lending Circles.

Community Financial Resources

Community Financial Resources (CFR) helps low and moderate income residents by working to create affordable financial products and services structured to help you avoid unnecessary fees while getting services you need. The way to get to their products is to connect to a community organization that works with CFR.

Here are the CFR products:

The CFR Prepaid Visa Debit Card is offered in partnership with US Bank. This is a good starting point for consumers who are unbanked and would like a secure way to save money and receive money.

  • No check-cashing or bank fees!
  • Direct deposit
  • No monthly fee
  • No minimum balance
  • Safeguards to prevent overdraft
  • No bounced checks or penalty fees
  • Linked savings account making it easy to save
  • Easily keep track of account balance via texts, email, phone inquiry or online
  • Get a join account card to inexpensively share money Pay bills on line and on time!
  • Free cash back at participating ATMs
  • Use wherever Visa is accepted

The Secured Credit Builder Card is offered through Cooperative Center Federal Credit, it combines building savings and building credit.

  • Open with as little as $200 in a savings account and start building or repairing your credit score!

Remember to always:

  • Make your monthly card payments on time
  • Only use 30% of your credit line
  • Even if you already have a credit card it's good to have additional trade lines on your credit report
  • Increase your credit limit by increasing your security deposit.

What is a secured credit card?

Fresh-Start or Credit-Builder loans, also known as secured credit cards, allow you build savings and credit at the same time. A secured credit card functions just as a regular credit card does, but your credit line depends on how much is held as a security deposit in your savings account. The savings account is yours, and you can access any money beyond the security deposit. The Credit Union lets your borrow against the security deposit in your savings. Once you show that you are able to make on-time payments they report those payments to the Credit Bureaus, and that improves your credit.


  • No credit score requirement
  • No annual fee
  • ITIN or Social Security Number accepted
  • 10.25% APR

Why care about my credit score?

  • Lower cost loans
  • More affordable mortgages
  • No large security deposits to set up utilities
  • Looked at when submitting rental applications and job screenings.

To learn more about CFR and other resources they offer visit:

Contact HERA to get help with applying for the CFR Prepaid Visa Debit Card:
HERA website 
HERA email 
HERA phone: (510) 271-8443
You can also email CFR at