Amazon Credit Builder review

Amazon Credit Builder review

Published: December 10, 2019
Published: December 10, 2019
Ratings Policy
Credit Building Rating:
3.3 rating
3.3 rating
3.3 / 5
Cost of Membership 3.8
Ease of Building Credit 2.7
APR 0.5
Features 2.5

In a Nutshell:

The Amazon Credit Builder’s $0 annual fee, low minimum deposit requirement and Prime member rewards make it a decent option for regular Amazon customers looking to build or rebuild their credit, but its restrictions, sky-high APR and low maximum credit limit hold it back.

Average cost of membership per year ($3,600 annual spend)
$0

Security deposit required
$100-$1,000

Initial credit limit
$100-$1,000 (equal to your deposit)

Access to higher credit line?
Not specified

APR
27.99% (variable)

Annual fee
$0

Other rates and fees

  • Minimum interest charge: $1.50
  • Late payment: up to $38

Rewards
5% back in rewards on Amazon.com purchases for Amazon Prime members

Pros

  • Bonus rewards for Amazon Prime members.
  • Easy to qualify for.
  • Equal Pay financing plans don’t use deferred interest.
  • Low minimum deposit requirement.
  • No annual fee.
  • Chance to upgrade to an unsecured store card.
  • Points don’t expire.
  • Synchrony Bank reports to three major credit bureaus.

Cons

  • Very high APR.
  • Low maximum credit limit.
  • No rewards unless you have a Prime membership.
  • Cannot be used at Whole Foods, on digital add-on subscriptions or rentals.
  • No special offers at Amazon.com.
  • Deferred interest financing offers are risky.
  • Amazon.com purchase requirement could lead to unnecessary spending.

Features: $0 fraud liability, credit monitoring and education tools, special financing options

Doubling as both a secured credit card and a retail rewards card, the Amazon Credit Builder is a unique offering that could appeal to frequent Amazon.com customers who need to build or rebuild their credit.

You can put down as little as $100 up front, get access to special financing offers and earn rewards on eligible Amazon.com purchases if you’re an Amazon Prime Member, all without paying an annual fee.

But beware of the card’s enormous APR, low credit limit and deferred interest financing offers, all of which could negatively impact your credit and financial wellbeing. Additionally, having rewards and card use tied to Amazon.com in a “closed loop” could lead to unnecessary spending for some cardholders.

Low deposit requirement

While many secured cards require a deposit of at least $200 or more up front, the Amazon Credit Builder requires a minimum deposit of just $100. This is a nice feature if you need to build your credit but don’t want to put down a lot of money to start. There are other secured cards that have a lower deposit requirement, however: The Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, for example, offers a minimum deposit as low as $49, depending on your credit.

Low max credit limit

Keep in mind, however, that your card’s credit limit is equal to your deposit amount. If, for example, you put down $100 as a deposit, you’d have a matching credit limit of $100. This means a charge of just $30 would use 30 percent of your available credit. Since credit utilization is a key factor in credit scoring, you should consider putting down a larger deposit on your secured card if you have the means.

While the Amazon Credit Builder’s low minimum required deposit is a welcome feature, its maximum credit limit of $1,000 falls short of that offered by many other secured cards. Several alternatives offer double this credit limit or more, including the Citi® Secured Mastercard® (up to $2,500) and the Green Dot primor® Mastercard® Gold Secured Credit Card (up to $5,000).

Account review at 7 months

One big plus of the Amazon Credit Builder is that it gives you the chance to upgrade your secured card to the unsecured Amazon.com Store Card if you demonstrate responsible use. Criteria used to determine if you’re eligible for an upgrade include whether you’ve made seven consecutive on-time payments, have no recent bankruptcy, foreclosure, repossessions or delinquent accounts and your credit score meets Synchrony Bank’s internal credit criteria.

Rewards for Amazon Prime members

One of the Amazon Credit Builder’s most intriguing features is its generous rewards rate of 5 percent back in rewards points on eligible Amazon.com purchases for Amazon Prime Members. This matches the rate offered by other popular retail rewards cards, like the Target REDCard and the IKEA Visa Credit Card.

As is expected for a retail credit card, though, you cannot claim your rewards points as cash back or a statement credit. Amazon points can only be used for purchases at Amazon.com. Amazon points never expire, and the site’s huge inventory should make it easy to find a practical use for them. That said, since an Amazon Prime membership costs $119 a year, you’ll have to spend over $2,000 annually just to break even with rewards.

Assuming you’re already a Prime member, the card’s rewards rate is respectable. However, there are a number of other credit-building cards that carry a less restrictive rewards scheme, such as the Petal Visa® Credit Card and the Discover it® Secured card, both of which offer a low entry barrier and true cash back rewards with no annual fee. Even better, if you sign up for the Discover it Secured card, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

Better-than-nothing sign-up bonus

The Amazon Credit Builder offers new cardholders a $10 Amazon.com gift card as a sign-up bonus. Since most secured cards don’t offer any sort of sign-up bonus, this is a welcome — if minor — perk.

High APR

While it doesn’t make much sense to carry a balance with a secured credit card, it can happen, and you’ll pay a hefty price if you do so with the Amazon Credit Builder. The card charges an APR of 27.99 percent. This is much higher than the average credit card APR and high even compared to the APR of many retail credit cards.

While they may lack a rewards program, many other credit-building cards have lower APRs, so if you have any doubt about your ability to pay off your balance by the due date each month, look elsewhere.

No annual fee

Unlike many secured cards, the Amazon Credit Builder does not charge an annual fee. This is a big plus, since secured cards frequently charge cardholders as much as $50 each year.

Restrictions on use

While the Amazon Credit Builder offers a great 5 percent back in rewards points for Prime members, there are some notable restrictions on what you can buy with the card.

The Credit Builder can be used on most Amazon.com and Audible.com purchases and with select Pay With Amazon Merchants, but excluded items include rentals, digital subscriptions (including newspapers and magazines), software downloads, cellphones associated with a service plan, digital add-on subscriptions (like Starz and Hulu) and Amazon Restaurants items. Additionally, unlike the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card, the Amazon Credit Builder cannot be used offline at Whole Foods.

Promotional financing on Amazon.com purchases

Similar to many retail cards, the Amazon Credit Builder offers special financing on larger purchases made at Amazon.com. The card is unique, however, in offering cardholders a choice in how they pay off their purchases.

You can choose between a fairly standard deferred interest financing option on purchases over $149 or Equal Pay, which allows you to spread out payments equally across 12 months with your monthly payments included as part of the minimum payment requirement on your statement.

Because of the risk associated with deferred interest financing offers (if you miss a payment or fail to pay back the balance before the end of the financing period, you’ll be charged interest on the starting balance going back to the beginning of the term), Equal Pay is a welcome alternative.

See related: Don’t fall into the deferred-interest trap

No special discounts or perks

Aside from the 5 percent rewards rate for Amazon Prime members, the Amazon Credit Builder does not offer any special discounts or bonuses on Amazon.com purchases. This is a notable shortcoming, since plenty of retail cards offer extra perks like free shipping, extended warranties or birthday surprises.

Approval odds

Since it’s designed for people who are looking to build or rebuild their credit and is backed by a security deposit, the Amazon Credit Builder should be fairly easy to qualify for. That said, you cannot check for pre-approval with Synchrony Bank and your application could be denied if your record shows a history of bankruptcy, missed payments or other credit red flags.

How does the Amazon Credit Builder compare to other credit-building cards?

While its rewards are a welcome deviation from the usually stripped-down secured credit card model, the Amazon Credit Builder is not the most versatile credit-building card available. Some other cards offer higher credit limits or the chance to earn no-strings-attached rewards. Here are a few of our favorite alternatives:

Petal Visa Credit Card

Petal Visa® Credit Card

Discover it Secured Card

Discover it® Secured Card

Citi Secured Mastercard

Citi® Secured Mastercard

Rewards rate

  • 1% cash back on purchases right away
  • Up to 1.5% cash back on every purchase after making 12 on-time monthly payments
Rewards rate

  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in purchases per quarter)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • None
Credit limit

  • $500-$10,000
Credit limit

  • $200-$2,500 (equal to your deposit)
Credit limit

  • $200-$2,500 (equal to your deposit)
Annual fee

  • $0
Annual fee

  • $0
Annual fee

  • $0
Other things to know

  • It’s an unsecured card, so no deposit is required
  • Petal evaluates alternative credit data (like income and bill payment history) when reviewing applications, not just credit score
  • Includes money-management tools and free credit reporting
Other things to know

  • Includes free FICO score
  • No late fee the first time you pay late
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No penalty APR and the issuer guarantees it won’t raise your APR if you skip a payment
Other things to know

  • You can upgrade to an unsecured card after 18 months of on-time payments
  • Includes free FICO score access
  • Geared toward consumers with limited or nonexistent credit

Petal Visa® Credit Card

A unique credit-building offering, the Petal Visa Credit Card allows you to earn true cash back with no deposit and no fees of any kind. You’ll earn 1 percent back on all purchases to start, with this rate increasing to 1.25 percent after you make six on-time payments and to 1.5 percent after 12 on-time payments. Additionally, since Petal considers alternative credit data in its approval decisions, it’s a great option for someone with spotty credit but a good income and bill payment history.

Discover it® Secured Card

Another card that combines credit-building with cash back rewards, the Discover it Secured card offers 2 percent back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in purchases per quarter) and 1 percent back on all other purchases. This is a respectable rate even compared to many general cash back cards. Plus, Discover will all your cash back in the first year.

Citi® Secured Mastercard

Geared more toward those new to credit, the Citi Secured Mastercard is a good no-frills starter card, offering a credit limit of up to $2,500 (equal to your deposit) and requiring a minimum deposit of $200. It can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted and could also be a gateway to an unsecured credit card, as cardholders have a chance to upgrade to an unsecured card after 18 months of on-time payments.

Why get the Amazon Credit Builder?

  • You have bad to fair credit or no credit history and need a card with a low barrier to entry.
  • You shop regularly at Amazon.com.
  • You’re already a Prime member and eligible for the Credit Builder’s bonus rewards rate on Amazon.com purchases.
  • You don’t want to pay an annual fee or put down a big deposit.
  • You can’t qualify for an unsecured Amazon card or a general credit-building card.
  • You need to finance a larger Amazon purchase, but can’t qualify for another rewards card with a 0 percent introductory APR on new purchases.

How to use the Amazon Credit Builder:

  • If you’re a Prime member, use the card for all eligible Amazon.com purchases to earn rewards points.
  • Pay off your purchases in full each month to avoid the card’s high APR.
  • Consider putting down a larger deposit to keep your credit utilization low and improve your credit score.
  • If financing a large purchase, opt for Equal Pay financing over deferred interest financing.
  • If you do go with deferred interest financing, have a solid plan for paying your purchase off on time to avoid massive interest charges.

Is the Amazon Credit Builder worth it?

While the Amazon Credit Builder comes with no annual fee and does a fair job of combining the credit-building tools of a secured card with the rewards benefits of a store card, its low maximum credit limit and restrictive rewards scheme keep it from competing with more flexible credit-building cards.

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