Cred.ai Review: A Credit-Building Debit Hybrid (with a Unicorn)
Cred.ai Unicorn Card

Cred.ai Review: A Credit-Building Debit Hybrid (with a Unicorn)

Years ago, while watching YouTube’s Philip DeFranco Show, I was introduced to the Cred.ai Unicorn card and was instantly intrigued. Later that same day, I decided to apply for a card of my own. Since then, while I’ve written about the Unicorn card in various articles, I’ve never actually done a proper review of it. That changes today.

So, what exactly is the Cred.ai Unicorn card and what does it have to offer? Let’s take a look at what you need to know about this unique offering.

Cred.ai Unicorn Credit Card
Cred.ai Unicorn Card: A Credit-Building Card That Acts Like a Debit (and More)
3.5
Annual fee
N/A
Fee-free ATM access
Yes, via Allpoint network

Cred.ai’s Unicorn card is a super sleek and clever credit-building solution. With no annual fee and a debit-esque experience, the platform offers an easy way for cardholders to establish a positive payment history. At the same time, those who don’t necessarily need to build credit won’t benefit much from the platform as the account doesn’t offer rewards or interest. So, if you need to build credit, then this could be a great option. But, outside of that, it may not be worth it (despite the awesome card design and app).

Pros
  • Can help build credit by reporting positive payment history
  • Automatic payment option makes the card function like a debit card, preventing debt
  • Includes a metal card with fun unicorn design
Cons
  • Funds in deposit account do not earn interest
  • Card purchases don’t earn rewards
  • Cannot opt out of credit option despite debit-esque features

Cred.ai: What it is and How it Works

Cred.ai Visa card and app

About Cred.ai

Billed as “bank tech that changes lives,” Cred.ai is a FinTech that creates unique cards. While the company offers its own Unicorn card directly to consumers, it’s expanded to offer similar services to different brands. Most interestingly, it seems that Cred.ai also powers a version of the card that’s exclusive to Starbucks partners called Siren card.

Since Cred.ai is not a bank, their cards are issued by Wilmington Savings Fund Society Bank. WSFS also provides Cred.ai’s deposit accounts, so funds are FDIC insured up to $250,000 per depositor.

Signing up

To join Cred.ai, you’ll of course need to provide the typical personal data, including your name, address, Social Security number, and more. You’ll also need to provide a phone number — and it can’t be a VoIP number.

One thing you won’t need to apply is a FICO score. Cred.ai also says that applying won’t impact your credit because they don’t do a hard pull. While that’s true, be aware that the account being added to your credit report can have an impact (although it will hopefully be positive since you’ll have added credit availability).

In order to get the most from Cred.ai, you’ll also need to link an external bank account. This is done via Plaid, allowing you to log into your account. Once connected, you’ll be able to make a transfer from your bank account to Cred.ai.

How the card works

As I just mentioned, when you open a Cred.ai Unicorn Card, the account will be added to your credit report along with an available credit number. In my case, my line of credit shows as $1,500 on my credit report. Granted, I don’t see anywhere in the app where this limit is stated — and I don’t have/have never had $1,500 in my account before. Therefore, I feel as though this limit is probably the standard. But, it’s also largely irrelevant in my experience.

Although Cred.ai’s Unicorn card is a credit card, it functions exactly like a debit card. This is to say that, when you make purchases, they’ll be deducted from your balance. However, what’s actually happening is the service is totaling up your charges and then automatically paying them off for you.

While this functionality is the default, you can opt out of Automatic Balance Payments. If you do this, you may incur interest, late fees, and other expenses if you don’t pay your balance in a timely manner. The app also warns that it will “not allow you to make purchases beyond what Cred.ai determines you can safely spend based on your behavior.

If you are going to use Cred.ai, I’d highly recommend leaving the Automatic Balance Payments feature on so you don’t have to worry about accruing debt or paying fees. Instead, just pay with your Unicorn card as you would a debit card and establish payment history in the process.

Cred.ai convenience funding screenshot

Transfers and convenience funding

In addition to standard ACH transfers, Cred.ai offers a useful feature called convenience funding. With this option, you can instantly add to your Cred.ai balance by charging a debit card. Of course, to do this, you’ll first need to add a debit card number to the app. Also, there are limits to how often this feature can be used. Currently, convenience funding must be made for between $100 and $250. Additionally, there’s a $250 per day cap, a $500 per week cap, and a $1,000 per month cap.

Cred.ai users can also set up auto-reload for their account. With this option, users can select how much they’d like to deposit to their account when their balance falls below a certain threshold. This could be a great feature if you want to ensure that there’s always money available on your Unicorn card.

Your physical card and card management

If you’re wondering where the Unicorn card name comes from, well, the card happens to feature a geometric unicorn design. Plus, the card is made of metal (weighing in at 17 grams).

In the app, you can manage your card with a number of options. For example, you can toggle the card off to block all transactions. Alternatively, you can make it so that the card will only be accepted by tap or chip (not by swiping). Other features include “check please” (where you can confirm a transaction before it’s made to avoid fraud alerts and declined transactions), “repeat defender” (which scans for recurring payments), and “friend or foe” (where you can block or whitelist certain merchants).

Stealth cards

For even greater security, Cred.ai offers a digital Steal Card. This allows users to generate unique card numbers for online transactions. Cardholders can also mask transactions, disable their card, and more.

The only downside is that you can only have one Stealth Card at a time. Although you can regenerate a new card, you can’t currently hold several unique cards as you can with some other platforms. Still, this could be a useful feature for those needing one-off “burner” cards for free trials and the like.

Cred.ai Fluxcapacitor

Direct deposit and Fluxcapacitor

If you’re serious about using Cred.ai as your main spending account, then it probably makes sense to set up direct deposit. Not only will this allow you to get your paycheck up to two days early (depending on how your employer processes payroll) but will also unlock additional features.

The coolest of these features is Fluxcapacitor. This tool — which may or may not be inspired by a certain iconic 80s film — will allow cardholders to access the spending power of their future deposits as well as budget for upcoming charges. It also happens to be accompanied by an awesome-looking moving graphic. Alas, since I haven’t used direct deposit with cred.ai, I haven’t been able to take advantage of the Fluxcapacitor, but it certainly seems like a useful feature.

ATM access

Like many debit cards — but unlike most credit cards — Cred.ai’s offers fee-free ATM access. Specifically, the service utilizes the Allpoints network, which includes more than 55,000 fee-free machines. To find one, tap the card icon and scroll down to “Find a Free ATM.”

Check deposit

For all of the innovative and modern features offered by Cred.ai, they also have some classics. Namely, the app still allows you to deposit paper checks. Okay, so maybe mobile deposit is a relatively new development all things considered — but it is something that lot of FinTech apps skimp on. That’s why I’m always excited to see it live on even as paper check usage continues to decline.

crednews

Finally, in the Cred.ai app, you’ll find stories not only related to money but also about what’s going on in the world that you should know about. Rather than just sharing links, these news items are written by crednews staff and load natively in the app. Honestly, this isn’t a part of the app I use all too often, but it is a cool idea. Plus, the stories load quickly and don’t have ads, so it’s a nice reprise from most news sites these days. In any case, you can find crednews on the center tab of the app

Pros and Cons of Cred.ai

Cred.ai referral invite

Can build credit

Starting with the obvious, what’s great about Cred.ai is the ability to build credit via a positive payment history without worrying about incurring debt. This is a major plus as, compared to other credit-building options, Cred.ai is affordable and doesn’t require a large initial deposit. These aspects could make it a perfect option for those looking to gain credit history in an easy and natural way.

No opt-out of credit feature

While it’s great that the Cred.ai Unicorn card can help build credit, not everyone would like a new credit card account on their report. Yet, that’s what you’ll get if you want this card as there’s no option for just using it as a regular debit card product.

Why does this matter? Well, for one, some banks, such as Chase, will deny you new rewards credit cards if you’ve opened a certain number of new accounts within a given timeframe. Add in the fact that Cred.ai doesn’t offer any rewards and you can see the opportunity cost that comes with this otherwise cool card.

Sleek design (and cool card)

As I noted, the Credi.ai app is a thing of beauty. Even better, despite the video and design elements, I’ve never had an issue with the app loading or lagging. This makes the app a pleasure to use each and every time.

What’s more, there’s no denying that the Unicorn card design is awesome. Not only is it metal but the texture on the front and shiny silver back really make it feel premium. Yet, the unicorn icon keeps things fun as well. I seriously love it.

Doesn’t earn interest

With high-yield savings accounts currently offering APYs upward of 5%, your money can really work for you. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Cred.ai. To be fair, the account is mostly a checking account (which doesn’t typically offer interest), but the lack of any interest or rewards is certainly a drawback to this account option.

Final Thoughts on Cred.ai

Cred.ai logo

There no doubt that Cred.ai has a lot to offer — from flash to substance. Starting with the former, the metal card, unicorn design, and super sleek app are an impressive package. What’s more, the platform has remained largely the same for years. While that might sound like a bad thing, in this case, it’s actually a plus.

Turning to the substance, I’m glad that products like Cred.ai’s Unicorn card exist. Compared to other credit-building options, this one is affordable and easy to use. That said, I can’t speak to how effective the program is overall for increasing your credit scores.

As for downsides, although the platform is certainly cool, it may not be right for everyone. In particular, since the account doesn’t earn any interest, savers will be better served elsewhere. On top of that, those who already have established credit may not want another account on their report. This is especially true for those who enjoy credit card rewards and want to remain under Chase’s 5-24 rule.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to build credit without debt, Credi.ai could be a great option. But, if that part of the equation doesn’t matter to you, then the design and features of the platform might not be enough to make it worth it.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Head Writer ~ Fioney
Kyle is the head writer for Fioney. He is a personal finance nerd, constantly looking for new apps and services to test and incorporate into his own financial game plan. In addition to his role at Fioney, he's written for other publications including Born2Invest, Lifehack, and Laughing Place, as well as his own site Money@30. He also creates personal finance and travel-related videos for Fioney's YouTube channel, which has garnered more than 2 million views. Currently, Kyle resides in Springfield, Missouri with his wife of 10 years. Together, they enjoy traveling (including visiting Disney Parks around the world), dining, and playing with their dog Rigby.

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