In today’s world, credit is essential. Whether you need to rent an apartment or car, purchase a mobile phone service plan, or want to earn cashback or rewards towards a dream vacation, you need a credit card to make it happen. Unfortunately, establishing credit has traditionally been difficult for some segments of the population, including students from other countries.
Kalpesh Kapadia, CEO and co-founder of SelfScore, plans to change that. He recently spoke with RewardExpert about SelfScore’s Classic and Achieve MasterCards for international students.
Created for a Traditionally Underserved Population
Founded more than three years ago, SelfScore began issuing MasterCards to international students in March 2016.
“My first experience with credit bureaus and the traditional U.S. credit system was more than 22 years ago when I came here as a student from India,” Kapadia recalled. “I had trouble establishing a credit history and getting credit in this country at that time, and the problem has since become more acute.”
Kapadia explained that new regulations instituted after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, as well as the 2008 financial crisis, made obtaining credit for international students even more difficult.
“My sister came here from India to study at UCLA in 2012,” he said. “She had to do various things such as get an apartment near campus, open a bank account, and apply for a credit card. This cost between $3,000 and $5,000 because an international student couldn’t get an unsecured credit card and banks required a deposit before they’d issue a secured credit card. Landlords also ask for larger deposits if you don’t have a credit history and Social Security number.”
He spoke to his sister’s friends and discovered they were experiencing the same problem.
“If they went to get a cell phone plan at AT&T or Verizon, they’d get charged a $500 deposit,” he added. “I thought that seemed unfair. The international student population is ten times what it was when I came here, with more than one million students coming to America to study and attend universities. The credit problem was one that needed to be addressed, so we started SelfScore.”
Credit Awarded Based on Alternative Factors
SelfScore is an analytics-based consumer finance company. Rather than making credit decisions based on a credit score—which international students lack upon arrival in the U.S.—SelfScore looks at alternative factors such as ability to repay, cost of education, source of initial funding, and future employability.
When students apply for a SelfScore MasterCard, they submit their passport, student visa, I-20 form, and proof of funds in a U.S. bank account.
“You fill out an application form just like you would for any other credit card,” Kapadia explained. “You include your name, date of birth, address and college, but in lieu of a social security number, we use your passport, visa, and banking activity. All that info goes into an algorithm, and we score you on the same exact scale as FICO. Based on your score, you’re approved or declined.”
To date, SelfScore is approaching 15,000 application approvals.
“Our customers are growing by 20 percent every month,” Kapadia said. “We believe that out of a million international students our brand recognition stands at over 10 percent.”
SelfScore Classic and Achieve MasterCards
In addition to the original SelfScore Classic MasterCard—which features no annual fee or deposit requirements, up to a $1,500 credit limit, and network benefits such as roadside assistance and price protection—international students can now benefit from SelfScore’s new Achieve MasterCard.
“We launched this better feature and benefits card in March,” Kapadia stated. “It has a higher starting credit limit of up to $5,000, 0% APR for the first six months, and one percent cash back on all purchases all the time. This has allowed us to attract additional students who were mainly using debit cards before. Why would you use a debit card if you can get all these benefits—from credit building and cash back to zero APR—if you need to borrow?”
Classic MasterCard holders who use their cards regularly, make all of their payments on time, and stay under their credit limits for at least six months are eligible to apply for an upgrade to Achieve. To learn more about SelfScore and both credit card products, visit www.selfscore.com.