StellarFi, a public benefit corporation, announced the public release of its new fintech platform, which helps individuals build their credit by paying their bills on time through the platform.
StellarFi founder and CEO Lamine Zarrad, a former U.S. Department of the Treasury National Bank Examiner, revealed in an exclusive phone interview with GOBankingRates.com that 132 million Americans have credit scores below the traditional cut-off for most lenders.
“That’s [nearly] half the country,” he said. “It’s not a trivial number. We see credit as the path to a better life, to capital, money, and a better quality of life.”
Ways to Build Credit
Traditionally, there have only been a few ways to build credit including opening a credit card and making on-time payments.
“The traditional credit card approach to credit-building is very inefficient. If you don’t have a co-signer, you’re likely to get a credit card with a very low credit limit and a high interest rate,” Zarrad said.
Alternatively, someone can look into getting a secured loan. “This is also inefficient, and unfortunately, it’s also expensive,” he said. A secured loan forces someone who may not have a lot of resources to tie up some of their cash in a loan — and then pay interest as they pay the money back over time.
Zarrad points out that there are also alternative credit-building methods, such as Experian Boost, which takes into account factors such as on-time bill payments to utility companies and streaming services, which aren’t normally considered in a credit score. The problem with these alternate scoring methods, he pointed out, is that they are only useful if lenders look at them.
How StellarFi Helps Consumers Build their Credit Through On-Time Bill Payments
StellarFi seeks to help people build credit where traditional approaches fail, Zarrad said. The platform reports on-time bill payments to the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — as on-time loan payments. That’s because StellarFi extends a cash advance to their customers, uses that money to pay the bills, and then deducts the payment from the customer’s bank account.
StellarFi then reports the on-time payment to the credit bureaus. “We are entering into a traditional credit relationship with you,” he said. “We can report your on-time bill payments as legitimate loan transactions. We are taking on the risk.”
The program has three tiers of service at three price points. The $4.99/month plan can help you build credit with up to $500 per month in bill payments. The $9.99/month plan can cover up to $25,000 in bills per month. The $19.99/month plan allows additional benefits and perks, including the ability to pay back the cash advance with ACH transfer, choose your bill payment dates and also provides credit lock services. No credit check is required to use any of the three services, according to the StellarFi website.
Building Credit on the Path to Homeownership
For many people, building credit in a responsible way can help them on the path to homeownership. Even with the Fed interest rate hikes, mortgage interest rates are still historically low. And a better credit score can mean incredible savings by allowing the homebuyer access to a lower interest rate.
StellarFi allows users to create custom credit goals, which can show prospective homebuyers what they need to do to secure a good interest rate for a mortgage. The platform can also help prospective homebuyers apply for a mortgage by streamlining the application process.
In addition to building your credit, before applying for a mortgage you’ll want to look at other factors that may indicate your overall financial health.
“You want to be aware of your debt-to-income ratio, your credit mix or the types of credit you have, your monthly payments in relation to your income, and your total debt in relation to your income,” Zarrad said.
Most importantly, Zarrad said, he wants consumers to be acutely aware that there is more that goes into a successful mortgage application than just a credit score. “That’s certainly what we want to do with our platform, to educate consumers.”
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