SelfScore makes credit cards for the international students Trump wants to keep out
SelfScore launched its first product last summer with relatively little fanfare: a credit card for international students.
On Tuesday, it launched a new card with a much higher spending limit in a very different political climate. Its credit cards serve international students from all over the world —including the seven countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia) named in President Donald Trump’s first travel ban, which was halted in court.
SelfScore uses analytics to provide access to credit to international students in the United States who don’t have a Social Security number or other identifying factors usually required to gain access to credit, loans and financial aid.
“These people who have so many credentials and indicators of creditworthiness, the traditional system doesn’t see them. They’re invisible,” said Pat Nicholson, SelfScore’s vice president of marketing.
SelfScore instead relies on machine learning and data to assess eligibility and creditworthiness, without needing the traditional FICO score. The startup considers education, future earning potential and other qualitative factors to show how someone who’s ineligible for a credit card from a traditional bank would contribute to the economy when granted access to credit in the United States.
“The traditional system doesn’t see them. They’re invisible.”
The startup introduced its first credit card, a MasterCard with a $1,500 limit, in June. This week it added to the lineup a second card with a $5,000 limit. The cards build credit so that international students still in school now will have the foundation needed to buy a home, for example, in a few years.
Other fintech startups are finding ways to serve potential customers without FICO scores, too. Float, for one, uses similar measures to grant small, short-term loans to cover things like broken laptops and music festival tickets. Those micro-loans can also build credit for young customers.
For right now, SelfScore is still only serving international students. But financial products that serve people without Social Security numbers could have much wider applications: for new immigrants besides students and for the undocumented, for example.
SelfScore is staying focused on international students for now in part to make clear the financial contribution these students make to the United States, along with their cultural and professional contributions. The startup found in a commissioned report that tuition costs for U.S. students would rise 32 percent without the subsidies tuition-paying international students provide to the public education system.