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If you lack a credit history, getting a credit card or loan can be next to impossible. But one credit card startup company is aiming to change that.
Deserve — the startup company once known as SelfScore — offers credit cards for students and employed individuals who lack a credit history or are looking to build or expand one.
Originally, the company issued cards that focused on international students who didn't fit the qualifications for traditional lending based on FICO scores. Now, as Deserve, the company has opened applications to any eligible candidates who may be turned away by other issuers for lack of a Social Security number, a credit history or both.
“Deserve is open to eligible candidates who lack a Social Security number, a credit history or both.”
Deserve takes a different approach for certain applicants, relying in some cases on a proprietary algorithm and applicants’ financial documents to measure creditworthiness.
Deserve cards: Basics and benefits
The startup company offers three credit cards: the Deserve Classic, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students and the Deserve® Pro Mastercard. The cards retain several features of the SelfScore Classic and SelfScore Achieve® for Students cards, including:
No security deposit required
A report to all three credit bureaus
No foreign transaction fees
Mastercard Platinum benefits
Deserve has discontinued the SelfScore Classic and the SelfScore Achieve® for Students. SelfScore cardholders were migrated to Deserve credit cards with equal or better terms, but they kept their card number and therefore the length of the account on their credit history.
Features of the new cards
Here's a closer look at the cards' details:
Deposit/ credit limit
None/ Up to $1,500
Variable APR of 24.99% (rate accurate as of August 2019)
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
No for international students; yes for others
None/ Up to $5,000
The ongoing APR is 22.99% Variable
Unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases; reimbursement for Amazon Prime Student membership after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles.
Deserve® Pro Mastercard
None/ Up to $10,000
The ongoing APR is 16.24%-23.24% Variable APR
3% cash back on travel and entertainment, 2% cash back on restaurants and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
The Deserve Classic credit card is for anyone new to credit. It has no annual fee and requires a Social Security number. For applicants with no credit or low credit scores, Deserve will use its own underwriting process and algorithm to evaluate creditworthiness.
Cardholders won’t earn any rewards, but they will get the chance to build credit and to potentially upgrade later to the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students or Deserve® Pro Mastercard, assuming consistent on-time payments and/or credit score improvement.
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is for all eligible students — including international students — who are attending a U.S. college or university and want to get an early start on building credit while also earning rewards.
Deserve doesn't require a Social Security number from international students to apply for this card. For domestic students, Deserve will collect their Social Security number to check for any negative issues on their credit histories. Assuming an applicant passes that check, Deserve uses its own underwriting process and algorithm to approve or deny an application for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students.
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students cardholders earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases. Rewards automatically redeem as statement credit in $25 increments. The card also includes an offer for Amazon Prime Student. Deserve will cover subscription fees up to $69 after you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles.
Deserve® Pro Mastercard
The Deserve® Pro Mastercard credit card is for employed applicants, including new immigrants, who have already started to build or establish credit in the U.S.
The card requires a Social Security number, which is used to determine whether an applicant has established credit. If so, Deserve evaluates the applicant’s credit score and other factors to determine their creditworthiness for the card. Many students who are initially approved for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students credit card can eventually migrate to the Deserve® Pro Mastercard and will get to keep the length of the account on their credit history, which can help their credit score.
The application process
For Deserve applicants with established credit and high enough credit scores, the application process works much as it does for other credit cards, with FICO scores playing a role.
“For applicants with little or no credit, Deserve uses an algorithm instead of FICO scores to determine creditworthiness.”
For applicants with little or no credit, Deserve uses an algorithm instead of traditional FICO scores to determine creditworthiness and ability to pay. The algorithm measures applicants' credit potential instead of credit history. For students, it evaluates the school, major, student visa if applicable, passport ID if applicable, and likelihood to graduate and get a job. For employed individuals, the verification process is similar, except that Deserve verifies employment instead.
In addition, the company looks into U.S. bank account balances to determine an applicant's ability to pay. Deserve also considers whether contact information — physical address, email address and phone number — has changed over the years. Deserve wants to know that it can contact applicants easily.
Deserve doesn’t allow co-signers, so all applicants under 21 must prove their independent ability to pay in order to qualify.