The Jasper Mastercard®, formerly known as CreditStacks, aims to help working professionals with no previous credit history qualify for a credit card. That can be a tall order.
That's because many traditional U.S. card issuers require that you have some form of credit history to be approved. In the absence of one, you're not without options, but cards designed for those with thin or nonexistent credit files may require a security deposit, annual fee or both. And if you're an international applicant moving to the U.S. for work, it's even harder to find a credit card because you likely lack both a U.S. credit history and also a Social Security number.
The Jasper Mastercard®, issued by WebBank, doesn’t require a deposit or ongoing annual fee, and it doesn't rely only on traditional credit factors to vet applicants. International professionals don't even need a Social Security number upfront. The card also earns at least 1% cash back on all eligible purchases, and it can save you money on fees while helping you build a credit history in the U.S.
The basics of the Jasper Mastercard®
Jasper started shipping credit cards to qualified customers in January 2018 (then under the name CreditStacks). The card initially was designed specifically for working professionals who are new to the U.S., which CEO Elnor Rozenrot says is a market that needs assistance. As part of its rebrand in May 2020, however, the Jasper Mastercard® now targets general working professionals who are new to credit, not just those who are new to the United States.
“Jasper doesn't rely only on traditional factors like credit history or Social Security numbers to vet applicants.”
"When I came to the U.S., I couldn’t get a credit card, and it just drove me nuts,” said Rozenrot, who is from Israel. “I walked into a bank on my second day in the U.S., and they opened a bank account for me, but wouldn’t give me a credit card. Six months later, I got a card that only had a $300 credit line. I knew I wasn’t the only one, so I joined up with two other immigrants that had the same issue, and with a veteran U.S. banker, and we decided to figure out how to solve this problem once and for all."
Here's a look at the card's baseline benefits:
$0* annual fee.
Earn at least 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. (It's possible to earn up to 6% back, but this requires that you refer friends.)
No upfront Social Security number requirement for international professionals (though those applicants will eventually have to report one within 60 days of card activation).
A credit limit of up to $5,000.
The ongoing APR is 15.49% - 24.99% Variable.
No penalty APR.
No foreign transaction fee.
Reporting to the Equifax and TransUnion credit bureaus.
Travel benefits, including a collision damage waiver for rental cars, insurance for lost or damaged luggage, travel accident insurance and trip cancellation/interruption reimbursement.
What makes the Jasper Mastercard® different
Jasper offers some features that can be difficult to find elsewhere, including:
No Social Security number required, with some exceptions. Although applicants will have to report their Social Security number to Jasper within 60 days of activating their card, it's not required upfront. Instead, applicants will need to provide their passport, visa information and proof of income in the U.S. One exception: Applicants who have lived in the U.S. for one year or longer will have to provide a Social Security number with their application and undergo a credit check.
No credit score required. Applicants who lack a U.S. credit history can still receive a credit card as long as they qualify in other ways. When vetting an applicant, the company looks at over 360 data points to determine the creditworthiness of the applicant, including debt-to-income ratio, an applicant’s online presence and whether they’ve secured a job offer from an employer.
Fewer costs. The Jasper Mastercard® has an annual fee of $0*, so you won't pay to hold the card. Cardholders also avoid foreign transaction fees, meaning there aren't extra charges to use the card internationally. There's also no penalty APR, so the issuer won't raise the interest rate if you pay late or miss a payment. And unlike secured credit cards, which require upfront collateral, you won't owe a security deposit.
Relatively high credit limit. Applicants may be eligible for up to $5,000 in credit. This is fairly high for someone new to credit in the U.S., although it's possible to find even higher limits in this category. Secured credit cards, by comparison, tend to offer credit limits of only a few hundred dollars.
“To determine creditworthiness, Jasper looks at factors such as debt-to-income ratio and whether the applicant has been brought to the U.S. by an established company.”
Advance approval. The Jasper application process allows applicants to be approved up to 60 days before starting their new job in the U.S. With other major credit card issuers, you may have to wait until you’ve already started your new job in the U.S. before applying.
Cell phone insurance. The Jasper Mastercard® provides up to $600 in cell phone protection for cardholders who pay their monthly bill with the card. This is a somewhat rare benefit for personal credit cards, and one that can be particularly helpful since Jasper's cardholder account management system is mobile-only.
Rozenrot says that a key component of the company's mission is to provide guardrails that help customers manage their credit responsibly. For example, the company also has an autopay feature that it hopes will help customers make their payments on time and not accumulate debt, so they can keep their credit utilization at the recommended 30% or less of their total credit limit.
For newcomers to the U.S., the Jasper Mastercard® can lower some of the barriers to entry for credit cards, while also keeping fees low as credit history is established. But it's worth noting some of the card's possible downsides:
Limited credit bureau reporting. As of May 2020, the company reports account information to only two major credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion. The ideal starter card should also report to Experian in addition to the other two major credit bureaus. Otherwise, the activity on the account isn’t reflected in credit scores or reports pulled from Experian.
Approval process. The timeline for approval is currently within two to three business days from a customer’s application, although Rozenrot said the company is working on improving that speed. And exceptions may exist that result in a longer approval process. Contrast that with an application for a secured card from a major issuer, which will typically approve or deny an application within minutes.
Mobile-only account access. There's a Jasper app, but you won't be able to access your online account on a desktop computer. Rozenrot says the company wanted to be able to communicate with customers on a regular basis via push notifications and email to teach people how to work with the U.S. credit system.