Asset Building through Credit Pilot Program

Funded by the Citi Foundation.

Can a secured credit card teamed with education help entrepreneurs to build their credit and business?

That’s the central question posed in the Asset Building through Credit (ABC) Pilot Program. With the financial support of the Citi Foundation, FIELD teamed up with Justine PETERSEN – a leader in microenterprise development and credit building – to help five microenterprise organizations offer a Citi/Banamex secured card, accompanied by credit education, to microenterprise clients.

Why a secured credit card?

In today’s economy, a good credit score is an important financial asset that allows families to access resources and, in some instances, reduce their cost of living. Many low-income microentrepreneurs have ‘thin files’, or slightly impaired credit histories, that make it challenging for them to access business loans. When properly managed, secured credit cards are a good tool for building credit. Against this backdrop, the pilot explored the following questions:

  • Do secured cardholders build credit and progress towards their business goals?
  • Does offering a secured card help microenterprise organizations build scale?
  • Can microenterprise organizations sustain the delivery of the secured card?

Initial findings

In early 2014, FIELD released the first findings from the ABC pilot. The publication examines the experiences of the five participating sites during the year-long pilot period. Drawing from their experiences, the paper provides insights for organizations, coaches and financial institutions about the ideal customer profile, card approval rates, the demographic and credit profiles of cardholders at the time of application and preliminary findings on credit score outcomes.

Evaluation Model

FIELD’s evaluation methods combine quantitative data collection, qualitative research methods, and participatory learning. In collaboration with the grantees, FIELD is collecting data on client characteristics, credit scores at application and over time, performance on the card, financial education and microenterprise services received. FIELD is also collecting data on microenterprise program costs in implementing the program. In addition, FIELD is documenting the experience of the grantees in launching this new product with the view to identifying key factors in successful private sector-nonprofit partnership. Client interviews will add a human face to the data analysis.

The grantees hail from across the country, chosen for their experience working with diverse target markets and experience working with entrepreneurs and financial education: CVOEO and CVCAC , Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE), and Women’s Brooklyn Enterprise Center  (WBEC). Read more about the sites here.

FIELD is also leveraging the expertise of partner Justine PETERSEN, a pioneer in offering this product and the processing portal manager, to understand whether and how its positive experiences can be replicated. Read about Justine PETERSEN’s client experiences in credit building with a secured card.