Helping 4 million customers avoid high-cost lending
By Jorge Bastos, Head of ProductNov 26th 2021
This week, in celebration of hitting the four million customer milestone, our product managers are each writing about a product feature they like or have worked on during their time at TotallyMoney. Jorge examines the app-exclusive Credit Assistant and how it’s helping customers identify their borrowing habits, and avoid high-cost credit.
Credit Assistant’s development started with a simple question: how can we help customers improve their credit score? However, it quickly evolved into much more than that.
Anyone working in-product will know it’s easy to start with a simple idea for a new feature. Then, you explore the underlying user needs that you’re trying to satisfy, and you end up discovering bigger challenges that you initially weren’t even considering.
Once we started examining the use cases for Credit Assistant, we realised that having a poor credit score wasn't the only problem customers were facing.
Some were using expensive forms of credit, such as overdrafts or cash advances, as they didn't realise there were other options, or couldn't get credit elsewhere. While these don’t have an impact on your credit score, they do affect your ability to repay debt, because more money is going towards expensive interest and charges.
So it can turn into a vicious cycle of higher interest costs, which can lead to getting more credit to repay the costs, to more debt, to more costs, and so on. For some, this revolving debt can be impossibly hard to escape from, and one we dearly wanted to solve.
Monitoring this and letting you know when you’re using expensive forms of credit was the problem Credit Assistant, in its ‘final’ form, was designed to solve.
With many credit cards offering 0% introductory offers when you first sign up for the card, it can be easy to forget that once they end, you’ll usually start paying at a considerably higher interest rate. And when we looked into this we found that there was a large proportion of customers carrying a balance without a promotional rate.*
What some don’t realise is they can move this balance to another 0% interest credit card. Paying interest (or not paying interest) on a card balance has no impact on credit rating. But, with the average balance on credit cards without a promotional offer totalling £2,426.26, it’s clear this could have a large impact on finances.**
So, using Credit Assistant, customers can make better borrowing decisions, powered by the insights it shows them. They can avoid high-cost lending practices, using their increased eligibility to find a card or loan better suited to their needs.
In the longer term, Credit Assistant also keeps tabs on how customers have used credit in the past, and how this has changed over time. This gives them a high-level overview of their financial health, helping them to see not just when they’ve changed their borrowing habits, but why and how.
*According to data from TotallyMoney, captured on Tuesday 23rd November.
**TotallyMoney research, 13th October 2021.