Business of Fintech, Finance Everywhere

Amex expands Nova Credit access to more US newcomers

  • American Express expanded its partnership with Nova Credit to offer credit access to people from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Kenya and Nigeria who have moved to the US.
  • Nova’s Credit Passport enables applicants’ credit records from international agencies to be translated into a US-equivalent credit report and score.

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Amex expands Nova Credit access to more US newcomers

American Express partnered with Nova Credit to expand credit access to people from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Kenya and Nigeria who have moved to the United States, enabling them to use their international credit history to apply for personal Amex cards. 

Launched in 2019, access was already available for newcomers from Australia, Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

As credit history typically stops at the border, many people who move to the US from abroad have to build consumer credit from scratch. Nova Credit wanted to address this problem and created an alternative score to assess foreign residents’ creditworthiness based on their home country credit data. It can also be used for Americans returning to the country after years working abroad.  

Nova also launched The Credit Passport to help companies better serve this underrepresented group. The Credit Passport is integrated into the American Express online Card application process, enabling applicants’ credit records from certain international credit reporting agencies to be instantly translated into a US-equivalent credit report and score. To do this, the company obtains the data through agreements with major foreign credit bureaus, a process that can only be initiated with the customer’s consent.

American Express was the first global payments company to offer immigrants and expats to the United States the ability to use Nova Credit’s Credit Passport technology to instantly translate certain international credit reports into a U.S. equivalent credit report and score during the online application process.

“Our work with American Express over the past two years has shown us the sheer impact access to financial services has on newcomers,” said Misha Esipov, co-founder and CEO of Nova Credit. 

Esipov highlighted how Nova Credit can now help even more newcomers experience financial success as they navigate the tumultuous process of immigration.

“We’re excited our partnership with Nova Credit has helped to remove a roadblock to credit that expats and immigrants to the US have historically faced,” said Sara Milsten, Senior Vice President of New Member Acquisition, US Consumer Services at American Express. 

In the fintech space, there are other startups focusing on helping immigrant communities to build a credit history or improve their credit score. 

For example, TomoCredit offers a credit card without requiring any credit history, and doesn’t charge any fees or require a deposit from applicants. The company’s founder, Kristy Kim, had no credit history as an immigrant and was rejected multiple times for an auto loan, so she decided to help those in similar positions. The fintech is backed partially by Barclays Bank through its fintech accelerator.

Similarly, Petal provides credit cards to people who lack a credit history, like immigrants or Millennials. The startup gathers spending data from a person’s bank account as part of the approval process. An applicant’s banking history is used to create a Cash Score — a creditworthiness measure based on income, spending, and savings. 

There are also more niche products out there, like the Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students.  Targeted to serve international students, it doesn’t require a Social Security number, prior credit history, deposit or cosigner.

Other fintechs are working to offer services to underserved communities internationally. Tala underwrites loans to people who have never had a formal credit history, all through a smartphone app. It has 6 million users that have borrowed more than $2.7 billion across Kenya, the Philippines, Mexico, and India. The fintech recently announced a $145 million Series E fundraise, bringing its total funding to more than $350 million, with PayPal Ventures being one of its early investors.  

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