Refresh Financial offers a range of products, services, and tools, including AI-enabled product recommendations, automated credit coaching, credit report and score monitoring, and secured credit cards. By offering financial literacy programs, Refresh helps customers to improve their money management and savings skills to make better financial decisions and achieve their long-term goals. Common situations in which financial literacy helps are using credit cards, managing debt, investing, reducing expenses, purchasing a home or car, sticking to a budget, and saving for retirement.
Refresh Financial and Borrowell Acquisition
Refresh Financial takes a new approach to consumer financing. The company offers loans and credit cards to customers with poor or no credit to aid their credit improvement efforts. Established in 2010, Refresh has offices in Ottawa, Kelowna, and Hamilton. As of January 2021 Borrowell closed the acquisition of Refresh Financial and raised $25 million in funding. All-equity financing was secured by a group of new investors, among which iA Financial Group, BDC Capital, and Kensington Capital Partners. Existing investors such as Equitable Bank and White Star Capital also provided funding.
One of the largest financial tech companies in Canada, Borrowell specializes in digital wealth management, digital banking, and alternative lending solutions. Their online lending platform utilizes AI-powered technology to offer customers product recommendations, free credit scores, predictive cash advances, bill alerts, money management and monitoring solutions. Founded by Andrew Graham in 2014, Borrowell offers a wide range of financial tools and products, including mortgages, credit cards, and personal loans. The platform is backed by a network of mortgage brokers, investment funds, and institutional lenders such as FirstOntario Credit Union and Portag3 Ventures.
Canadian Market for Secured Credit Cards
Refresh Financial and Home Trust are among the few Canadian financial service providers that offer secured credit cards. Targeting subprime borrowers with average and poor credit scores, secured cards function much like standard ones, the only difference being that customers pay upfront cash deposit. The deposit serves as a guarantee for financial institutions should the borrower miss a payment. Issuers can keep the cash deposit when borrowers default on payments.
Essentially, a secured credit card can be a helpful tool to build or rebuild credit. Using a debit or prepaid card or cash to make purchases or pay bills will do nothing in terms of credit score improvement. That is because payments are not reported to the major bureaus. When used wisely, a secured credit card enables borrowers to reestablish credit and demonstrate responsible management to the reporting agencies and financial institutions. Once approved, borrowers can use the card for things like making purchases, paying everyday expenses, or booking a vacation.
Consumers who use their card responsibly build credit over time. Common reasons why this is not happening include having one type of credit only, errors on the customer’s credit report, missed payments, and a utilization rate above 35 percent.
Refresh Financial Products Offerings
Refresh offers a credit builder loan and a secured card, along with a suite of tools for responsible debt management. In addition to reporting customer payments to TransUnion Canada and Equifax, it also features useful financial tools such as score simulators, credit alerts, debt calculators, and goal managers.
Refresh Secured Card
This card is backed with a security deposit which determines the credit limit. The limit can be as low as $200 and as high as $10,000 depending on how much the borrower is willing to put on hold. The deposit aside, this card by Refresh works just like a standard card, allowing users to make in-store and online purchases while gradually rebuilding credit.
This secured Visa by Refresh Financial is a good choice for borrowers with no or bad credit who are turned down by brick-and-mortar banks. Virtually all applicants get approved as there is no minimum income requirement. This card is a particularly good fit for customers who want to make a small deposit and for people with a history of delinquencies and bankruptcies.
Refresh also offers a handy online calculator to help customers check their utilization rate. Customers with a credit limit of $1,000 and a balance of $400, for example, have a utilization rate of 40 percent. The optimal rate for credit building is 30 percent and should not exceed 35 percent.
Cardholders who pay the balance in full avoid interest charges. There are two options to make payments toward the card balance – either through online banking or via pre-authorized debit. Once the payment has been received, it is first applied to any interest due and then to cash advance, annual card, and other fees.
- Interest rate: 17.99 percent
- Maintenance fee: $3 per month
- Annual fee: $12.95
Credit Builder Loan
This financial product by Refresh Financial is nothing like a traditional loan. Instead of borrowing a lump sum and paying the principal and interest over the loan term, customers are charged monthly fees plus interest. Basically, this is a form of installment credit whereby customers pay back the full amount in equal installments. The best part is that payments are reported to the major bureaus as proof of responsible debt management.
Customers are free to cancel their loan at any time by logging to their Refresh Dashboard. Once the loan has been cancelled, it cannot be reactivated. Clients are free to withdraw their available funds, and the money will be deposited in their bank account within 10 – 15 work days.
There are two package options for customers to choose from – apply for a credit card and cash loan or take a loan first and get a secured card later. With the first option, customers have access to two lines of credit and enjoy spending flexibility. The main benefit of having two lines is that responsible use shows financial institutions that the borrower can manage both.
- Interest rate: 19.99 percent
- Loan amount:
There are further benefits to taking a credit builder loan, one being that customers are assigned a dedicated relationship manager. Relationship managers act as a single point of contact and help borrowers to build a financial plan to meet their long-term goals. The goal is to make the customer’s banking experience more convenient and smoother by bringing expertise across a range of financial solutions. With experience and knowledge of personal banking, borrowing, and credit management, dedicated financial managers offer clients finance-related recommendations based on their needs.
Overall, Refresh Financial is a good choice for borrowers who got the short end of the stick and need to rebuild credit. Each of their products, the Refresh Secured Visa and credit builder loan are meant to help consumers, with payments being reported to the credit bureaus. Qualifying for a loan or credit card is simple and boils down to the customer’s ability to meet future payments, including product fees and interest charges.