Americans started 2021 with nearly $900 billion in credit card debt. One fintech company is offering an alternative way to access credit that is based on cash flow, not credit scores.
That company is Grain, who launched their application in 2018 with the objective to help its users access credit in a more equitable way.
With Grain, users are charged a flat APR based on the amount still owed on the line of credit. This interest rate doesn’t change based on credit risk, or passed totals, with the minimum amount of credit being $150. Once a line of credit is approved, funds become available to the user, who can then pull funds into their existing checking account.
The user is prompted to make minimum payments manually or by using their Smart Auto-Pay feature that will pull funds for repayment from that same checking account back to Grain. This feature is based on the income cycle of the user and monthly minimum payment. Grain then reports that activity to the credit bureaus, empowering its users to build or improve their credit.
And while Grain is using Plaid to perform balance checks and negative balance checks which help verify the funds available in user accounts, Patrick De Suza, the CTO and Co-Founder of Grain, said the fintech company needed reliable payment technology to help send funds to users and eventually collect the repayments.
Faster Payments Tip the Scale
By using Same Day ACH and Real-Time Payments (RTP) via Dwolla’s Platform to make funds available to their end users, Grain is a fintech company creating an experience similar to point-of-sale, in which customers receive funds in their bank accounts in near real-time.
For De Suza and his team, implementing a more sophisticated payments experience for Grain customers was as straightforward as changing a few lines of code in the API.
“We didn’t have to change much to offer faster payments,” De Suza says. “Dwolla kept the technical change to switch between ACH and RTP transfers as simple as possible for us.”
Because of the ongoing competition with credit cards, where funds are available right away, De Suza understood they needed to shorten the transaction timeline to remain competitive.
“Fortunately, Dwolla has Same Day ACH and RTP, and we made the decision to offer that based on the customer feedback,” De Suza says. “Funds needed to be made available faster. Once we rolled out it was an instant success. We delivered more value for our customers which made the product experience that much better.”
Since implementing Real-Time Payments in 2021, Grain has seen a 1,440% increase in transactions and a 46% increase in active end users in just one year.
Because not all banks support RTP, it was important that Grain continue to offer both options. “For those clients whose banks don’t offer RTP, we use Same Day ACH to get them closer to a real time experience. It’s vital that we can do this for our customers.”
All customer support agents at Grain have access to the Dwolla Dashboard to monitor transaction activity, and De Suza says he will regularly check the dashboard to make sure funds are available and going to the appropriate places.
“Even as we have scaled our volumes, the reliability of the technology hasn’t disappointed,” De Suza says. “We’re growing the company to become the standard for cash flow underwriting and with Dwolla and the addition of real-time transfers, it has been huge for our customer experience.”
Equitable Access to Credit
De Suza says the thought behind starting Grain was how unfair, predatory and exclusive he felt accessing credit was becoming. Situations in the past, whether immature decisions when young, surprise medical expenses or otherwise, could cost someone years later when they attempted to get a mortgage or car loan.
“We don’t use that to negatively impact the credit we provide to someone,” he explains.
As he researched various options for money movement and the financial habits of his targeted user base, De Suza and his co-founders realized millennials prefer to use their debit card compared to a credit card. So they wondered, would millennials want to sign up for a new debit card to help them manage their finances? Or, could Grain help millennials using their existing debit card or bank account?
“It came down to user preference, finding a way to let them use their existing debit card and transfer money into their account,” De Suza says. “I wanted no part of building our own payments solution. Especially at that time, I was the only engineer on the team and I had neither the time, nor the expertise, so we needed to find someone to help us with payments.”
Being in the very early stages of a startup, De Suza said Grain needed to find a reliable and affordable way to do account-to-account transfers. He remembers, outside of affordability, placing a high level of importance on detailed developer documentation and the simplicity of the API.
“Through all our models, Dwolla came out on top,” De Suza says. “Then we factored in the actual API and as a developer, it was important for me to have an API that was simple to use as we added new features. We didn’t want a brittle build out. Dwolla’s API is simple to understand, easy to integrate with and there was a nice Node SDK library that had a simple example of how to initialize the client and make a call which allowed me to get started immediately without much head scratching. The SDK follows very closely with the API, so it’s really intuitive.”
Development took less than a week to complete. With Dwolla’s 99.9% uptime, Grain has been able to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars through the Dwolla Platform.
“As you build a company you have to work with others that are willing to grow with you to help you deal with that growth, because growth can be painful,” De Suza says. “Dwolla has been that partner for us. I don’t think we would be where we are today without Dwolla.”
“We can rely on Dwolla and know that if a customer is moving money, that money is going to get to where it’s intended to go. That in itself is priceless. I worry about a lot of things, Dwolla is not one of them.”