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Accessible Financial Services

One in five households in America—more than 24 million families—is underbanked and lacks access to affordable financial services. 

With generous grant support from the Ford Foundation, Filene created the Accessible Financial Services (AFS) Incubator to address this challenge and prove that mainstream financial institutions can help the underserved gain access to affordable credit and other essential financial products without compromising their own profitability.

Over two years, Filene collaborated with 42 credit unions to test five products in the AFS Incubator. Ultimately, this portfolio housed nearly 12,000 accounts with over $100 million in loan volume and nearly $1 million in savings.

Explore our research, browse the Incubator programs below, or let us know you're interested in implementing one of the three selected programs.

Employer-Sponsored Small-Dollar Loans

To express your interest in further testing or implementation of Employee Sponsored Small Dollar loans, complete this short form. Developed by NorthCountry Federal Credit Union, this small dollar loan program is offered to employees of the Select Employer Groups (SEGs) partnered with credit unions. Loan payments are auto-deducted from direct deposited...

Borrow & Save

Established by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, Borrow & Save increases consumers’ economic security by providing an affordable small dollar loan with a payment term that makes sense for them. A built-in savings component also enables consumers to self-fund emergency expenses instead of borrowing money to handle...

Non-Prime Auto Loans

Having reliable transportation allows for increased access to employment, housing, and education. However, many credit challenged consumers lack reliable transportation. The National Credit Union Foundation's Non-Prime Auto Loan program helps lenders offer and manage fairly-priced non-prime auto loans to consumers. Contact Andrew Downin, managing director of innovation, to learn more...

Pay Yourself Back

Innovations in Poverty Action developed the Pay Yourself Back product as an add-on to any loan type. By leveraging the habits formed by regularly making loan payments, it encourages consumers to keep making regular payments (or a portion of it) to themselves after the loan is paid off. The idea...

The Trust Card

Due to aggressive marketing, predatory practices, and economic necessity millions of working Americans are in a cycle of debt they have little hope of digging out of without an innovative product designed to help accelerate repayment and address their cash flow. To help combat this, the Trust Card, a debt management program pioneered by Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union and Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, was created.

Accessible Financial Services Incubator Update - August 2016

Two of the Accessible Financial Services Incubator products, Borrow and Save and Non-Prime Auto Loans, were selected to move to advanced testing and factory phases based on each product’s consumer impact, ease of use and implementation, marketplace demand, and contribution to the credit unions’ financial sustainability.

Borrow and Save was established by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (the Federation) to provide consumers with a fair alternative to payday lenders. The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that Americans spend approximately $7.4 billion on payday loans each year, often paying interest rates as high as 400%. Borrow and Save provides an affordable small dollar loan with a payment term that works for their budget. A savings component enables consumers to be better prepared on their own for future emergency expenses and to guard against a continuing cycle of borrowing.

During the Borrow and Save pilot, $3 million was loaned to 3,100 consumers. The average loan was $944, the average savings amount was $290, and the default rate was under 2%. Eight of the twelve participating credit unions indicated that they would continue offering the product to their members.

The Non-Prime Auto Loan program was created by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and addresses the critical necessity of reliable transportation for consumers. The US Census Bureau states that 86% of Americans rely on a car to get to work. Safe, reliable transportation increases financial stability, opens opportunities for further education and reduces stress. However, it is extremely challenging for people with low or no credit scores to obtain an affordable auto loan. The Non-Prime Auto Loan program addresses this issue.

During the Non-Prime Auto Loan pilot, ten credit unions closed 7,605 loans for over $102 million. The average loan was $12,136 with an average interest rate of 11.7%. With an average borrower credit score of 584, the program helped those who might not have anywhere else to turn.

Marketplace Overview

To raise awareness about the impact and potential of these programs Filene, the Federation, and NCUF presented results via in-person events, online newsletters, eNotices and blogs to reach over 10,000 people. Beyond this, dozens of articles in mainstream and financial publications helped showcase the programs’ results.

Borrow and Save Marketplace Report

Communication efforts continue to socialize the results of these programs. The Federation posted the feasibility study on their website and featured the program in their newsletter reaching 3,200 readers. They have been interviewed by mainstream media outlets and industry media organizations including The New York Times, Huffington Post and The Street. Borrow and Save has been highlighted by the Federation at many of their events over the past year. Based on these activities, financial institutions continue to express interest in the program. In fact, ten institutions have expressed interest in implementing the Borrow and Save program and two have confirmed they will be offering the program later this year. 

Non-Prime Auto Loans Marketplace Report

The same approach has been applied to market the Non-Prime Auto Loan program. Communication has been shared by Filene and NCUF via social media, newsletters, and e-mail distribution. Just as with Borrow and Save, Filene has delivered several in-person education sessions at locations throughout the country, connecting it with mainstream financial institutions.

NCUF has utilized their social media platforms to promote the program to their nearly 5600 followers on multiple occasions. To date, NCUF has posted three eNews Blast notices about the program, reaching their audience of more than 7,000 credit union representatives. NCUF has sent program information and pilot results to their member Credit Union Leagues across the country and they have seen the program mentioned in CUNA's Nussle Report, and other industry blog posts and trade press pieces including Credit Union Journal, The Dodd Frank Update and CU Today. The program has been presented at 11 conferences reaching hundreds of participants.

Processes are being developed by NCUF to track institutions that are interested, or have confirmed they will be implementing the Non-Prime Auto Loan.