Making Credit Work for All Bostonians, One Safe Product at a Time
Good credit can help people achieve financial stability and build wealth. In fact, having good credit can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime through lower interest rates and increased savings and investment opportunities. Poor credit can be a barrier to everything from renting an apartment, to buying a car to getting a job.
Nearly 200,000 Bostonians—the majority, persons of color—have a poor credit score or no credit score at all, due in part to inequities in the credit system. These inequities contribute to Boston’s vast and pervasive racial wealth gap.
Boston Builds Credit (BBC), an initiative of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the City of Boston, and LISC Boston, is changing the system to make credit work for all Bostonians.
In collaboration with a broad network of community partners, including nonprofits, credit bureaus, financial institutions, funders, and policymakers, BBC offers an array of free services to help Boston residents improve their credit, and works to break down barriers to good credit through public policy and safe financial products.
Financial products like loans and credit cards can be critical in helping people weather crises and build assets; they can also contribute to a debt spiral. The key is finding the appropriate products and knowing how to use them to meet your goals.
BBC and our partner organizations are creating and promoting safe products that help people improve their credit scores and start to save money. Products that meet BBC’s newly developed Credit Building Product Guidelines and Standards receive the BBC seal of approval—a way for consumers to know these tools are safe and effective.
In May, BBC awarded its first seal of approval for the FAIR Credit Builder, a credit-building loan from Prepare + Prosper, backed by Sunrise Banks, N.A., Member FDIC, and guided by a team of community members and leaders. The FAIR Credit Builder has a low interest rate and requires no money down, making it widely accessible to people beginning or getting back on track with their credit-building journey.
Here’s how a credit-building loan works: The loan is opened for a specific dollar amount determined by the lender. No up-front cash is required. Monthly payments go into a locked savings account. These on-time payments reflect positively on your credit score; and at the end of the loan term, the account will be unlocked, and the money is yours. BBC and our partners strongly encourage individuals to collaborate with a financial coach to determine which product is right for you and ensure you leverage it in the most effective way to meet your needs.
May also marks the launch of “Hey Boston! Let’s Talk About Credit,” BBC’s city-wide campaign to get Bostonians talking about and working on their credit. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is an opportune time to look ahead to recovering and building toward your financial goals.
To access BBC’s free resources, including financial coaching, financial workshops, community resources nights, and online informational materials, visit www.BostonBuildsCredit.org To compare safe credit card products, click here. Click here to compare credit-building loans.