Digital lending seems to be luring Canadians into FinTech. Finally! Borrowell offers services which are easy to use, quick and safe. They make personal loans available in record time with very attractive conditions, and also provide its users with information, knowledge and resources to take better financial decisions. In this post, we’ll explain how it works and help you figure out whether you should go digital with your credit needs.
Fintech can make budgeting, saving and investing more accessible for the average person. However, on a global scale, you could argue that Canadian fintech is falling behind. A lack of consumer awareness of the alternatives available in the market keeps the country's fintech adoption less than half that of other developed markets of similar size.
Still, some signals show that we're catching up. One of them is Toronto-based Borrowell, a peer-to-peer personalized loans platform that hit 1 million users in 2019, becoming the country’s largest online lender in the process.
In this Borrowell review, we aim to help you understand what Borrowell offers, how it works, and determine whether it's a good option for you.
What Is Borrowell?
Borrowell is an online company that gives Canadians access to credit monitoring services and offers loan alternatives to credit card debt to those who are employed and have a good credit rating.
The company’s co-founders and leaders Andrew Graham (MBA Harvard; PC Financial Insurance) and Eva Wong (MPA Harvard; The Meeting House) found an opportunity in the large number of Canadians with very good credit-card histories who end up carrying credit-card debt at high rates because it’s often quite challenging to get a traditional bank loan.
The company started in 2014 aimed at educating users to make good decisions about credit. Since 2016, they offer free Equifax credit reports without having to apply for a loan, which was unusual and expensive in the traditional banking system.
Is Borrowell legit?
Borrowell has entered partnerships with some of the biggest banks (CIBC), credit card providers (AMEX) and insurance companies (Sonnet), and became a smart service for peer-to-peer personalized loans.
Last year, the company received $20 MM in a second round of funding by existing investors Portag3 and White Star Capital with new investors Clocktower Ventures, Argo Ventures, and Silicon Valley Bank. In addition, Borrowell launched a mobile app that instantly provides personalized loan quotes and credit advice, and also announced Canada’s first bill-tracker and predictive interest-free advances.
What Does Borrowell Actually Do?
Borrowell is entirely digital. All their business is in three main service categories:
- Free Credit Scores & Credit Reports: Borrowell can provide you with a monthly summary of the borrowing activity in your financial history, including how you pay your financial obligations, and a credit score based on the Equifax proprietary model Risk Score 2.0.
- Personal Loans: Borrowell offers 3- or 5-year loans for up to $35,000 at a personalized interest rate, starting from 5.6%. and payable through fixed monthly amounts.
- Financial Service & Product Referrals: The system uses that information to recommend tools, products, and actions that can help improve the financial well-being of each individual member.
The first one of these services is free while the other two make money for the company via referral fees. This makes the business model viable and sustainable, which is an important thing to know when considering a company among the options available to improve your personal finance.
Borrowell’s Credit Scores And Reports
Credit Score And Report Monitoring
As you might already know, potential lenders need to asses the risk you might present in case you borrow money from them. Companies such as TransUnion and Equifax gather your information from credit card companies, mortgage brokers and other sources of credit and calculate your credit score as an indicator of your overall financial health (or creditworthiness).
What is less obvious, though, is that credit score monitoring and report allows people to improve it. It is also worth noting that a well-monitored credit score makes it much easier to prevent identity theft and other security breaches. With this in mind, Borrowell provides tools that give its members the opportunity to refinance or adjust credit and qualify for lower interest rates on their mortgage, student loans or personal loans.
How Is Credit Score Calculated?
Most people are aware that credit scores take into account a person’s payment history, credit utilization, age of credit history, credit inquiries, credit mix and public records/derogatory marks.
Although, in Canada, credit scores can be calculated in multiple ways, almost 90% of Canadian lenders, including Equifax and TransUnion, use the FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score. This three-digit number between 300 and 900 is determined using five factors: your payment history (35%), amount owning and credit utilization (30%), credit history age (15%), recent credit applications (10%), credit types used (10%).
Before Borrowell, obtaining a credit score and report was not that easy. First, applicants had to pay for it (usually between $15-$20). Second, since lenders are contractually obligated not to share a copy of the report with the client, they could only discuss the information and provide insight.
Finally, just requesting the report in a traditional way (“hard inquiry”), has consequences. Lenders and credit card issuers could consider you a higher-risk customer, as it suggests you may be short on cash or getting ready to rack up a lot of debt. Besides the fact that you’d save up to $250 a year for a similar service, avoiding this is one of the most important benefits of using Borrowell’s reporting services.
Free Credit Score And Report With Borrowell
Users can access monthly updates to their credit score and report in about 5 minutes following these simple steps:
- Sign up with Borrowell.
- Verify your identity.
- Get your free credit report.
Once you're in, you'll have access to a credit report that doesn’t affect your credit score, known in the industry as a “soft inquiry.”
It's worth noting that Borrowell is the only way for Quebec residents to check their credit score for free.
Borrowell offers personal unsecured (no collateral required) loans up to $35,000. These loans are payable in three or five years, with interest rates from 5.6% to 29.19%.
Who Can Get A Quick Personal Loan?
Quick personal loans with Borrowell are officially available only for those who:
- Are Canadian citizens or residents living in provinces where Borrowell provides its services.
- Hold a bank account in Canada.
- Have at least 12 months of credit history.
- Have a credit score above 660.
- Are not bankrupt, in collections, or have filed for a consumer proposal.
- Have at least $20,000 in annual income before taxes (as proven by pay stubs or tax returns).
- Have at least two recent pay stubs to verify income, or two Notices of Assessment to verify self-employment/business/investment/pension income.
In practice, employed Canadians who need loans from alternative lenders can get one from Borrowell, provided they have good credit. Their purposes might include paying bills on time, home improvement, car loans, business loans, and high-interest debt consolidation.
OK, but… Should I?
In case you need credit without collateral and can pay your loan relatively quickly, Borrowell is perfect for you. It can also be a good option for people who’d like to consolidate high-interest debt into a single, low-interest loan.
On the other hand, if you have a low credit score or uneven credit report, you should consider other options. Also, there are ways to get longer-term and/or lower-interest loans with traditional institutions, especially if you can provide a collateral.
Related Post: The 5 Best Student Credit Cards In Canada
Applying For A Borrowell Loan
The entire procedure to obtain a personal loan through Borrowell can take 1-3 days and is almost as easy as the credit report inquiry:
Step 1: Open an account
Borrowell indicates what loan options the user qualifies for. This step can be skipped if the user already has an account.
Step 2: Decide on a three- or five-year term
You can consult Borrowell's website for relevant information regarding the two options.
Step 3: Request a quote
This requires an explanation as to what the loan will be used for. Unlike loans in banks, this process does not affect the user’s credit score.
Step 4: Upload or email a digital copy or even a photo of proof of income
This includes either the two most recent pay stubs or the Notice of Assessment from the last two tax returns.
Step 5: Verify bank account
This is done using the bank and branch number and following the steps indicated.
Step 6: Review and accept the loan
This is as simple as responding to an email. You'll have the money deposited in your account in about 2 days, if eligible.
Paying Your Borrowell Loan
Pay automatically following a regular monthly schedule through the registered bank account. A reminder will be sent three days before the payment is removed. Repay in full with no prepayment penalties.
It is worth noting that the loan balance can be paid back in full at any time without any penalty or added fees whatsoever.
Real Cost Of A Borrowell Loan
Common knowledge says that the cost of borrowed money is interest. This is true, but borrowers must also read the small print. It generally includes fees and penalties that could end up increasing said cost significantly.
To be honest, Borrowell makes the cost of a loan easy to understand:
- The average annual percentage rate (APR) is 11-12%, which includes an origination fee of 1-5%.
- The company applies an additional ‘Not Sufficient Funds' (NSF) charge of $25 when payments bounce and
- For certain loan customers, there is an additional $28 fee made by VersaPay.
However, if you pay on schedule, payments will be the same every month and won’t go up. No hidden fees or complex calculations.
Borrowell's Credit Advice Services
Borrowell’s growth has been driven by big data and machine learning development.
The digital platform gathers data. This includes lending applications, credit score patterns, loan histories and even personal information like financial goals and other attributes from millions of users. Using these inputs, the company can make personalized product recommendations and offer new tools aimed at improving the financial well-being of its members. Molly, Canada’s first AI-powered credit coaching tool, is the best example.
In this manner, Borrowell continues to provide financial education while growing its own financial marketplace. Currently, the company has 50 financial partners, including credit cards, mortgages, loans, investing, insurance, and banking.
Related Post: Credit Counselling Society
From 2020, members can also access Boost, a paid-subscription predictive analysis tool that leverages artificial intelligence to help protect your credit score. Boost tracks Borrowell members' bills, determines the likelihood of insufficient funds, and offers them access to interest-free advances to avoid NSF fees.
Although Borrowell’s website and app are well-designed and user-friendly, customer service is by e-mail only. Being a financial service, some may consider this inadequate or insufficient.
It is also worth noting that Borrowell loans are only available to people with a credit score above 660. However, it is not yet available in all the provinces and territories of Canada. Also, loan options currently available are limited to three and five years.
It is also worth noting that Borrowell's interest rates are based on no-collateral status. Therefore, they’re not the lowest cost option compared to Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or standard car loans.
The Bottom Line
Borrowell offers services that are transparent, quick, useful, easy to use and safe. It is worth considering for your debt needs.
Among its highlights, the free credit score and report service is an outstanding tool for financial health improvement. Besides saving hundreds of dollars per year in credit monitoring fees, it allows members to better understand their credit options and prevent fraudulent activities, including identity theft.
In summary, Borrowell is a good option. This is especially true for Canadians who need an unsecured, lump-sum loan with a relatively short repayment term. Considering credit card interest rates as high as 29.99%, borrowers can take advantage of Borrowell’s rates as low as 5.6% APR.
In addition, online access to loans through a user-friendly interface displaying interest rates and associated fees in the application process, combined with the promise of funding within 48 hours and flexible repayment terms, gives users a powerful resource to take control of their personal finance.
The digital alternative offered by Borrowell will allow you to consolidate and pay off expensive debt or fund important personal investments like getting a car or starting a business without having to put up any collateral.