Adapting to the Digital Age
Grameen America is quickly advancing the technology we use for our loan transactions, benefiting our members and organization alike. We are moving toward digital solutions for both distributing our loans and for our members’ repayments.
In the past, our members would receive their loans through checks. They paid check-cashing fees, faced a delay in receiving their funds, and often risked their safety while carrying around these checks. But over the last year, we have switched to pre-loaded loan disbursement cards, which act like debit cards. Pre-loaded with the amount of the loan, these cards give members full and immediate access to their funds without having to pay any fees. This process also allows for a safe, paperless, and centralized fund release process; greater data transparency; and easier fund management for our staff.
We are also offering our members new ways to repay their loans, including a debit option. With this method, our members who have signed up for a checking account can easily repay their loans without having to worry about withdrawing the funds from their bank account. This option is safer for our members who are using checking accounts because they no longer need to carry around cash to make their repayments. They simply bring their debit cards to the weekly meetings and swipe them using a device linked to a tablet operated by our loan officers.
Five of Grameen America’s 20 branches have been trained in the new repayment system or are already accepting payments via debit cards, and two more branches will begin to accept debit repayments over the next month. We aim to have all of our branches using these cards by the end of the year. The debit card repayment option complements another repayment method called PayNearMe, which allows members to repay their loans in cash at retail locations, such as 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, and Family Dollar—without Grameen America staff having to touch or count all the cash.
Though we accept repayments by money order as well, our members are increasingly recognizing the benefits of these other methods and opting for them instead.
Our members’ transition to digital banking is significant; by learning how to use these cards, they will be better equipped to navigate the increasingly cashless U.S. economy. The program is a win-win: the change decreases Grameen America’s operational costs while simultaneously making our members’ lives easier and safer—bringing them further into the financial mainstream.