“We couldn’t find a credit card company that met our needs, so we started our own.”
So begins the bold story of Jasper, the fintech company reinventing the credit experience.
“I believe we are one of the first platforms that have designed a credit card product with a business model that is aligned with our customers’ interests. Simply put, this credit card does not make most of its money from its customers being in debt,” Jasper’s CEO, Elnor Rozenrot told Money Under 30.
Many U.S. credit card companies will not issue a credit card to someone if they have no credit history. But Jasper’s behavioral risk model identifies customers with limited-to-no financial history with potential prime credit characteristics, and then provides them with a premium credit card as soon as they enter the credit market.
A recent immigrant to the U.S with impeccable banking credentials in his own country, or a recent college graduate with no credit score but a glittering career ahead of him, can still experience all the benefits of a premium Mastercard with high credit limits, low-interest rates, and no annual fees.
Meet the CEO of Jasper Cash Back Mastercard– Elnor Rozenrot
Elnor launched Jasper (formerly CreditStacks) five years ago to solve three problems in the U.S. credit industry: a lack of transparency, over-complexity, and a high bar to entry.
In 2020, the company relaunched as Jasper with WebBank as its new issuing partner, an expanded target market, and a renewed sense of purpose: to help customers minimize credit card debt and live a financially healthy life in the midst of a global pandemic.
We spoke to Elnor over cappuccinos and chicken schnitzel in his home town Tel Aviv to get the lowdown on lockdown living while avoiding credit card debt.
Money Under 30’s interview with Elnor Rozenrot
Money under 30 is excited to have the opportunity to interview you! Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into finance?
The story starts in 2004. I’d just moved to the U.S. to do an MBA and I walked into a bank to get a bank account and get a credit card and I was shocked that just because I flew 12 hours, I was suddenly a nobody. In Israel, I was a good banking customer but in America I was nothing.
After returning to Israel and founding another company, my mind kept going back to that formative memory of arriving in the U.S because I always thought this chicken and egg situation in the U.S. credit system was challenging for newcomers.
The initial idea was to help immigrants who don’t have a credit history in the U.S. but I soon realized this could be expanded to young college grads who might have started a great job but credit companies don’t recognize that because they don’t have a credit score. I understood that this is my chance to help people who don’t have a credit score through no fault of their own but who will be good customers.
What drove you to co-found Jasper? What do you believe sets your company apart from other credit card providers?
Jasper is my solution to a very particular problem: getting a credit card when you don’t have a credit score. I fell in love with the problem – I just couldn’t let it go. I had to touch it – feel it – until I could develop a solution.
I understood that we needed to dramatically shift our perception of credit scores and underwrite people based on their future potential and not on their past.
A credit card should be like a car. You don’t need to know how it works but you need to know that you can get in it in the morning and go where you need to go. A credit card should be the same.
And I think what really sets us apart from other credit card providers is our business ethos: we really don’t want our customers to get into a lot of debt. Our whole model is based on the notion that our customers will borrow and pay back the money monthly. We actually make more money if our users make their monthly payments. We want to encourage responsible borrowing, spending and paying back.
You’ve been in the industry a while. What do you feel is the most common misconception about credit cards and debt?
Not all debt is created equal. A mortgage is a good debt to have but $10,000 of credit card debt on electronics and clothes and meals out and trips that you can’t afford is disastrous. Credit card debt can be bad if not managed properly.
With the current crisis, many Millennials now find themselves temporarily without an income. If they have credit cards, what advice do you have for those who are struggling to keep up with that minimum monthly payment?
Just because you have credit doesn’t mean you have to use it. If you are truly struggling, reach out to your credit card provider.
What about new customers? What can Jasper offer that will help Millennials get through the economic impact of COVID-19?
Beyond the Jasper card itself, we give our customers tools and information to help them build good credit and make sound financial decisions. We developed these resources before the COVID-19 crisis hit, but they’re even more relevant now.
For example, through our app and emails, customers receive personalized, real-time financial advice, innovative auto payment options, and ongoing education for smart credit use. We have a Knowledge Center on our website so customers can find simple, clear answers not just to questions about credit, but also, for example, how to avoid debt during the COVID-19 crisis.
We continue to believe that encouraging healthy spending habits and stopping you from getting into financial trouble is more effective than getting you out of trouble – it’s the same principle as preventative medicine. It’s much better to foster good habits to stop you getting sick than only taking action when the patient is already ill.
What is Jasper doing to weather this crisis?
We were very fortunate to raise $110 million in growth financing before the pandemic hit the U.S so we’re lucky to have enough money in the bank to weather this storm. We’ve ensured our stability and continue to give premium credit cards to great customers, which means that even after seeing several payment cycles following COVID, we’re yet to face any widespread problems.
Once the quarantine is over, what advice do you give Millennials for preparing for future economic uncertainty?
It might not seem like it now, but this will pass. A big part of getting through is making the right decisions on a daily basis. Try to live within your means as much as you can and if we look at the stock market as an indicator of future growth, we can see that there is reason to be optimistic.
The top priority for so many of our readers is to build and/or repair their credit. What age-old advice can you share to help motivate our readers to not give up this goal?
Avoid credit card debt – and remember credit card debt is really expensive. Make your monthly payments!
Looking forward, what lasting impact do you think the coronavirus will have on the financial industry? Do you feel consumers will see a similarly lasting impact?
This period has made me go back and read a lot about the Great Depression (which started with the Wall Street Crash in 1929) when extreme frugality was the norm. I think the extent of the impact of coronavirus will depend on the length and severity of the pandemic and ensuing recession. It will – and already is – affect people’s spending.
People are spending less and are much more thoughtful about how they’re spending their money, what’s essential and what’s not. Our willingness to take economic risks will depend, at least in part, on the severity of the recession.
Who in your life has been the most instrumental in teaching you about money management?
Me! My own screwups have taught me – in a very expensive way! – how to better manage money.
What’s the best advice you’ve received (not necessarily money-related) that has shaped how you lead your life?
“The most a person can aspire to is to be of use.” A lesson from my Polish grandmother!
What’s your top personal finance tip?
Aim to be financially comfortable – this doesn’t necessarily mean making more money. Try to reach a mindset where you can be content with what you can actually afford.
What is the financial book/website/podcast that has most motivated you?
Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War. Written in 431 BCE, two and a half thousand years ago, and still as relevant as ever.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self about managing money?
“The party doesn’t last forever!” At times when you’re making more money than you need to live, squirreling some away for hard times is an excellent idea!
With humor, a quick mind, and a new way of approaching debt, Elnor wants us to think differently – and act on it.
With 80% of Americans loaded with debt, debt has come to be accepted as a normal part of life but Jasper is here to remind us that a credit card doesn’t mean we should have credit card debt – and paying back every month is one of the best things you can do for your money and for your mind.
From everyone at Money Under 30, a huge thank you to Elnor for sharing his insights and advice – with some words of wisdom from grandma!