Perch was founded to help users build credit easily. There are other products out there that do something similar, but I think Perch is better.
Perch is a new mobile app available for iOS that can improve your credit score by incorporating your rent history and recurring subscriptions such as streaming services.
Currently, Perch is only available through the Apple Store. There are some similar offerings out there, but I think this one is better. It’s completely free and it reports to more credit bureaus.
Typically, your rental payment history does not appear on your credit reports. That’s a shame, because rent is the largest monthly expense for many households. It would be great if paying your rent on time helped you build your credit score.
There are some existing services that facilitate reporting your rent to the credit bureaus, but they typically charge fees. They can also get complicated, since many require your landlord to respond to the tracking company each month or mandate that they receive your payments through their platform). With Perch, you provide your lease details and grant read-only access to your bank account via Plaid’s secure API. That allows Perch to verify your payment history – without bugging your landlord or forcing you to change your payment method.
Even better, Perch can retroactively add up to 24 months of rental payment history to your credit reports with all three major bureaus. This could jumpstart your credit score in a big way. The company tells me their average customer improves their credit score between 60 and 160 points. And many who were previously unscorable instantly land between 670 and 690 – placing them in the “good credit” category. That’s incredible!
See related: How to pay rent with a credit card
Perch also has a novel approach to monitoring subscriptions. Users notify the company which recurring subscriptions they want to include, and Perch provides them with a virtual debit card loaded up to that pre-approved amount. The user pays Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music or another subscription service with that virtual card number. They then pay Perch back. Perch reports this virtual card payment activity as an additional tradeline on users’ credit reports (note that Perch currently reports subscriptions to Equifax and TransUnion; it plans to add Experian by July).
I asked Perch founder and CEO Michael Broughton what happens if someone doesn’t pay them back – would that end up hurting their credit score? He said no. Perch really wants to help their users build credit, so it will not place a negative mark on a customer’s credit report in that situation – or even charge a late fee.
Instead, Perch relies on proactive measures such as cash flow underwriting and warnings if your account balance falls too low. If you don’t pay, they’ll eventually prevent you from making future purchases. Broughton explained that their liability is very limited because they pre-approve these virtual card purchases and the eligible subscription services tend to charge modest amounts. He assured me that no one can get away with buying $500 Nikes and skipping town.
Broughton is a 21-year-old graduate of the University of Southern California. He was inspired to found Perch after he had difficulty securing a loan for a $10,000 tuition shortfall. One of seven children born into a military family, Broughton was the first member of his family to attend college. He’s now assisting others who wish to improve their financial lives. The company’s investors include heavy hitters such as Citi, Sequoia Capital, SoftBank and Y Combinator.
The market is huge. FICO reports that 79 million Americans have subprime credit and another 53 million can’t be scored because they lack a sufficient credit history. Broughton told me Perch’s initial sweet spot is 18-25 year-olds, but he also noted that many older adults could benefit, particularly immigrants and people rebuilding their credit after a misstep. He has big plans for expansion and believes Perch can benefit 100,000 people in 2021. The app formally launched in late January and is onboarding new customers in weekly batches.
See related: How to build credit
Broughton’s ultimate goal is to spread the gospel of financial literacy and credit building. He wants to help people obtain their first credit cards and other financial products. “We want to launch you into the credit world on a better foot,” he said. The way I see it, Perch is off to an excellent start.
Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at email@example.com and I’d be happy to help.