Chicago Credit Building Coalition champions financial inclusion

Bank On Chicago, formed of 11 community development organizations, aims to expand financial inclusion for low and moderate income residents

A new financial inclusion initiative, Bank On Chicago, has been launched in tandem with the Chicago Credit Building Coalition (CCBC), a new body formed of 11 community development organizations.

The CCBC aims to expand financial inclusion for low and moderate income residents. Its approach will combine existing financial education programs with a credit-building financial tool supplied by Citi.

"Having a good credit profile is essential for lowering an individual's day-to-day transaction costs, growing their assets through small business or home ownership and securing employment," said Stephanie D. Neely, Chicago City Treasurer. "These organizations are demonstrating their commitment to helping underserved Chicago residents, and by working together they will have a tremendous, positive impact."

The program offers individual coaching to improve residents' financial management skills, as well as access to a secured or unsecured credit card provided by Citi subsidiary Citibanamex USA, which will help participants to build their credit history.

A web-based system will allow CCBC member organizations to assist people in applying for the card and to monitor their usage. CCBC members will also have a means of monitoring individual credit scores and tracking which credit building programs have the most impact.

The Citibanamex USA credit card is already in use in similar programs. For applicants with limited or no credit history, the card requires a small minimum cardholder security deposit of $300 and a commitment to attend free financial education classes. Early pilots indicate that customers have increased their scores by an average of 50 points through the use of the card and the courses.

"Especially in the current economic climate, being creditworthy is essential to economic empowerment," said Donna Rockin at Jewish Vocational Services Chicago, which is a CCBC member. "By coming together to offer this innovative package of financial tools and education, we are going to have a tremendous impact in terms of helping Chicago residents establish and raise their credit scores. It's a collaborative and comprehensive model that other cities will want to adopt."