Credit card debt can be crippling. In 2016, the average cardholder had about $16,000 in credit card debt, which amounted to about 11.7 percent of their total household debt. With an interest rate of 17 percent and a minimum monthly payment of $250, it’d take 11 years to wipe that off the books.
That’s where Tally comes in with its automated app that helps users pay off credit card debt. The app’s debuting on Android this week just about a year after its iOS launch in June 2017.
Tally’s the brainchild of Jason Brown, a serial entrepreneur who raised $17 million from Shasta Ventures and Cowboy Ventures ahead of last year’s launch. Brown and Tally cofounder Jasper Platz previously founded Gen110, a finance company that was acquired by Repower in September 2013.
Brown, who was homeschooled until college and paid for tuition with scholarships, loans, and income from CWP, a painting company he founded as a freshman, experienced financial hardship growing up. He remembers a Christmas when his parents couldn’t afford presents.
“That’s why I founded Tally — to get [people] out of debt as quickly as possible,” he said. “Algorithms … [figure] out the right amount to allocate to [credit cards].”
Tally doesn’t erase debt, but it makes managing payments simpler with the help of artificial intelligence. Users add their credit cards by scanning them with their smartphone camera. If they meet the prerequisite credit score — above 660 — they’re offered a new line of credit at an interest rate between 7.9 and 19.9 percent per year, depending on their balances, spending behavior, promotional rates, and other factors.
Tally prioritizes credit cards based on annual percentage rate (APR) and revolving balance, tackling the most expensive first. It takes care to make payments at least two business days before the due date and refunds any late fees incurred in the event a mistake is made.
Essentially, Tally acts as an intermediary between users and their credit card companies, consolidating debt from multiple accounts with a single personal loan. (Tally funds those loans by borrowing from banks in bulk.) Because it’s a licensed money lender and money transmitter, it can make monthly payments on a user‘s behalf: a calculated minimum payment plus 1 percent of the principle on the aforementioned loan.
“There’s an immense amount of complexity that goes into delivering a fully automated experience,” Brown said.
Tally charges no annual or origination fees, though it reserves the right to withdraw credit after two months of missed payments. In six months, it reevaluates users‘ financial situations, offering a higher credit line and/or lower interest rate to those who consistently make the minimum payment.
Brown claims that Tally users paying the minimum can eliminate their debt in 12 years, or 10 years faster than they would have without the app. He also says that 90 percent of people who sign up keep using the app after a month.
Not every user’s extended a personal loan. Roughly a third of Tally users opt to simply manage and pay their credit cards through the app, Brown said, which allows them to make payments manually or have Tally facilitate. In either case, they get monthly bill reminders in the form of emails and notifications.
In August, the company launched Tally Advisor, a feature that calculates the date users will be debt free by taking into account income, spending, level of debt, and current balances.
“Once people experience it, they almost never want to give it up,” he said.
Tally doesn’t have much in the way of direct competition, but it’s going up against personal loan programs like SunTrust Bank’s LightStream and SoFi, which offer interest as low as 15 percent.
Brown acknowledged that some banks have better rates but contended that fixed loans tend to encourage bad spending behavior. According to the results of a survey Tally conducted in May 2017, about 70 percent of people who refinanced their debt are no better off than they were three years ago. And about 81 percent said they felt that debt refinancing made it easier to accumulate more debt.
Tally isn’t available everywhere yet — it’s in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin — but Brown said the plan is to expand to all 50 states in the coming months.
San Francisco-based Tally, which was founded in 2015, raised $25 million in a round led by Kleiner Perkins in July of this year. It’ll use the capital to double its 50 employee headcount.
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