5 QUESTIONS WITH: Jay Moon, General Manager, Credit Sesame

Date: November 16, 2020

Jay Moon is General Manager of Credit at Credit Sesame. He is a customer-obsessed leader specializing in data-driven growth and building and motivating high-performance teams. In his role at Credit Sesame, he is focused on financial education and helping consumers achieve their financial goals to create better opportunities for themselves and their families.

Are you seeing any trends in credit scores and spending usage via your app data – are credit scores going up/down/staying steady?

Between March and September, we saw our customers’ credit scores increase by an average of 19 points despite the economic downturn. Consumers with lower credit scores saw the most growth in their credit score. However, the average debt for our customers has also increased by more than $5000. This increase in credit scores is likely due in part to the CARES Act and many deferral and forbearance programs lenders put in place at the start of the pandemic. These actions likely helped prevent many consumers from missing payments that would have negatively impacted their credit scores.

We know consumers see their credit health as an integral part of their overall financial wellness, especially among economic uncertainty. According to an ongoing customer survey, “improving my credit score” is one of the top financial priorities for our customers, both before and during the pandemic.

Have you seen a tightening of credit since the start of the pandemic?

We’ve seen that consumer credit has tightened even though demand continues to be strong and credit scores have actually increased since the beginning of the pandemic. Banks and lenders have tighter underwriting because of a rise in unemployment—the ability to repay debts for some consumers has become more uncertain.

That being said, data suggests that demand will continue to be strong as the Fed has announced a commitment to low interest rates for the foreseeable future. We have since seen some lenders starting to let credit flow more in recent weeks as people have started returning to work.

With the holidays coming up, do you have any insights on what holiday spending will be like given the current economy?

We recently conducted a survey that revealed many consumers are not letting the pandemic affect their holiday spending. According to the results, more than 60 percent of consumers plan to spend at least the same amount of money this holiday shopping season, as in previous years. More than 40 percent of respondents either lost a job or have changed their spending due to fears about job stability. Still, among those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, 34 percent are prepared to stick with or surpass their usual holiday spending budgets.

The survey also shows that more than half of consumers don’t save at all for the holidays. This means that the majority of consumers either only spend the cash they have available at the time (43 percent) or they rely mostly on credit cards (28 percent). Only 21 percent use a combination of both cash and credit. Since cash and credit are so interrelated when it comes to financial health, these consumers will need to be mindful of how they use both to ensure they set themselves up for financial success in the long run.

What is your go-to credit score improvement and/or financial wellness advice for anyone who is looking to manage their score/finances better?

It’s all about understanding and acting on your own data. There are a range of situations consumers face with regards to managing their credit score. From people trying to enter into credit for the first time or looking to overcome a misstep or mistake on their credit report to maximizing/protecting their score as they shop for a mortgage, the most important advice we can give is to understand and act on the data for your own credit report. At Credit Sesame, we use this data to run different scenarios for our customers in the background to give customers straightforward actions to understand and unlock their credit potential.

What are the biggest misnomers about credit scores that you see amongst your users?

Credit wellness is a journey. While it’s rarely something that can be changed overnight, there are plenty of ways to get started and make small but significant steps towards better credit health.

Also, it’s never too late to improve or start this journey. Whether you’ve hit a financial hardship and are dealing with significant debt or are just starting out with credit, there are plenty of options for you to boost your score and enhance your credit standing. Credit Sesame has a proven track record when it comes to helping consumers boost their credit: About 60 percent of Credit Sesame members have seen their credit score improve within the first six months of using the platform — 50 percent have seen their credit score improve by more than ten points in their first six months, and 20 percent have seen their credit score improve more than 50 points in their first six months.