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Deserve Raises $17 Million in Equity Funding

Credit-building payment card innovator Deserve just closed $17 million in equity funding this week. Contributors to the round include new investor Sallie Mae, as well as existing backers Accel, Pelion, Aspect Ventures, and Mission Holdings. This brings the company’s combined debt and equity funding to $95.5 million.

The California-based company will use the funds to build out its platform and add partners to its reward programs. The company currently offers users deals with six partners, including Amazon Prime, T-Mobile, and Wikipedia.

Originally known as SelfScore, Deserve rebranded in 2017 to enhance its focus on serving college students and Generation Z. The company offers Mastercard-branded credit cards for young, financially underserved consumers and others with thin credit files. The cards are made to appeal to international students and others, such as the company’s Founder and CEO Kalpesh Kapadia, who have recently moved to the U.S. and are having difficulty accessing credit. When it came to applying for credit in the U.S., Kapadia told Business Insider, “I got rejected every time. It was mostly for credit cards and student loans, given that I didn’t have a credit card history in the country.”

Deserve has three card options: Deserve Edu, which offers student benefits such as 1% back on all purchases and a free subscription to Amazon Prime Student; Deserve Pro, which offers no foreign transaction fees and 1% to 3% back on purchases; and Deserve Classic, which is specifically designed to help users build their credit.

The company leverages non-traditional data such as current financial health, education history, future employability, and projected potential earnings. Deserve combines those factors into a machine learning algorithm to determine applicants’ credit eligibility. The company’s cards are open to U.S. citizens, green card holders, registered international students, and H1B or L1 visa holders.

Founded in 2012, Deserve demoed a consumer behavior analytics service at FinovateFall 2014 under the name SelfScore. The company’s accounts are issued by Utah-based Celtic Bank. In April, Deserve closed on $50 million in debt financing to drive growth in accounts receivables.