The rise of digital finance has been quick in Kenya, with 6 million of the adult population having borrowed money using their phones. Getting a loan is now as simple as a click of a button, but how is the experience really like? So using the loan app, Branch, I sought to find out what the experience of taking a loan through a mobile app is like. I examined the convenience, speed, ease of the loan process, payment period and interest charged and whether charges are disclosed before you take a loan.
I downloaded the app from the Google Play store– it doesn’t take up much space at 2.81 Mbs. The app requests permission to access your SMS (never delete mobile money transactions messages before taking a Branch loan) phone contacts, location, call logs, media files, Wi-Fi connection information (including names of other devices connected to the same Wi-Fi) and the Id of callers. On further research, I learnt that this information is part of what will be used to determine my eligibility for a loan-so I accepted and installed the app.
Branch provides the option of using either English or Swahili, which I loved especially considering the use of Swahili simplifies the finance jargon common in such transactions-so I chose to use Swahili. Next, I was asked to join/login to my Facebook account-the app uses the social media site in the calculation of a credit score (if you are not on Facebook you can’t get a loan).
Thereafter, they asked me to set up a four digit pin which would act as a security access code to access the app. After feeding in my personal details; full name, identity card, date of birth etc, I was finally registered.
Taking a Loan
Depending on your credit rating, first-time borrowers are allowed between Ksh.250-500 as a loan, with the loan amounts increasing as they continue borrowing, topping at Ksh.50, 000 as the maximum amount that can be borrowed.
For a Ksh.500 loan, branch charges an interest of Ksh.76 representing a 15 % interest rate with a payment plan of Ksh.144 per week for four weeks. The payment schedule is available with the date due clearly outlined. A loan of Ksh.250 is payable in four instalments of Ksh.72 each and attracts a weekly interest of Ksh.38 (15% interest rate).
I explored the app’s menu and found that Branch provides a promotion code, which will earn users Ksh.500 for every person they refer-but only after their referrals pay off their first loan. Additionally, the app also has an inbuilt customer care feature, where you can write to a customer care representative without having to leave the app.
- I like that Branch makes information about your loan easily accessible in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section in the ‘How It Works’ tab within the app. Interest rates, APA, loan terms, late fees are all outlined clearly here.
- Early loan repayment does not attract a penalty though they encourage users to repay on the stipulated dates in order to increase the loan amount they can access.
- The app has a fast loading speed and the entire registering and loan processing takes about 5-7 minutes depending on how curious you are to explore the app’s other features.
- Security code feature stops unauthorized use of the app.
- If you mistakenly overpay your loan, you cannot get a refund, instead, the amount is carried forward to the repayment of your next payment.
- Having to input the security code every time your phone screen sleeps can be irritating, especially if you plan on spending a lot of time exploring the app.
Overall, I found the experience simple and smooth, the app is small in size which I appreciated (if your phone is clogged with apps like mine you’ll appreciate it too). Taking a loan really is a press of a button away. Other mobile loan applications include Tala, Zidisha, and Saida apps.
Have you tried the Branch app? How has your experience been?
Speaking about taking loans, here is Everything You Need To Know About Barclays Bank’s New Timiza Loan App