Kiva U.S. Review

Kiva U.S was established in San Francisco, CA, in 2012. It is a global nonprofit microlender. With Kiva U.S., there are no funding partners, so borrowers get interest-free funds from the lending platform.

Kiva U.S.: Overview

Kiva U.S. has a unique position in the business crowdfunding space. It provides a 0% interest loan policy, resulting in investors losing money when they provide loans.
Are you surprised? Well, let’s take a look at the company. As the name suggests, Kiva U.S. is the United States branch of Kiva. Kiva is a global nonprofit microlender that used to be known as Kiva Zip before June of 2016. At that time, Kiva Zip was more of an experiment meant to arrive at direct methods of borrowing. Although Kiva Zip has become part of Kiva’s main website, Kiva U.S. still operates on the lending model used in the trial version. What’s the difference between the programs? With Kiva U.S., there are no funding partners, so borrowers get interest-free funds from the lending platform. The funding partners collect and distribute the funds for the Kiva programs and take an interest in their services. Kiva has been taken to the cleaners because of their not too transparent operations and some of the contentious activities of their funding partners.  Kiva U.S. removes the need for funding partners, so it makes life easier for its borrowers. Kiva makes up for the need for funding partners by gauging the character and reputation of its potential borrowers instead of checking their credit scores or rummaging through their most recent cash flow documents. Heck, you don’t need collateral to access a loan on the Kiva U.S. platform. Plus, there is the 0% interest aspect that many a merchant find irresistible. Like with all things, there are snags with Kiva U.S. loans. One of them is that it might take up to 60 days to raise funds. Then there is the borrowing amount that is capped at $10K. That said, Kiva U.S. could be a great option when you are looking for capital. Here is a table that presents their offerings better:
Borrowing Amount Loan Term Length Interest Rate Origination Fee? Min Credit Score
$1K-$50K 3 or 5 years 8.16%-27.99% Yes 580
$2K-$35K 3 or 5 years 6.95%-35.99% APR Yes 640
$25K-$300K 3-7 years 0%-5% on first 9-15 months Yes 680

Pros

  • Great for start-ups
  • Zero-interest rates
  • Zero credit scores
  • Zero additional fees
  • Zero prepayment penalty
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • Not great for large businesses
  • Extended application process
  • Relative lengthy time to funding:4  to 12 weeks

Kiva U.S.

Kiva U.S. has a unique position in the business crowdfunding space.

Services Offered

Kiva offers small, zero-interest, zero-fees, repayable loans generated by crowdfunding based on the borrower. Kiva gets paid from its microlenders’ voluntary donations.

Borrower Qualifications

Kiva U.S. is quite relaxed about borrower qualification as things like time in business, personal credit score, and business revenue are all non-applicable. None of these parameters are checked. However, it would be best if you had a business to qualify for their loans, and the borrowers must use the loans to develop their business.

Terms & Fees

Here are some of the terms and fees that are part of a Kiva U.S.:

Borrowing amount:$25 – $10,000
Term length:6months to 3years
Interest rate:0%
Origination fee:Nil
APR:0%
Collateral:Nil (Unsecured)

Borrowers for Kiva U.S. can get up to $10K although guidelines are governing how much you can borrow:

Businesses that qualify for $1,000:
  • Pre-revenue
  • Zero presence online
  • Have been in business for less than a year
  • Restricted loan description
Companies that are eligible for $2,000-$5,000:
  • Revenue exists
  • Rudimentary online presence
  • Have been in business for at least a year
  • Persuasive story and loan description
Businesses that are eligible for $5,000-$10,000:
  • Stable revenue
  • Robust presence online
  • Have been in business for at least three years
  • Excellent references

 

Despite the lax requirements (zero interest rates, collateral, and fees), borrowers from Kiva U.S. must repay the borrowed funds when due. Failure to do so will adversely affect their credit scores.

Kiva loans take two forms: partner and direct. With partner loans, Kiva’s partners, consisting of nonprofits, schools, microfinance organizations, and similar groups, fund the loans. These partners are also responsible for vetting and collection. 

Direct loans, which are open to American businesses, are crowdfunded, and a partner might charge a small fee.

Application Process

Kiva’s loans are crowdfunded, so the application process takes quite some time, say up to two months in some cases. Here’s what the Kiva U.S. application process entails.

The application process starts with filling out an online application on the Kiva website that should take an hour. You’d be expected to provide information about your finances, business, social media accounts, and information about your loan. A picture and a bio about yourself and your business will also be required to be displayed on your profile on the website. You might get a trustee if possible, but it is not compulsory.

Upon submitting your application, someone in the Kiva team reviews your application, updates you on the application status, and walks you through the rest of it if necessary.

You will be required to lend about $25 to another borrower before your application enters the funding phase. One of the reasons for this requirement is to give the borrower a taste of what it feels like to be a lender. The other reason is for borrowers to become part of the Kiva community, creating economic opportunities for community members.

The next stage of the process is the 15-day private funding period, where borrowers are required to recruit at least five people from their circle to fund the loan. The number of people recruited is dependent how the loan amount you want.

The next phase is the public phase, where anybody can lend the borrower money. The listing for the loan stays live until it is funded or a minimum of 30 days. Within this period, borrowers get to network with investors using a chat function on their profile.

The funds get sent to the borrower’s PayPal account within seven days of the loan being 100% funded.

Sales & Advertising Transparency

The Kiva U.S. website provides all the information the average borrower needs to know about raising funds on their platform: FAQs, application, repayment, and additional resources.

Customer Service & Technical Support

The Kiva website has a support center that answers most of the questions from the resources they provide. Questions that might prove difficult to answer on the website are responded to by the community support service(within 48hours) that can be reached through email or phone. 

Fundera By NerdWallet

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User Reviews

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

A lot of borrowers are happy about the Kiva U.S. policy on zero loans and interest. They also appreciate the communal approach where other people contribute to the growth of their businesses. In addition, the images and the bio facilitates personal interactions between borrowers and lenders.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Kiva U.S. eliminated the need for intermediaries not to have the same criticism that the mother company has. The main Kiva company has only 17 reviews on Trustpilot and has a 2.0 out of a 5 rating scale.

On the flip side, Kiva U.S. has few complaints which border on declined applications. That said, there are a few reasons why Kiva U.S. loans might not work for you:

  • Long Application Process: It might take up to two months to get a loan funded, and due to the crowdfunding process, you might not meet the target amount.
  • Small Borrowing Amounts: Kiva’s loans are capped at $10K, so you might only be able to request less than that.
Other start-up business loan options:
Borrowing Amount Loan Term Length Interest Rate Origination Fee? Min Credit Score
$1K-$50K 3 or 5 years 8.16%-27.99% Yes 580
$2K-$35K 3 or 5 years 6.95%-35.99% APR Yes 640
$25K-$300K 3-7 years 0%-5% on first 9-15 months Yes 680

Final Verdict

Kiva U.S. is one of the least expensive forms of financing available to business owners in the United States. It might not be the best fit for every business, but it works well for small to medium community-oriented companies that need a little cash now and then.

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