Cheese, a Pasadena-based revolutionary challenger bank and social cause platform, will be expanding access to its banking services by offering customers alternative methods of identification to open an account, even when they have no social security numbers.
Instead of a social security number, Cheese will consider applicants who provide a current visa and valid passport as alternative identification, along with a valid established U.S. address. Prospective customers can offer one of the seven valid visas if they don’t have a social security number.
“I am so proud and gratified to be introducing a digital banking platform that can be accessed with alternative identification. This has been the number one priority for Cheese since our inception,” said Ken Lian, Cheese CEO and co-founder. “As an immigrant who came to the U.S. with a student visa, I have experienced firsthand how requiring a social security number means a lot of people who get shut out of financial services. Providing a platform that welcomes immigrants, as well as non-immigrants, opens the doors for everyone.”
Approximately 45 million immigrants in the U.S. account for about $1.3 trillion in spending power, research by New American Economy shows. Many of these immigrants have been unable to open bank accounts because they lack a U.S.-issued social security number.
“Fintechs generally don’t offer banking platforms without requiring social security numbers because it’s a very complex process from both a regulatory and technological standpoint,” Lian added. “We moved mountains to make this happen but did so because it’s a crucial step forward in the next generation of financial access if it’s going to be truly inclusive and reflect today’s global community. To that end, providing more accessible credit and lending is next on our list.”
Cheese launched in Pasadena in March. With either a physical or virtual Cheese debit card, users can earn up to 10-percent cash-back at over 10,000 retailers or restaurants.
Through its social cause platform, Cheese customers can also take part in a larger movement to support Asian-owned businesses and communities. Any customer may donate their $5 sign-up bonus or any portion of their cash back funds to the Cheese Give-Back Fund, which supports organizations like Welcome to Chinatown, AAPI Women Lead, the Asian Pacific Fund, and other nonprofits. So far more than $33,000 has been donated by Cheese customers.
“We want diaspora communities across any background in the United States to know that they may find a challenger bank in Cheese,” Actor Jimmy Wong, Cheese’s Chief Community Officer and the son of immigrant parents, said. “They will not be denied financial access or assistance because they do not have a social security number.”