Consumers have searched for better ways to cover the holidays since the recession kicked in late 2008. With more of these consumers having access to fewer credit options, many companies turned to the traditional layaway programs to get customers through their doors. Soon, the layaway most of us grew up seeing our mothers do for things like school clothes and Christmas was a formidable opponent against high interest credit cards. Now, it’s gone high tech. This week we take a look at both eLayaway and PRBC, which is a new credit bureau. The goal is to explore what these two dynamics offer the modern consumer.
Touted as the leading provider of layaway payment processing technology, the eLayaway program continues to grow in popularity and uses a patent-pending payment system that allows companies to expand their consumer base. In fact, this system opens up the companies to millions of shoppers by providing them with a flexible payment plan that fits their specific budgets. It’s an automated process that’s free to use, but there’s also an eLayawayADVANTAGE program that allows members to waive transaction fees while having their payment patterns reported to PRBC Credit Bureau. It’s said to be a way to build what’s known as the “FICO Expansion Score”.
How eLayaway Works
eLayaway has an easy to navigate website that’s crisp and clear on what the monthly payments are, the companies that offer the products and there’s even an intuitive payment calculator so you know exactly what your payments are and when they’re due. Currently, payments can be made by auto payments through your checking account or MoneyGram. Once the balance is paid, the company sends out your purchases. It’s a concept that’s catching on and with the upcoming holidays, it’s definitely picking up momentum.
Users need to register on the eLayaway site. It’s a quick and easy process and you don’t have to worry about a credit check. From there, customers can shop the “PlanItPay Marketplace”. And here’s where it gets interesting – you can also visit any participating stores’ brick and mortar stores, too. Once you’ve made your selections, choose the e-layaway payment option. The calculator provides the payment terms, which we understand can be modified to suit your needs.
You set the payment scheduling to one that best meets your paydays and from there, the monthly payments are made. You can keep up with your balance and make changes throughout the process via the dashboard. Once you’ve paid your balance, your purchases ship and you rest easy knowing you’re not saddled with debt.
This is a fine program for those with past credit problems and who might not qualify for a bank loan or credit card.
Many are unfamiliar with PRBC, what it does and what it can’t do. The PRBC is basically a web portal designed and owned by MicroBilt Corporation, which is based in Georgia. Through the PRBC – which stands for Payment Reporting Builds Credit – website, other payment information is collected that’s not traditionally included in a classic credit report. Remember, it’s the three big bureaus – Experian, Trans Union and Experian – that contribute to our FICO scores. But those scores are based on mortgage, automobile and credit card payments and rarely, if ever, includes how well we pay our rent, utilities or other so-called non reportable payment habits.
It’s still a fairly new consumer reporting agency and you’re not a part of the process unless and until you enroll. This is a huge difference from the other credit bureaus, which collect information on you any time you have traditional debt.
There are two ways the information is collected. Once you enroll, PRBC compiles your payment history. Keep in mind – you have to pay a fee. Verification of your rental history costs $20 and all other non traditional accounts can be verified for $15 each. Remember, though, it’s not necessary to enroll to take advantage of eLayaway – it’s just an option the company offers. To have an account verified you need to complete an authorization form, provide two forms of ID, and send a recent statement from that account.
For instance, rental history verification requires a lease signed by you and your landlord. You can fax or mail the required documentation to have the verification complete. Other options include having your payment history updated automatically by enrolling in PRBC’s online bill pay. That said, online bill pay is available with only certain PRBC business partners. Further, your report is shared only when you give permission for it to be shared.
There remains a lot of debate on whether there’s value in using PRBC in the credit markets. It can be a fine tool for rental properties and other real estate professionals, so far, there’s been very little proof that it serves a purpose for those looking to rebuild their credit. It can’t hurt, but the jury’s still out on how much it helps. Remember, though, there are more than 100 million consumers who don’t have access to traditional bank accounts or credit cards, so there’s a market for it, it’s just unclear as to whether traditional financial bodies will make room for PRBC. It’s built much the way the other three bureaus are, complete with credit scores that range between 350 and 800.
Again, enrolling in PRBC isn’t a mandatory aspect of taking advantage of eLayaway. While we don’t encourage our readers to do one or don’t do another, the one definitive bit of advice we’ve always offered is to complete your own due diligence. It’s the only way you can know for sure what works best for your specific needs. If you have a strong credit rating, PRBC might not be something that would serve any purpose for you, but if you’re struggling to rebuild your credit, you should at least explore what it offers.
Still, the eLayaway program is one that’s growing in popularity and is bringing many Americans back to a simpler place that includes no stress as the little ones open their holiday gifts and Mom and Dad are realizing just how much they have to repay in the coming year. Whether your credit is less than perfect or stellar, the thought of no debt is one most of us can’t resist.
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