Kiva is a nonprofit organization that facilitates micro-loans to enterprising individuals around the world so that they may earn their own way out of poverty. Kiva loans do not earn interest, but they can be paid for with a credit card. Credit card payments do earn rewards and do not count as cash advances. And, since Kiva is coded as a charity, credit cards that earn bonus points for charitable donations do earn bonus points for loans. The US Bank FlexPerks cards (except for the Amex version which doesn’t code Kiva as a charity), for example, earn 3 points per dollar for charitable donations. That’s pretty good since FlexPerks points can then be used for up to 2 cents per point value towards flights. And, now that the FlexPerks Visa Signature card offers free in-flight wifi (details here), I expect that many readers are giving the card a second look.
If you’re considering making Kiva loans, here are a few important details:
- Loans range in length from 6 months to many years. Some loans are setup to begin paying back in installments during the loan. Others pay back in one lump sum at the end. Regardless, your money will be tied up long term.
- You will not earn interest on any loans. Borrowers do pay interest to the microlending organizations that they deal with directly (Kiva refers to these organizations as partners), but those interest payments are used to fund those businesses.
- There is risk of losing your money, but the risk is small. Kiva, overall, has a low default rate. The current average per Kiva user is 1.26%. My current average (across 4 years of lending) is 0.74%.
- Withdrawals take time. Loan repayments are credited once a month and first appear in your Kiva account as Kiva credits. You can request to withdraw those funds to your Paypal account. Expect the process to take a week or two. Since my PayPal account was frozen about a year ago, I’ve had to request paper checks each time. Since that requires additional effort on Kiva’s part, I try to limit check requests to once every 3 months or so.
If you’re new to Kiva and want to give it a try, I’d recommend starting small. Go to Kiva.org, find a loan or two of interest, and fund it. Sort by Repayment Term to find the loans that will repay fully the soonest. You can even use Kiva’s Advanced Options filters to filter to “safe loans”. By “safe”, I mean loans that are very likely to be paid back in full. These settings are based on characteristics of the field partner (the microlending organization that interacts directly with the borrower). Safe partners are those with high risk ratings, not experimental, low delinquency rates, very low default rates, and no currency risk. Shown below are sample “safe” settings that can be set within Kiva.org:
Kivalens.org is a web app designed for those who like to many loans at once. The site used to be built on a browser plug-in technology called Silverlight, but has now been re-written to work directly in any browser without plug-ins. It should now work with almost all browsers including Safari on iPad. And it looks nicer than before too.
Within Kivalens, you can filter loans by borrower characteristics or by partner characteristics. The Borrower filters help to find loans that interest you. Perhaps, for example, you want your money to go to certain countries or certain types of businesses. Or, maybe you prefer to loan to groups rather than individuals, or to women instead of men.
Another key capability of the Borrower criteria tab is the ability to pick your sort criteria. I like to sort by “Date half is paid back, then 75%, then full.” This is the default sort setting, so you don’t really need to do anything. However, some may prefer to sort by final repayment date. You can do that too.
The Partner filters can be used to filter to “safe” loans. “Partners” are the microlending organizations that interact directly with the borrowers. Safe partners are those with high risk ratings, low delinquency rates, very low default rates, few loans at risk, and low currency exchange loss. Shown below are sample “safe” partner settings that can be set within Kivalens.org:
Once you’ve setup your filter criteria, the left side of the screen will display the results. These are the loans that met your criteria, and they’re sorted according to the sort criteria you specified.
To make a bunch of loans at once, click the “Bulk Add” button. You’ll then see a dialog like this:
Select the total amount you want to loan overall, and the maximum amount you want to loan to each borrower. Then, click “Add a Bunch!” This will move the loans to your Basket. Next, click on Basket (at the top of the screen) to move the loans from Kivalens to Kiva. Once the loans are moved to Kiva.org, you can checkout and pay.
The following filter definitions were copied from Kiva.org:
At Kiva, we want to create good in the world. A lot of good.
One way that we try to maximize the good created through Kiva is by partnering with organizations that go above and beyond to generate positive outcomes for the communities they serve. This is called social performance.
Different organizations have different social performance strengths. The Kiva Social Performance Badges below were created to recognize organizations with a demonstrated commitment to one or more of these areas.
The badges were developed through careful research into best practices across the microfinance industry, and what Kiva has learned about facilitating positive outcomes for borrowers. These badges are assigned to Kiva Field Partners during an initial due diligence process and are updated annually.
We know that every member of the Kiva community wants to maximize the impact they have when making a loan. When choosing a borrower to lend to on Kiva, we invite you to consider the Field Partner’s social performance strengths.
What is the Field Partner Risk Rating?
The risk rating (0.5 – 5 stars) reflects the risk of institutional default associated with each of Kiva’s Field Partners.
Microfinance loans are inherently risky, and Kiva does not guarantee repayment. There are many levels of risk associated with Kiva loans, one of which is Field Partner risk (to learn more, go to kiva.org/about/risk). A 0.5-star rating means the organization has a relatively higher risk of institutional default, while a 5-star rating indicates the organization is at a relatively lower risk of default, based on Kiva’s analysis and the available information. To calculate the risk rating, a Kiva analyst conducts due diligence on the organization and then completes Kiva’s risk model, which assesses the organization based upon the following areas of focus: governance, management, transparency, business model, loan product(s), financials and external factors.
Note that Field Partners in Kiva’s lowest credit tier undergo a lighter level of due diligence and hence do not receive a risk rating; instead, in places where a risk rating would normally appear on Kiva’s website, these partners are labeled as “Experimental.” For more information, see “What is an Experimental Field Partner?”
Delinquency (Arrears) Rate
Kiva defines the Delinquency (Arrears) Rate as the amount of late payments divided by the total outstanding principal balance Kiva has with the Field Partner. Arrears can result from late repayments from Kiva borrowers as well as delayed payments from the Field Partner.
How this is calculated: Delinquency (Arrears) Rate = Amount of Paying Back Loans Delinquent / Amount Outstanding
The default rate is the percentage of ended loans (no longer paying back) which have failed to repay (measured in dollar volume, not units).
How this is calculated: Default Rate = Amount of Ended Loans Defaulted / Amount of Ended Loans
– Many Field Partners do not yet have many ended loans due to their short history on Kiva (see “Time on Kiva”). If this is the case, a more meaningful indicator of principal risk is “delinquency rate.”
– At Kiva, we define default (non-repayment) as: the time when Kiva determines that collection of funds from a borrower or partner is doubtful, or the cumulative amount repaid as of a quarterly reconciliation is less than the amount expected as of 180 days prior. Kiva typically processes defaults on a quarterly basis, and case by case exceptions may be made if the partner or Kiva anticipates future repayments to be made on the loan. Field Partners also have the option to default loans at any time, should they determine that further collection of loan repayments from the borrower is unlikely.
Average Cost to Borrower
Although Kiva and its lenders don’t charge interest or fees to borrowers, many of Kiva’s Field Partners do charge borrowers in some form in order to make possible the long-term sustainability of their operations, reach and impact. There are 4 different types of information about the cost paid by Kiva borrowers to our Field Partners that may appear in this Average Cost to Borrower field: Portfolio Yield (PY), Annual Percentage Rate (APR), Monthly Percentage Rate (MPR) and Not Applicable (N/A). Please check the loan for more information.
What does “Profitability (Return on Assets)” mean?
“Return on Assets” is an indication of a Field Partner’s profitability. It can also be an indicator of the long-term sustainability of an organization, as organizations consistently operating at a loss (those that have a negative return on assets) may not be able to sustain their operations over time.
Currency Exchange Loss
When lending funds across national boundaries, the local currency in the Field Partner’s country of operation may lose some of its value relative to the USD, thus requiring the Field Partner to use more of its local currency to reimburse Kiva in USD. Kiva offers Field Partners the option to protect themselves against severe currency fluctuations (a US dollar appreciation of over 10% relative to the local currency) by sharing any losses greater than 10% with Kiva lenders.* By bearing these losses, lenders are able to protect the Field Partner and its borrowers from catastrophic currency devaluations.
The Field Partner-specified Currency Exchange Loss to lenders can be one of three values: Covered, Possible, or N/A.
- The Field Partner has opted to cover any losses on the loan that are due to currency fluctuation. Lenders will not bear losses due to currency fluctuation.
- The Field Partner has opted not to cover losses on the loan that are due to currency fluctuation. In this situation, lenders face additional risk because they will bear losses greater than 10%.
- The Field Partner disburses loans to borrowers in USD so their loans are not subject to any foreign currency conversion.
*Note that loans posted before April 16, 2012 with currency exchange risk possible only share losses greater than 20% with lenders.
Currency Exchange Loss Rate
Kiva calculates the Currency Exchange Loss Rate for its Field Partners as: Amount of Currency Exchange Loss / Total Loans.
Loans at risk rate
The loans at risk rate refers to the percentage of Kiva loans being paid back by this Field Partner that are past due in repayment by at least 1 day. This delinquency can be due to either non-payment by Kiva borrowers or non-payment by the Field Partner itself.
Loans at Risk Rate = Amount of paying back loans that are past due / Total amount of Kiva loans outstanding