fintech stories

Cheese: a digital bank for Asian Americans

cheese bank

Cheese is a neobank or fintech that’s primarily aimed at helping out the Asian-American community. It’s one of the many digital banking solutions available right now on the planet and one of the many options consumers, not only Asian-Americans, can opt for when choosing whom to trust their money to. In this article, we’re going to talk about what Cheese Bank is, what its features and benefits are, and how you can sign up for it.

What is Cheese Bank?

Cheese, as the bank’s CEO likes to point out, isn’t just a delicious dairy product, or a way to describe poorly-made puns, but a slang term for money. It’s informal and used colloquially. Cheese Bank or how it’s actually written C;heese, is a digital financial platform aimed to grow your savings, in the smartest, most intuitive, easiest way possible. 

The neobank is mostly aimed at a vast demographic that has been discriminated against for eons, the Asian-American community. A huge cultural hodgepodge that compromises more than 7% of the U.S. population, about 22.9 million Americans. It is the fastest and, according to studies, the most educated community in the US. The platform’s main objective is to not only offer key banking services, via a multi-language app but help customers out by also giving them more control over their finances and insight into their spending habits. 

The history of Cheese Bank

Cheese's inception began way back in 2008. Its Co-Founder and CEO, Ken Lian, had just arrived in the United States from his homeland in China to attend college. Right out of the gate, he started to stumble and recognized that most financial institutions were incredibly biased towards him and people in his community — there was rampant discrimination. 

A couple of years after his move, Lian took stock and determined that this prejudice had actually cost him thousands of dollars in bank fees. Lian had been rejected, despite having a FICO score of over 800, multiple times from various banks due to intolerance. Not only did he have no choice but to sign up with banks that favored massive fees, but he had no way of planning for his future — of investing in the market, of having critical insights into his habits, of having access to financial planners. 

These harrowing experiences inspired Lian to come up with Cheese. The one-year-old startup, as of 2021, will not only give its consumers basic vital banking services but will also have a social component to it. It will allow customers to trade insights, help each other out and even support Asian-American businesses and aliases. 

Lian is no stranger to the startup scene and the world of entrepreneurship, he is known as the founder of Moolan Science, a platform that allowed consumers to find out if online stores owed them a refund. The company was acquired by a Fortune 500 giant in early 2019. 

Along with Lian, Cheese also has in its board of directors two other intrepid entrepreneurs, Zhen Wang, and Qingyi Li. The trio base most of Cheese’s mission on the idea that Asian-Americans, despite being among the most educated and ambitious in the country, are subjected to financial discrimination and, in turn, have to interact and prosper in “an unequal playing field.”

More than 25% of all Asian-American households don't have access to banking services. Over more than half of foreign-born noncitizens are underbanked according to a study performed by the FDIC. 

Cheese’s Funding as of 2020

In total, Cheese has managed to raise over $3.6 million in 3 rounds. Their latest funding took place on April 16, 2020, from a venture. 

Amongst its portfolio of investors, we can find the likes of Wedbush Ventures and Elysium Venture Capital. 

How does Cheese Bank Work?

Cheese is an entirely digital online banking platform. It is mainly aimed at immigrants and Asian- Americans, although all customers are welcomed.

Once you sign-up, download the app, and go online, you’ll receive a $5 bonus. It’s incredibly easy and the platform provides all its members a Mastercard debit card - issued by Coastal Community Bank. This card is readily available to all its clients, despite their credit history or lack of one. 

Cheese’s Features

Amongst the features and benefits for Cheese members we can find:

  • A $5 sign-up bonus.
  • 0.25% cashback on all purchases. 
  • Up to 10% cash-back at certain retailers — including Asian-owned businesses in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Texas area. More than 10k stores.
  • The ability to donate cash to one of Cheese’s four nonprofit partners.
  • A debit Mastercard, issued by Coastal Community Bank.
  • A virtual card that is instantly available once sign-up is complete on the user’s mobile wallet. 
  • Advance pay — up to two days early on direct deposit.s
  • 3% deposit bonus for any referrals. 
  • 0.3% annual yield (APY).
  • No banking fees.
  • FDIC insured up to $250,000.
  • 256-bit encryption that safeguards your account. 
  • MasterCard Zero-Liability Protection — all your purchases and transactions are protected.
  • Reliable multilingual support.
  • Easy application.