Kenya has seen the rise of mobile money services since MPESA became a household name. Services range from mobile money transfer, payment services, purchasing solutions, and now the latest trend, savings and loan services. Many companies have come in to offer the loaning services to Kenyans, however, three of them seem to be making the headlines, they include, Branch, Tala, and Mshwari. We will review each one of them and help you decide which one is the best.

Branch app review

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Branch app has one of the shortest and most straight forward registration methods. All you have to do is log in with your Facebook credentials, give your MPESA number and receive a confirmation code. After you key in the code you get via SMS, you are set.

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The app does its magic behind the scenes to decide if you are eligible for a loan. If everything checks out, you get presented with a choice of loans that you qualify for. It starts from KES 200 and builds up with multiples of 500. The loan choices are presented in a beautiful interface of circular buttons which present loan amount and move in a carousel manner. Below each loan amount is the interest fee, duration of loan payment.

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Selecting a loan and confirming it will take you a page that breaks down the installments; it gives you the exact amount you need to pay and even the due date of each payment. You can go further to see the fee details section which  displays the percentage interest rate, and the actual interest amount. The money is sent to your MPESA account after the loan is approved. The interest rate for Branch starts at 14.57% for 500 shillings and gets lower as you request for bigger loans.

The app offers a customer care section that answers your questions but not as fast as I would like, they sometimes take hours before responding. Branch also offers a referral bonus that is deducted from the total loan amount that you have to pay.

Tala app review

Tala, just like Branch, requires you to give your MPESA number in order to get a confirmation code. The similarities between the two apps’ sign up end there. Tala asks you to enter a security PIN which is a great feature considering that this is a financial app.

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Once you finish singing up, you will be taken to the home section of the app, here you find four options presented in a card like interface. The options include “Apply for a loan”, “My savings”, “My Tala status” and “Success stories” section. Clicking on the “Apply a loan” section brings a lengthy questionnaire asking all manner of things from your job details to the possession of the phone you are using.

I like the simpler approach of the Branch app a lot more.

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After being approved for a loan, you will be presented with your maximum limit and will be given a choice to take an amount below that limit. The choices are very few, only two, I wish there were more. After you pick your amount, you will be given the option of choosing your preferred payment schedule. You can pay in single, one month installment or you can have weekly installments. What I dislike about the schedules is that the weekly installments amount to only 3 weeks instead of a complete month (4 weeks). Also, the interest rates of paying the whole loan in one installment are higher than choosing to pay weekly. Tala does not charge a lower interest rate if you take a big loan. The rates are fixed at 11% if you pay weekly and 15% if you pay monthly. It seems Tala wants users to opt for weekly payments.

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“My Tala status” section tracks the loan categories you qualify for. A user starts at bronze status which ranges from 500 to 4,999, a silver status spans from 5,000 to 9,999, and finally a gold status that lets you borrow from 10,000 to 50,000.

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Tala has a savings feature which enables you to deposit cash and set goals. Unfortunately, the feature has not being launched yet. On a positive note, Tala has a referral section that lets you earn KES 100 off your next loan payment whenever you invite your friend. Tala’s customer care is not as informative as that of Branch. Even more, the option of talking with the support team is not obvious at first impression; you have to search it in between the answers of the FAQ sections.

Mshwari review

Mshwari is built into the MPESA menu, unlike Branch and Tala, it has no dedicated native app, but do not let this fool you into thinking it is lacking feature-wise. To access Mshwari, you just click the loans and savings option on the MPESA menu.

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Mshwari lets you save money by simply transferring it from your MPESA account for free. You can have saving goals through the “Lock savings account option on the Mshwari menu”. This section lets you save for a given period of time ranging from one to six months. The saved money earns you interest of 7.35% paid every three months. These are features that neither Branch nor Tala offers.

When it comes to loans, Mshwari lets you borrow after you have been an MPESA subscriber for at least 6 months, have saved in Mshwari and use Safaricom services actively. Loans have no interest fee; they instead have a facility fee of 7.5%. Payment period is set at one month only, regardless of the loaned amount.

 

Comparison

Branch Tala Mshwari
Interest rates Starts at 13.36% on first loan but gets lower as the loan amount increases Fixed at 11% for weekly payment option

 

Fixed at 15% for monthly payment option

Fixed at 7.5 “facility fee”
Ease of use Simplest, beautiful, informative and intuitive interface Has a lengthy questionnaire before applying for a loan.

 

Does have many borrowing options

Interface is text based and straight forward but lacks the visual cues.
Added features Loans borrowing only Savings option coming soon

 

In-built PIN lock for opening the app

Normal savings feature

 

Lock savings feature

 

Earning of interests on saved money (7.35% payed every 3 months)

Doesn’t need internet connection to operate