Max Hellerstein, CEO of Extra | Episode 210

My guest this week has quite a fascinating résumé in the sense that none of it really has anything to do with payments. To his own admission, he’s not going to win on pedigree, and on paper he may not even make sense, but Extra CEO Max Hellerstein has proven himself to be quite the “silent winner” when it comes to finding a problem and solving the hell out of it.

For those of you who may not know, Extra is the first ever debit card that allows consumers to build their credit history with every single swipe. And not only do customers get the opportunity to have credit level history on a debit rail, they also benefit from AMEX-level perks and rewards to incentivize their sensible spend. As for the user experience, Extra requires no existing credit for application. The only thing Extra need to verify approval is a cash balance that is sufficient for subscription. They then underwrite their customers for a spend power equivalent to the amount of cash in their account plus an additional predetermined cap. And then every transaction counts towards sufficient spend data to be reported to the existing credit bureaus. 

The company generates revenue based on a subscription fee, and the interchange on every transaction is then given back to the customers to incentivize them with rewards and select offerings. Regarding their competitive advantage, Max touts their capacity to say “yes” more often, take smarter risks, and offer less painful onboarding.

Tune in this week to hear Max talk about his journey to CEO, his strategy for getting obsessed, and where he sees the industry going in the next 2 to 3 years as it relates to consolidation, bundling, and the potential for one universal rail.