top of page


A Lean Credit Card Application Process

Top of the screen
sable cover1.png

A New Credit Card for International Students

Sable is an up and coming finance company offering useful products for a niche incoming market. With an intended customer base made up of individuals who are already overwhelmed by a radical cultural shift and paperwork, Sable aims to ease the process by granting credit building potential to those who may not even have a social security number yet.

What Were We Aiming To Solve ?

Sable approached our team with the request of making a seamless credit card application experience from beginning to end.


For those who are familiar with the online credit card applications, you may know that it can be a troublesome process as it requires quite a lot of manual user input and documentation retrieval. However, taking Sable’s unique customer base into consideration, one can only assume that the process would either be two times as frustrating or close to impossible due to lack of documentation or national credit history.

That being said, how could we help users complete the credit card application process painlessly with minimal drop-off while still obtaining relevant ID documentation?


Samantha Bonnet ( Scrum Master)
Sabeen Shahid
Alec Temple-Richards
Nicholas Bennett


  • Sketch

  • Adobe Illustrator

  • Marvel

  • Invision


  • Screener Survey

  • Initial User Interviews

  • Affinity Mapping

  • Persona

  • Journey Mapping

  • MoSCoW mapping

  • Paper Prototype

  • Mid-Fi Prototype

  • Hi-Fi Prototype

  • Usability Testing


We kicked off our research with an interview pool of individuals from abroad who were either currently studying or working in the United States and have arrived within the past 3 years. We successfully pushed out a screener survey isolating these individuals and were able to schedule and conduct a total of 8 initial user interviews within 48 hours.

When formulating our interview questions, we aimed to familiarize ourselves with any pain points our interviewees had with getting themselves financially stable within their first few months of being in the United States. We especially wanted to emphasize on any struggles they may have faced with obtaining a credit card and starting a new credit history.

Our interview questions included, but were not limited to:

  • How did you obtain your first credit card in the United States?

  • How did you come to choose which bank to trust with your finances?

  • How do you feel about disclosing your information to a start-up bank?


We were able to pull some rather telling quotes...


I don't have a credit card so far. When I was a student, a banker told me I can't apply. Because I'm an international, I'd need a relative to sponsor me


I would consult my friends who were in the same situation. I can ask detailed questions. Others don't fully understand the issues international students face. We are all basically in the same boat.


In the States, I feel that your social security number is tied to everything--So I feel very nervous even sharing the last four numbers



From those 8 user interviews, we were able to extract a number of major insights through homogenous groupings within our affinity map. Ultimately, it was concluded that:

  • Users often found roadblocks when opening a bank and credit card accounts due to lack of proper documentation 

  • Users are particularly wary of sharing private information such as identification numbers with websites and apps they are unfamiliar with

  • However, they are comfortable with sharing their information in forms they believed were secure, such as popular e-commerce sites, banks with established names and apps recommended to them by friends

  • Majority of users felt that big name banks were more reliable as they were unlikely to go out of business and, therefore, less risky

  • Majority of users expressed that they preferred filling out their applications in-person at a physical branch

  • Users were initially not familiar with American bank terminology such as APR rates and "Checking" vs "Current" 

  • Users were conscious of foreign exchange fees when applied to wire transfers and were reluctant to pay

  • Some users were not able to apply for credit due to lack of credit history in the United States

  • Others that were approved for a credit card were typically not satisfied with their offered credit limit




Establishing trustworthiness with Sable's brand and emphasizing partnerships with popular existing brands was crucial for bringing in initial traffic.


Human Connection

Users expressed comfort in being able to speak to a human person as they find their particular situations are unique and that being able to express that would decrease the likelihood for frustration with the online process and increase chances of approval.


Knowledge Gap

As new migrants into the country, it would be natural for certain financial terminology and practices exclusive to the United States to appear unfamiliar and therefore, it'd be pivotal to keep the language simple and as explanatory as deemed necessary


Minimal Steps

As requested by our client and reinforced by our user pool, for increased satisfaction, it would be best to minimize drop off by creating a user registry and application process that was lean and simple with minimal user input required

Desktop Copy 4.png


Once we combed through our findings and brought about actionable insights, we developed a user persona, Ajda Yilmaz.


With Ajda in mind throughout the development process, we wanted to target the range of needs and pain points that were shared amongst our target users. We realized that the lack of a social security number and credit history were big hurdles for international students and workers when it came to getting credit card approval. Sable is offering credit lines without need for a social security number or prior credit history. Therefore, we felt it was necessary to include it in the copy during the onboarding process to further emphasize that advantage over other banks.

We also knew Ajda's language barrier may be a challenge when it came to understanding agreements she may be making within the app. For that reason, the copy had to be simple, yet concise. We also pushed for including an explanation for a secure credit card as our client had informed us that those with no prior credit history will be likely to be approved for a secured credit card, rather than a standard credit card. Seeing as secure credit cards don't function the same way that standard credit cards do, we wanted to inform the user as much in possible in advance before they continued the application.


When we determined the process by piecing together the commonalities we found between user interviews. We then formulated the scenario step by step as our persona, Ajda, would experience it.

user jouney sable w annotations.png

1)      Ajda speaks to her friends about how to apply for her first American credit card. Her friends recommend a specific bank.

2)     Ajda researches the bank her friends suggest online and does some research. However, she finds herself quite lost when reading U.S.  exclusive bank terminology and is unclear on whether or not she is eligible even when beginning the application process.

3)      She goes through the credit application process and finds herself frustrated at the amount of information she needs to collect and input herself. She finds out that her efforts were all for naught when she ultimately gets rejected due to her lack of credit history.

4)      Despite her disappointment, Ajda buckles down and does further research. She finds a respectable bank that offers credit cards to individuals without social security or prior credit history. However, due to her last online rejection and lack of a way of explaining her particular situation, she chooses to visit the physical branch.

5)     She completes the application with a customer service representative and is happy to discover that she was approved for a credit card and will have to wait for it to arrive in the mail. 

6)     While she was elated to be approved, the wait for the arrival of her credit card was approximately 2 weeks, naturally making her anxious.

7)      Lastly, she finally receives her credit card in the mail, only to be disappointed at the low credit limit offer and the various exchange fees listed in the fine print.

Our goal was for the Sable to disrupt this entire process by introducing an easily discoverable native app that was not only seamless and speedy, but self-explanatory as well. Sable also offers its users instant approval and digital access of their card before their physical card is shipped to them within 48 hours.



We began the design process with a design studio in order to brainstorm actionable solutions for any foreseeable user pain points. We went through approximately 4 versions. Ultimately, we discussed and synced together our collective ideas and developed a paper prototype for usability testing.


At this point, the scope of the project went as far as the "live account" page which showcased 3 accounts, an unactivated secure credit card, a checking account and savings account (offered free upon approval for a credit card).

We wanted to discover if the process seemed familiar to users and if there was anything that appeared confusing, considering Sable's secure credit card and their free offer of a checking and savings account. We had included an explanatory onboarding if the user chose to submit a deposit for their secure credit card, which can be seen once the user taps the unactivated credit card displayed.

Artboard paper proto sable fixed.png

 We proceeded to use this paper prototype and ran 5 usability tests with the help of the Marvel prototyping app. We tasked them with 2 objectives while we observed their commentary and actions throughout the test.

  • Complete Sable's credit card application in full

  • Discover why your new credit card is not yet available for use within the app

Paper Prototype Post - Test Survey

5/5 users were successful in completing the assigned tasks

4/5 users graded the test as a 3 (intermediate) while 1/5 users rated it a 1 (very easy) on the difficulty scale

Usability Findings

3/5 users expressed that the acronym "SSN" for Social Security Number would be difficult for new English speakers to comprehend

Proposed Solution

Avoid using acronyms or complicated jargon throughout the app


annotated paper proto 1.png



After our first round of usability testing, we then began creating mid-fi wireframes with simple colors and only necessary imagery (such as the passport and ID camera screens). While we followed the same flow of design as our paper prototype, we took the insights gathered during usability testing and made the necessary changes, which included enhancing the copy and shortening the initial onboarding from 5 screens to 3 screens.

Artboard midfi sable.png

 We created an interactive prototype with the use of inVision and ran a second round of usability testing.
Considering that the user flow remained the same despite the enhanced design, the tasks given to users remained the same as the first round.

Mid - Fi Prototype Post - Test Survey

5/5 users were successful in completing the assigned task

3/5 users graded the test as a 1 (very easy), while 2/5 graded it a 3 (intermediate)  on the difficulty scale

Usability Findings

4/5 users were perplexed about the “educational onboarding” for the

secure card and “where they were” within the app

Proposed Solution

Re-visit how to inform users about the secure card much earlier in the user flow without elongating the entire process


Screen 23.png

With the major insights we observed with our second round of usability testing, we had to go back to the drawing board and attempt to find a way to inform users of the secure card they were applying for before they complete the application process, but also without adding on more screens onto the onboarding.

Ultimately, for the hi-fi prototype design, we concluded that creating a clickable info link within the onboarding which would open an informational overlay about the secure card, would be the best option for the final design.

We also made minor alterations to the approval page, enhancing the copy and giving the user the option to choose whether they want the free checking and savings accounts, framing the offer as more of a free gift, rather than an alarming surprise.

The design's scope was also extended to include the credit card menu and the option to make a deposit before or after the user is presented with the account page.


Artboard hifi sable.png



While we concluded our iterations with Sable at this point, with the introduction of new elements and screens into the final design, we suggested the following next steps for this project.

  • Create an interface for live customer support, as suggested by the rose-colored floating chat icon in our final design.

  • Test whether or not users would naturally be enticed to inform themselves as to what a "secure credit card" is by clicking the suggested hyperlink and attempt to uncover how that impacts their reaction to being made to deposit funds in order to activate their card.

  • Flesh out the account screen and build a base of informational architecture for the app itself.

We are hopeful for Sable's future and have faith that this UI design will aid them with user retention and minimize drop-off.




  • linkedin
  • twitter

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page