Long Game Review (2020): How the App Makes Saving Money Fun
In the minds of many, saving money is no fun. Because of this, in recent years, many personal finance experts and bloggers have advocated for trying various money challenges that aim to turn good money habits into mini-games. Now one mobile app is taking a quite literal approach to the finance gamification trend.
Long Game is a personal finance app that rewards users for setting aside money in a savings account by allowing them to unlock games of chance that could potentially add to their stash. It’s a novel concept to be sure — but does it actually work? Let’s take a look at Long Game, how it works, and whether it could help you start saving more.
Long Game: What You Need to Know About the App
Getting started with Long Game
Off the bat, one very important aspect to note about Long Game is that it will require you to open a savings account. The good news is that these savings accounts come via a partnership with Blue Ridge Bank, which means that your contributions are all FDIC insured. However this also means that you’ll need to offer up a lot of sensitive information while joining, including entering your social security number.
Once you’ve set up your savings account and signed into Long Game, the next step you’ll want to take is setting up your savings plan. This involves linking a funding source like a checking account and selecting from a number of “AutoSave” options. To Long Game’s credit, the app allows users to really customize their savings, selecting to make contributions on a weekly, monthly, or twice monthly basis and choose which day of the week or date of the month you want to move your money on. As a result you can even opt to time transfers to your paydays.
Of course the other aspect of setting up your savings plan is choosing how much you want to set aside each time. The minimum here is $5 but you can select just about any amount. Beyond this set plan, you can also make a one-time transfer of $5 or more at any time.
Creating Savings Jars
One of the relatively new features in the app is that you can now create Savings Jars. For example I labeled my main jar “Travel,” reminding myself of what I’m setting aside money for. You can create multiple jars, set goal deadlines, and create savings plans for each. Plus you can always transfer funds between jars or even combine two jars if you need to. This is a small feature and can be a little confusing to set up at first, but it’s a solid idea that could help keep you motivated to continue your savings journey.
The gaming aspect of Long Game
Now for the fun part — literally. As I mentioned, the way Long Game aims to take the sting out of saving is to reward users for their good savings habits. This is mostly accomplished via their coin system.
Simply put, the more money you set aside, the greater the number of coins you can earn. From there, these coins can be used to play mini-games that call to mind many gambling favorites. Take, for example, the Flip It games that resemble lottery scratchers and the Spin It games that might just make you feel like you’re on Wheel of Fortune. While some of these games pay out in additional coins, others offer real-life, legal tender cash that will be added to your balance if you win.
Updates to Long Games coin currency
Not too long ago, Long Game made some updates that not only overhauled the look of some of their games but also changed up the value of their coins. Previously, most games cost between 5 and 1,000 coins — pretty simple, right? Well now they range from around 1,000 to 1 million coins. For example, games where you’re playing for real prizes up to $1,000 may cost as many as 50,000 coins to play while other games where the top prize is more coins have entry pricing as low as 1,000 coins. For really high rollers, there are also 1 million coin games where up to $10,000 is on the line.
With the number of coins you’ll need to play games moving up, luckily the amount of coins you earn has also increased exceptionally. Quite honestly, I haven’t taken the time to do the math to see if everything converts to about the same. Nevertheless each game does seem to to be priced fairly and may even be a bit better “value” in some cases. So while it took me a little getting used to, I think I approve of the new format.
In addition to earning coins from both recurring and one-time contributions, you can also level up by earning Brains. These Brains are awarded for things like daily check-ins, contributions, streaks, referrals, and more. You can also unlock creatures and extra games by continuing to save.
And then there’s also a map that shows your progress and… okay, I’d be lying if I said I completely understood everything that was happening in Long Game. All I know for sure is that coins = games and games can = money. Beyond that, I find myself being surprised from time to time.
Funny enough, what first introduced me to Long Game was a post about how they were rolling out a feature that would earn cryptocurrencies as prizes. Announcing the addition of tokens like Ethereum to the app, Long Game CEO and Founder Lindsay Holden said, “Crypto Rewards will serve to educate our customers and introduce them to crypto markets while protecting them from the risk that comes with investing.” That protection from risk comes as you aren’t actually able to purchase cryptocurrencies on the app — you can only win them. This could involve getting gifted with crypto for leveling up or playing the Crypto Spin game.
If you do obtain crypto assets from Long Game, you’ll need to transfer them to a crypto wallet. On their suggestion, I choose to download the app Trust to hold my (then valued at) $.25 worth of ETH. In the event you don’t have a wallet and don’t feel like getting one right away, Long Game does note that you will have up to a year to claim your prize and withdraw it from the app itself.
Bonuses and PowerUps
As you reach different milestones and complete levels, you may unlock special PowerUps. There are two types of PowerUps I’ve encountered so far: Deposit Boosts and Referral Boosts. With Deposit Boosts, you can score extra coins by adding funds to Long Game. Once activated, you’ll earn 5,000 coins for every $1 you deposit (with a max of 500,000 coins). However this offer ends 24 hours from the time you activate the boost.
Referral Boosts are similar in that you only have 24 hours to take advantage of them once activated, but the goal is very much different. With a Referral Boost engaged, you’ll earn 500,000 extra coins for each friend who joins Long Game. Obviously you have less control over whether or not you’ll achieve this one, so I prefer the Deposit Boosts overall. Still both are fun bonuses that I enjoy receiving.
Using and Saving with Long Game
Does Long Game actually help you save money?
It’s now been several months since I started using Long Game and have been making weekly contributions regularly. While I have these transfers set very low for now (hey — I have a lot of apps pulling my money at the moment), I have to admit that I really look forward to earning coins, playing games, and watching my balance grow. Moreover, just as some of the weaker among us may have been tempted by a mobile game asking us to spend money to play, I’ve found myself feeling the same temptation from Long Game — except, in this case, the money would be going to a good home and not into a sad, wasteful abyss. Given this experience, I suspect the app’s approach to encouraging good financial habits could prove effective for many.
Do you actually win money on Long Game?
Honestly, it’s pretty impossible to say whether or not you’ll win money on Long Game — but I can tell you that I have. Well, not lottery-level piles of cash, but a few cents here and there.
Between getting Crypto Rewards for leveling up and scoring some extra assets from playing Crypto Spin, my crypto wallet tells me my Ether, BAT, 0x, and other assets are currently worth $1.99. Meanwhile, in fiat currency, I’ve won a combined total of $3 playing various games. Sure, $3 over the course of several weeks isn’t much but I can tell you that winning it still felt pretty damn great. On top of that, it was legitimately fun playing the games that resulted in those winnings.
Do Long Game accounts earn interest?
Surprisingly, yes! Here I was prepared to issue a minor knock to Long Game but, as it turns out, the app’s savings accounts actually do accrue interest. According to their site, accounts have a 0.1% APR compounded monthly and paid out at the end of the month. However, as they note, “Long Game transfers interest to your account after you have earned at least $0.01. If you do not earn at least 1 cent in the month, your interest is rolled over until you have earned 1 cent.”
To me this just an added bonus. Although you can get a better interest rate from other online savings accounts, the 0.1% APR does best many traditional savings accounts. For that reason, what I was expecting to be a downside of Long Game actually appears to be a positive.
What if I need to pull money out?
As much as Long Game really encourages you to keep saving and build streaks, the app also makes some really clever efforts to ensure that your transfers to the app don’t put your finances in jeopardy. Not only are you able to withdraw your savings at any time but you can also make adjustments to your transfers if need be. In fact the app will send you an e-mail the day before a scheduled transfer is set to occur and you can elect to skip set AutoSave’s by tapping a button in your settings. Should you need to make longer-term changes, you can of course do that in settings as well.
I will note that, in terms of withdrawals, I have yet to actually attempt a reverse transfer myself so I can’t speak to how long the process takes. However the Long Game FAQ site states that funds should take 3-5 business days to clear. On that note, you’ll only be able to withdraw funds that have fully cleared in the app. While this is understandable on Long Game’s part, I do wish there would be a faster option — even if it means paying a small fee like PayPal and other services offer.
Long Game Debit Card
A couple of months ago I was surprised to discover that Long Game was launching its own debit card. What’s more, unlike other FinTechs that announce offerings months before they actually ship, this particular card was already available. So what does this debit card — officially known as Long Game Spending — do exactly?
Opting into Long Game’s debit card program was fairly painless but you will need to double check some information before requesting a card. This includes confirming your Social Security Number and completing a series of multiple-choice security questions. Again, this is was all pretty simple and, once I was done, it said my card would be delivered in approximately five business days.
One of my favorite parts of the Long Game debit card is its unique artwork. Featuring a cartoony, snowy mountain that evokes the app’s mystical game board aesthetic as well as a pinkish purple-y background, it definitely stands out. And keeping with the trend in cards, the front is smooth (aside from the chip), with the numbers and name only displayed on the back. Overall, A for effort on this one.
Deposits and transfers
Not only does Long Game Spending allow you to easily transfer funds from your Savings Jars but also makes it possible to set up direct deposits. In fact, users can earn free game plays by setting up a direct deposit. To to this, you can tap your initials in the upper left corner, select Account Settings, and look for “Set Up Direct Deposit” under Financial Settings.
Personally, as much as I enjoy Long Game, I’m not ready to make it my primary account. Therefore I haven’t set up a direct deposit for myself. However I have transferred funds directly from my main checking to Long Game, which I found took a few days to clear. Luckily, moving money from your Savings to Spending is instant.
Purchases and rewards
The Long Game debit card is a Visa, so you can use it pretty much anywhere cards are accepted. While you will want to set up a PIN for debit transactions, the card will also work if you run it as credit (but you will still need to have enough money, of course). But what’s fun about this particular card is that you can unlock free coins and games by using it.
After using my card twice, I found a Prize Chest available on my Long Game home screen. Opening it, I was rewarded with 5k coins and a free Omega Millions entry. Apparently if I make two more purchases, I’ll get another Chest as well. At this point it’s hard to say for sure just how often these rewards will come up or what you’ll actually get from them, but it is admittedly a pretty enjoyable incentive structure.
Another cool feature of Long Game Spending is that you can elect to activate RoundUps. When you do, purchases you make using your debit card will be rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the leftover change being deposited into your Savings Jar. For example, I just purchased a cookie for $2.65 at Starbucks, so $3 was deducted from the Spending while $0.35 went to Savings. In other words, it’s basically the Acorns model but for saving instead of investing. By the way, you do earn coins for these RoundUps as well — I got 3.5k coins for that $0.35 RoundUp.
Like many other credit and debit cards these days, the Long Game debit card also makes it easy to manage other aspects of your account. In Financial Settings, you’ll find a Card Management tab where you can change your PIN, report a card lost or stolen, or start the process of disputing a charge. You can also temporarily lock your card by toggling on that option. In other words, hopefully you won’t need to use the tools in this section too often but it’s nice to know they’re there.
Thoughts on Long Game Spending and debit card
I have to say that the Long Game debit card is definitely something I saw coming. Nevertheless I think it’s a pretty cool idea. Even though I haven’t used it enough to measure all the benefits, I do really like the way they’ve employed the RoundUps model. At the same time, I personally get much greater benefits from credit cards, so I doubt I’ll be using the card much myself — but, for others, I think this could be a product worth trying.
Final Thoughts on Long Game
Even if I don’t fully understand all of the gamification aspects of Long Game, I’ve certainly enjoyed spending time on the app so far. With bright colors, fun graphics, and engaging games, I have to say that the app does succeed in its goal of making saving fun. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I’ve managed to win a few cents along the way as well.
On top of that, the lengths Long Game goes to help prevent nightmare scenarios like overdrawn accounts make it even easier for me to recommend to others. That said, I do hope they are able to find a better (read: quicker) solution for withdrawing funds just in case emergencies should strike. To that point, it’s certainly best to retain a more accessible stash of cash aside from Long Game.
If there’s any critique I have of the app, it’s actually that it may be a bit too addicting. Sure getting addicted to saving money probably isn’t a bad thing but, as my account balance grows, I do wonder if my funds would be better served in a high-interest account or even invested. Despite that I find myself holding back on making the transfer because I enjoy earning more coins and playing more games.
As I mentioned, Long Game recently overhauled some of its games, adding new animations and designs. For the most part, I like the colorful additions — although I will warn that the “upgrades” can make the games a bit sluggish on older devices (I have an iPhone SE at the moment). Thankfully the games still work for the most part but the extra load times can be a bit frustrating at times.
With that said, all things considered, I really hope Long Game is able to go the distance and help a generation of mobile game addicts improve their personal finances.
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Also published on Medium.