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.
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. To that point, games where you’re playing for real prizes — like up to $1,000 — may cost as many as 100 coins to play while other games have entry pricing as low as 5 coins.
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.
Something that’s relatively new to Long Game (and what first brought my attention to the app) is the presence of 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.
Using and Saving with Long Game
Does Long Game actually help you save money?
It’s now been a few weeks 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 money), 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, a little bit.
In addition to the $.25 of crypto I was gifted for leveling up somewhere along the way, I’ve also won a total of $.65 on Long Game so far. This is the result of two games where I won $.25 and $.40, respectively. I suppose I’ve won in other ways as well, earning extra coins that then allowed me to play for bigger prizes. Sure, $.65 isn’t much but I can tell you that winning it still felt pretty damn great.
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 your 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. This means that, even though I had a $5 contribution trigger on a Saturday, Long Game currently will only allow me to take out $35.65 since it has only been two business days since that last $5 transfer was initiated. 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 or other services offer.
Even if I don’t fully understand all of the gamification aspects of Long Game just yet, 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.
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.