Long Game Review (2021): 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 that’s taken a quite literal approach to the finance gamification trend is back!
Long Game (or Long Game Rewards) 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 the reborn version of Long Game, how it works, what’s changed, and whether it could help you start saving more.
Long Game: What You Need to Know About the App
A brief history of Long Game
If Long Game sounds familiar, it’s likely because the app has been around for a few years. However, it underwent some changes in 2020, including introducing different tiers of service. Sadly, the app shut down later in the year.
Now, a new version of Long Game called Long Game Rewards has emerged. In early 2021, a beta of the app relaunched with initial partners NBKC and Varo Bank. Of note, those who still have the old Long Game installed on their phones will need to re-download the app as the old one will not work.
Getting started with Long Game Rewards
As I noted above, the new Long Game partners with two banks: NBKC and Varo. Because of this, you’ll need to open an account with one of those two options before you can get started. After creating either your NBKC or Varo account, you can select your bank and login. Then, you’ll earn coins in Long Game as you make deposits to your linked account and grow your savings.
Only link one account
Although there are currently two banks Long Game works with, users are only able to link one. Therefore, if you do have both Varo and NBKC, you’ll need to choose which you prefer to use with Long Game. Once you’ve selected, there doesn’t seem to be a way to switch your choice.
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.
One of my favorite game additions that arrived with the revamped app is Lucky Bounce. In this game, you’ll drop a ball that bounces off various pegs before eventually falling into one of several chests — each containing a prize (although some chests rudely have 0 coins). You can kind of think of this one as a take on Plinko, but with a twist.
Two other types of new games are Connect 3 and Puzzles & Prizes. With Connect 3, you’ll spend a certain number of coins each time you draw a line to connect similar adjacent icons. When you do, you’ll get closer to opening one of the chests above. Once you’ve unlocked a chest, you’ll earn the prize inside. Meanwhile, Puzzles & Prizes offers a similar concept, except that you’ll be swapping pieces to make matches of three or more instead of drawing lines to connect icons. Ultimately, you’d be forgiven if you confused these two types of games, but both are fairly fun regardless.
In addition to choosing what types of games you want to play, you can select games based on their maximum prize. Aside from the weekly lottery drawing (which has a $1 million grand prize), the biggest fiat cash prize in the app currently is $10,000. Of course, if you want to win big money, you’ll need to pay more coins.
Currently, the lowest-priced game starts at 1,000 coins — although the reward here isn’t actually cash but 1 million coins instead. Meanwhile, if you did want to go for that $10,000 cash, it’d cost you 1 million coins per play. Incidentally, that makes the “Win4x” Crypto Game a steal right now, as its top prize is equal to $20,000 (based on $BTC prizes on April 15th, 2021) despite each play costing only 100,000 coins. Elsewhere, be aware that the coin prizes listed for Connect 3 and Prizes & Puzzles are per move, which is why they may seem lower when compared to other options.
When you win cash prizes on Long Game, they’ll automatically be deposited into your linked bank account. Since this requires a transfer, it can take a few days for these wins to show up in your account and be accessible. However, you can view your wins by tapping the “shield” icon (in the left corner of the app) to see your pending transactions, your total balance, and your available balance.
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. However, there is now a $5 threshold you’ll need to reach before a transfer (meaning you’ll need to accrue at least $5 worth of crypto rewards before you can move them out). Long Game does also note that you will have up to a year to claim your prize and withdraw it from the app itself.
Earning More Coins
Even if you run out of coins with Long Game, the good news is that you’ll have a chance to earn more every day. With Daily Games, you’ll have a chance to win coins just by visiting the app daily. Since this is game based, it’s hard to say exactly how much you’ll win — but it’s always fun regardless.
Finally, another way to earn more coins in Long Game is to set up direct deposit with your linked bank account. Not only will you earn 2 million coins when your first direct deposit clears, but you’ll also earn twice as many coins from Daily Games. If that sounds good to you, check with your eligible bank and your employer to see how to set direct deposit.
Using and Saving with Long Game
How much does Long Game cost?
The latest version of Long Game is free to use. Furthermore, both Varo and NBKC offer no-fee accounts.
Does Long Game actually help you save money?
I think so — but of course this will depend on your personality. In my case, I can say that I was always excited about the prospect of setting money aside in my Long Game account and earning coins as a result. Similarly, my younger brother (who happened to find the app independently of me) attested that he had managed to save up hundreds of dollars thanks to the gamification the app offered. Meanwhile, even if you don’t care about the games themselves all that much, the opportunity to win more money might be appealing. With all of that considered, I think that Long Game could help you save and is at least worth a try.
Do you actually win money on Long Game?
Honestly, it’s pretty impossible to declare 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. Still, between the old version of the app and the new one, my winnings have amounted to some free cups of coffee. Plus, since some of my original winnings were in crypto, they’re worth much more now than when I won them.
Do Long Game accounts earn interest?
Since Long Game no longer has banking accounts of their own, the interest you earn will depend on what your linked accounts offer. That said, Varo Bank’s savings account currently offers 0.2% APY by default, with the opportunity to earn up to 3% APY if you meet certain requirements. NBKC currently offers 0.25% APY on its checking/savings “Everything Account.”
What if I need to pull money out?
What’s great about the new version of Long Game is that you no longer need to transfer money to the app itself. Instead, you’ll simply be rewarded for the savings you hold in your Varo or NBKC account. As a result, you should be able to access your funds when needed without issue.
My Experience with the New Long Game
So far, I feel like my winnings with the new Long Game are on-par with or even better than what I was receiving previously. In fact, while writing this, I won $.50 and $1 back to back, which may rank as two of my largest single-swoop scores. Plus, as I noted early, I really like some of the new mini-games that have joined the app and the varied mechanics (both in play and in wager) that come with them.
The new model
The more time I spend using the new Long Game, the more I realize that this current model works a lot better for the app. By allowing you to simply link your existing bank account instead of having to transfer money to the app itself, a lot of issues I had with the previous version become moot. Most notably, my concern that slow transfer times might put someone in a bind if they needed to access their funds quickly has been erased as the only money moving is the money you win.
On that note, one somewhat humorous quirk I found involves winnings. Since your prizes may only amount to a few cents at a time, I’ve received a few emails from Varo telling me that my test deposits were ready. That’s because one method of linking or verifying an account is for a company to make tiny, temporary deposits and then have you confirm how much each of these transactions is for. So, when Varo sees a transaction for a penny followed by a nickel, it must think that’s what’s happening. Obviously this isn’t a big deal but I found it funny.
If there was one word I’d use to sum up the difference between the old Long Game and the new, it’d have to be “simplified.” Not only is the app easier to use since you don’t need to transfer money in but the whole “brains” component is gone and there aren’t three tiers of service to worry about. These are all upgrades in my book — although I do kind of miss Savings Jars. Other than that, I’m really happy with the simplified nature of Long Game 2.0.
With all of that noted, the only real disappointment I’ve found with the latest version of Long Game involves crypto. Previously, I could take my sliver of crypto and transfer it out to an external wallet right away. Unfortunately, you now need to earn $5 worth before you can do that. I’m not sure why this is in place — especially considering that fiat winnings are transferred right away — but it’s a tad annoying to me. Given that I’m typically only winning 10 to 20 cents at a time in crypto, it could be a while before I have enough to transfer out. Perhaps that’s why the cost of playing the crypto games is a bit lower on a dollar for dollar level, but this is something I wish I knew about before bothering to play them at all.
Questions About the Former Version of Long Game
What is the Long Game Debit Card?
The Long Game Debit card was the result of a partnership between Long Game and NBKC. Baring a colorful design inspired by the app’s map and aesthetic, it not only gave users the chance to win coins when they made purchases but also enabled such features as “round-ups.” However, when Long Game shut down in 2020, the debit card closed with it. Currently, it doesn’t seem as though there are any plans to revive the Long Game debit card as the product no longer fits with the new model of the app.
What are Savings Jars?
Savings Jars were a former feature of Long Game that helped customers earmark their savings for specific goals. For example, you could create a Savings Jar for an upcoming trip as well as one for an emergency fund and set up automated savings plans for each (while earning coins on the total balance). Since Long Game now links to your existing bank account, the Savings Jars feature as it once was has been discontinued.
What are the Teal Tier, Gold Tier, and Diamond Tier in Long Game?
In May of 2020, Long Game introduced a tiered service model with three options: Teal Tier, Gold Tier, and Diamond Tier. By making a certain amount of AutoDeposits, direct deposits, and/or debit card purchases, users could obtain Gold or Diamond status and use the app for free. Meanwhile, users who failed to meet this requirement would be charged $3 a month for Teal Tier.
Now, the 2021 version of Long Game has done away with these tiers and requirements. Instead, the app is free to use for customers of NBKC and Varo Bank.
Final Thoughts on Long Game Rewards
As a long time fan of Long Game, I was very excited to see that it was not only making a return but was also ditching the tiered system it tried out last year. After getting back into the app, I think the latest version is a solid upgrade in a number of ways. From taking transfer times out of the equation to adding new and interesting games to the mix, this new version of Long Game is the best yet.
What’s also great about the new Long Game is the partners they’ve chosen to work with: Varo Bank and NBKC. I actually have accounts with both banks and have had positive experiences so far. As such, I do wish that there was a way to link both options at once, although I understand why this isn’t an option. In any case, another benefit of Long Game’s new model is that customers can enjoy other perks that these banks offer (including a decent enough APY) on top of the Long Game access.
Overall, I’ve been amazingly pleased with the Long Game Rewards beta and am thrilled that I can once again recommend the app. Hopefully this return will help even more people set a path to saving more and having fun along the way.
Also published on Medium.