Money at 30: Mana App Review

One of the most intriguing trends I’ve seen emerge since I’ve been following FinTech is the advent of niche neobanks. These days, you can find apps geared towards certain communities, interests, and more. Among the latest examples I’ve seen of this is an app called Mana, which bills itself as the best debit card for gamers.

Now, I may not be a big gamer, but I do know a thing or two about banking applications. So, how does Mana measure up? Let’s take a look at what this account and debit card have to offer.

What is Mana and How Does it Work?

Signing up and FDIC

To get started with Mana, you’ll need to provide personal information including your name, address, Social Security number, etc. You’ll also need to confirm both your email address and your phone number. Naturally, you’ll need to agree to some terms of service as well.

On that note, since Mana is not a bank, they partner with the institution MVB Bank. This means that deposits are FDIC insured up to $250,000 per depositor.

Account options and pricing

Currently, Mana offers two different account options: a free basic account or Mana Pro. The latter comes at a cost of $119.95 a year as of this writing. However, that price includes the following bonuses:

  • Discord Nitro Classic 1 year subscription
  • $25 Xbox Gift Card
  • $25 PlayStation Store Gift Card
  • FitGMR Pro 1 year subscription
  • Surfshark VPN 1 year subscription
  • FirstBlood Premium 1 year subscription
  • Aim Lab Elite Supporter Pack

On top of this, Mana Pro includes some other perks we’ll discuss in the following sections.

While I was tempted to check out Mana Pro for the sake of this review, I ended up sticking with the free version. Therefore, I’ll mostly be focusing on that experience for the rest of this write-up.

Making deposits

In order to move money to Mana, you’ll likely need to connect an external bank account. This is done using Plaid, allowing you to log into your account and link it. Somewhat annoyingly, you can only link a single external account to Mana at a time. Even more annoyingly, while it notes that you’ll need to remove an existing account to add a new one, I couldn’t figure out how to do this in the app.

Another option you have for adding money to your Mana account is direct deposit. To get started with this, you can search through popular employers or payroll providers.

Lastly, the app also lists an “Instant Transfers” option. Alas, this doesn’t give you the ability to deposit money by charging a debit card like some other apps do. Instead, it lists popular P2P payment options Venmo, Apple Cash, PayPal, and Cash App and provides you with instructions for how to use those apps’ instant deposit features to move your cash faster. That’s kind of clever but also a bit misleading in my opinion. Plus, while Mana doesn’t charge you any fees for these instant transfers, the apps themselves likely will.

Debit card

As a Mana customer, you’ll be provided with a free debit card. For basic users, this is a grey, plastic card with a fun-enough Mana design. Meanwhile, Pro users will receive a black, metal card with an otherwise similar design. These debit cards operate on the Visa network

One thing that disappointed and surprised me was that Mana did not provide a digital version of the card in the app. Because of this, I had to wait until my physical card arrived before I could make purchases. This isn’t exactly a deal breaker, but digital cards do feel like a standard these days so I was taken aback by their exclusion.

Luckily, however, the card can be added to Apple Pay.

ATM access

For those who want the option of pulling cash from their Mana account, there’s good news in that the company utilizes the Allpoint ATM network. As a result, you’ll be able to use your debit card at more than 55,000 participating ATMs to make fee-free withdrawals. To find a machine near you, tap the My Account option in the app and select “Free ATM locations.”

Earning Mana – Gameplay

There are a few ways to earn Mana, but let me start with my favorite and what I think is the most unique: playing mobile games. In the app, you can choose to link select games to Mana and earn rewards points for daily play — 1 point per game played daily for basic users and 5 points per game played daily for Pro customers.

This list currently includes:

  • Clash of Clans
  • Brawl Stars
  • League of Legends
  • Clash Royale
  • Valorant

To link a game, you’ll first select it from the Games tab of Mana. This will provide you with directions on how to proceed — but you’ll likely need to find your Player Tag for the game. In the case of Brawl Stars (the game I chose to try), I was able to find my identifying collection of letters and numbers in my Brawl Stars profile. After connecting, you can view your game activity in Mana, including streaks.

There are a few things to note about the Mana rewards platform. First, it’s not enough to merely open the game app in order to earn points. Instead, you’ll need to play at least a round to activate the reward. In my experience, this activity would show up in Mana within a few minutes of my completing a round. Second, while you might assume that the streaks Mana shows under your game activity would mean bonus point opportunities, that’s not the case. Even if you manage a “perfect month,” you’ll still just earn 1 Mana per day for a total of 30 that month. Lastly, for free Mana users, there’s a cap of 100 gameplay Mana per month, while Mana Pro users can earn up to 500 Mana per month with gameplay.

Earning Mana – Purchases

The other main way to earn Mana is by making purchases with your debit card. Free users enjoy the following multipliers:

  • 3x Mana per dollar spent on select Gaming & Entertainment Subscriptions
  • 2x Mana per dollar spent on Gaming Products in the Mana Shop
  • 1x Mana per dollar spent on all other purchases

Meanwhile, Mana Pro customers earn the following multipliers:

  • 5x Mana per dollar spent on select Gaming & Entertainment Subscriptions
  • 3x Mana per dollar spent on Gaming Products in the Mana Shop
  • 1x Mana per dollar spent on all other purchases

Starting at the top with the subscription multiplier, this not only includes video and audio streaming services but also digital subscriptions for comics, online gameplay, etc. A list of eligible subscriptions can be found in the app, but some popular options that caught my eye were Amazon Prime, Apple One, Disney+ (as well as Hulu and ESPN+ for you bundle fans), HBO Max, Marvel Unlimited, Nintendo Switch Online, Spotify, and more.

As for the Gaming Products category, the Mana Shop currently has dozens of PC gaming titles available for purchase. Looking at a few of these games, it looks as though the purchases are made on Mana and then can be redeemed on Steam. Personally, I did not purchase any games in the Mana store, but I did appreciate how simple it seemed to be to do so.

Gift card purchases

If you don’t want to purchase games from Mana but still want a way to redeem your points, the platform offers a few gift card options. These include digital cards for the likes of Amazon, Best Buy, XBOX, Nintendo eShop, Domino’s, GameStop, AMC, Google Play, Macy’s, and more. For most gift card purchases, you’ll need to redeem at least 50 Mana to do so — although this restriction doesn’t apply to game or hardware purchases. However, over that, you can select any amount you want to redeem over that 50 minimum.

Additionally, while you don’t earn Mana on the points you redeem, you will still earn Mana back on the rest of your purchase. So, for example, I purchased a $10 Amazon gift card with 50 Mana and $9.50 cash, which yielded me 9 Mana back when all was said and done. Also, the card was extremely easy to redeem at Amazon as all I needed to do was enter to code.

Referrals

Like many apps these days, Mana offers rewards to those who refer friends. Currently, those who successfully refer friends — meaning they use your invite code, open an account, and activate their card — will earn 1,000 Mana (which equals $10). Additionally, the person being referred will also earn 1,000 Mana. It seems that this applies to the free account and not just Pro, but it’s not 100% clear. On that note, if you want to use my code, feel free to try kyleb2775.

VR

Finally, I feel as though I really need to mention that Mana apparently offers a VR banking experience. This isn’t a joke — this is real life… as far as I can tell. Looking on the site, this apparently requires something called Sidequest. From there, you can toggle on the VR headset pairing option in settings. I obviously didn’t try this feature out but here’s a video from the site so you believe me:

Final Thoughts on Mana

Overall, I think there are things for gamers and normies alike to enjoy about Mana. First, the ability to play some fairly fun mobile games and earn real-world rewards (regardless of how small) is pretty nice. Similarly, the multipliers — even for the free account — are fairly solid. Plus, the ability to cash out as few as 50 Mana (or fewer if you’re buying a game or hardware) means you won’t need to wait too long before making use of your accrued points. All of these factors make Mana worth having if you’re even slightly interested in gaming.

As for the downsides, Mana does not currently offer any interest on funds. This wouldn’t have been too big of a deal in the past but, with savings APYs now topping 3% in many cases, it’s a definite sore spot. To be fair, though, it is a checking account and not a savings account, so the absence of interest isn’t a dealbreaker

All things considered, I’ve been enjoying using the free version of Mana and using it to simply earn points to then redeem for gift cards. More importantly, I’m looking forward to seeing how the app grows as it seems there’s already a pretty dedicated fanbase (if their Discord server is any indication). So, while I wouldn’t recommend the Premium version unless the gift cards make sense for you, I do think the free Mana account is at least worth a look.


Also published on Medium.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at https://moneyat30.com/

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