Yotta Savings Review — A Gamified Banking Account
No matter how hard we may try, sometimes convincing yourself to set aside savings just doesn’t work. And even if we do begrudgingly do it, there’s often little immediate reward for doing so — especially with interest rates currently sitting so low. Now the recently-released app Yotta Savings is looking to change that, offering a free savings account that comes with the chance to win a lottery jackpot each week.
You read that right — so how does it all work? Let’s take a look at Yotta Savings, how its lottery component works, and how it could help convince you to start saving.
What is Yotta Savings and How Does it Work?
Yotta’s lottery rules
The idea behind Yotta Savings is that it’s a saving account with a lottery element. Each week, users have the chance to win up to a $10 million jackpot (which actually pays out as a lump sum of $5,800,000). While scoring that loot is a longshot, prizes starting at $0.10 may be more attainable with odds currently estimated at 1:110. Of course, when it comes to larger prizes, your odds of winning are also impacted by the number of players, as prizes may be split in the event of multiple winners.
For more details and rules regarding Yotta’s lottery, you can check out their page.
Since Yotta offers an FDIC-insured bank account (thanks to a partnership with Evolve Bank & Trust), you’ll need to provide some basic personal information in order to sign up. This includes your legal name, birthdate, address, phone number, and Social Security Number. However, rest assured that this information isn’t used to pull your credit and thus, won’t impact your scores in any way. Also, Yotta Savings is completely free to use, with no fees, minimums, or other expenses.
Making your first deposit (and beyond)
Once you open your Yotta Savings account, you’ll be invited to schedule your first deposit. What’s more, when I initially joined, I was offered the chance to earn bonus tickets — four additional tickets for making a one-time deposit or eight if I set up recurring transfers (I opted for the former). We’ll get more into what exactly that means in the next section.
In order to facilitate transfers between Yotta and an external account, the app utilizes the secure Plaid API. If you’re not familiar, this tool allows you to log into your existing bank account and link it to Yotta Savings, making it easy to set up current and future transfers. Speaking of future transfers, Yotta only allows you to link one account at a time.
If you do want to set up recurring deposits, you can select your preferred amount and elect to have transfers occur weekly, every two weeks, or monthly. These transfers can also be in nearly any amount (even though the plus and minus buttons will increase/decrease your amount by $25 by default). Also, as I discovered, you can currently still claim that 8 ticket bonus when you make your first recurring transfer.
With Yotta Savings, your weekly entries will be determined by your account balance. For every $25 you hold, you’ll earn one ticket for the week (unless your balance is over $25,000, in which case you’ll earn 1 ticket per $25 held up to that limit and then 1 ticket per $150 held after that). To be clear, this means that, if you deposit $100 and don’t add anything, you’ll continue to hold four tickets for each week’s game.
What’s also nice is that, while a transfer can take a few days to reach your account, Yotta will credit you with your applicable tickets right away so that you can join the action. On top of that, Yotta recently introduced a new benefit where, if you don’t win anything during a week’s contest, you’ll earn one free ticket for the following week. While not a huge benefit, it’s definitely a nice gesture.
Another way to earn tickets is through referrals. For each friend who joins Yotta using your invite code, you’ll earn 100 bonus tickets. Unlike with deposit-based tickets, however, this is a one-time bonus for the following week’s contest — so don’t expect to be rolling in tickets forever.
Selecting your numbers, nightly drawings, and weekly winnings
Just like with the real lottery, you have the option of selecting your own lucky numbers or leaving it up to the machine. In this case, you’ll select six regular numbers and then a YottaBall number. For the main six, numbers go from 1 to 70, while YottaBalls go from 1 to 63. If you don’t get around to choosing your numbers and filling out your tickets, they’ll be randomly picked for you. However, you can also now set Lucky Tickets that will automatically generate each week before the rest of your earned tickets are auto-selected.
Each night at 9 p.m. Eastern, another number is drawn and Yotta users can see if any of their cards have matches. Then, on Sundays, the final number is drawn and winnings are determined. Notably, these numbers are actually selected by a third-party insurance carrier and not Yotta themselves. Additionally, the app can’t see what numbers users pick, creating a “double blind” situation that prevents foul play.
Something to note is that, while you can still make deposits mid-week and earn additional tickets, you won’t be able to select numbers that have already been drawn for that week (duh). I’m not smart enough to know if earning late-session tickets gives you a better or worse chance to win something — obviously it disqualifies you for the jackpot and you will have fewer numbers to choose from for other prizes — but it’s something to be aware of regardless.
Although the main draw of Yotta is the gamification aspect and the ability to win money, it should be noted that winning isn’t required for earning at least some return on your money. That’s because Yotta pays 0.2% APY on savings in addition to any prizes you earn. However, for whatever reason, Yotta refers to these payments as “savings bonuses” instead of “interest.” In either case, bonuses are paid on the first of the month and are determined based on your average balance for the month prior.
To put this 0.2% APY in context, it is certainly lower than what some institutions such as Marcus and Ally are currently offering but is in line with some other FinTech options. Plus, it’s still well ahead of the 0.01% that many big banks pay. Of course, while this 0.2% is fine for now, I’ll be curious to see if this increases once the Fed starts raising rates again.
Something else to note regarding APY with Yotta is that the app has made some adjustments to effectively lower what they pay. For example, Yotta Ball numbers used to only go up to 25 but now go to 63.
Announcing the shift, Yotta wrote in an email to customers, “This change allows us to maintain the sizes of our prizes, while also maintaining our position as one of the highest value savings accounts on the market.” While such adjustments do skew the odds (with the lowest prize odds going from 1:44 to 1:110 as a result of the Yotta Ball expansion), they’re really not as noticeable as when a normal banking account lowers its rates. I guess that’s a good thing overall, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward — although props to Yotta for outlining these changes clearly so that customers aren’t taken by surprise.
Whether you want to cash out your winnings or need to move money back to your main account, the good news is that you can withdraw money from Yotta at any time. However, there is a delay between the time a transfer clears and when you can take out that money. According to Yotta “In order to prevent ACH fraud, a deposit becomes available to withdraw 3 to 4 days after it settles.” On top of that, transfers may take 2 to 3 days to clear and arrive back in your linked bank account. Also, keep in mind that withdrawing funds will lower the number of tickets you have for the weekly contest. Also, withdrawals are limited to six per month.
If you do need your money faster, Yotta does now have an Instant option. To do this, you’ll need to connect a debit card. You’ll also need to pay a 1.5% fee on the money you transfer. But, the benefit is that your deposit should post within an hour or so (usually faster).
A while back, Yotta Savings added a feature, allowing users to add a secondary account holder. To do this, you’ll just need to visit Account Info under Settings, tap Add Joint Account Holder (written in yellow text underneath the Routing and Account Numbers), and provide your joint account holder’s info. In my experience, this was a simple process and I appreciate the option overall.
Yotta Debit Card
While Yotta was previously only a savings account, that changed with the introduction of their debit card. Continuing the trend of FinTech debit cards, the Yotta Debit Card has arrived, earning a single-use (non-recurring) ticket for every $10 users spend on the card. Additionally, there’s a chance that debit card customers can get their purchase for free — with their odds improving if they opt into direct deposit, refer friends, etc. On that note, those who have more than 10 referrals will also earn a premium metal card.
Personally, while I have a Yotta debit card, I’ve actually had trouble using it. I first tried it when getting my car tuned up, hoping that I could perhaps get that large purchase for free. Alas, it was declined for no discernible reason. Since then, I’ve tried it a couple of other times with similar results. I’m sure this is just something with my account but I’ve stopped trying.
Even if it weren’t for my specific troubles, I do think that the concept of the card is a bit overly complicated. While it’s awesome if you do get your purchase for free, the consolation prizes aren’t that appealing. Thus, I’ll personally be sticking with my credit cards.
Upcoming credit card
Speaking of cards, In addition to its debit card, Yotta is preparing to launch a credit card. On their site, Yotta teases an up to 2% chance that anything you buy using the card will be free. Plus, credit card customers will be able to earn 20% back on purchases in the form of additional tickets.
Seeing as I just shared my disinterest in the debit card, I wouldn’t bet on my picking up this card when it launches. But, for those who want to go all-in on Yotta, perhaps it will be an appealing option.
Crypto Yield Buckets
In recent months, Yotta has rolled out or teased a number of new features. One of those is Crypto Yield Buckets. When users move their money to these special Buckets, their fiat currency will be converted to stablecoins. While money in these Buckets will look basically the same, there are some key differences. For one, instead of earning 1 ticket for every $25 in your balance, you’ll get 1 ticket for every $10 you hold in Crypto Buckets. However, note that funds in your Crypto Yield Buckets are not FDIC insured.
Honestly, I’m not 100% sure how Crypto Buckets work but I have moved a small amount of my money to them just to try out. Therefore, I’ll be sure to update this review once I have more time with them (it’s only been a couple of months so far).
Tax Refund Boost
Another new/upcoming feature is Tax Refund Boost. According to the app’s explanation of this option, Yotta will analyze your income and help optimize your withholdings. Then, when you get your tax refund, you’ll earn a 5% ticket bonus when it’s deposited to Yotta.
Once again, I am a bit confused on this one as, if you get a bonus for depositing your refund, the withholding optimization offered by Yotta seems somewhat counterintuitive (although I’d argue that the latter is more important overall). In order to participate in this feature, you will need to set up direct deposit with Yotta. Personally, I haven’t tried this feature but I do find it interesting. If you’d like to see if you’re eligible, head to Settings in the app and then Tax Refund.
Last but not least, Yotta also currently has a waitlist for its Credit Builder account. Those approved for this feature when it launches will see $1,000 deposited into your Credit Builder Bucket — which will remain locked. Then, they’ll pay $55 a month for 24 months, with each payment being reported to all three credit major credit bureaus. As a bonus, customers will earn 40 bonus tickets for each week’s contest. Eventually, once customers pay off their loan (the 24 months of payments), their Bucket will unlock, allowing them to access the funds.
While I would have expected this feature to resemble Credit Builder options offered by One Finance or some others, this model definitely looks more like Self or Credit Strong. As a result, it also has some of the same downsides. Doing the math, customers will end up spending $1,320 over the 24 months… and get $1,000. Of course, you will get an extra 40 tickets per week, but it’s hard to say what those will actually be worth. Although this may ultimately be beneficial to users, I do think there are better options out there.
My experience with Yotta Savings so far
It was now a few months ago that I played my first full game with Yotta. For that contest, I held seven cards (three for my $75 in deposits and four bonuses cards from my initial deposit) and won… $0. That means I didn’t manage to match any number across my cards.
But, hey, what’s cool about Yotta is that, as soon as that contest ended, I had more tickets for the next go-round. Sure enough, I managed to win 20¢ the next week followed by a 40¢ score the week after that. Okay, so 60¢ isn’t going to get me very far, but it’s almost certainly better than I would earn in interest — and it is damn fun to win.
Given that initial experience and with APYs continuing to fall among many of my other accounts, I recently reshuffled my money, with Yotta being one of the accounts I choose to emphasize. So, after putting an additional $2,500 in my account, I now earn 105 tickets a week. Since this change, I typically end up with 40¢ a week, although my largest weekly win was $1.10 (twice!). Again, these aren’t huge numbers but do amount to a sizable APY. In fact, according to my Account Summary, my realized APY for February 2022 was 1.15% — although I’ve had better months in the past. Plus, to date, I’ve apparently won $32.63 in prizes. Therefore, I think I was justified in my decision to move more money to Yotta.
Final Thoughts on Yotta Savings
As I noted before, I’m a pretty big fan of gamifying good financial habits. That’s why I found a lot to like about Yotta Savings. Like with other apps before them, the service allows users to enjoy the thrill and adrenaline of gambling without actually risking anything. On top of that, the app is easy to use and rewards customers week after week — including paying a decent APY.
In terms of concerns I have about Yotta, one of the big ones has been fixed with the addition of Instant withdrawals. While I don’t love the idea of paying a 1.5% fee to take money out, at least this gives customers an option in the event they do need to access their money quickly (otherwise, I’d stick with the standard option).
Elsewhere, while I think Yotta is doing a lot of really interesting things, I also worry about them getting a little carried away in trying to do too many things. Additionally, with each ticket-earning option introduced, those who don’t wish to participate are put at a disadvantage and could see their earnings decrease accordingly. On top of that, I’m not really in love with some of these features, such as the Credit Builder account that’s incoming.
Aside from that hesitation, I really like what Yotta has built. Not only is the app fun and exciting but is also really beautiful and intuitive. Plus, along with Long Game, Yotta Savings fills the gap for a free gamified savings app — and seems intent on growing beyond that. All this is to say that if you’re looking to make setting aside savings a little more fun, I think Yotta is worth checking out.
According to Yotta, “We partner with banks that don’t have bloated marketing budgets and real estate expenses, allowing us to pass on 20-100x more value on your savings to you than Wells Fargo and Chase can in the form of a monthly savings bonus plus prizes.” In other words, Yotta likely earns interest on deposits that amounts to more than they’re typically passing on to users.
Deposits made with Yotta are held with Evolve Bank & Trust, Member FDIC. Therefore, funds are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 per depositor.
Yotta was co-founded by Adam Moelis and Ben Doyle, but counts Y Combinator, FundersClub, Slow Ventures, Twenty Two VC, Graham Stephan, and others among its many investors.
Yotta’s Luck Index attempts to quantify how lucky you’ve been in a given week’s contest. The Luck Index goes from 0 to 100, with 100 being the luckiest and 50 being average.
Yotta deposits are held with Evolve Trust & Bank and are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 per depositor.
Also published on Medium.