Money at 30: 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 it’s 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 1:44. 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 $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. 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.
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 25. If you don’t get around to choosing your numbers and filling out your tickets, they’ll be randomly picked for you.
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 but 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.
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. Finally, withdrawals are limited to six per month.
My experience with Yotta Savings so far
A few weeks ago, I played my first full game with Yotta. For the 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 this past week. 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.
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 for 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, the amount of time it takes for 1) funds to become available for withdrawal and 2) then fully transfer to an external bank account makes me worry a little bit about what users would do if they needed to access their money quickly. To this point, the instant reward that comes from a deposit versus the long wait to get your money out could make for a bad situation if a customer were to get a little overzealous with their saving efforts. I realize that there are several legitimate reasons for this delay, but I think it’s worth considering nonetheless.
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, with Long Game now charging, Yotta Savings fills the gap for a free gamified savings app. 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.
Also published on Medium.