Helping our users build financial health: Fresh EBT’s referral policy

Fresh EBT, the app we built to make it easier to manage SNAP and cash benefits on an EBT card, has been downloaded over 150,000 times since we released it in February 2016. In addition to making the EBT card more user-friendly, our goal with Fresh EBT is to connect our users with products and services that can improve their overall health and wellbeing. Several months ago, we added information about where to find free summer meals for children. We’re also marketing free financial coaching sites in Queens, NY, the Philly Food Bucks farmers market matching voucher program in Philadelphia, and free at-home care for new moms in South Carolina.

As a trusted financial tool, we also want to introduce our users to products that improve their financial health in other ways. From a recent survey, we learned that there’s plenty of room for improvement in this area. Over half of Fresh EBT users report having a credit score below 600 (another 25% don’t know their credit score). 55% have been turned down for a loan or credit card. 62% do not have a checking account, while 12% use pawn loans and 11% use payday loans. Almost 30% of users pay fees to cash checks on a regular basis.

An example of how we make referrals to Simple

Thanks largely to our relationship with the Center for Financial Services Innovation and our participation in the Financial Solutions Lab, we’re developing partnerships with a number of innovative FinTech companies that offer financial products that can improve our users’ financial health. These include companies like eCredable, an alternative credit scoring platform for people with low credit and Simple, offering a free, no-fee checking account.

Referring our users to FinTech companies that offer better alternatives to offline or traditional services also represents an important business opportunity for Propel. Acquiring new customers is very expensive for most of these companies (many companies pay between $50 and $100 per customer). Because we have a trusted relationship with users, our recommendations are meaningful: in early tests we’ve seen high conversion rates on referrals.

In order to maintain this trust, we carefully select companies the companies we partner with through a rigorous screening process. This starts from user demand, understanding what products our users rely on today, and evaluating alternatives. We then look at which products have the opportunity to save our users the most money (relative to comparable alternatives). From there, we vet companies by talking to industry experts, meeting with management teams to ensure appropriate fit, and, in some cases, trying out the products ourselves.

We recognize that no single product can be right for every user. As such, when we make a referral, we aim to be fully transparent in order to help our users make an informed decision. In every referral for a financial product, we include a link to a post we write explaining the pros and cons of that product, how it works, and how much it costs (see an example here).

We’re excited to forge new partnerships with organizations that offer valuable services for our users, financial or otherwise. If you’re committed to improving financial health and you’d like to reach hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans through Fresh EBT, contact us at info@joinpropel.com.

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