The Billfold
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The Billfold

What If Your Savings Could Help You Win the Lottery?

Would you save more money? One app wants to find out.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart, CC BY 2.0.

The idea that you can incentivize people to do things by telling them they might win a prize is not new. Full Frontal With Samantha Bee did a segment on it last week, during which Bee got people to subscribe to a local newspaper by turning subscriptions into raffle entries.

So we should not be surprised that the financial app Long Game wants to do the same thing with our savings accounts.

Billfolder Nora brought Long Game to my attention yesterday, asking if we could give it a closer look, and I am ready.

Let’s start with the video:

“Saving money sucks!” our narrator says. “It can be hard to do, and even worse, it’s just not fun. You know what’s a lot more fun? Spending money. Or trying to win money.”

I am already disagreeing with this guy so hard. Saving money is great! It can be hard to do, but I really enjoy setting a budget and watching my savings grow. Spending money is what fills me with anxiety—and trying to win money? Like, throwing your money into a hole in the hopes that some of it might bounce back and hit you in the face? That is terrifying.

But our narrator explains that with Long Game, you don’t have to throw your money away. You get to save your money and you might have the chance to win some more! “It’s just like the lottery but way better.”

All right, how does it work?

“Here’s how it works.” (Thanks, narrator.) So you put your money into Long Game’s “savings”—and trust me, we’re going to take a close look at that in a minute—and then you get access to a bunch of mobile games that you can play for the chance to win prizes, including a potential one million dollars. The more you save, the more mobile games you unlock.

Remember what I wrote yesterday, about that whole Kentucky wanting to gamify Medicaid thing?

Now, just so we’re clear on this: the “My Rewards” system is not designed to give more people access to healthcare. It is designed to cut costs by putting barriers between people and healthcare, and giving the barriers positive names like “passing a GED exam!”

Long Game is also putting barriers between you and its lottery. You don’t win prizes by saving money; you win prizes by playing mobile games—which sounds less like a lottery and more like a casino. In theory, the person who plays more games has a greater chance of winning, but there’s a catch: you need Long Game coins to play the games, and you only earn a certain amount of coins from saving money.

However, you might win a few extra coins during gameplay, as the Long Game Help Center explains:

Long Game currently offers cash prizes and coins to play more games. Additional prizes will be added to the platform in the near future.

Remember what I wrote earlier this year about The Return of the Great Brain, and how the real point of casino games were to get you to play the games for as long as possible? The idea of a person (or app) telling you that you’ve won additional chances to play the game is also not new. It might be one of the oldest games in the book.

The one good thing about Long Game—the thing that might make it decent instead of terrible—is that it does not allow you to buy coins using your savings. You earn coins by saving, and you earn coins by playing games. Nobody is going to start tossing money into a hole to get coins to play games that might win them their million dollars. (Thank goodness.)

So what about those savings accounts, then? Here’s more info from the Long Game Help Center:

Long Game customer funds are held with Blue Ridge Bank, N.A. (FDIC # 35274)

Your funds earn 0.1% interest, and are FDIC insured.

The narrator in the video claimed that we could earn 10 times as much interest as we would with bank savings accounts, and my bank savings account is currently earning 0.75 percent APY, so that’s not necessarily true. But it’s still better than nothing.

You can deposit money whenever you want (or set up an automatic deposit) and withdraw whenever you want, without penalties. Deposits and withdrawals both take 3–5 business days.

Which brings us to the final question: how does Long Game make money? If you watched the entire video, you already know the answer: “Long Game partners with socially-minded banks to make sure your money is safe, earns more interest, and gives you chances to win prizes. These banks, not you, pay Long Game a small fee to make it happen.”

Overall, Long Game doesn’t seem that bad. Unlike Digit, it is not going to charge you to use the app or save money, and unlike a casino, it is not going to charge you to play the games. Yes, you have to do some work to (potentially) win prizes, so it’s not like you can win money just by saving money. There’s a step in between.

But your savings are FDIC-insured and earn 0.1 percent interest, so in that sense you are already a winner, right? By the end of the year, your $1,000 might turn into $1,001!

What do you all think of Long Game? Would you give it a spin? Or are you happy enough keeping your savings where they are?

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Everything you wanted to know about money but were too polite to ask.

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Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker

Freelance writer at Vox, Bankrate, Haven Life, & more. Author of The Biographies of Ordinary People.

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