PayPerks Blog

The latest news from PayPerks
  • PayPerks assists with the launch of the Direct Express® DX℠ mobile app

    Since we launched PayPerks® to provide financial education for cardholders in the U.S. Treasury’s Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card program several years ago, nearly 700,000 of those cardholders have registered for PayPerks, accessing the program through either a computer or mobile device. So, when we were invited to collaborate with the U.S. Treasury, Comerica Bank, MasterCard® and Xerox on the strategy and marketing of the new Direct Express® DX℠ mobile app, we were excited to see how PayPerks users would respond.

    It wasn’t too long ago that desktop computers were the primary way underserved users were accessing the Internet. However, as the chart below indicates, the way our users connect with PayPerks has changed dramatically over the past two years, reflecting the dominance of mobile access.

    As explained in this post by the U.S. Treasury’s Walt Henderson and this post by MasterCard’s Andrew Gillen, the Direct Express® program team observed several opportunities to increase cardholder convenience through the DX℠ mobile app.

    Our team was brought in to help in two areas: (1) to integrate cardholder education into the app itself, and (2) to help ensure that the roll-out was as successful as possible, by capitalizing on the insights we have gained over the past several years about these cardholders.

    Here’s a brief recap of how we did that and the outcomes we have seen so far:

    Phase 1, Content development: The first thing we did was create an educational campaign designed to let users know the features and benefits of the app. We felt education would be critical to the success of this effort. Among other things, we knew many Direct Express® cardholders are new to smartphones and might not have much experience with downloading and using apps. Several PayPerks modules were developed covering topics such as how to use the DX℠ mobile app to find in-network ATMs and where and how to download the DX℠ mobile app. Through our incentive model, we were able to drive nearly 200K module completions on the app, thus greatly expanding awareness among the Direct Express® cardholder population.

    Phase 2, Audience Segmentation: Next, we segmented our user base to identify the optimal segments for which to test and learn. We analyzed six data points as proxies for engagement and smartphone utilization so that we could recruit a strong initial cohort of early adopters.

    Phase 3, Targeted outreach: We then customized more than a dozen campaigns to test messaging and design among our target segments. In addition to wanting to maximize open and conversion rates on our email campaigns informing cardholders about the availability of the new DX℠ mobile app, we also wanted to optimize the downloading and onboarding process of the actual app.

    Phase 4, Measure. Learn. Repeat: We paired quantitative measurements of the conversion funnel with qualitative insights from our users to iterate and improve on the sign-up flow. We collected more than 60,000 survey responses—both from those who successfully downloaded the DX℠ mobile app and those who did not—to ensure the DX℠ mobile app was positioned for inclusive growth.

    Phase 5, Promote at scale: Our test campaigns gave us a good indication of what capacity to expect when we were ready to market at scale through both PayPerks and other Direct Express® channels. We worked—and continue to work—closely with the Direct Express® program team through the ramp-up period to ensure a smooth and steady adoption curve and a great user experience once signed up.

    While the DX℠ mobile app has been available for only a few months, hundreds of thousands of cardholders have downloaded it and are giving it rave reviews. In a recent survey of those who had downloaded, it, 60% of comments used the words “Love,” “great,” “perfect,” “excellent,” “awesome,” “cool,” or “fun”. Some examples are below:

    “I love being able to get my balance without having to call.”

    “I like the mobile app because helps me keep up where money is going…”

    “Great app and customer service help.”

    “Glad you finally got an app! Makes my life a lot easier.”

    “Awesome! It’s so very helpful for me. The app has made my life easier!”

    “Awesome app! It was about time too.”

    “Very user friendly! I truly love this app!”

    The PayPerks partnership with the Direct Express® program team has been lauded, since launch, for turning government payments into a teachable moment for cardholders. But what this project demonstrated—to us and the entire Direct Express® program—is how PayPerks’ robust and real-time, two-way dialogue with cardholders can teach card providers about our users and the ‘whys’ behind their behavior, among other things.

    We look forward to putting these insights to good use for the benefit of both cardholders and program administrators as smart phone adoption continues to steadily increase.

  • Next up - PayPerks to help improve nutrition capabilities

    According to the most recent data reported by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), more than 47 million Americans receive Supplementary Nutrition Assistance (SNAP - the program formerly known as food stamps) to help remedy food scarcity issues in the home. The amount of the benefit varies depending on the number of folks in the household but we’re talking roughly $150/person/month or ~$5 per day. While this stipend is meant to be “supplementary”, the reality is that, for many Americans, this is their whole food budget. Which means that learning how to stretch a food budget to maximize the nutritional value for each dollar is of critical importance.

    I learned many of these facts from Duke Storen who heads up Research, Advocacy, and Partnership Development for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and is one of the leading advocates for solving the food scarcity problem in this country. Duke got to Share our Strength by way of the Food and Nutrition Service and the Department of Agriculture so he’s seen these issues through a number of lenses. (A shout out to Josh Wachs and Michael Andrews for putting the pieces together, over a dog walking session, that they should connect us.)

    During my first meeting with Duke, I gave him a demo on how banks and governments were using PayPerks to drive financial capabilities and how they were using their prepaid card programs as a means to market PayPerks, track cardholder behavior change and ultimately do prize fulfillment. It took him all of 30 seconds to see the implications in the nutrition capability sphere. We spent the next 45 minutes fantasizing about the impact a customized version of PayPerks could have with regards to nutrition capabilities, particularly if we were able to connect it to the cards used to disburse SNAP funds. We envisioned a day when all 47M SNAP recipients would have access to a nutrition-based education through PayPerks and they could earn points for making food purchasing choices that maximize the nutritional value for their dollars with prizes would be loaded back onto their SNAP cards. We left the meeting with a high five and spent the next two-ish years getting the right folks on board to get this off the ground.

  • A look back and a peek forward for PayPerks

    We started PayPerks, six years ago now, based on the insight that sweepstakes-based rewards resonated with underserved consumers and behaviors could be nudged by associating a chance to win a cash prize with desired behavior-improving actions. And given that education is often a key component of behavior change, we knew an important action to incentivize was simply learning about how to change one’s behavior.

    While our model had many applications, we decided to start with changing financial behaviors as there were positive benefits to improving financial behaviors for both consumers and the financial institutions serving them. We saw that prepaid debit cards were becoming the main financial product utilized by underserved consumers and so we designed the PayPerks user experience to be integrated into the card lifecycle: you would learn about PayPerks when you get your card, your educational curriculum would be keyed off what card you have, you would earn PayPerks points based on how you used your card, and, when you won a prize, it would be loaded back to your card. While v1 of this product wasn’t perfect, it turned out a lot of our hypotheses were true and that this model was a pretty efficient, scalable and measurable way of nudging financial behaviors.

    Fast forward to 2015, PayPerks has been integrated with some of the largest banks and government programs for the purposes of improving the financial capabilities of their most vulnerable constituents. Hundreds of thousands of benefit recipients have signed up for PayPerks and shown measurable improvements in their financial capabilities. More importantly, we are learning a lot as we go. And with each passing month, we get better and more efficient at what we do. With each milestone hit, we get more ambitious about the applications for our model and technology. If PayPerks can effectively nudge financial behaviors, what’s to say it won’t work to nudge other critical life skills?

    Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll talk about the new vertical we’re going to tackle soon.

  • PayPerks Op-Ed in Paybefore - Prepaid and Financial Capability should grow closer together

    Yesterday, Paybefore published an op-ed written by PayPerks CEO, Arlyn Davich, and PayPerks Director of Partner Development & Consumer Impact, Rob Levy:

    Viewpoint: Prepaid and Financial Capability Have Grown Up; Now They Should Grow Closer.

    If you don’t want to click the above link to read the whole article, the key point is summarized below in these two paragraphs:

    For prepaid, the timing couldn’t be more prescient. As the rapid pace of industry growth over the past five years slows down somewhat, program managers and other providers are looking for ways to increase revenue from existing customers, in addition to acquiring new ones. Financial capability can be part of that answer, by driving customers toward behaviors that improve the provider’s bottom line and the consumer’s financial health at the same time.

    Focusing on financial capability means focusing on what actually changes consumer behavior, not just consumer knowledge. So what would it look like for prepaid and financial capability to become a closer pair? According to the foundational research on this topic by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, providers seeking to successfully incorporate the financial capability framework need to ensure the content and tools they develop adhere to four key attributes. They must be: 1) relevant 2) timely, 3) actionable and 4) ongoing.

    Contact Arlyn and Rob at if you’d like to continue the discussion.

  • PayPerks CEO Arlyn Davich to speak on Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis webinar on innovations in financial capability and engagement

    NOTE: Now that the webinar has happened, you can view the presentation or listen to the audio recording of the webinar from this link here.

    Register for what will be an interesting webinar hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis featuring PayPerks CEO Arlyn Davich.

    The webinar, Innovations that Enhance Financial Capability and Engagement, will be held from 2-3:15 PM Central Time on October 2nd. It is free to attend but requires an RSVP here.

    Arlyn has been invited by the Fed to participate along with PayPerks friends and colleagues Joshua Sledge, Innovation Labs Manager at the Center for Financial Services Innovation and Nick Maynard, Senior Innovation Director at the Doorways to Dreams (D2D Fund).

    The discussion will focus on how to translate financial knowledge into financial empowerment and greater access among low- and moderate-income individuals.

    Learn more about how Arlyn can up with the idea, what’s in the PayPerks secret sauce, and some of our recent successes on DirectExpress and other prepaid programs.

    For more information on the event, including information how how to submit questions to the participants, check out the event summary: