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SaveUp App Adds Quizzes to Help You Gamble Your Way Out of Debt

'We bring in the fun of playing the lottery or going to Vegas, but turn it into something that's about your positive actions.'
SaveUp's home screen.

SaveUp’s home screen.

This is going to sound like an infomercial or a spammy email from a fake Nigerian prince, but bear with us. This is an actual app that works.

SaveUp lets you gamble for huge cash prizes without spending any of your own money. The only way you can play, though, is to build good financial habits. Link SaveUp to your bank accounts, and every time you deposit money in your savings account or pay down a debt, you’ll receive credits. Using those credits, you can play games of chance on your phone and compete to win prizes like a $50,000 student loan payment, a $25,000 trip to Paris for two, or the jackpot of $2 million.

And now, SaveUp is adding quizzes to its Google Play version to let users earn even more credits while also learning about their spending habits. A beta version will also be available on the App Store starting today.

A sample question.

A sample question.

“The mission of SaveUp when we launched was to make personal finance something fun and reward positive action,” CEO Priya Haji told Betabeat. “We’re really trying to take game mechanics and behavioral economics and adapt it into an experience that turns thinking about your balance sheet, transactions and financial behavior into a game.”

It’s apparently working — so far, people who use SaveUp have paid down $750 million in debt and deposited $1 billion in savings since the app’s Feb. 1, 2012 launch. And although no one has hit the $2 million jackpot yet (drawings are held monthly and the odds of a winner are similar to the Powerball lottery), SaveUp has dispensed $226,036, spread among almost 5,000 cash prizes. They’ve also shelled out $250,000 in gift cards and coupons, among 47,935 prizes.

The new feature, QuizMe, pits users against each other as they answer multiple-choice questions about their own financial history — “how much did you spend on coffee last month?” — and general questions about finance. Whoever gets the most questions right wins credits, which they can then use to place bets on the $2 million jackpot or the other cash prizes.

The $2 million jackpot game.

The $2 million jackpot game.

“We bring in the fun of playing the lottery or going to Vegas, but turn it into something that’s about your positive actions,” Ms. Haji said.

Of course, we had to ask Ms. Haji what SaveUp does with all that luscious financial data from its users.

“The data is never shared with anyone externally,” she said. “We do use the data to help you, by providing you more relevant finance education and content. We make the quizzes more tailored to things that might be more relevant to you. We might start to recognize information or patterns about your financial situation to give you an improved experience.”

There’s also the question of how SaveUp makes its money. They collect a portion of revenue from finance companies like Ally Bank every time they refer a new customer to the service. Beyond that, though, SaveUp is more focused on growth than monetization at this point, Ms. Haji said.

“Until now, financial services has really looked a certain way: charts, graphs, balance sheets and fairly staid,” she said. “What we’re trying to do here is… get you focused on personal finances with the same passion you might reserve for Candy Crush.”

Follow Molly Mulshine on Twitter or via RSS. mmulshine@observer.com