In the world of financial responsibility and saving money, our rewards come from achieving our goals. It can be a long journey, and not always a “fun” one, as we adapt our lifestyles to fit our budgets. But a number of financial organizations and other companies are seeking to inject some play into that process through the gamification of savings. Games are great motivators, after all, who doesn’t like to win? So if saving money is your game, you may be wondering where the prizes are.
What Are Prize-Linked Savings?
While not a new idea, prize-linked savings (PLS) have started to spread in the United States in the last few years. These accounts are similar to a standard savings account, only there is the a prize component instead of an interest rate. Typically, each deposit into the savings account (with certain restrictions) gives the owner an additional entry into a lottery for a monetary or in-kind prize. This lottery is essentially free, as entrants keep the money they are depositing into their own accounts, and research suggests that PLS helps to stimulate savings, so there are really no losers here.
The problem is when PLS accounts run afoul of federal banking laws and state gambling laws. Up to this point, only credit unions in nine states (soon to be ten) have been able to offer these products. New federal legislation will expand availability of this type of program to banks, and of course more states may follow suit to allow such programs.
Should You Open a PLS Account?
Interest rates on savings account are currently so low, they hardly seem worth it. Certainly there are higher return investments than a simple savings account, but if you’re planning on using a savings account anyway (perhaps for your emergency fund or a short-term goal), why wouldn’t you want to trade your paltry interest payment for the opportunity to win $10,000 or more along the way? Of course, you should always check the terms of any product you are considering. Some PLS accounts require you to keep the funds in the account for a full year, and charge you a fee for cashing out early.
If you live in Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, or Washington, you can check out Save to Win, which connects you to participating credit unions with PLS accounts in your state.
What If PLS Isn’t Offered in My State Yet?
Not to worry, not only is it likely to arrive soon, but there’s another PLS option you can use anywhere in the United States. Even better, it seems to have all the benefits without any of the drawbacks. SaveUp.com is a website (and mobile app) that allows you to link up your existing accounts (checking, saving, investment, loan, credit cards) and rewards you with credits for doing things like paying down debt and depositing money into savings. Those credits can be used daily to enter a monthly $2,000,000 jackpot drawing, play “scratch off” cards for instant prizes up to $50,000, or enter weekly drawings for smaller prizes. It’s like playing the lottery for free, plus you still receive the interest on your interest-bearing accounts. And looking at a snapshot of all your accounts on a daily basis keeps you focused on what’s really important.
While it’s difficult to motivate Americans to save, particularly with interest rates so low, the lottery seems to be thriving. Combining the two is an ingenious strategy to lead people in the right direction of saving money and improving their finances.
Would you ever consider opening a PLS account? What about participating in a rewards program like SaveUp?