What’s the Hidden Strategy Behind the Belly and Level Money App Updates?

  • JJ Hornblass
  • August 15, 2014
  • 1

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / PenywiseWhat’s the message behind the major two major updates of fintech apps this week?

Belly and Level Money, two upstart fintech apps, released major upgrades this week — Belly yesterday and Level Money on Wednesday.

Belly, a rewards app, added a feature called Belly Bites, where users can redeem free rewards for trying out new establishments in their neighborhoods. Belly Bites is a kind of “pre-reward” designed to get consumers into establishments trying to, well, establish themselves.

Belly Bites are currently available in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Chicago; and Milwaukee. Belly says it has fielded more than 30 million check ins through its platform since launching in 2011.

Level Money, meanwhile, added alerts and “Target Level” to its personal-financial-management app on Wednesday. Version 2.1 of Level Money also allows users to “see all your checking, savings, credit cards balances all in one place,” which appears to be an important feature. This is Level’s second big update this summer. In June, Level added the “Goals” feature. Among the banks that allow consumers to connect their financial data to Level are Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, HSBC, BB&T, Capital One, USAA, American Express, and PayPal.

So, you are wondering, what’s the point? What do these updates have to do with one another?

First, understand that both Belly and Level Money target millennials. What both are trying to do, at the root, is get data to consumers further in advance. Belly is not waiting for the consumer to earn her rewards — Belly Bites offers rewards (i.e. benefits) — before rewards are earned. Level Money is, likewise, moving its analytics upstream. Here is how Level Money describes its new Target Level feature:

Easily see if you’re on track with the Target Level. As long as you’re above the level your doing fine. On spendable tap the weekly or monthly bubbles to see your Target Level.

In other words, a glance at Target Level will let the average millennial know whether a purchase can be made, not just the import of the last purchase.

Indeed, this drive for more advanced analytics is in response to consumers. Consider this prescient comment regarding Level Money 2.1:

What could be improved: In my eyes, the holy grail of financial planning is a calendar snapshot of your expected financial health which would factor in bills, past spending, and future spending with a mix of budgeting and simulated purchases. It seems like Level has many of the elements to implement something like that, hopefully it’s something they’re working on.

Amen to that.

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at hornblass@gmail.com or 212-564-8972.

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