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Saving with a social twist

Financial Services

Consumer credit is ubiquitous and the notion of saving up for something is almost foreign. But it’s an essential step toward regaining control over spending, and SmartyPig wants to help. Iowa-based SmartyPig offers a safe, secure way for consumers to save towards a specific goal—a wedding, remodeling project or vacation, for example—and it adds a dash of social networking and added incentives to speed up the process. Users begin using the free service by creating a profile on SmartyPig and establishing a savings account and goal amount—anywhere between USD 250 and USD 100,000. (SmartyPig’s banking partner is 115-year-old, FDIC-insured West Bank, which has assets of more than USD 1.3 billion.) SmartyPig, in turn, suggests a monthly contribution in order to meet the savings goal by the time it’s needed, and each month it deducts whatever amount the user chooses from their existing checking account or other funding source and puts it into the SmartyPig account. To enlist the help of family and friends, users can choose to make their account public, enabling those they know to help them meet their goal; they can also put a SmartyPig widget on their MySpace or Facebook page to enlist the whole world’s help. SmartyPig members can contribute to each other’s accounts for free; to contribute via credit card, the fee is 2.9 percent. Once users reach their goal, they can receive their savings plus 4.30 percent (APY) interest on the SmartyPig MasterCard debit card, or they can get it plus interest and additional savings of up to 5 percent on a gift card from some of the country’s top retailers, including, Best Buy, Staples and Marriott. SmartyPig just launched in February, with plans for a major publicity campaign to begin this month, but it was already awarded “Best of the Web” by NetBanker in March. It’s open just to US consumers, however. Time to bring this concept to the credit-laden community near you! (Related: Layaway is back.) Spotted by: Sarah Johnson



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