Charlie budgeting app rotates to help users reduce debt

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The creators of the Charlie personal finance app revamped the tool to focus directly on consumer deleveraging, and soon hope to add banking-like products, such as loan refinancing and a debit card.

The app, first launched in 2016, started out as a chatbot that analyzed user transactions and provided budgeting recommendations. Those features remain, but the San Francisco-based company unveiled several new components for its 500,000 users on Jan. 27.

“We were trying to deal with every element of a user’s budget,” Ilian Georgiev, CEO and co-founder of Charlie, said in an interview. “So now, by talking to users, we saw that one of the biggest issues was how to get out of debt, so we’re focusing the whole experience around that. “

“Our users… need a voice telling them that they can do it and that it is achievable,” said Ilian Georgiev, CEO and co-founder of Charlie.

For example, users will be prompted to manually enter their debt details, such as credit card balances and personal loans. The Charlie Calculator will show the impact that saving a reasonable amount of money each month would have on reducing the number of years and amount of interest the user spends on paying off the debt.

To help the user find that available money, Charlie provides a long list of automatic transfer rules, some of which are original – users can ask Charlie to save, say, $ 20 each time a participant in the ABC reality show “The Bachelor” utters a token cliché, or 1 million people get the COVID-19 vaccine – while others are linked to perceived guilty pleasures, like setting aside a certain amount every time the user buys fast food.

Once a week, Charlie transfers the designated amounts to a digital wallet hosted by software company Sila, then returns the money to the user’s checking account when it’s time to pay off the debt. Ultimately, Charlie’s creators intend to transfer this money directly to the creditor’s accounts.

Another key part of the app is positive reinforcement in the form of motivational language, on-screen confetti to celebrate achievement, and a cartoon penguin cheering on users.

“Our users are hard on themselves and don’t need another voice to tell them they’re doing things wrong,” Georgiev said. “They need a voice to tell them that they can do it and that it is achievable. It permeates the brand, colors and visuals right down to the copy we use in the product. It’s light, pleasant and ironic.

Georgiev and his team chose the penguin as their mascot because penguins aren’t intimidating, fun, and slow-moving, just like Charlie users need to take small steps to reach their budget and debt reduction goals. As for the name, the team felt “Charlie” evoked an approachable, trustworthy and gender neutral character.

For now, the company makes money by charging a monthly fee of $ 4.99, with the first month free. Over the next three to six months, she plans to launch refinance products and, later, issue a Charlie debit card.

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