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For our banking app, our team is trying to encourage our users to keep more money in their savings account. Specifically, to prevent more than 6 transfers per month, of any amount, from savings to checking.

The current (bad) method is to have a message before the "Submit" button with a paragraph of legal jargon that nobody reads.

My current plan is to have a natural-language message that tells the user that there are methods to save more money easily (citing some loss-aversion research), and maybe a call to action that brings them to another savings service. That's the idea I just came up with, and I'd like to have more.

We're just looking for a good way to help people spend less money, which I'm relatively new to.

  • I think this is a question for your company's legal/marketing team. They need to give you the right wording that's in keeping with the brand/regulations/account terms & conditions. – Snow Dec 8 '16 at 15:25
  • That makes a lot of sense. I'll see what the deal is with that. Thanks Pete! – WushuDrew Dec 8 '16 at 15:38
  • Just curious, why 6 transfers, and why not look at amounts or percentages? Taking out 6x100 has the same end result as 1x600. – PixelSnader Dec 8 '16 at 15:39
  • I think the key point here is that the functionality and wording used by the app has to be defined by the business requirements. Making usability/feature decisions as a developer seems wrong to me. – Snow Dec 8 '16 at 15:43
  • The 6x per month thing, as I understand it, is a regulation that we have no control over – WushuDrew Dec 8 '16 at 15:46
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Same field, here. Perhaps the issue revolves around the notion that while you might want to dissuade people from withdrawing savings into a chequing account, you have no context about why they are taking that action.

I'm thinking that even a gentle "dissuasion" that occurred, for example, when I really needed money to pay for an emergency trip to the dentist for my son, is going to piss me off a bit. I haven't asked for your input into my decision in that case, so why are you interrupting?

That said, if there was an incentive you reminded me about to keep saving, I might consider any dissuasion in a more positive/friendy light. For example, if the bank knew I was saving for specific things, you could remind me in a friendly tone that it'll take that much longer to achieve those goals if I take money out of savings?

Or simply remind the customer about financial literacy points a user can visit in the bank (or the app) to learn more about saving effectively in the future. "Can we help you learn about some of our savings plans?", for example.

  • Thank you! We were thinking something along those lines (assuming we can legally change the message). We're a little torn on what can do the most good for our members. Some ideas revolved around reminding them how much they saved already, how they could save, and how to focus on the future. We all in agree that incentivizing saving is better than discouraging spending. While we do realize that there will be emergency expenditures, they will be penalized (by the government) for too many money transfers, so we want to help them avoid that! – WushuDrew Dec 8 '16 at 15:59
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There are more ethical issues about if you should dissuade than about how to do so, I think. But I'm only going to answer on how to ethically approach the latter, assuming your team can work out the former.


Banks (at least where I'm from) calculate interest amounts based on the lowest balance from a given period. So if I start with 1000, take out 100, add in 200, I'll get interest over 900. So from that perspective, you could argue that preventing (or at least postponing) my withdrawal I'm getting more interest. Showing people that withdrawal will cost them a small amount in interest can be that tiny nudge to stop them.

But, minimize the amount of popups/intrusions; always check if the withdrawal actually lowers the balance floor. If I start with '1000', add 200, then take out 100, I'm at 1100 which is above the floor of 1000. It's tempting to always show the popup, or to only compare versus the current balance (both easier to program and likely lead to less withdrawals), but that'd be unethical.


Another option is to ask them where the money should come from, to let users prioritize. This would be part of a much bigger framework. One of my current banks uses a 'jar' metaphor. It's a single account, but I can divvy up my money for different goals; new car, vacation, emergencies, and so on.

This has the primary benefit of making saving goals more concrete, so I'm more likely to add funds, but it also means I'm less likely to withdraw. If I want to withdraw money for a new couch... do I really want that more than a new car? Having a list of different budgets instead of a single aggregate number makes it easier to grasp your own finances, so that's a decent upside for the client.

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So it sounds to me that both you and your users have the same goal but for different reasons. You want to dissuade them from moving their money out of savings so it's available for your bank to do bank stuff with it. But the user also doesn't want to run out of withdrawals for the month (this being a government regulation you have no control over).

A more visual solution to this is to have a notifier at the top of the transfer page saying:

4 of 6 withdrawals remaining.

Perhaps you can even add some red coloring if they get down to their last two withdrawals

(!) Only 2 of 6 withdrawals remaining.

I think it would even be fine to have a confirmation modal with this information on it if the user gets below a certain level of allowed withdrawals.

You will only have 1 withdrawal left for this month. Are you sure you want to proceed?

This way you're providing the user a useful service rather than just attempting to manipulate them.

  • Yes, great! "Providing the user a useful service" as you said is much better than the garbage jargon. – WushuDrew Dec 8 '16 at 17:15

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