Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

By Tracking Spending and Finding Deals, BillGuard Hopes to Be Heir to

The BillGuard app will now help users save money, not just fend off bad charges.

BillGuard, an iOS finance app that launched four months ago, would like to be the worthy successor to the seminal personal-finance site Mint, says CEO Yaron Samid. (And at least one early Mint employee tweeted that he’s already ready to bestow the crown.)

Samid is not the only would-be contender, of course; others vying for the title of Mint 2.0 include Mint itself (now owned by Intuit), as well as the new Level Money.

What BillGuard has historically done is track users’ credit-card spending so it can detect questionable charges and prompt users to dispute them.

For that, BillGuard has 250,000 users, and about a third of them have been hit with bad charges that would have cost them an average of $215, Samid said. Flagging the charges has resulted in $50 million saved across a billion tracked transactions, according to the company.

Now, the BillGuard app will also track patterns of purchases, so it can tell users how their spending breaks down month-to-month, and alert them to coupons that apply to their regular haunts. “We’re creatures of habit. Most of us shop at the same seven to 10 stores all the time,” Samid said.

In a later version, BillGuard plans to use location cues to send push notifications about relevant deals available nearby.

BillGuard is still only for iOS; an Android version is coming in January, said Samid. It’s also only available in the U.S., but additional countries will come later next year.

BillGuard makes money from its heavy users (tracking two credit cards is free; a $10 in-app purchase allows 10 more cards), and it will now take a cut when users apply coupons.

The latter was an accidental business model, Samid said, and BillGuard won’t preference its partners because they pay. “We’re doing it to create value,” he explained. “In some cases, we sign up as affiliate and get a commission, but it’s important to us to not have a conflict of interest.”

Samid wants the primary BillGuard business model to eventually become a sort of badge for trusted merchants, with scoring based on aggregated and anonymized user data. “When anybody can become a merchant, we need metrics of seller reliability,” he said. “We want to create the definitive measure for trusted commerce.”

These sort of crowdsourced smarts have been the plan — and the underlying technology — all along, but Samid spent two years trying to convince banks to offer “antivirus for bills” as a service to their customers. Not one of them agreed to a deal, but Samid had raised enough funding — $13 million — so he was able to change tack and take the service straight to consumers via the mobile app.

At the moment, the big question is whether the BillGuard app can become part of users’ habits. Samid said he thinks actionable advice, with a healthy dose of quality push notifications, will bring people back.

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