Long Game Savings App Review and Optimal Strategy

Long Game is a new startup company based out of San Francisco that is encouraging users to save more money by making a game out of the saving experience.  Instead of a boring flat interest rate like most savings accounts offer (although you get that too!), you are rewarded with coins for saving money and keeping your balance up.  These coins can then be used to play various instant win games and enter a weekly lottery-style drawing to win up to a million dollars, ideally converting the coins into cash to further increase your savings.  The most important part being that all of the money you have saved is 100% safe at all times and can never be “gambled” towards any of these games.

The idea is pretty brilliant and their marketing indicates that they are going after the large number of people in the US that both play the lottery and have a hard time saving money.  By offering their own version of the lottery and instant win games that are both free to play and offer a chance at winning real money, they hope that some of these struggling savers will start putting money into savings instead of towards real lottery games that cost money to play (and often end with nothing to show for it).  This is something I can see working really well if they are able to get it into the hands of the right people.

I’m typically a fan of any product that might help the average family save more money, but many of these often come at a cost of some kind.  What kind of interest rate are you giving up in order to play these different lottery-based games?  How much are these “coins” earned actually worth?

I’ll dive into all of the details on earning coins, turning them into cash, and what kind of effective interest rate you can expect from the overall account.  The answer might surprise you!

The Long Game Account Basics

The account can be thought of as a simple online only savings account, like you can have with the bigger banks like Ally or Capital One 360.  All of the money is FDIC insured and held through their partner bank, Blue Ridge Bank (FDIC #35274), which means your money is completely safe and protected.  In addition to the bonus coins and games we will get into below, the account itself earns a respectable 0.1% interest.

The rate of 0.1% is not as high as you can get with various free high-interest savings account, but does come in a step above the majority of banks which often offer a tenth of that if they offer anything at all.

Additionally, the money is always accessible and can be withdrawn at any time back into your regular bank account.

Long Game simply acts like a regular savings account with the extra incentive of coins, games, and cash prizes on top.

Opening An Account

To open an account, you can download the app for either apple or android devices by searching for “Long Game” or simply following the app store links from the Long Game home page:

Link to Long Game’s home page

Once you download the app, you will be asked to create a Long Game account and then link a bank account to both fund the account initially and establish a location that you can withdraw funds if desired in the future.  After confirming your email and linking a bank account, you will be asked for the standard slew of information needed to open an account: Name, Address, SSN, etc.

Once that is complete, you can fund the account with an initial amount ($5 appears to be the minimum balance) and start earning coins.

NOTE: You may want to fund the account initially by setting up a recurring deposit as can give you a lot of free coins right off the bat to play games with.  I’ll get into more detail below in the Earning Coins section on the optimal amount to fund.

At this point, you can also enter a promo code to receive an extra 300 coins on top of the free 300 earned for opening the account.  I recommend using promo code NBZM4E3 for the free 300 coins and I will also receive 300 coins of my own for referring you.  Win-win for everyone.

Earning Coins

Now that we got the basics out of the way, let’s dive a little deeper into Coins.  We’ll explore how to earn them, the different ways you can use them, and the optimal way to go about turning them into cash.

Promo Codes for Free Coins

Not sure when these expire, but I expect Long Game to continue releasing additional promo codes for different events.  Be sure to let everyone know in the comments below if you find any others or these stop working.  Thank Kight in the comments for most of these!

  • NBZM4E3” – 300 Coins when opening a new account
  • helpcenter” – 50 Coins
  • morecoins” – 500 Coins
  • oops” – 100 Coins

Bonus Coin Earning for New Accounts

In addition to the standard method of earning coins by maintaining a balance in the savings account, you can also get a lot of coins up front for opening an account, using a promo code, and funding the account within the first week.

  • Earn 300 Coins for Opening an Account (if you followed the steps above, you should already see this in your account)
  • Earn 300 Coins for using a Promo Code (NBZM4E3 works)
  • Earn Up to 40x per $1 funded within the first week of opening an account (capped at 5,000 coins)

Long Game currently has a promotion to earn up to 5,000 extra coins in the first week by setting up one-time or recurring funding into the account.

  • Weekly Deposit Setup earns 40 coins per weekly $1 immediately
  • Monthly Deposit Setup earns 10 coins per monthly $1 immediately
  • One-time Deposit earns 5 coins per $1 immediately

Note that I highlighted “immediately” because the full amount of your funding bonus in coins can be immediately used once the setup is complete, you don’t even have to wait for the funds to clear!  To max out the full 5,000 in bonus coins, I decided to set up a recurring $125 weekly deposit which both transferred $125 from my bank account into Long Game and added 5,000 coins to the 600 I earned for opening the account and using a promo code.

There is no obligation to maintain the recurring deposit after setting it up initially (although the first deposit will happen right away) and it is possible to change the amount or cancel the recurring deposit entirely after setting it up.  You should check out my overall interest calculation on funds in the account below before making a decision.

If you open the account, use a promo code, and set up a $125 weekly deposit, you will start out with 5,600 coins in your Long Game account.  In the Spending Coins section below, we’ll dive into the best way to use them and possibly convert them into real cash.

Standard Coin Earning

In addition to the bonus coins you can get initially, the account will earn coins periodically depending on how much money you have deposited into the account.  The earning starts at 1 Coin per $1 in the account, but hits diminishing returns as each additional dollar earns slightly less based on the table below, which can be found in the terms and conditions:

The different tiers work like tax brackets in that you never earn less by reaching a higher tier, you simply get a reduced amount on each marginal dollar from that point forward.  For example, an account with $40 would earn 20 Coins per week for the first $20, then an additional 15 Coins per week from the next $20 (20 x 0.75), for a total of 35 coins per week.

In practice, you do not receive a lump sum of points at some point during the week, but rather are distributed coins consistently throughout the week.  In the simplest example, an account earning 7 Coins per week ($7 in the account) would get one coin per day.  An account earning 700 Coins per week ($6,000 in the account) would earn 100 coins per day which works out to one Coin every 14.4 minutes.

Given the pretty aggressive diminishing returns on additional savings (but don’t forget about the 0.1% interest on all funds), there is probably an optimal amount to keep invested and maintain a high return which we will get into below.  But first, let’s look at what we can actually do with these Coins!

Spending Coins

The Coins themselves have no inherit value and can’t be directly converted to cash, but you can use the Coins to play various lottery-like games that can result in winning real money!  Long Game currently offers 6 different options for using your Coins to play these games:

  1. Flip It – Instant Win Game (“Paper” version)
    • Cost to Play: 5 Coins
    • Win up to 1000 Coins (no cash prizes in this one)
  2. Flip It – Instant Win Game (“Bronze” version)
    • Cost to Play: 60 Coins
    • Win up to $100 cash
  3. Spin To Win – Instant Win Game (“Silver” version)
    • Cost to Play: 80 Coins
    • Win up to $500 cash
  4. Spin To Win – Instant Win Game (“Gold” version)
    • Cost to Play: 100 Coins
    • Win up to $1,000 cash
  5. Slot Machine – Instant Win Game (Multiple odds options)
    • Cost to Play: 5-100 Coins
    • Win up to 1,000 Coins to $1,000 depending on wager
  6. Omega Millions – Weekly Drawing
    • Cost to Play: 20 Coins
    • Win up to $1,000,000 cash

You can play the instant win games or enter the million dollar weekly drawing as many times as you like, as long as you have enough coins to do so.

The Instant Win games are comparable to scratch-off tickets in that you reveal the prize or spin the wheel to see what you won (or didn’t win) each time.  The Weekly Drawing is similar to the standard lottery in that you pick 6 numbers (from 1-56) and a bonus ball (1-7 represented by different emojis) and hope that your numbers match the drawn numbers at the end of the week.

Chances of Winning and the Effective Value of a Coin

These games are entertaining on their own and given how many people I see spinning slot machine apps for pretend money when I ride the bus, I think there is definitely some broad market appeal for games like this that can earn real money.  As the limit on how often you can play is directly correlated to how much money is saved in the account (and isn’t itself at any risk), I can definitely see people trying to increase their balances in order to get more chances to win money.

The entertainment received from playing these games is valuable on it’s own (especially if it prevents people from buying scratch-off tickets or lottery entries with real money!), but let’s dive a little deeper into whether or not you can expect to turn these fun Coins into actual cash.  Each of the games has published odds in the official rules, so we can crunch the numbers to see what our chances are of winning each game and then derive the effective value of each coin from that.  Don’t worry, I did all the math already and will simply give you the answer below!

By multiplying the chance of winning each prize in each game by the value of the prize won, we can get an expected value for each time you play the game.  Any coins earned can be put towards future plays of each game, while any cash winnings will be added directly to the savings account.

Expected Return of Each Game

  1. Flip It – Instant Win Game (“Paper” version)
    • Cost to Play: 5 Coins
    • Expected Return per play: 5 Coins
    • Value of 100 Coins: 100 Coins
  2. Flip It – Instant Win Game (“Bronze” version)
    • Cost to Play: 60 Coins
    • Expected Return per play: 29 Coins + 2.6 cents ($0.026)
    • Value of 100 Coins: 8.3 cents ($0.083)
  3. Spin To Win – Instant Win Game (“Silver” version)
    • Cost to Play: 80 Coins
    • Expected Return per play: 40 Coins + 3.2 cents ($0.032)
    • Value of 100 Coins: 8 cents ($0.08)
  4. Spin To Win – Instant Win Game (“Gold” version)
    • Cost to Play: 100 Coins
    • Expected Return per play: 50 Coins + 4.8 cents ($0.048)
    • Value of 100 Coins: 9.6 cents ($0.096)
  5. Slot Machine – Instant Win Game
    • Cost to Play: 5 – 100 Coins
    • Expected Return per play: Depends on wager and matches Paper – Gold odds above
    • Value of 100 Coins: Varies depending on wager
  6. Omega Millions – Weekly Drawing
    • Cost to Play: 20 Coins
    • Expected Return per play: 3.2 Coins + 1.1 cents ($0.011)
    • Value of 100 Coins: 6.6 cents ($0.066)

Interestingly, the Flip It game that costs 5 Coins to play (and doesn’t offer any cash prizes) has an expected value exactly equal to the cost to play.  This means that given a decent sized amount of coins to withstand volatility, you could theoretically play this game forever without your coin balance moving significantly either up or down.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t accomplish the ultimate goal of converting the coins into cash, but if you enjoy flipping the cards, then go for it!

The other 4 instant win games all offer similar expected value to each other in the 8-10 cents per 100 coins range.  If your goal is to turn your coins into the most amount of money possible, the instant win games are the way to go, specifically the Gold game (assuming the grand prize is still available, which I don’t think we have a way of knowing).  The odds are so similar though, that it’s probably safe to play whatever game you enjoy the most!

NOTE: Each of the top prizes in the Bronze and Silver Instant Win games ($100, $500) operates differently than the rest of the prizes and is given away to the first person to play the game at a certain random time each week.  Also, each of the cash prizes has a “Daily Cap” which limits the number of people that can win it each day.  It’s rather difficult to calculate the exact odds for both of these things, so I left out Bronze & Silver’s biggest prizes and assumed all of the other prizes were available at the time of playing the game.  This is most likely why the effective value of 100 Coins for each game varies slightly.  With the additional restrictions taken into account, I suspect they would work out to be approximately equal to each other.

BONUS NOTE: The “Daily Cap” for each cash prize may reduce your effective payout if it has already been won the max number of times in that day.  For that reason, playing the instant win games closer to the beginning of the day should yield a slight advantage.  According to the terms, the day should reset at 12:00:01 AM Pacific Time.

The weekly lottery drawing doesn’t have as great of odds as the instant win games, but the whole point of the app is to provide the lottery experience without costing you any money!  For that reason, you should definitely participate in the weekly drawing if it might prevent you from spending money on actual lottery tickets.  The target demographic of this app isn’t people that make mathematically perfect decisions with every single purchase, so spending coins however you see fit is the optimal strategy if it is going to help you save more money!

The Effective Value of a Coin

If you do desire to extract all possible value out of each and every Coin you earn, then only play the Gold game (in the early morning) and expect to receive 9.6 cents for every 100 Coins spent in this way over the long run.  Of course, that is just the average of all people playing the game so your own results will vary.  You might win a lot more money and you might walk away without anything at all, but over time you can expect it to average out to ~9.6 cents per 100 Coins spent.

  • 1 Coin = $0.00096
  • 100 Coins = $0.096
  • 1,000 Coins = $0.96
  • 10,000 Coins = $9.60
  • and so on…

DATA: If you want to check my math and look for any errors in the game payout calculations, here is the rough excel sheet I was working with: Link to Google Doc of Long Game Math

Trying It Out Myself – I Won $12.10!

It would be a shame if I spent all this time calculating probabilities and effective values without actually playing the games, so I decided to put the math into practice and see what my actual result was.

First, I opened the account with $5 to check it out, but then decided to set up a weekly deposit for $125 as described above to max out the new account bonus.

  • 300 Coins for opening an account
  • 300 Extra Coins for using a promo code (try NBZM4E3)
  • 5,000 Bonus Coins for setting up a recurring deposit to the account (which I can always decide to change later)
  • Total Initial Coins: 5,600

Even though it will take a couple business days for the money to clear my regular bank account, the money (and coins) showed up instantly in the app.  That makes my initial starting balance for the savings account $130.

I decided to dedicate the bulk of my coins to playing the Bronze instant win “Flip It” game. About 20 minutes and ~157 plays of the game later, I had won cash 12 different times for a total of $11.70.  That includes a win of $10 on a single spin! (which I of course didn’t think to take a picture of at the time 🙁 )

NOTE: Initially, I incorrectly calculated that the Bronze Game had the highest expected value, so that is why I played it for the majority of my coins.  If I did it again (and going forward), I would stick to the Gold instant win game instead!

I still had a few hundred coins left at this point and decided to try out the Spin To Win Gold game a few times to finish off most of the remaining coin balance.  I got rather lucky and managed to win an additional 40 cents on one of my 3 pulls!

After that I decided to enter the Weekly Drawing twice with my final ~40 coins.  I’ll have to wait to find out if I picked the right numbers:

Don’t steal my winning numbers!

At the end of using up all of my initial bonus coins, I had $12.10 more than I started with and 2 chances to win up to a million dollars!  I don’t play the regular lottery myself, but I imagine the entertainment value that goes along with buying a ticket and dreaming about what you would do with the winnings is pretty well replicated here.  I have just as good a chance of winning a million dollars here as I would in the regular lottery, BUT I didn’t have to spend any money to get that chance!

NOTE: The odds might actually be better in Long Game than something like Powerball because there are only 56 numbers and 7 bonus balls instead of the current 69 numbers and 26 bonus balls in Powerball!

This is where the real value of the app should come in for those that are struggling to save any money, but still want to dream about the potential “good life” that might be purchased with a large windfall like $1,000,000.

Is The Account Worth It Long Term?

The name of the app itself is “Long Game” and saving money for the future is exactly that, but is maintaining this extra account on the side worth it in the long term for the opportunity to earn free coins and spend them towards chances at large jackpots?

First, if you’re someone that struggles to save anything and possibly spends money on lottery games or gambling, then YES, you should absolutely give this app a shot and see if it helps you start a new habit.  No need to read on, just give it a shot and see if it works well enough to help you start building that first emergency fund or start paying off your high-interest debt.

For anyone that is already in the habit of saving money, let’s look at what kind of value this extra account can bring.

Effective Interest Rate of the Account at Various Balances

Based on the expected value of a Coin calculated above, and the known earning rates of Coins based on the account balance table (also found above), it’s rather simple to calculate what the expected interest rate would be compared to other, more standard bank accounts:

As you can see in the chart above, Long Game can actually act as a very high interest savings account for a smaller amount of money deposited ($300), remains a good paying savings account up through middle level balances ($1,000), but then begins to diminish as more and more money is added to the account.

The good news is that if you like playing these types of games and want a real chance at winning money while doing so, leaving ~$1,000 or less in the account can actually be extremely effective.  It will generate enough Coins per week to enter the weekly drawing multiple times and play a few instant win games, plus the overall return should come out ahead of almost all bank accounts in the long run.

My Own Plan For Long Game

I really like what Long Game is doing with their new savings app and the demographic of people they are going after.  The app is still in the early stages and I expect they will continue adding new ways to both earn coins, spend coins, and hopefully win money as time goes on.  Time will tell if they are effective in finding and marketing to those people with bad savings habits, and keeping their attention with lottery replacement games, but I like what they’ve done so far.

As for my own account, I plan to keep it open for now and will probably check in on the app every so often to spend the accumulated coins.  I do plan to turn off the weekly deposit I set up once I get around $1,000 total, as there doesn’t seem to be any incentive to keep it going (aside from that whole saving money thing of course!) with the heavily diminished returns on additional savings.

If you want to try it out yourself, you should get an effective signup bonus of $5.38 by putting your initial 5,600 coins towards the instant win games, all for about 30 minutes to an hour of work.  Of course you could get lucky and win thousands of dollars, or get extremely unlucky and get nothing, but there’s no risk in trying if you have some time to kill.  Don’t forget to use my promo code (NBZM4E3) when opening the account for the extra 300 coins, and I will definitely appreciate the effective 29 cents that I’ll earn at the same time!

Some Additional Fun Facts

One interesting tidbit from their webpage is the discussion of “Prize-Linked Savings” and a little bit of it’s history.  Apparently this has been an extremely popular form of savings accounts in many foreign countries such as the UK and Thailand for some time, but it’s only thanks to the recent American Savings Promotions Act in 2014 that made these types of accounts legal in the US.  I wouldn’t be surprised if similar startups spring up around this new type of account and/or some larger established banks coming out with their own form as well.

Anything that gets more people saving money can only be a positive thing for everyone, so hopefully it works!

Other fun stats from the Long Game website

  • Median savings in America is only $3,000
  • 40% of Americans have no savings!!!
  • In 2014, Americans spent $78 billion on state lotteries
  • 57% of Americans play the lottery with an average spend per person of $584 per year!!!

 

 

If you decide to open an account, be sure to let me know how much you did or didn’t win in the comments below!


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17 thoughts on “Long Game Savings App Review and Optimal Strategy

  1. Great write up! Sounds fun but not sure if playing beyond the initial easy 5600 coins is worth the time? How many coins will you earn steady state on a monthly basis now?

    You should really post this to /r/beermoney btw (or I can do it if self advertising isn’t allowed!)

    1. Thanks!

      If you log in to play the games every so often, the account does average out to a high interest saving system account. Whether that is worth it is up to you and what else you might do with the money.

      Feel free to post this page on /r/beermoney, I’d appreciate it! A free ~$5 for 30 minutes of work is better than a lot of deals I see there

    1. That’s awesome! I haven’t stuck a big win yet, but I keep getting the smaller ~$1 wins which seem to add up quickly.

    1. No credit pull as far as I could tell, didn’t trigger any of the credit alerts I have set up through places like Credit Karma and Experian.

  2. So playing early in the day, or as close to 12:01am PST as possible has better chances and returns? Thanks for all the info and the extra 300 coins for your promo code!

    1. Sort of.

      The key factor is that all of the cash prizes accross all of the instant win games have a maximum payout per day. The day resets at 12:00:01 Pacific, so that is when you should be guaranteed that all prizes are available. The later you get in the day, the more likely it is that others have already won the prizes and potentially maxed out the caps.

      As far as I know, Long Game doesn’t release the active prizes at any given time or list out the winners of those prizes each day, so the actual odds later in the day are a mystery. That’s why I recommend playing the instant win games as close to 12:00:01 Pacific as you can if you want to maximize your chances of winning.

      More info in the official terms:
      https://www.longgame.co/terms-conditions/daily-instant-win-game-rules/

      Good luck!

  3. This is a great App. be sure and use promo code “helpcenter” for 50 coins. Also, “total secret coming up…you can use “morecoins” for 500.

    1. Thanks for the promo codes! Both helpcenter and morecoins worked for me, I’ve added them to the post above. Any idea when they will expire?

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