Personal finance startup BillGuard is launching an update to its iPhone app that will not only help users defend against fraudulent charges on their credit cards, but could also lead them to be more proactive with their money. The addition of new Spending Analytics and Smart Saving features will provide new tools for consumers to analyze their spending and save based on discounts they might not have known were available.
BillGuard was founded with the goal of helping users save money. By connecting their accounts to its big data platform, the company provided a way for its users to track and dispute fraudulent charges or billing errors on their credit and debit cards. Soon after it moved to tackle the problem of so-called “gray charges” — that is, monthly or yearly subscription charges that users either unknowingly signed up for or signed up for and forgot about.
But all that provides is a reactive approach to personal finance. After helping users to save some $50 million in gray charges, the company wants to help users save money by making more proactive choices about their spending. With the latest update to its iPhone app, it’s doing that with the addition of two new features: Spend Analytics and Smart Savings.
“Our core mission is to use data to save people money,” BillGuard CEO Yaron Samid told me via Skype. “We’re really good at saving people from the bad stuff, and now we want to find the good stuff… [The app] is like the perfect accountant running in the background and trying to find ways to save money.”
With Spend Analytics, BillGuard is beginning to move from being just a “personal finance security” company to also offering personal finance management tools. In other words, it’s entering Mint territory.
But unlike Mint, BillGuard isn’t trying to shoehorn users into an unrealistic budget. It’s built to provide a wide range of analytics to enable them to see how their spending stacks up against an earlier period, and also to better understand where their money is going by organizing expenses by category. Since it’s mobile, the hope is that users will be able to make more conscious financial decisions on the go.
The second feature, Smart Savings, is designed to help users save money in their everyday lives by notifying them whenever there are coupons or discounts available for items they’re likely to purchase. Because BillGuard knows your purchase history and your location, it can predict when you’re likely to make a purchase and can suggest savings you might not have known about.
Samid said Smart Savings will hopefully address the data inefficiency that exists for users who aren’t aware of coupons or discounts available. By doing so, it can reduce the amount they are about to spend at any given time when preparing to make a purchase. That could mean taking advantage of a discount at the local coffee shop or becoming aware of a sale at a user’s favorite store.
In either case, Samid said BillGuard is going to be ultra picky about the coupons that it sends to users. And since it’s scanning the web for new discounts and it’s not working with merchants to pitch discounts to users, it’s not incentivized to spam them with offers.
Our core mission is to use data to save people money. — BillGuard CEO Yaron Samid
But if users find they’re getting coupons that aren’t relevant, they can provide feedback to the app saying so. Users will be able to either “redeem” and “reject” any coupon that appears, and the app will learn from those actions accordingly.
Of course, other apps have tried to help users save money through analytics and local discounts. So what makes BillGuard think it can succeed where they’ve failed?
It all comes down to the engagement the company sees from users, according to Samid. Personal finance management apps normally see users sign up and quickly lose interest once the novelty wears off. But BillGuard is seeing its users open up the app an average of four times a week. In the same way that people clean out their inboxes, BillGuard users are going there to clear away questionable charges, almost every day.
BillGuard has raised $13 million from investors that include Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Bessemer, IA Ventures, Saul Klein, and Joe Lonsdale. The company now has 23 employees, most of which are based in Tel Aviv, Israel… but it’s looking to hire more. (*hint, hint*)