The FinTech Chemist: Giving the Cash App a 'Boost'

Studying the properties and composition that make up the FinTech ecosystem

Welcome to this week’s industry analysis with the FinTech Chemist. While I may not be literally mixing solutions and preparing reagents, I am studying and testing out the latest and greatest in FinTech. And this week, we’re talking about ‘Boost.’ No, not substances that boost your brainpower, like flavonoids. Instead, I’m researching the new Boost feature on the Cash App, a mobile application backed by digital payments company Square. So, why should consumers be excited about this latest addition to the app?

If you’re unfamiliar with Cash App, (because let’s be honest, there’s a lot to choose from between Venmo, PayPal, Apple Pay/Cash, etc.), it was founded in 2013 by Jack Dorsey (you know, the Twitter guy). Formerly known as ‘Square Cash,’ Cash App is a free peer-to-peer payments app similar to Venmo, and they recently launched a new rewards program called Cash Boost. With Cash Boost, you receive instant cashback when you use your Cash Card (a physical debit card which can be linked to your digital wallet) at a handful of retailers, including coffee shops. You can only choose one Boost at a time, and Boosts can be swapped every 24 hours. Like all good scientists, I had to download and test the Cash App for myself, and here’s what I discovered about the app and the Boost feature:

The Pros

  1. It’s simple to set up – almost too easy. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set up an account with Cash App. After a few simple questions like your name, birthday, and debit card number, and I was up and running within a minute.
  2. No app fees – I ALWAYS read the fine print when testing new services. There are no fees for simply using Square Cash. You will only be charged a small fee when you make instant transfers or use a credit card for a transaction. There is no fee for making personal transfers to your bank account.
  3. Rewards – I’m a sucker for loyalty & rewards programs. Like cashback options with credit cards, or even ride discounts through Uber, I like that I immediately received a $5 offer when I signed up if I shared the app with friends. Payment platforms such as this have become increasingly popular as they continue to ramp up the social aspect and offer more incentives.

  4. Boost rewards – the fun stuff. Keep in mind that you have to order a physical debit card (all through the Cash App) to reap this benefit. Once you receive the card, it’s simple to set up – here’s a screenshot I took within the app. I was most excited to see $1 off any coffee shop and 10% off Chipotle visits.

The Cons

  1. You have to order a physical debit card to take advantage of Boost options. While the app makes it incredibly easy to order a card, I personally found it a tad frustrating that I had to keep track of another debit/credit card to use these benefits.
  2. They need more Boost options – As I mentioned, boosts are promotional offers attached to the Cash Card for spending at certain restaurants and retailers. Boosts have been a key part of growing engagement on Cash Card. According to an article by The Motley Fool, “Attracting more partners to the Boost program could also lure more users to Cash Card. Square has been very strategic in targeting Boosts to where its users are most likely to get the most value, but it's naturally had to limit the promotions since it's funding them itself. Giving consumers more options should help bring more of the 12 million-plus Cash App users without a Cash Card on board.”
  3. It’s only valid in the US – I have the privilege of getting to travel a fair amount for my job. I often have to send money to colleagues or friends when abroad, so it would be nice to utilize the app overseas. There is currently no option for sending money outside of the United States, which also means no Boost features outside of the States as well. I could potentially see the Cash App expanding its reach to become more inclusive down the road.

Ultimately, the Cash App is a user-friendly and intuitive platform if you want a no-fuss payments app. As the Boost option becomes mainstream, there’s no doubt that this app has plenty of room to grow. Now, onto my next scientific… I mean FinTech hypothesis adventure. And, as always, remember to take your vitamins!

Read the previous edition of The FinTech Chemist.