American viewers of reality weight-loss TV show “The Biggest Loser” have seen how compelling a financial incentive can be when it comes to improving one’s health. Piggybacking on this idea, one startup is testing a financial rewards program that involves an individual’s level of physical activity.
The free rewards program — called Jumiya — is on a mission to improve consumers’ health and wealth at the same time. For instance, by exercising more, Jumiya members may get a higher savings rate, a lower credit card APR or simple cash back. The rewards cannot compare to The Biggest Loser’s whopping $250,000 grand prize, but it is certainly better than nothing.
“We scientifically demonstrated strong correlations between individuals’ physical activity and financial activity through a short research project,” said Eli Mohamad, co-founder of Jumiya. The study found that people who walked more were more likely to have good saving behavior and people who didn’t drink alcohol were less likely to be late on loan payments.
By offering the Jumiya rewards program , financial institutions can benefit from having more financially-responsible customers who tend to save more and are more likely to be on-time with their loan payments.
To measure members’ level of physical activity, Jumiya will rely on data that is reported to quantified-self mobile applications, tools and social network activity — including Runkeeper, Fitbit, BodyMedia, Foursquare, Facebook and more. For example, when you report that you’ve walked home from work or jogged to the gym, you earn Jumiya points.
After accumulating enough Jumiya points, members can use them to redeem for better interest rates, merchandise or cash.
Some of you may already be thinking of ways that you can boost your savings rates or lower your credit-card APR without moving a muscle — your schemes probably won’t work. “We are going to prevent that with predictive algorithms that are going to be smart enough to figure out if you put your BodyMedia in the dryer to try to game the system,” Mohamad said.
Initially, Jumiya plans to focus on credit cards before expanding to other types of financial products. The startup is partnered with five credit unions, includes one of the largest U.S. credit unions, to launch a pilot test in early 2013 with 5,000 credit-union members.
Jumiya is not the first rewards program that offers positive reinforcement for good behavior. SaveUp, a rewards program that encourages consumers to save money and pay off debt, has shown that incentives can promote better financial behavior.