This app turns your crushing debt into a game

A mobile app with a penguin main character wants to help you get back in the black.

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Personal finance can be stressful. No one enjoys taking into account what they owe in taxes, student loans, or credit card debt. In fact, many people choose not to look at all. But the personal finance app Charlie wants to remedy that by gamifying debt reduction. The app, which recently underwent a revamp, lets Charlie users visualize their debt — and how to get on top of it — in the form of a game.

The company's CEO, Ilian Georgiev, told TechCrunch that he was inspired to turn something as gloomy as debt into a "fun" experience after working in the mobile gaming industry. "A really well-designed mobile game gets people to obsessively manage a virtual economy. And what I was curious about was how do we get people to do better in the real-world economy by using the same kind of tools?" Georgiev explained.

How does the Charlie debt game work? — The game doesn't involve any boss fights — unless you consider your debt to be the final boss and enemy. You provide your financial information to the app, and Charlie's friendly penguin mascot then breaks it down for you, assessing which debt is costing you the most, and giving you a "potential debt-free date," while also encouraging you to save money. If you pay the designated amount on time, the penguin showers your screen with virtual confetti.

The most effective aspect of the "game" appears to be its shock factor. Users might be triggered into being more financially prudent when they see how long it will take to pay their debt off, or just how much they're paying in interest.


Transparency — The app also quantifies principal, interest, and other details, which can be confusing for many people and are often obscured by lenders. Users get options for how much they can pay per installment, which expenses are key, and which can be paused or done away with entirely (like if you really need that Shudder subscription).

Charlie also offers roundups to encourage savings, and later in 2021, the platform is looking at also offering debt refinancing programs.


More please — We're very in favor of anything that can help consumers contend with the huge amount of debt many of them have. The average American is drowning in $90,460 in debt. And while it's unlikely that any administration will take this issue seriously, a little penguin in a financial app may help you chip away at it bit by bit.

For the first month, Charlie is free. After that, users have to pay a monthly subscription of $4.99. The app syncs the user's bank and credit card accounts, and can be found in the App Store and Google's Play Store.