Cardspring, a platform for developing credit card based apps

We typically think of apps as programs that run on your phone or computer, but increasingly often, apps are becoming an everyday part of our offline lives. That trend continues with the recent debut of Cardspring, which allows you to create apps that run off of any US-based credit card.

“We’re at the early stages of a massive wave of innovation in the payment industry,” Cardspring investors recently noted in a guest post on “It’s like when Apple launched the iOS platform for mobile developers. The platform in this case is the payment network. Software developers will add new capabilities to cards by programming the payment network to link online applications to specific payment events. Consumers will be able to effectively ‘drag and drop’ apps to their smart cards in the same way that they add apps to their smart phones today.”

They noted a few examples of how apps could function, and I’ve included examples of how these ideas could potentially translate to a nonprofit context.

  • Loyalty cards: Instead of keeping separate loyalty cards for REI, Red Lobster and other merchants, one card could function in their place.  Similarly, an environmental organization could encourage their constituents to support LEED certified merchants, and partnered merchants could provide a donation to the nonprofit whenever someone with the app made a purchase at their store.
  • Promotions based on spending habits: If someone’s purchase radius is typically centered 15 miles from a store, they could get a 40% off coupon, while someone who generally shops  15 blocks from the store  might only be offered a 10% coupon. This approach could be utilized by an organization supporting alternatives to vehicle use to help people track their gas spending and provide incentives to support reduced reliance on cars. The organization could, for example, provide an app that earmarks a percentage of gas expenditures to be saved towards a gift-certificate with a bike shop.
  • Validated Check-Ins and Reviews: Sites like Yelp could send automated emails every time you go to a restaurant, asking if you’d like to review them. If an animal rights organization wanted to create a directory of restaurants rated highly for their vegetarian and vegan options, a similar approach could be used.
  • Quantified self: Apps could track spending habits, allowing people to observe trends and optimize their behavior.  An antismoking nonprofit could help people trying to quit by monitoring the amount they spend on cigarettes, and focus email outreach campaigns based on smoking level, perhaps providing a weekly reminder of how much they’re spending on cigarettes and the health impact of the purchased cigarettes.

What credit card-based app could you imagine your nonprofit using?


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