Ever since John Garner was old enough to start opening credit cards, he’s been trying to conquer their points and rewards systems.
The Wharton School MBA candidate grew up in England, spent time in the U.S. and was constantly traveling. He said he used to collect points “the old fashioned way,” via travel, but since credit card companies began adding travel and other incentives, he made it a hobby to optimize these rewards.
After working as a stock trader in New York in his early 20s, in 2018, Garner decided to pursue this hobby as a profession. He’d been doing it for friends and family one-on-one, but also worked on creating an algorithm that could look at an individual’s credit cards and provide info about which ones to use in order to reach goals like travel or cash back.
That algorithm is now the centerpiece of an app called Card Curator that, once connected to your accounts, analyses your spending habits, takes into consideration goals you set, and can recommend new cards for you to sign up for or when to use existing cards.
“There are very few people who know how to use their credit cards correctly, and I tried to figure out why,” Garner told Technical.ly. “It boils down to it being time consuming, annoying and complicated to figure out.”
The credit card space is constantly changing, with new banks and programs being introduced, and it’s hard to keep up. Consumers often give up and the average user only gets about 1 to 2% back from their spending, Garner said.
With location services, the app can know if you might be inside a grocery store, and recommend which of the cards in your portfolio would be best for that purchase. It can also advise which credit cards to apply for and in which order, and the algorithm doesn’t have the conflict of interest that some sites or companies have, Garner said. Sites like Nerd Wallet, Credit Karma and The Points Guy work through affiliate links to financial institutions and get paid for each successful application of a credit card or other product by the banks, so they have incentives to recommend products and cards that pay the most.
Card Curator is written in Flutter and uses Node JS and JSON as its mid-end, while its back end is in Python. It uses a secure third-party API called MX, which will soon be rebranded to CC Secure Connect in an upcoming version of the app. MX only extracts a user’s spending history, and not personal identifiable information like account numbers, routing numbers or full credit card numbers, Garner said. MX sends the data to Card Curator with two-way encryption and the user’s data is then stored on its multi-layer encrypted AWS servers.
While Wharton’s spring semester was mostly online earlier this year, the Rittenhouse resident said he’s looking forward to the fall programming and to get better ingrained in the startup community in Philadelphia. He said the company — which is currently made up of himself, his father, a tech lead and a board of advisors — will also aim to raise a seed round this fall, likely in the $3 million to $5 million range.
In August, the company will be releasing its public beta 2.0, which has a premium version of services focusing on helping users meet travel goals. Every user who signs up now will be grandfathered into those premium services.
The app is available now on the Apple and Google Play app stores and has been seeing about 15% growth month over month, Garner said, as folks feel ready to travel and make some bigger money moves as the pandemic wanes. The premium version will double down on assisting in those purchasing decisions.
“If you have a dream destination, you can put in where you want to go, airlines you like, hotels, etc.,” Garner said. “Assuming you’re a regular person without millions of points just stored away, we’ll tell you which credit cards to get, how to use them and how to get there.”