In particular, recently launched credit cards and apps from Ness, Paceline, and KrowdFit offer extra cash back or points for spending on something like a salad, a meditation app, or a pair of running shoes. And that’s notable given that “for a long time, credit-card rewards that weren’t just cash back [at places like supermarkets and gas stations] were basically limited to travel,” says Sara Rathner, credit cards expert at NerdWallet. But with the rewards structure of these new wellness cards, you’re incentivized to make wellness spending a regular habit, which can then further boost your health (and pad your wallet) down the line.
As for how? Consider the long-term upsides of preventative health: Once you’re actively taking care of your mental and physical well-being—in this case, thanks to the monetary incentives pushing you to do so—you’re less likely to get sick and subsequently get hit with larger health expenses. It was this feedback loop, in particular, that inspired the creation of the Ness app. To help ensure that a user’s wellness-related purchases continue to support better health over time, Ness rewards points for these spends (instead of straight cash), which are redeemable at a variety of vetted wellness-boosting merchants, like Sweetgreen and Barry’s Bootcamp. The idea? One healthy spend begets another and another.
“It is time for healthy behaviors to be recognized and rewarded in a meaningful way.” —Jim Miller, President and CEO of KrowdFit
Using a different tack, KrowdFit also doubles down on its wellness-boosting benefits by rewarding members with entries into cash giveaways (of up to $5,000) when they achieve specific health wins on a linked wellness device. (This might look like clocking eight hours of sleep or doing 30 minutes of physical activity in a day, for instance.) “Rewards programs are prevalent in our consumer-driven society, from airline mileage rewards to earning a free latte at your favorite coffee shop,” says Jim Miller, president and CEO of KrowdFit. “Poor health is one of the biggest challenges our country faces, and it is time for healthy behaviors to be recognized and rewarded in a meaningful way.”
Here’s a breakdown of 3 new credit cards and apps designed around wellness rewards
Linking a credit card to the Ness app allows you to start earning points for any healthy spending you’re doing on that card (at a rate of one point per dollar). As for what qualifies as “healthy” in this case? That would be anything that falls into Ness’s internal “wellness framework,” which includes the categories of fitness, nutrition, emotional, medical, sleep, and recovery.
“We’ve built out a comprehensive (and growing) database of healthy purchases that fall into these buckets, including specific merchants,” says Ness founder and CEO Derek Flanzraich. (Think: companies like Athletic Greens, Everly Well, and Gaiam.) And all of those companies have also been vetted by Ness’s in-house team of clinicians, headed up by Ness chief medical officer, psychiatrist Christina Gerdes, MD.
Should you come upon a gap in that list and buy something wellness-y that doesn’t give you any points, you can also request that the merchant be added to the database; if it’s approved by the Ness clinical team, you’ll get bonus points, and every Ness user who spends at that spot from there on out will get points, too.
Once you start amassing those points, you’ll be able to redeem them for gift cards at all those same wellness merchants (so, eventually, buying healthy stuff gets you less expensive or free healthy stuff). In the future, those points will also come faster and go further: The Ness credit card, launching later this year, will bump up rewards for wellness spending, and the list of spots where you can redeem them is rapidly growing, too. In addition to more health-boosting services and experiences, it’ll soon include WellSet’s 4,000-person network of practitioners—which means you could even use your Ness points to see a health professional, like a therapist, doula, or registered dietitian.
From the outset, the Paceline credit card does offer extra cash back (2.5 percent) for wellness spends at places like gyms and fitness studios in comparison to all other spending (which gives you 1.5 percent)—but the real wellness benefit comes when you link the card with a wearable activity tracker. That allows you to double your cash-back rewards every time you hit a weekly activity streak of 150 minutes of movement, so that you’re getting 5 percent cash back for wellness spending and 3 percent on everything else.
Don’t have a wearable to link? Paceline has partnered with Apple such that if you buy an Apple Watch when you sign up for the Paceline card (which has a $60 annual fee), you can earn weekly credits toward the price of the watch every time you hit your activity streak. Do that every week, and you’ll get the full value of the watch back in 12 months.
Because of the activity-centric focus, Paceline is best for folks who are looking for extra support when it comes to exercise, in particular. And the list of merchants that currently qualify for the additional cash back also reflects that fitness angle, including brands like Equinox, Peloton, Nike, and Outdoor Voices. That said, the more often you hit your weekly streak, the more bonus discounts and gift cards you’ll receive to other buzzy Paceline partners across the wellness industry, like Daily Harvest, Thrive Market, and Hello Bello.
Originally founded as a cash-back wellness incentive program, KrowdFit syncs up with a smartphone, wearable tracker, and accounts with Calm and MyFitnessPal in order to measure all your health-boosting actions and reward you for them. As this data flows into KrowdFit, you earn entries into cash giveaways allocated straight from the company’s revenue.
“We issue these entries based on the effort that members make each day to live a healthy, active lifestyle,” says Miller. For instance, you’d be entered into the mindfulness giveaway, for a chance to win $50, each time you clocked 5 minutes of meditation on the Calm app (with up to two entries per day), and you’d be entered into the steps giveaway, where you could win $2,500, every time you took 5,000 steps (with up to four entries per day).
The recently launched KrowdFit credit card just amplifies these perks. It comes along with a premium KrowdFit membership (normally $18 a year) and lets you regularly snag bonus entries into all the giveaways—which are also increasing in value as the platform gains more users.
Separately, the card also offers 4 percent cash back on “purchases tied to fitness, sports, recreation, and basically anything that supports an active lifestyle,” says Miller. (Like Paceline, it’s an especially good fit for anyone looking for exercise-related perks.) As an added bonus, you’ll also get a free premium annual membership to Calm or MyFitnessPal when you sign up, making it easy to link either account and start working toward those giveaway entries right away.
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