Zero combines a credit card and checking account in one place, providing consumers benefits like a line of credit and cash back while keeping them accountable and pioneering the next generation of mobile banking with a streamlined, design-led user experience

In Brief:

•Fintech startup Zero just launched this week the first-ever debit-style credit card, merging credit and checking account functionality in a way that addresses lingering common consumer pain points around payments and banking.

•In particular, Zero accommodates consumers who prefer debit to spend within their means, while also also allowing them the benefits of earning cash back and other rewards, all housed in an app experience that tracks spending and deposits in one place.

•PSFK spoke to founder and CEO Bryce Galen about how he built the experience around the needs of younger consumers, unifying an often unnecessarily complicated experience for a mobile-first generation with a design-led platform.

PSFK: What were the unmet consumer needs that you noticed in the banking and finance space and that you wanted to meet with Zero?

Bryce Galen: I think banks grew to have accounts in a certain structure because of history. There was a way to put deposits into savings or checking accounts and a way to take a loan with a credit card. Debit cards evolved as a way to make payments easier on checking.

Because of the incentive to banks and merchants, there never really was a product that addressed the way I was using my bank.

I would use my credit card for my spending, pay it off every month from my checking account, and then keep tabs on what I was spending between the two accounts and always transferring money around, back and forth, to make sure everything balanced out. That trade-off seemed silly.

I could use my debit card and have one app, and know where I stand, and not worry about spending too much or I could have the credit card and earn better rewards and pay it off, but then I had to make sure my autopay went through and kept up with my bill, etc.

Zero solved that for the first time by combining a credit card and checking account in one place with a software layer and a mobile app. Consumers see one number to spend from and they don't have to worry about manually paying a bill or unintentionally getting into debt.

Consumers could actually not even spend more than they have on deposit because it literally works like a debit card when they've enabled this software layer.

We've leveraged that and built a card that is a credit card but the software is what allows it to work with this debit functionality, not allowing you to spend more than your deposit, giving you income that's like interest on deposit. On your main balance, you deposit it.

Consumers can even use their card at ATMs and get cash out, just like they would with a debit card. It really does have that debit style experience and solves those consumer pain points.


Did you have specific consumers in mind when you were designing the user experience?

Yeah, it's someone who is design-minded, someone who is millennial or Gen Z. You do have to have a credit score to qualify for the product because it is a credit card. Assuming that you do and you're someone who's a digital native, who's comfortable doing your banking on your phone, you're going to love it. You can sign up in five minutes in the app. It's a very smooth flow to get on board. You get a card within a week.

Wrapping up, where do you see mobile banking and the fintech space heading? 

I think that consumers demand simpler products. They demand more rewards. Zero's at the intersection of those two trends. I think big banks are trying to get there with improvement to their mobile app.

 I think that these types of products that are more design‑oriented, that are mobile-native and give people better economics are really where all the trends are headed now.

Pictured: CEO & Founder, Bryce Galen. Zero


Lead Image: Blake Wisz/Unsplash