Trying to go Simple in a complicated world


I was incredibly excited when I got my invite to Simple. The company seems to be doing everything right, from a beautiful, usable app that helps customers set and meet goals to refreshing, clean design of the actual debit card and its packaging. It’s just what we love at Humans in Design.

Simple iPhone App Video from Simple on Vimeo.

I quickly transferred some money to my new account, and set out to try spending with my matte white card. The app worked wonderfully, as did the identity I felt when using the service. This was the opposite of a black card - it didn’t indicate that I was rich enough to spend indiscriminately, but that I was making intelligent decisions about spending and saving.


The associated app is probably the best financial app I’ve ever used - it captures details like location, category, and even how well I tipped. It’s fast and clean in a way that apps from big banks (who almost literally have all the money in the world) just aren’t.

However, I didn’t move my paycheck direct deposit to Simple for one key reason: the rent check. It feels completely anachronistic, but my landlord doesn’t have the means to accept rent payments electronically. I have to write a check on the first day of each month, and Simple doesn’t provide those silly pieces of paper.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rémy Rakić for pointing out that Simple does offer those silly pieces of paper — you just have to order them one at a time. I’m still frustrated that I couldn’t find this functionality without complaining about its absence here, but I might use it in the future. My point about America’s stupid, fragmented banking system stands.

I could work around this. I could transfer money from one account to the other, and plan around the 24-48 hour transfer delay. Or I could move my direct deposit to Simple and get a cashier’s check for the rent every month. Unfortunately both those solutions actually make life a little bit less-Simple.

This old-timey constraint is limiting real innovation in the banking industry. Paying my biggest monthly expense by check is inconvenient in almost every way. It requires physical delivery on my part, and it’s always a guessing game as to when the check will actually be cashed.

There’s a convenience incentive to move to electronic payments, but it mostly applies to individual payers. Banks need to put forth a strong effort to make alternative payment methods into the mainstream by advocating new services like Simple, Square, Isis, Google Wallet, or any number of other innovating organizations. Simple CEO Josh Reich knows this fragmented system is holding them back, too, and he talked about it in this fantastic interview on The Verge.

I love what Simple is doing, and I want to use it more, but for now, the people I have to pay make my big, old, user-unfriendly bank the path of least resistance and the payment network is being held back by the slowest players.



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