Investing app Stash just rolled out a new debit-card rewards program that gives customers a stake in the companies they shop at

Brandon Krieg, co-founder and CEO of Stash Stash
  • Stash, a micro-investing app, is rolling out a “Stock-Back” program that rewards its debit-card holders with fractional shares of stock in companies they have shopped at.
  • “Tonight, you go to Olive Garden to have a dinner, and when you pay your bill, you are going to become the Olive Garden shareholder,” Brandon Krieg, cofounder and CEO of Stash, told Business Insider.

Shoppers in the US are used to receiving rewards like cash, points, or extra miles on their credit card purchases. But what about a card that gives you shares in your favourite brands?

Stash, best known as a micro-investing app, is offering a new spin on a customers reward program. The company announced earlier this week a first-of-its-kind debit-card rewards program awarding customers fractional shares of stock in companies they have shopped at.

The program, named “Stock-Back,” aims to turn American consumers into shareholders and save them from a mounting pile of credit card debt, according to Brandon Krieg, cofounder and CEO of Stash.

“We hope to help our clients live better financial lives, increase their financial health, and at the same time, become shareholders everywhere they spent money,” Krieg said. “It really helps promote better financial behaviour and get people away from going further and further into debt through their credit cards.”

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Founded in 2015, Stash aims to change how people engage with financial services and empower those who lack knowledge of investments and wealth management. It has lowered investing hurdles for the non-rich by enabling investors to open an investment account with as little as $US5. Last year, the company expanded into banking through its partnership with Green Dot Corporation and it now offers an FDIC-insured bank account.

The new “Stock-Back” offering is an add-on to those existing features and part of an effort to integrate investing with banking, Krieg said.

So how does it work?

First, you need to own both a debit account and a brokerage account with Stash. Then when you make a purchase using the Stash debit card, the company will put a certain percentage of the dollar amount that you spend into your brokerage account and use the money to buy the fractional stock of the vendors you just shopped at, or its parent company.

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If Stash can’t match the stock on its platform, say if the vendor is a local retail outlet that is not publicly listed or its stock is not currently offered by Stash, you will get a fractional share of the Vanguard Total World Stock ETF. Stash said it offers over 200 stocks – of which many are consumer-facing brands, including Amazon, Alibaba, Chipotle, McDonald’s, and more – on its platform.

Right now, the “Stock-Back” program offers a 12.5 basis points reward on each purchase, but transactions at certain merchants allow higher rates. If you buy a subscription to Netflix and Spotify, the earning rate is 5%, while a purchase of a coffee at Starbucks or Dunkin earns 2%, according to Krieg.

That means that if you spend about $US144 dollars a year on your Netflix subscription, you’ll get about $US7.20 dollars of Netflix’s stock. Cardholders cannot forgo the investment in a single stock unless they opt out the entire reward program.

As Krieg put it, “Tonight, you go to Olive Garden to have a dinner, and when you pay your bill, you are going to become the Olive Garden shareholder.”

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While a 0.125% reward appears to be teeny-tiny, the fact that cardholders will gain shares makes it better than rewards based on points in many respects, Krieg said.

“Points go down in value, points deflate, and points expire,” he said. “Stock of good quality companies over time historically goes up, and that’s the most powerful context. And remember one other thing: As you build positions in stocks on Stash, you get dividends on your holdings. That’s the gift that keeps giving you dividends.”

The upstart just racked in $US65 million in its Series E funding round closed in February. The investment was led by an undisclosed private institutional investor, with participation from new and existing investors. The company refused to disclose its valuation. It raised at $US350 million as of its last round led by Union Square Ventures last February, according to PitchBook.