Evolve Money talks

Evolve Money is an online service that allows free bill payment with debit cards (including Visa and MasterCard gift cards) that can’t usually be paid with a credit card.  I first wrote about Evolve Money in the post “Pay bills online with debit and prepaid cards.”  Last week, in the post “Evolve devolves,” I wrote about a rash of “shut downs” with Evolve Money.  People have been receiving emails in two forms:

  1. Biller shut down permanently.  Emails from Evolve Money stated: “your account with this biller at Evolve Money has been closed due to the volume processed.”
  2. Biller shut down for the month.  Emails from Evolve Money stated: “your account with this biller at Evolve Money has been suspended due to the volume processed, there is now a 4 payment limit on this account per month.”

In last week’s post, I speculated about what was going on, but I didn’t yet have confirmation from Evolve.  This week, I had the chance to speak with a well informed source at Evolve.  Here’s what I learned…

Biller shut down permanently

Evolve has a risk review team that looks for unusual activity.  They examine many factors including size of payments, whether or not multiple Evolve accounts are paying to the same biller account, frequency of payments, etc.  When the team identifies a risk, they manage it by shutting down the ability to pay that specific biller account.  My source specifically told me that trying to circumvent the $1000 per day limit is a red flag that will likely lead to this shut down.

I asked my source about people who were shut down when using Evolve to legitimately pay large mortgages or to pay down loan principal.  He said that people in this situation can contact Evolve support (email: support at evolvemoney.com).  If those individuals provide documentation proving that the bill payments were legitimate, their ability to pay those accounts will be restored.

Biller shut down for the month

As I speculated in the my earlier post, this is simply due to new rules that Evolve has implemented to protect against abuse.  The new rules are:

  • For each unique account that you pay via Evolve (such as a car loan, for example), you can make no more than 4 separate payments per calendar month.  I’ve confirmed that it is calendar month.  So, it should be possible to make 4 payments near the end of one month and then 4 more payments at the beginning of the next month.
  • Even if you and your spouse have separate Evolve accounts, no more than 4 payments per month can be made to the same biller account (e.g. to the same car loan).
  • If you have multiple accounts with one biller, you may make up to 4 payments per account.  For example, if you own two homes and have mortgages on each with the same bank, you can make a total of 8 payments per month to that bank: 4 to each mortgage account.
  • As always, each payment can be no more than $999.
  • As always, each biller account can be paid no more than $1000 per day.
  • Payments made with “cash” (via EVOLVE Pay Bucks™ or RELoadit™ Pack) are not subject to the 4 payment per month limit. 

If a person makes four or fewer payments in a calendar month, they won’t receive any notification about the new rules.  When a person tries to make their fifth payment to the same biller account, though, they’ll get an error message on the screen and an email informing them of the 4 payment limit.

More news from Evolve

In addition to getting more information about the recent rash of Evolve Money shut downs, I learned a number of things about their business model and future plans (all of which is consistent with the interview previously posted by The Free-quent Flyer):

How Evolve makes money

Here’s what I was told: “Evolve Money makes money primarily from Express Fees ($1.50 for a same-day payment) and from offers.  Customers will soon see offers that have been put together to provide them a benefit – it could be an offer for better service or lower prices with a different provider.  Our goal is to only provide offers that are relevant to our customers and in some way can help them save money and/or make their life easier.”

Mortgage payment exceptions

Evolve recognizes that their current limits (e.g. $1000 per day) make it difficult or impossible for many people to pay their mortgages and other very large bills.  Towards that end, they are planning to make exceptions to the limits for certain types of bills.  There will still be restrictions, of course, but the specifics are not yet known.  I was told that we can expect this new capability in September or October 2014.

Make payments with credit cards

Evolve is planning to allow people to use credit cards to make payments in the future, but unlike debit payments they will charge a fee for this service.  They haven’t decided yet whether the fee will be a percentage of the payment or a monthly subscription fee.  They will allow use of Visa, MasterCard, and Discover cards, but no decision has been made yet about American Express.  I was told to expect this capability by October 2014.

Make payments to credit cards

You can’t currently use Evolve to pay off your credit card bills, but my source says that you will be able to in the future.  I was told that there probably won’t be a fee for this service, but there will be strict limits in place.  No decision has been made yet about whether they will allow payments to American Express.  I was told to expect this capability by October or November 2014.

My Take

I’m not a fan of the way Evolve has handled risk prevention (through sudden shut-downs) or the rollout of new rules (they could have easily sent out emails to their customers ahead of time).  That said, I feel better than ever about the long term prospects of Evolve.

To me, Evolve’s business model finally makes sense.  By offering customer’s special deals, Evolve’s customers will have a chance to save money and Evolve will earn sales commissions or the equivalent.  Yes, it costs Evolve money to offer free bill payment services, but that’s a reasonable expense to take on in order to build and retain a large customer base.  And now, with their 4 payment limits, I think they have a way to reasonably contain per-customer expenses.

I’m optimistic, too, about the promised future enhancements.  If all goes according to plan, large mortgage payments will once again become possible.  And, with the added ability to pay credit card bills, we should have no shortage of potential bills to pay through Evolve.  Whether or not I’ll be excited about the ability to pay with credit cards will depend upon the pricing scheme they settle on.  It’s already possible to make many types of payments with credit cards: ChargeSmart allows many types of payments, including mortgages for a fee ranging from about 2 to 3 percent.  WilliamPaid allows rent payments for 2.95%.  And, PayUSATax allows federal tax payments for only 1.87%.  If Evolve finds a way to beat these competitors price-wise, I’ll be excited about that too.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. I just want to clarify the 4 payments per month rule. Is that system-wide for all users of Evolve or just for people who Evolve caught doing more than 4 payments to the same biller? Great interview Greg!

    • @Gene, it just means that the commenter wants to receive an email every time a comment is posted on a particular thread. If you see below the CAPTCHA box, there is a box to check called “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.” You cannot subscribe to a thread without first commenting on the post.

      • The only way to get e-mail updates on a post is to make a comment and check “notify me of follow-up comments by email.” If you don’t have anything particular to comment on, but want to be added to the conversation thread, then leaving a comment like “subscribe” is the only way to do it.

        • One big difference is Evolve has actually made information available as to what’s going on. If people really can call up and verify what they’re doing is legit and get their account opened back up, that is a huge improvement over what typical banks do. Like AMEX will just deny your gift card orders, you call their customer service line, and some guy from Pakistan is convinced it’s because you don’t know how to spell your own mailing address correctly… And he will tell you over and over that there’s nothing he can do, if there’s a problem with your card, there’s a problem with your card…

          However, if people aren’t able to open their accounts back up, this is all just PR and just more of an annoyance.

      • Is the main use if Evolve to pay mortgage or student loans or is there a piece I have been missing. With a $500 mortgage payment and $200 in student loans each month, I’m not sure this would make sense for me. Amiright?

  2. Has anyone found a location that sells PayBucks? I can’t even find the locator on the website anymore, but when I used it in the past, the locations I went to had never heard of PayBucks.

  3. I used the service as intended (no 503 abuse, etc) to pay off some loans they had in their system. I received an email indicating I would only be allowed the 4 payment per month. I’m hoping this was system wide. Anyone escape unscathed?

  4. I’ve only use evolve for a sub $300 bill each month, so I wasn’t affected by this crackdown at all.

    However, I do see the rationale for why they shut down some accounts entirely, with no warning. Evolve figured these were abusers (in their eyes) and thus better to shut-down entirely. I bet there were accounts that were making $30K (or more!) worth of payments per month. For example, you could set-up a HELOC and cycle large amounts of payments. You would pay minimal interest costs, but could liquidate quite a few $500 prepaid debit cards (purchased with a 5% bonus card of course ;).

  5. @TY- Your rationale is a big (and incorrect) assumption. I was paying a large insurance bill (takes more than 4 payments to do so) and got shutdown with no notice or explanation. Had to call to find out why shut down. After I sent in all the info showing it was a legit bill, they are allowing me to pay that bill again starting 7/1. I have no problem with them setting whatever limits they want to on their service, but the way they handled this was flat out wrong.

    • I don’t think Ty’s assumptions are wrong. I’m sure there were many people doing exactly what Ty said. The disappointing part is how many legitimate users got caught in the blowback

      • I read TY’s comment (“I do see the rationale for why they shut down some accounts entirely, with no warning. Evolve figured these were abusers”) as justifying Evolve’s action because they figured they were shutting down abusers who were making $30k or more payments per month. My point was they shut down (with no warning or explanation) people such as my self who were paying real bills in line with Evolve’s stated limits and policies.

  6. Hello,

    I overpaid my bill and they shut me down and even after willing to prove with docs, they said it is closed and I cannot pay it ever again. Thanks for the post – but for me this part is closed.

    • Did you actually send in documentation or just tell them you are willing to? Also was this over the phone or via email? I was told that they are better equipped to handle these issues via email.

      • Yes, I offered to give supporting docs and they flat out said – no we will not allow this bill any longer! No warning or anything. I did this via email and phone, same answer for each time, too bad.

  7. Evolve-If you are listening, please start offering a premium tier payment service (not 1 day), where I can process as many payments as I’d like to for a premium fee. If you could do this for 1% or so you would have a substantial customer base.

  8. The shady and unprofessional lack of communication really gives me pause. I doubt I’ll ever use Evolve much – I currently only have 1 <$500 bill it makes sense to use them for – but this puts a bad taste in my mouth. Additionally, they aren't being honest with you: several people have jumped through all of Evolve's documentation hoops only to still be told they cannot pay their legitimate bills. Amateur hour.

  9. @FM, you say that they’re looking into a mortgage exception for the *$1000 a day* rule. How about an exception on the *four payments per month* rule? i.e. if a person has a $5000 mortgage, it’d take 10 payments with $500 GCs, something not possible anymore.

  10. I wonder if my billers have been shut down permanently or just for the month. Didn’t get any email but did get an error when I tried to submit some payments beyond the new limits. Don’t want to email them and call attention to my account so I guess I will have to wait to see if I am able to submit payments to certain billers in July.

  11. What’s interesting is that I didn’t make any payments in June so far. But evolve sends me an email today saying I can’t make any more payments for my mortgage until July 1st because I made too much already. So not sure if the calendar month is a for sure thing or not. If so, then I don’t know why they would limit me till July when I haven’t made any payments in June.

  12. Regarding this claim:
    Payments made with “cash” (via EVOLVE Pay Bucks™ or RELoadit™ Pack) are not subject to the 4 payment per month limit.

    I made 4 payments to a payee using debit, just tried a reloadit as the 5th payment, and got an error that I was over the monthly limit for the payee.

  13. Anyone have experience paying bank of america (BOA) mortgage payments in multiple payments? Did it credit collectively towards the monthly payment or end up going towards the principle? Thanks.

  14. Is it possible to use Evolve to send money direct to the landlord’s bank account? The lost of Bluebird w/Vanilla has left me at a loss how to accomplish that payment?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *