App Review: Wisely Merchant Recommendation

The latest personal financial management (PFM) app on the market doesn’t want you to spend your money at just any old shop – it wants to choose your visits Wisely. Addressing both merchant recommendations and financial wellness, Wisely collects transaction data from American Express to provide an indication of an establishment’s popularity with the general public. The app lists the average transaction amount spent at a given store or restaurant – rather than unquantifiable consumer reviews – on the assumption that a higher amount reflects greater affinity amongst consumers.

In getting started, users link their American Express credit cards, pulling in all historical transactions and respective purchase locations. From there, the app uses its map-based interface to improve the merchant selection process, providing users with stats on customer visits and card spend at nearby stores and restaurants. Users are also provided with a dashboard that summarizes their personal spending activity, broken down by category.


When evaluating a store or restaurant within the app, a user is able to view a summary of the number of Wisely users that have shopped there (‘customers’), the number of loyal customers and the average transaction amount (‘Av Bill’). If the user has shopped at the establishment, the app will show a count of his or her historical visits and the total amount spent at the location. Users can view photos posted by other Wisely users, which helps in visualizing a restaurant’s general layout and atmosphere.

untitledOne feature that I have found to be highly-beneficial is the provision of loyalty program details for a given card, located within the ‘Wallet’ section. Though the app does not have the ability to show which merchants fall under which point tiers, it is still helpful having the program details at your fingertips. The app also shows available credit and card balance, which yields a utilization percentage.


As one can imagine, card companies do not freely give away transaction data, which is why Wisely is currently limited to American Express cards. However, the app will soon be adding Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo to the list of partners. Wisely’s access to mass amounts of transaction data from card companies will undoubtedly concern a large portion of consumers and could keep adoption rates low in the near term.

Though I don’t view transaction categorization and budgeting as Wisely’s core competencies, the spend dashboard is overly-simplified and practically useless in its current state. Additionally, the app does not allow for customization of spend categories.

Non-physical transactions (i.e. the purchase of an airline ticket) are pegged to a merchant’s incorporated address on the map, which is both confusing and irrelevant to the user. The truly unfortunately example of this shortcoming is for ridesharing, as Uber sends me a digital receipt that correctly displays the route of my ride but Wisely indicates that the transaction took place in San Francisco, where the merchant is based. While the company obviously strives to include all transactions that are made with a card, these types of transactions are probably best omitted.


Wisely needs to decide whether it wants to be a merchant recommendation service or PFM solution. I have not been impressed with the PFM features offered in the app and frankly feel that they are a distraction from the primary merchant recommendation service. It goes without saying that the app must accommodate a much larger credit card base in order to achieve scale. Overall, I am pleased to have stumbled upon an app that uniquely leverages location-based services – a trend that I expect to grow louder in 2014.

This entry was posted in App Review, Food & Dining, PFM, Retail. Bookmark the permalink.

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