Everyone likes getting more bang for their buck and credit cards with reward programs have become increasingly popular because they offer perks and bonuses on purchases. Figuring out how rewards programs work, however, can be a bit of a hassle. Some offer a percentage of cash back or number of reward points for a specific type of purchase, such as for dining out, traveling, or buying groceries and gas.
With all the small print it can be difficult to identify which card is best to use in a particular situation to maximize your reward earnings.
John Espey, BS Decision Sciences ‘00, had this exact dilemma in April 2012. He had decided to treat a large group of people to breakfast and couldn’t remember which of his credit cards offered the best reward for dining out. He attempted to check online but found that there was no quick way to find this information.
This moment of frustration turned into a moment of inspiration. Surely he wasn’t the only person to face this dilemma, and with the proliferation of smart phones, what better way to solve this problem than with an app. He launched Reward Summit in January 2013.
Reward Summit is a smartphone app that keeps up-to-date information on credit card companies’ latest points and cash back offers. The app is free and is currently available via iTunes.
After entering the types of credit cards you own into Reward Summit, the app determines which credit card will get you the largest amount of rewards. Since some credit cards earn you cash back and others earn you reward points for airline miles or hotels, Reward Summit converts reward points into dollars to allow you to see which credit card in your wallet is going to pay the most reward money for a given purchase.
“What we’re doing with the app, at its most basic level, is helping people figure out what is the best way to pay for whatever purchase they’re making,” explains Espey. “We don’t collect any sensitive information. We just have people identify the cards that they carry.”A secondary feature of the app shows how much reward money you could have earned if you had used a different credit card. This enables you to identify the best credit card for you based on your particular spending habits.
Since receiving his bachelor’s degree in decision sciences and management information systems from George Mason University, Espey has advanced his career in the information technology (IT) field. He worked as a consultant at Tallan, a Microsoft National Systems Integrator, and has served as the chief operating officer of Amentra, the consultancy arm of Red Hat Inc., and Nexgrid, a provider of smart grid products. Apart from his work with Reward Summit, Espey also continues to work with Nexgrid as a strategic advisor and is a general manager at CLD Partners, an IT consulting firm.
Espey has maintained a close relationship with Mason by serving as a guest lecturer and conducting mentoring sessions in the IT field. In 2009, he was honored with the School of Management Outstanding Young Alumni Award. He hopes to find a way to continue to remain involved with the School of Management, which he feels, had a significant impact on his career.
“There were a couple professors at Mason that were very influential in getting me interested in software,” he says.
This interest in software and the experience Espey gained through his career is what has helped get Reward Summit  up and running in such a short timeframe. Espey also attributes the apps successful development to the work of his partners.
“I have a co-founder who has deep payment industry expertise,” he says. “Our technical skills overlap a little, but industry-wise he brings a wealth of knowledge. We have an investor who comes from a mobile product background and has helped us develop best practices on product development.”
He advises new entrepreneurs who are thinking of launching their own product that teamwork is the way to go.
“If you can do it on your own, great,” he says. “But it’s best to find someone who complements your skill set.”
Espey also urges entrepreneurs to consider feedback and use it to their advantage to create a successful product.
“Focus on the feedback you can take to make your product better,” he stresses. “What makes the difference between a good product and a great product is someone who really understands human interaction and how to make tools that people like to use. That is what we’re working the hardest to get right for Reward Summit.”
This article appeared in a slightly different form on the School of Management website.