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Remesa Rewards

A new rewards program that drives engagement and usage of the Remesa app.

About Project

Remesa is a Chicago-based startup that offers money transfers and utility payments to various countries. They wanted to create a rewards feature to drive engagement and usage of the Remesa app, recruit new users to the platform, and lead to them using the Remesa Card.

​*Alias client name used per the client's request

Project Goal

The ultimate goal for the project was to increase customer retention and usage of the Remesa mobile application by creating a rewards program and feature for the mobile application. 

Nico Martinez
Katie Goldner
UX Researcher & Designer
Mar - Apr 2020


Meeting Remesa

The kickoff meeting was one of my favorite experiences because we were given the opportunity to learn more about Remesa’s company and users. Although we weren’t able to meet in-person, we made the best of the situation with Zoom meetings throughout the 3 weeks. The main takeaways from this kickoff were:

  • Remesa provided us with a persona of their target user

  • The majority are immigrants who send money and pay bills for their families ​

  • The product team had briefly brainstormed but were open to any and all ideas 

  • Remesa Rewards was a Q3 goal

  • Bulk of users were sending money to Mexico

  • They were interested in what users liked and didn't like about other rewards programs 

Constraints due to the pandemic

This project started the week that Chicago started the shelter in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed our in-person strategy to strictly remote. The client has a specific user, whom we had a difficult time finding through surveys and online platforms. Remesa did not want us to have contact with their users until we landed on the two reward program options. They were nervous that mass emails would lose current customers.


The Problem

Remesa needs a way to implement features to incentivize sending money through the app to increase usage, engagement, and user retention.



40 Responses


8 Interviews


7 Companies


6 Companies



Finding the Remesa user in a pandemic

We started this project at the beginning of a shelter in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which created some constraints. We were unable to visit Chicago neighborhoods where our target users were located, alternatively, we sent out surveys in an attempt to reach as many potential users we could. The survey focused on how people send(transfer) money to others, and if they had previously sent money internationally.



Competitor rewards programs were scarce

The first task at hand in the research phase was to analyze Remesa's competitors to get a better understanding of industry practices. Our team was already familiar with a few popular reward program concepts, but we wanted to detail a few different types to see what would work best for Remesa’s users.

Have you ever sent money internationally?

This question was the most important in our eyes. We wanted to reach the users or target users of Remesa, and people who send money internationally are just that. There were 16 people who answered yes to this question, but some did note that they were unavailable for follow-up. We assumed that some people might be cautious since the survey did touch on some sensitive subjects such as banking.

40% YES

60% NO

Which type of reward do you prefer? 

Survey participants made it crystal clear that they enjoyed cashback rewards, with travel/leisure in second place. We used this information to better gauge what type of rewards the users prefer, although our user interviews provided us additional feedback on the type of rewards people enjoyed. 






Making a connection through international money transfers

My primary role in this project was UX Researcher and Project Manager, which allowed me the opportunity to interview the majority of the users we were able to get in touch with. All of the interviewees had previously sent money internationally, but none of them had ever used the Remesa app. They were more familiar with Venmo, Zelle, and Western Union.

“Listen I love points like a lot! I feel great about them!”

“I hate reward programs that take forever to get a reward. You have to claim the reward because you can choose the type of gift card you want. You can wait or use it at any time.”

“Western Union - their exchange rate is awful, fees are really high. Rewards program now and I honestly do not think you get any benefit from it. I’m sure if you get millions of them something happens.”

Interview Takeaways
  • I lose interest in an app that isn’t easy to use. 

  • I am actively trying to better myself.

  • I like instant feedback.

  • I value consistency. 

  • I lose interest in rewards that do not provide constant feedback. 

  • Cashback is easy and obtainable. 

  • Rewards need to feel obtainable in order to feel worthwhile.

  • I want a system that is transparent and obtainable. 

  • I appreciate apps that are aesthetically pleasing. 

  • I value apps that are easy to navigate and accessible. 

  • I am familiar with the basics of rewards/points.

  • I do not like things that take too long. 

  • I plan ahead to save time.


Understanding what the user wants

The user interviews helped guide me to the user journey map, I wanted to dig deep into the head of the user. How could we make the rewards beneficial for them? Obviously, most people would like to have cashback, but that doesn't always work for the business. Another theme we heard in the interviews was that people wanted rewards for things that they were already buying or for a service the company provided. It was obvious that the Remesa team wanted a reward program, but I wanted to show them how this would benefit the user and increase transfers through the mobile app.


Developing 3 different reward programs 

I thought creating the terms of the rewards program would be the easiest part, but I was wrong. There were so many details that we had to think of when brainstorming these concepts.


Remesa wanted us to present 3 completely different rewards programs. Our team ran a design studio where we all went through a few rounds of Crazy 8's, leading us to the development of our own rewards programs.  At the time, we thought that they ranged from simple to complex, mine being thought of as the in the middle.


We presented the programs and visuals to the Remesa team, and they ended up eliminating my program, due to the complexity of the gamification. There were multiple rewards programs going on at once, which we agreed would be too difficult for our users who are typically ESL. Everyone agreed that it was time to start recruiting Remesa's active users for concept testing. 


Program #1

  • A point/tier reward system that rewards customers with more cashback depending on how much they spend.

  • Customers are automatically enrolled in the program and automatically bumped up to the next levels. 

  • Cashback can be redeemed when customers reach $10 in eligible rewards

Program #2

  • Accrue points - $1 spent (on Remesa Debit Card) or sent in transfers equals 1 point

  • Ability to cash out for cashback or fee reduction

  • 450 points = fee reduction

  • 2500 points = $25 cashback / credit

  • Additional random rewards for bday, holiday, being a loyal user, etc.


Testing concepts without visuals 

Our team took place in a design critique with two local UX Designers who suggested that we run a concept test through a survey. They had suggested that we test the rewards concepts instead of the visuals of the programs. We created a survey and once again posted to Facebook groups focused on Little Italy and Pilsen neighborhoods (Chicago neighborhoods) as well as our personal networks. We had asked to reach out to Remesa's users, but they weren't ready to contact them. Although it wasn't necessarily Remesa's users, we gained insight to what survey takers liked and disliked about the proposed programs. 

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Users​ wanted a rewards program that was simple and easy to understand. They felt that a program that offered $1 transferred = 1 point, would be the best option.

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Points for cashback

58.1% of users were interested in a rewards program that was based on points that are redeemable for cashback. 

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Variety of options

There was a number of users that wanted a variety of reward options. It allowed them to choose rewards based on their needs and interests. 

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Monthly redemption

45.2% of users expected the ability to redeem rewards on a monthly basis. 



Remesa users, where are you? 

Program #1


When my design/rewards program was eliminated, the team decided to have me continue as the UX researcher. I scheduled and conducted all of the usability tests. My goal was to see if the rewards programs were easy to use and understand. Remesa felt that it was the perfect time to reach out to their users and offer $10 promo codes for participation in the usability testing. Unfortunately, we only had 1 person sign up and ended up being a no-show.

Due to time constraints, we had to find users to test quickly. I tested 5 participants, who were friends, family, and colleagues. There was a common theme in the post-test questions, these programs were fairly easy to navigate and understand and everyone loved the wheel as a way to visualize their points. 

Task #1

You want to learn more about the details of the rewards program. Where would you find the details of the rewards program? 

Task #2

Where would you look to find out how many rewards points you have?  How many points do you have?

Task #3

You would like to redeem in your rewards points.

What did users think? 

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"It was easy and straightforward. I think being able to see how many rewards I have is straightforward. I like seeing my other options of what I can use my rewards for."

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“It's nice to have this easy visualization of where you are with the rewards.”

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“The most important info is at the top so it's what I'm focused on.” (Wheel)

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“I'm closer to my goal and shows that closer to Gold. I don’t know what that means but it sounds good.”

Program #2




When two programs become one

The usability testing led us to the conclusion that both programs appealed to the user, and there was confusion in the same places on both designs. Using the user research, we discussed a final rewards program with Remesa. Although the research stated that users wanted cashback, that wasn't something that the client was willing to implement. Instead, we focused on receiving free transfer fees, since users enjoyed receiving rewards based on what they were using the app for.  

Program Details

  • 1 point for every $ you send or spend

  • A point tier reward system that rewards customers with free transfer fees and cash loads

  • Customers are automatically enrolled in the program and automatically bumped up to the next levels 



A natural at research and analysis 

I underestimated the amount of work that goes into creating rewards programs because there are so many little details that you don't think of. The day before we presented to Remesa, we sat on Zoom for over an hour discussing one button and what it should say to make sense to all users. Although we were unable to test with Remesa users, I do feel that we landed on a rewards program that can be implemented to the client's current application. 

During this project, I focused on UX research and the analysis of the data which helped guide the design decisions. I gained a better understanding of client work during this project and how there needs to be clear communication and understanding between the client and design team. 

Hand Drawing
What I found enjoyment in...
  • User Research

  • Synthesis/Analysis 

  • Project Management 

  • Wireframing

  • Team/Client Collaboration

  • Branding