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PayGoal Program Evaluation

Research funded by Center for Financial Services Innovation

The UNC Center for Community Capital partnered with Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners (NTFP), with funding from the Center for Financial Services innovation, to conduct an evaluation of PayGoal, a payroll allocation and communication tool bundled with a prepaid card. Researchers examined whether the card helped low-wage workers in the study manage financial volatility and improve their money management.

Project Overview

The UNC Center for Community Capital partnering with Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners (NTFP) to conduct an evaluation of PayGoal, a payroll allocation and communication tool bundled with a prepaid card.

The research was funded by the Center for Financial Services Innovation as part of a grant from its Financial Capability Innovation Fund to several cutting-edge, nonprofit-led projects designed to help low-income, under-served consumers better manage their finances.

The PayGoal service was piloted with a sample of low-wage workers, many of whom were un- or under-banked, had little credit history and  frequently paid by paper check.

The PayGoal tool directly deposited an employee’s wages onto a prepaid card and allowed the individual a chance to allocate funds to multiple ‘pockets’ on the card. Money could then be set aside to pay regular expenses, pay down debt and build savings. With this tool, each payday became an opportunity to optimize wages.

The center’s evaluation goals were two-fold:

  • Determine whether PayGoal is an effective way to help lower-wage workers reduce reliance on check cashers and other high-cost financial services
  • Assess whether PayGoal participants improve their budget adherence and money management

Through careful tracking of multiple data sources and gathering insights from each phase of development, the PayGoal product journey produced some critical findings:

  • PayGoal users juggle multiple financial needs and aspirations. They have a strong desire to save, but struggle to manage ongoing uncertainty in income and expenses.
  • An analysis of early adopters of PayGoal shows that the tool is reaching the target population and appears to have broad appeal across segments. As expected, registered PayGoal users tend to be young and fairly financially savvy, but demographic differences between users and non-users (those that did not register) were minimal, suggesting interest across a potentially wide audience.
  • The initial take-up rates were solid and indicate an interest in the product offer, but users did not deepen their engagement with the Beta version of the tool. This lack of deeper user engagement over time suggests that there must be a clear value proposition in order to create greater consumer impact. Importantly, however, the data do suggest that users are willing to engage with a mobile-version of the product.
  • The delivery channel for reaching users and the timing of the offer are important considerations for enrollment. Some questions remain, however, about how PayGoal can best leverage the employee/employer relationship and effectively capitalize on the moment of receiving a paycheck, as well as the systems and processes that surround that profound moment.
  • An iterative product journey is challenging but can lead to more effective consumer products and solutions. This approach to product development requires diligent attention to data, a curiosity and openness to unexpected findings, and a willingness to pivot the product when needed. The result, however, is an efficient progression in creating a tool that best meets user’s needs.



The UNC Center for Community Capital conducts research and policy analysis on ways to make financial services work better for more people and communities.


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