Swell Credit

Mobile Design  +   Digital Marketing  +   Direct Mail  +  Research

Swell Financial, Inc. // 2023

Swell Credit Hero


Swell is a money app born from the vision of bringing better banking to all Americans. The leadership team had deep experience in the personal lending market and knew that Americans’ appetite for credit was increasing with time.

A personal line of credit is a less utilized product in the industry, but would help set Swell apart from competitors.

Problem Statement

Americans are very familiar with credit cards and how they work. Unfortunately, they often have very high interest rates and people who have built up credit card debt often struggle to pay down their balances and get out of debt.


  1. Because personal lines of credit are less well known, we had a few items to educate our potential customers on:
    1. What a personal line of credit is.
    2. How a personal line of credit is different from a credit card and how best to use it.
    3. What the advantages are of a personal line of credit.
  2. The business also had the goal of being profitable from the get-go, and as such, there was some criteria users needed to fulfill to keep their low interest rate once they got approved.
  1. Our team was working within the highly regulated and risky spaces of banking and lending, so we had many layers of approvals to get through for everything we worked on. Delivering a compliant and secure experience was a top priority.
  2. Due to the way the Swell team was partnered with its sponsor bank and lender, customers who applied for an got approved would receive a bundled product offer: the line of credit with a digital checking account. It would not be possible to get the line of credit without the digital checking account.
  3. To maximize Swell’s money making capabilities, users would need to deposit $500 per month in the checking account to avoid getting a penalty APR on the line of credit. Additionally, there was a fee of $12 on the checking account, but users would be able to waive that fee by using their Swell debit card 15 times per month.


The Swell product team was quite small and consisted of myself as the sole designer, 4 developers, and 3 product managers. We did collaborate heavily with two partner companies (a bank and a lender) and had many legal representatives that also collaborated and needed to sign off on all final concepts.

Launching the Line of Credit

The product team dove head first into conceptualizing, prototyping and testing a line of credit that would function as a credit card alternative.

In early testing, we discovered that one of the biggest challenges to this concept was that, because credit cards have been so heavily marketed for so long, most people’s first impressions of Swell Credit was that it was, in fact, a credit card. We needed to be sure that Swell Credit was positioned in a way that made it very clear that it was NOT a credit card. We also needed to provide clear language about what the product was and how to use it.

Line of credit launch

A direct mail marketing initiative was launched, but the response rate turned out to be much lower than expected. The analysis of the lackluster response was that positioning Swell Credit as a credit card alternative wasn’t alluring enough to potential customers.

Pivot to Credit Card Debt Consolidation

To give the line of credit a more concrete use case, the team decided to pivot the product to be a solution focused on offering reduced interest rates for people who had existing credit card debt. From a technical perspective, it was relatively simple pivot. Users would be able to input their existing credit card debts. Swell would then cut a check to their specified credit card, and users would start paying down their balances at a lower interest rate in the Swell app.

Line of credit personas

The bigger challenge with this pivot was in retelling the story from a marketing perspective and narrowing the user experience of the app to be for people specifically looking to use the line of credit. Previously, the line of credit was an optional product add on, and the digital checking account was being marketed to a much broader audience.

Research & Iteration on Marketing Materials

The business stakeholders wished to target users that were on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of credit scores. The product team set out to build a library of personas and stories on why people in the desired credit score range had built up credit card debt so that we could communicate an offer that would really appeal to them.

Line of credit personas

Because the only way to legally market targeted advertising to people based on credit bureau date is through direct mail, the team set out to create the next mail piece that explained our new offer.

Due to the complexity of the offer and the challenge of making it as digestible as possible, we conducted 18 qualitative interviews (along with several quantitative studies) that looked at both the direct mail piece and marketing website designs. Each interview yielded countless improvements to the content. The new mail piece went through over 70 iterations before I and the rest of my team felt confident enough to ship it.

Direct mail research

Digital marketing also went through several rounds of iteration and development. Emphasis was placed on savings throughout, both with money and time. Users were able to drive to a custom built calculator that enabled them to put in their specific credit card balance information and see what APR they’d be eligible for with Swell Credit. The page would show them a direct comparison of savings on their current cards and balances against what would be possible with Swell Credit.

Direct mail research
Activity Tracker

While it’s not a new paradigm for financial products to have a variety of rules or guidelines in place, it’s not common for them to have an interface in place that allows a user to easily track their progress.

While working on financial products, I’ve had many moments of drawing parallels between the health tracking space and financial tracking. Because Swell was asking people to perform specific behaviors, we wanted to make it really accessible for them to learn these behaviors and track how they were doing on a monthly basis.

The Swell tracker went through may iterations. The original concept had been intended for people to earn a higher APY on their digital checking account, but due to pivots along the way, the latest design was repurposed for people to track the criteria on keeping their low interest rate and to help them waive the monthly fee.

Direct mail research
Direct mail research


Largely because of movement in the financial market as of winter/spring 2023, investors were feeling uneasy about contributing more cash to a risky startup. It was decided that Swell should be consolidated with one of the partner companies. While I and my team members weren’t able to continue to see the product through to growth, we had certainly learned many lessons along the way and had created a product we were very proud of.