Dennis Xing

Credit Sherpa

Optimizing Credit Card Recommendations for Debtors and Travelors


Credit Sherpa


Lead designer


July 2019

Consumers are not applying for the credit cards that fit their spending habits

Credit Sherpa is a fintech business that focuses on improving the financial health of it’s users. It differentiates itself from its competitors because it puts its customers wellbeing first when making credit card recommendations, rather than accepting payments.

Personalizing Credit Card Recommendations


The average American carries $4,789 in credit card balances

Looking at the Center of Microeconomic Data, credit card balances hit $830 billion at the end of 2017. 70% of Americans have at least one card. That’s 173 million cardholders over the age of 18. This means the average cardholder has approximately $4,789 in credit card balances.


Users are crushed by interest fees

I tested our app with 8 users carrying credit card debt in San Francisco. My goals were to understand how people in their current financial state make credit card decisions and the workarounds and tactics they use.

  1. 1. Users with credit card debt know exactly how much debt they have, but don’t know how much they are paying in interest
  2. 2. Users with credit card debt who are already on a 0% intro APR credit card know exactly when their intro period ends
  3. 3. Users with revolving balances don’t know how much their current APR is.
  4. 4. Users don’t know how to utilize credit card points


Users in debt and users not in debt became our two target market

How might we offer financial advice to users while still making money off credit card recommendations?


Users in debt and users not in debt have different recommended actions

From my interviews, the actions that users take differ drastically if they have debt or not. If users are in debt, the main thing that credit sherpa can do to help them is to let them know how much estimated debt they are in. If users are not in debt, the main thing is to suggest an alternative credit card that allows them to get more value out of their spending history.


Crafting a Better Questionnaire to Bucket Users into Debt vs No Debt

The original questionnaire had high drop rates since there was a high cognitive load and not enough trust on behalf of credit sherpa. In addition, the previous site had no branding, so I came up with colors, typography, and a logo to make sure that the user had a consistent feel across the site.


The final questionnaire

I made sure to optimize both for happy paths as well as sad paths. The most important thing I had in mind when designing was to make sure that users were comfortable putting in personal financial data. From the avatar that I put in to the layout of the questions, I made sure to maximize for usability and trust.


Finding the balance between information density and cognitive overload

Initially, I thought that showcasing estimated value per year for no debt users or interest per year for debt users would be vital information; however, upon user testing and feedback from key stakeholders, I realized that the key takeaway should be one single actionable insight.


Personalized tips for current cards based on level of debt

From my user research, the most beneficial action for people in credit card debt to take would be to rid themselves of it. By highlighting front and center the estimated amount of credit card debt that they are paying, I nudge them into taking action.

Our algorithm buckets users into debt or no debt based on how they answered the questionnaire. As a result, the calculations for each type of card is different. The cards shown for the debt persona highlights the estimated interest paid and the no debt persona highlights the estimated value from their spending.

Progressive Disclosure

For users who are interested in the calculations of how sherpa valued each credit card, they can click to see more. I designed for the majority and the few that needed an extra nudge had the option to.

Exercise in Simplifying

The high level financial summary has three key takeaways from the insights derived from the questionnaire. Consumer financial literacy is complex and jargony. By making it accessible to users from all backgrounds, sherpa can build trust.


I focused our designs on mobile, but adapted it for web.


User research is crucial

Only by talking to users in credit card debt and understanding how they pay their bills every month, I could design for them.

Financial regulations make designing for fintech hard

The financial industry has a bunch of constraints that I need to be mindful of. From the consumer protections enacted by the Federal Trade Commission to the area of credit cards, I made sure to put the consumer first and foremost.