The Power of AI: Inside the Complex World of Cushion’s Algorithms

June 1, 2021

Editor’s note: Cushion no longer offers automated fee negotiation as its core service. Instead, Cushion has expanded into the bill pay space in an effort to help consumers get a handle on their recurring bill payments, which, according to Cushion data, prove to be a catalyst for many common bank fees, such as overdraft fees, late fees, and credit interest. 

Cushion Bill Pay gives you more visibility and control over your finances than ever before. With Cushion, you can consolidate and track all of your bills and BNPL payments in one place, plan your budget by reviewing what’s coming down the pike, and avoid overdraft fees by temporarily pausing payments that might overdraft your account and resuming them when you are ready.

Beep. Boop. Hello! My name is Cushion, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about how smart I am.

*record scratch*

If only we had a robot that could do that. A couple of things that you should know: A human is writing this. And our AI is too busy to chat anyway, monitoring your accounts for fees and launching negotiations with your financial institutions.

But now that we have your attention, we’d like to tell you a little bit about how smart our system is.

In the beginning, was but a domain name sitting on a few hundred bucks worth of bank and credit card transactions. Cushion was smart, but it was about to get a whole lot smarter.

Kelly Kapoor from television series The Office saying: "You guys, I'm, like, really smart now. You don't even know."

Over the years, we’ve collected more than $30 billion worth of bank and credit card transaction data, which we have used to build and train machine learning models. Before you get scared and run away, hear us out. Machine learning likely isn’t what you think it is. It’s not a robot with flashing eyes that can get down to dubstep.

What Is Machine Learning?

In the most simple terms: It’s when you give machines access to data and let them use that data to learn for themselves. Typically they use it to do things like predict outcomes and make decisions.

Some of the most well known companies in the world use machine learning. Ever wonder how Netflix knew to recommend that true crime documentary that fits your aesthetic like a glove? They use machine learning to analyze millions of data points and come up with the best and most relevant options for you at any given time.

How We Use Machine Learning

In our case, machine learning models allow us to do much more than that. Perhaps most notably, we use machine learning to find pesky fees that can otherwise be difficult to detect.

For instance, if you are a member of a credit union and receive an overdraft fee, the fee probably won’t show up on your bank statement as “overdraft fee.” That’s because credit unions have their own name for overdraft fees—they call them courtesy pay fees, and they actually have roundabout ways to label them on your statement, including:

  • Courtesy pay fee
  • C-pay fee
  • CP fee
  • CP item
  • Or some other slightly ambiguous name

Over the past four years, our system has learned dozens of nuanced ways that banks and credit unions charge you with an overdraft fee so that we can send you an alert and say, “Hey, you probably want to negotiate this fee.”

Because our models have gotten smarter over time, we’re also able to calculate which of your fees are negotiable, and will soon be able to alert you when you’re in danger of receiving an overdraft fee—before it even happens. You can access this feature and more fee insights with our ⚛️ Fee Genius.

What’s cooler is that machine learning is set up to allow a system to only get smarter over time. With each new transaction that comes through, our system logs it as a learning and uses it to detect similar trends on all future transactions.

So while we’re, like, really smart now, we’re going to be even smarter tomorrow.

Unlock ⚛️ Fee Genius

⚛️ Fee Genius is our new and improved core offering that allows customers to access the power of Cushion at a fraction of the cost.

  • 🔍 It scans your accounts 24/7
  • 🚨 It finds & alerts you about sneaky fees
  • 🔮 It predicts & warns you about potential overdraft fees
  • 💡 It lets you know what’s negotiable, which banks are cooperative, and more

With this information, you’re able to go forward and negotiate directly with your financial institution for bank and credit card fee refunds, but if you’d like Cushion to take the negotiating off of your hands, well we’re sort of geniuses at that too. As a matter of fact, we refunded our customers more than $10 million in bank and credit card fee refunds over the span of one year.

During sign-up or from the Profile tab of your Cushion dashboard, you can opt into the 💭 Fee Negotiation add-on, which allows us to automatically contact your bank on your behalf when we determine that you have a high likelihood of getting a refund.

Our sophisticated algorithms know when to launch a negotiation and exactly what points of leverage to use in order to increase your chances of success. Plus, fee negotiations are commission-based, so you only pay when your negotiation is successful—we only win when you win.

Note: Cushion cannot guarantee any negotiations, a regular frequency of negotiations, or fee refunds—your bank makes the final call.

Cushion helps you waste less money, save more, and live a financially healthier life. We monitor your bank and credit card accounts 24/7, find and alert you about pesky fees, let you know which fees are negotiable, which banks are cooperative, and can even automatically negotiate on your behalf.* To date, Cushion has secured customers more than $13 million in bank and credit card fee refunds—and we’re just getting started.

*Cushion only negotiates fees with high refund odds. We cannot guarantee any negotiations, a regular frequency of negotiations, or fee refunds—your bank makes the final call.

Track and pay all of your Buy Now Pay Later installments in one place. Join the waitlist for a new Cushion offering coming soon!

Sign up for our newsletter to receive product updates, financial tips, & more.

Manage & pay your bills and BNPL in one place

In addition to finding bank fees, Cushion now:
  • 📊 Finds & organizes your bills
  • ✅ Tracks your due dates & payments
  • ☂️ Consolidates your Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL)
  • ⏯️ Enables you to pay & pause bills 
Life's messy. Paying your bills doesn't have to be.