Nobody likes paying bank fees. Not only are they ridiculously costly, they always seem to hit at the worst possible time.
Cushion (often referred to as Cushion AI) is a tool to help you avoid these fees and get your money back if you’ve already paid them.
In this Cushion Review, I’ll explain how the service works based on my own experience, outline the potential costs, and more.
Cushion can help you keep track of banking fees, plus negotiate existing fees on your behalf. If Cushion successfully negotiates a fee, you'll pay 39% of the savings — much higher than alternatives. Additionally, while Cushion’s free dashboard is helpful in that it scans your existing accounts and totals up all the fees you've paid over the past 12 months, to see the details of each fee you’ll need to pay $4.99 for an annual subscription.
- Free fee-tracking software.
- After a small annual fee ($4.99), you pay Cushion only when it successfully completes a negotiation.
- Works with banks and credit cards (both personal and business).
- The process can take up to 90 days and isn't guaranteed.
- The 39% success fee is higher than the alternatives.
- You can't choose when to negotiate, nor which fees to negotiate.
Cushion at a Glance
In 2016, Cushion founder and current CEO Paul Kesserwani was helping his parents with their finances and realized they had unknowingly been paying hundreds of dollars per year in banking fees. Taking a deeper dive, he found that Americans overall pay more than $200 billion annually in bank fees.
Cushion’s aim is to make it easier for people to understand what bank fees they’re paying, as well as to get money back on the fees they’ve already paid. Since its inception, Cushion has helped refund over $12 million in banking and credit fees.
Cushion Features Explained
Cushion.ai is both a tool to manage and track banking fees and a service that negotiates existing fees you may be paying or have already paid.
For starters, there’s a free dashboard that scans your current accounts and lets you know the total banking fees you’ve paid over the past 12 months.
With a free Cushion account, all you can do is scan the totals. To get further details, you need to become a paying member (explained below).
Fee Genius is Cushion’s premium tool, which costs $4.99 annually. It’s here you get a breakdown of each individual fee you’ve paid over the last 12 months.
Other Fee Genius features include:
- Daily transaction scanning: Expenses are monitored moving forward, whereas the free version only looks back.
- Fee alerts: Get an immediate email alert any time a bank fee is charged.
- Overdraft fee prediction: Monitors your expenses and checking account balance in an effort to warn you of potential overdraft fees.
An optional add-on to Cushion’s $4.99 annual membership is Fee Negotiation.
Fee Negotiation is where Cushion’s true value lies, as it does its best to get your money back on all the fees you’ve paid over the past year.
Of course, while this sounds enticing, there’s some fine print to understand.
- Fee Negotiation takes a 39% cut of any fees successfully negotiated. If you’re refunded $100 in banking fees, you’ll pay Cushion $39. This fee is charged to your credit card on file, while the financial institution will typically refund your account.
- You don’t have any say in which fees Cushion negotiates or when they’re negotiated. Cushion analyzes the bank and the type of fee, and if it feels it can successfully negotiate that fee, it starts the process. This makes the value of Fee Negotiator highly variable, as someone who banks at an institution that’s notoriously inflexible — or who is only charged a fee that’s notoriously hard to negotiate (such as the annual fee on a credit card) — won’t stand to benefit much from using the service.
During my testing for this review, I was frustrated by the inability to choose when and what fees to negotiate. Often, it wasn’t even clear why Cushion chose to negotiate (or not negotiate) a given fee. For example, Cushion found a $13 annual service fee from my bank, which seems like it would be an easy win; unfortunately, the service chose not to negotiate that fee.
Note: I’ve only had the software running for less than a week at the time of original publication, so I’ll update the review if this changes.
Something else that’s noteworthy is the fact that Fee Negotiation will ask for personal details that might be useful to help you get a refund.
These questions include whether you’ve experienced financial hardship:
Cushion has a rewards program that incentivizes you to sign up (200 points), connect an account (200 points), and sign up for external services (e.g., get 50,000 points for signing up for Chime and making a qualifying direct deposit of over $200).
Points are valued at approximately 1 cent each and can be cashed out for gift cards. As of now, the ways to earn rewards are very limited; the only way to earn enough to cash out would be to sign up for Chime or to win a weekly referral contest for referring people to the service via Social Media.
The Cushion free account is useful for quickly seeing all the banking fees you’ve paid over the past 12 months. However, that’s the only feature the free account offers.
To add more features — such as daily transaction scanning and alerts — you’ll need to upgrade your account to Fee Genius, an annual membership that costs $4.99 per year.
An optional add-on to Fee Genius is Fee Negotiation.
This add-on doesn’t increase the cost of your annual membership, but it does give Cushion the ability to negotiate fees on your behalf. Any successful negotiations are then charged a 39% success fee.
Cushion vs. Trim
Cushion is unique in that it focuses on banking and credit card fees. Other alternatives have features like fee alerts and negotiation services, but these solutions are not necessarily designed to help you uncover your current fees — nor do they have any add-on services that work toward negotiating your fees.
For instance, Trim is a much more feature-rich app that can help you budget, negotiate fees (including bank fees and medical bills), cancel unwanted subscriptions, and even negotiate credit card APRs.
If Trim negotiates a fee on your behalf, they take a 15% success fee.
With the substantially lower success fee, I’d recommend reading our Trim review to learn more about how it works and whether it’s right for you. While it doesn’t have the standalone bank fee monitoring offered by Cushion, it does offer many other useful tools to help lower your expenses.
|Can Negotiate…||Subscription Fee||Success Fee|
|Cushion.ai||Banking fees only.||$4.99 per yearly.||39% of savings.|
|Trim||Internet, cable, phone and medical bills, as well as banking fees (including credit card APRs).||$0||15% of savings.|
|Rocket Money||Internet, cable, phone and security bills, as well as banking fees.||$3 to $12 per month.||30% to 60% of savings.|
|Billshark||Internet, cable, phone, and security bills.||$0||40% of savings.|
The cushion app is legit in that it can help you uncover bank fees you’re currently paying, as well as negotiate those fees on your behalf. The app is backed by well-known venture capital firms such as Afore and Flourish Ventures, and has secured millions of dollars in funding.
With all of that said, Cushion in no way guarantees that you’ll save money. Your experience will vary largely depending on what financial institutions you work with, how much you’re paying in fees, and the specific type of fees you’re paying.
Cushion uses a third-party service called Plaid to connect to your bank and credit card accounts. Plaid provides Cushion with read-only access to your financial accounts, similar to how the majority of budgeting apps work. As such, there’s no ability for Cushion to move funds on your behalf.
Cushion has two primary methods of making money:
1. The $4.99 annual fee.
2. The 39% success fee.
Cushion also advertises products and services on its website, offering its users special promotions for signing up. These offers are a form of affiliate marketing and act as another source of revenue for Cushion.
You can negotiate bank and credit card fees on your own while an active subscriber of Cushion. However, know that if Cushion has started to work on negotiating the fee (which it alerts you of) and you successfully negotiate the fee yourself, you’re still charged a 39% fee from Cushion. In other words, it’s best to stay out of active negotiations, unless notified by Cushion that your involvement is needed, which may happen in some cases. If that’s the case, you’ll still pay the 39% fee.
Is Cushion Right For You?
Cushion is a helpful tool for keeping track of banking and credit card fees.
If you’re constantly paying fees, it’s easy to see how the features of Fee Genius — like alerts, daily monitoring and overdraft predictions — can help you save money and are worth the $4.99 per year.
What we didn’t love is the high fee of 39% charged for their negotiation service — more than double the cost of Trim, one of the leading competitors.
Additionally, Cushion focuses only on banking and credit card fees, while some alternatives can negotiate a broader range of expenses (such as medical, cable and internet bills, along with credit card APRs).
Together, we think those factors mean most users will stand to benefit from exploring other options, such as Trim or Rocket Money.