• Meghan Parsons

Pocket Points App rewards students for not using phone in class


AMHERST- A new app called Pocket Points challenges students to put the cell phone down in class. The app currently works at over 150 colleges and high schools across the country.

How it Got Started

One day while sitting in a large lecture, Rob Richardson noticed that many of his peers were paying more attention to their cell phones than the professor. This bothered him so much that he teamed up with his fraternity brother, Mitch Gardner, to create an app that would offer incentives to students to put their phone away in class.

In September of 2014, the two students created Pocket Points. They first launched it on their Chico State University campus in northern California. Within a couple of weeks, one-third of the student body downloaded the app. Richardson and Gardner decided to introduce the app on larger college campuses. They hired students from other colleges as Pocket Points ambassadors. These students promote the app on their campus, in addition to finding local business willing to partner with Pocket Points.

In 2015, Gardner and Richardson dropped out of college to run the company full-time.

How it Works

The app uses the cell phone’s location to determine if the student really is in class while they rack up the points. This is done by a technique known as geofencing. It creates a ‘GPS fence” around the campus allowing the app to detect he user’s location.

Students collect rewards by simply locking their phone screen when they enter class. They can still check the time, or refresh the wallpaper, but the minute the phone in unlocked and opened, the points stop accumulating. On Tuesdays at UMass Amherst, students collect double the points. This is known as “2x Tuesdays”. The more users, the faster and easier points can be earned.

The app also creates friendly completion between peers. It keeps track of the most points earned that day, that week and of all time at each school on its leaderboard.

Pocket Points does not allow students to collect points if they are in dining and residential halls or off campus. If a student is in class, but the app won’t let them collect points, they can click a “Help! I’m in class” button. It will then readjust it’s geofencing.

Pocket Points is used on other local college campuses like Amherst College, Harvard University and Boston College.

Some students like UMass Amherst sophomore Casey Graham have found a way around the points of the app. “I will keep my phone locked to collect points and just use my laptop instead to text and go on Facebook”, she admitted.

How it Helps Students

Pocket Points helps students ignore the hundreds of distractions their smart phones create. Professor Claudio Moreira at the University of Massachusetts Amherst says it is almost impossible to teach a large lecture without his students’ attention diverting to their phones or laptops. He hopes this app will help students understand how important it is to pay attention in class.

That is exactly what the app did for UMass Amherst student Megan Lepore. She explained that unlike many of her peers, she does not have a Mac laptop that she can text on, so once she locked her phone to collect points, she was able to pay full attention. “Since I’ve been using Pocket Points, I’ve seen an improvement in my exam and homework grades.”, said Lepore. She attributes these improvements to her recent ability to focus more in her classes.

Where You Can Use Points

The app uses local and online store discounts, coupons and gifts as incentives to students. What’s a better way to attract college students than using free food and discounted clothes?

Pocket Points partnered with online businesses like Macy’s, Pura Vida, Spikeball, The Elephant Pants and Fitspi. App users have access to many perks and discounts that are applicable at partnering businesses. “I was so excited when I saw they offer a discount on Pura Vida items, I wanted a bracelet from there so bad.”, said Umass Amherst student Katie Caruso. Points can also be used for discounts on popular brands like Under Armour and Columbia.

Pocket Points partnered with local businesses in Amherst like Sunset Grill and Pizza, Subway, Insomnia Cookies, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Sweet Frog and Lucky’s Tattoo and Piercing. UMass Amherst sophomore Kat Santos said her favorite reward to redeem is the’ buy one get one’ deal at Insomnia Cookies. “Its only 25 points and their cookies are so good!”, she said.

Other discounts include ‘buy one get one free” frozen yogurt from Sweet Frog for forty points. For twenty-five points, users can also get ten dollars off a tattoo valued at more than one hundred dollars at Lucky’s Tattoo and Piercing.

The app lets user suggest a business they would like to see partner with Pocket Points. Student ambassadors then follow up with the suggested businesses for a potential partnership.


Two years later, Richardson, Garnder and Pocket Points don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Every day they work towards partnering with new businesses and getting the app into more schools.

For more information, visit their website or follow Pocket Points on Instagram and Twitter.


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