Launching embedded benefits with First Dollar

First Dollar’s four key implementation stages for launching embedded benefits.

Adding a benefit like a HSA, FSA, or LSA to your tech-forward platform could make you a one-stop shop for potential clients. But you don't have the time or resources to build it, and you're worried if potential embedded benefit solutions will belong within your experience and platform. Most importantly, you wonder, "Will this vendor actually deliver?” After all, you have deadlines and business goals to meet. 

It's an important question to ask, and as First Dollar's Manager, Partner Implementations, I hope to help answer that question by sharing our implementation process. We've followed these steps to deliver on-time solutions for our clients, and I'll use them to collaborate with your team as we build your desired benefit program.

Implementation 101: Why it’s important

In contrast to others, our Health Wallet platform is embeddable and customizable. We've built it tech-forward with API endpoints for every event and a library of turnkey widgets, ensuring our solution can be customized to meet your needs and belong within your platform. This flexibility makes it easy to integrate with partners; even better, consumers love using the Health Wallet! 

Implementation manager: Point of contact

To launch your program, you'll work with an implementation manager. (That's my team.) During the implementation of a project at First Dollar, your implementation manager will be your primary point of contact throughout the project, including:

  • Post-sale kickoff
  • Program design
  • Technical setup
  • Testing
  • Program launch

You'll have recurring calls with your implementation manager throughout the project until launch. And after launch, our Account Management Director will continue supporting you and your team.

Implementation manager: Responsibilities

The implementation manager will also coordinate the overall project schedule, manage scope, and ensure what is implemented meets the requirements from the Statement of Work (SOW). 

There are several essential items to complete within the implementation process before launching your product. At a high level, the critical milestones are focused on program design and technical setup. 

Stage one: Program design

We’ve built our Health Wallet platform so it can meet all of our clients’ needs. We give you total control of your brand, from end-to-end white labeling to layering new benefits into your existing application or card.

checklist highlighting the options given when designing a benefit program
When designing your benefit program, you have several options to ensure your solution belongs within your user experience and meets your business goals.

Do you want to offer a virtual or physical card? Both?

First, you'll decide whether to issue a physical or virtual Health Wallet debit card during the program design phase. (You can also choose to offer both.) Most importantly, both cards allow customers to spend their funds on eligible items. 

Physical cards: Insert, swipe, or tap

Similar to your personal debit or credit card, physical cards can be inserted, swiped, or tapped in POS systems. They are mailed to customers within 5-7 days upon account creation and can be used in all locations. 

Virtual cards: Instantly issued and easily adjustable 

A virtual card is an instantly issued digital card. They cost benefit providers nothing—providing you a potential savings of $3-5 savings per card. Virtual cards allow you to move quickly and make benefit adjustments if you already have millions of dollars in plastic in circulation. Customers benefit, too, as they gain access to immediate funds upon account creation—no waiting on the mailman. And you're making a positive impact on the environment as you're reducing microplastics in the ocean.

Reminder: It’s possible to offer your customers both a physical and virtual card. 

How do you want to brand your benefits?

example of white labelling benefits
An example of our ability to white label our platform.

Beyond the card type offered, another important program design decision is around branding. First Dollar offers two white-label options: 

  • Co-branded: First Dollar and your brand 
  • Re-branded: Your brand exclusively featured

Our white labeling program utilizes your logo and brand standards for the entire customer experience: website, mobile app, physical card, email, etc.  With First Dollar, you control the branding and the customer service experience you want to offer your members. To learn more, read our blog post about our white-label options

How do you want to administer the benefit?

At First Dollar, we have two benefit administration options.

Benefit provider own the customer experience.

For partners who want to own the entire customer service experience, tier 1 customer support is your ideal choice. All consumers will be directed directly to your team for their servicing needs, as tier 1 is the direct member-facing support line and manages essential questions, requests, and issues. Managing tier 1 servicing applies to individuals (including KYC remediation) and employers. 

First Dollar support: When there are more complex questions, you can take advantage of First Dollar's tier 2 support for your complex problem-solving and issue resolution. To learn more about this, please read our section on our white-label options.

First Dollar lead initial customer support. 

Partners may also choose to have First Dollar provide initial customer support. Partners who don't manage the administration of their other benefits generally prefer this option. 

A note on branding and customer support

To truly offer a streamlined customer journey, benefit providers should select customer support tiers that align with the messaging of co-branded or re-branded products. Here are two principles that we've found to be true:

  • Benefit providers who want to lead customer support (tier 1) for benefits should offer fully re-branded products to own the brand experience. 
  • Benefit providers unable to lead customer support for benefits should offer co-branded products. This strategy ensures customers are familiar with the brand (First Dollar) leading customer support.

Stage two: Technical setup

checklist highlighting the technical setup options
Our suite of tools ensures we can meet each benefit provider's needs and capabilities.

After designing your program, it's time to start technical setup. 

Suite of integration tools

We provide a suite of APIs, widgets, and applications that enable our partners to add benefits directly to their products and services. Use the API or a First Dollar eligibility file to add individuals to a benefits program or update their demographic data.

Enrollment file + SFTP

If we're utilizing an enrollment file, we'll first set up an SFTP. The SFTP is used to exchange ongoing eligibility files between First Dollar and a partner in both a development and production environment. Before any data is loaded in production, testing must occur in the development environment. We will test throughout the process up to approval. Once testing is complete, the file for the production environment can be sent.


For every event, we have documented API endpoints. Using APIs requires the most tech setup, but it also enables truly embedded and white-labeled benefits. Leveraging the First Dollar API empowers  benefit providers to manage enrollee and benefit data in real time. APIs can be used for both enrollment and directly embedding data into your portal. To learn more about our API documentation, check out our developer portal to learn more about our APIs and widgets.


When single sign-on (SSO) is used, additional technical setup is necessary. Benefit providers often use SSO to create a simplified user experience as no new login credentials are needed. A member logged into your portal can be redirected to their First Dollar account without interruption through SSO. If you decide not to implement SSO, we'll need users to create new login credentials (usernames and passwords) to sign in to their First Dollar account. 

Email Reminder: Usernames are the user's email address and will be logged into our system. This feature enables them to receive benefit education emails based on your chosen branding experience (co-branded or re-branded).


Widgets enable easy integration as well. Widgets are embeddable pieces of code, allowing consumers to pull First Dollar data within the benefit provider's portal without logging into their First Dollar account. Through widgets, users can see their deposits, investments, and contributions. You use the same authentication mechanism for widgets and SSO, ensuring data security. 

We’re here for you

Understandably, these program design and technical setup decisions take time to make. We’re here to make this straightforward for you. We can quickly stand up your program with decisions regarding branding and an eligibility file. Then as time progresses and if you want to make adjustments (e.g., moving to API, adding a widget), we’re here to accommodate. You can design your API and embedded experiences over time.

Stage three: Implementation

project plan sample highlighting the implementation timeline
An example of a First Dollar implementation timeframe for embedded benefits.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “how long will this implementation setup take?” We’ll work closely with you to create a timeline and milestones that align with your business goals. In practice, the program design and technical setup choices outlined above have the most considerable timeframe implications. The typical implementation timeframe is 3-4 months. 

Partner collaboration

Throughout the project, we’ll work with various teams at your organization. A project manager and technical lead will require the highest level of time commitment. In addition to those individuals, we’ll also work with Risk and Compliance, Marketing, Finance, and Customer Service teams. 

Overcoming challenges & roadblocks 

As with all projects, there are risks to manage along the way. That’s no different here for your benefits being implemented with First Dollar. Program design changes like type of card issued can lead to the most significant delays. Another obstacle can be the technical aspect. The time frames to test data and load production data has a significant impact on the launch date. The sooner any issues or concerns can be raised and addressed, the better! We’ll have regular check-ins with you throughout implementation to ensure the project goes smoothly. A weekly status check-in will help keep the project on track and teams aligned. Outside of those status calls, additional ad hoc meetings will be needed to discuss, review, and finalize details with the groups noted above.

Stage 4: Launch! 

three rockets lifting off, highlighting the four stages
Launch day is the most exciting day!

In the weeks leading up to launch, we’ll continue our weekly check-ins as well as review our readiness checklist to ensure all parties are ready to launch. We’ll watch very closely during testing in the time prior to launch in order to catch any problems early. With our experience working with benefit providers, we may notice issues before you do. And if you see something we miss, we’ll fix it rapidly.

On launch day, enrolled members will receive email outreach regarding their new account(s). Virtual cards (if selected) will be issued upon account creation, and physical cards (if desired) will be sent in the mail upon account creation. Depending on payroll schedules, contributions or account funding may happen within a week of launching or shortly after that. 

And with that, your platform and your customers now have access to their embedded benefit solution.

Josh Hostetler

Josh leads content for First Dollar, a fintech company that builds infrastructure for health spending benefits. Before First Dollar, Josh led course creation at Aceable, taught First Grade, waited tables at Olive Garden, and wore many other hats. He misses the breadsticks.