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In these modern times — when there literally is an app for everything — it has never been easier to track your money and stay on budget. It’s a snap to automate payments. It’s easy to set and track financial goals. You should never miss a bill payment.

Here are our choices for the best personal finance apps.

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    Acorns logo

    Acorns App


    Cost: $1-$5/month

    Where It’s Available: IOS, Android, Web

    At A Glance

    Acorns is an automated savings tool that rounds up your purchases on linked credit or debit cards, then sweeps the change into a computer-managed investment portfolio. Picture it as a virtual piggy bank.

    The target audiences for Acorns include college students, non-involved investors and people who struggle to save money.

    In seeking young, would-be investors, Acorns goes after college students, especially those who don’t have earned income and can’t yet contribute to tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

    After four years of “rounding up,’’ there’s usually a nice sum of money looking for a new home. It could be the seed money for your first investment!

    You are given the option of transferring your change into an investment portfolio, either automatically or manually (where you can review each purchase on the app, then select which ones to transfer).

    Acorns also has several partners — such as Jet, Blue Apron, Airbnb, Boxed and Hulu — that offer 10% cash back when using a linked payment method with them.

    Of course, unlike the IRA or 401(k) accounts, Acorns offers only individual taxable accounts. Found money is one thing. Free money — such as an employer match — is quite another. So don’t put all your acorns in one basket — or something like that.

    Acorns speaks well to new investors through Grow Magazine, an online personal finance site that is geared toward millennials. It offers advice about side gigs, credit-card debt, student loans and other pertinent topics. Much of the Grow content is incorporated in the Acorns app.

    Safety

    The app and Web site are encrypted. Automatic logout, IDs and other security measures are employed.

    Pocket Guard Logo

    Pocket Guard


    Cost: Free, $4.99/month, $34.99/year

    Where It’s Available: iOS, Android

    At a Glance

    This app budgets how much spendable money you have after accounting for the basics like bills, debt, and long-term financial goals.

    PocketGuard offers tools that simplify your income and expenses, allowing you to take command of your budget and even grow your savings account. It lets you link all your accounts in one place for a comprehensive view of your balances and net worth. After creating a profile and filling out some personal information, PocketGuard can send you offers for lower rates on financial services. The products are tailored to your interest based on your past transactions.

    These days, so much of our transactions are handled digitally, which means it can be hard to tell how much money you really have available to spend. This confusion can lead to overdraft or late fees and inhibits us from optimizing our finances to our advantage. PocketGuard helps you stay aware of your current and future financial outlook. It even displays attractive graphs that make it easy to isolate the categories where you overspend. You can also customize the categories or personalize them with hashtags. The free version should work for those looking for an easy way to keep track of their spending. The premium version offers more in-depth customization and detailed reports.

    Safety

    Your data is secured with 256-bit SSL encryption–the same level of security as major banks. The PocketGuard app uses PIN code and biometrics, as an additional security layer, in case your phone is ever lost or stolen.

    Mint Logo

    Mint App


    Cost: Free

    Where It’s Available: iOS, Android, Web

    At a Glance

    Mint is speedy and reliable, offering detailed and in-depth views of U.S. and Canadian personal-finance situations. It has a useful, clean design. You can sign up through the mobile app or the website (mint.com).

    Mint analyzes your spending habits, income, and other financial transactions through customizable alerts. If you tap on the plus sign and choose “Create Budget,’’ you are taken to a page with a list of spending categories (such as groceries or movies). It suggests a monthly spending limit based on your history, while also tracking your money through a few months of historical data. There’s a look at your monthly budget through a simple line graph, so there is a short-term and long-term perspective.

    It isn’t an app for accounting software or reconciling transactions; it’s more about spending and big-picture financial status. Mint can calculate your net worth, but also offer detailed analysis of your spending habits. If you’re looking to set financial goals — such as escaping credit-card debt or purchasing a home — it’s good for that, too.

    It will send push notifications for bills. If you’re close to the budget limit in your given categories – too many lattes this week? – you will get a warning.
    Mint is supported by advertising, but the ads are more useful than annoying. Because of Mint’s all-knowing, all-seeing approach to your financial accounts, it knows precisely how much interest you’re earning and how much interest you’re paying on your mortgage, loans, credit cards and savings accounts, along with ATM fees and annual service charges.

    Safety

    When providing access to your online banking and credit card accounts, you are only giving Mint read access to that information. Mint doesn’t have the ability to move money, so if a hacker broke through, they wouldn’t have access to your cash. You can add a passcode to the app, a four-digit PIN, but it locks you out of Mint when navigating away from the app, so you won’t accidentally leave the app open for someone else to use. Combined with your iPhone passcode, that should be added security.

    Personal Capital

    Personal Capital


    Cost: Free

    Where It’s Available: iOS, Android, Web

    At A Glance

    Personal Capital is a comprehensive app that lets users do everything from track spending to review their investment portfolio.

    Like many of the apps on this list, Personal Capital lets you link your accounts in one place for easy management and viewing. You can use it to estimate your net worth which will give you a good idea of where you stand, allowing you to craft a detailed goal for where you’d like your finances to be in the future. The app offers advisor analysis that provides you with a personalized financial plan.

    Personal Capital stands out for offering both high-quality mobile apps and superior, easy-to-navigate desktop interfaces when compared to other apps. It also offers to analyze your accounts and uncover hidden fees that could be hindering your portfolio from maximizing its earning potential.

    Anybody can sign up for free and use Personal Capital’s money planning tools. However, in order to qualify for its advising services, you will need to open an account of at least $100,000.

    Security

    Your data is encrypted with military-grade encryption algorithms — 256-bit AES, to be specific. Your data is protected by firewalls which operate under stringent financial and international security standards, including payment card industry compliance (PCI DSS Level 1) and ISO 27001 certification, placing information security under explicit management control.

    In Conclusion

    Personal finance apps continue to explode in popularity. Budgeting has become cool because the apps have become so commonplace and user-friendly.

    A more efficient, convenient and rapid app experience will be the priority for future trends in the industry.

    Security will be a priority, particularly with uneasiness over breaches in the cyber-security world.

    It’s difficult to make overarching recommendations for personal finance apps because every situation is different.

    One thing is certain, though. The world has changed. Personal finance apps are no longer a rarity. They are part of mainstream living. As financial applications continue to be embraced by the millennial generation, people are changing the way they do business.