The 10 Best Money Apps
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.
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.
The app and Web site are encrypted. Automatic logout, IDs and other security measures are employed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At A Glance
YNAB — the app’s common acronym — excels at providing guidance for smart money management and financial responsibility. The tutorials and education material are excellent and extremely helpful. It caters to modest households who need the basics and it’s not an app for someone seeking savvy financial information.
Basically, every dollar you’re projected to earn is assigned a job. It’s either spent or saved. YNAB connects directly to your financial accounts to pull in account balances and other information in real time. It’s more of a traditional approach to budgeting and it’s a good approach for people who are serious about managing their money.
YNAB uses tutorials and pop-up windows to introduce its concepts, which include a checklist to the left that helps you get started. As you get more into the process, some complications occur. It’s somewhat tedious to come up with all the customized categories needed to direct your money flow. You can change categories and YNAB provides a “Stuff I Forgot To Budget For,’’ which becomes helpful.
You are required to enter the usernames and passwords for your checking accounts, credit cards, savings accounts and other financial institutions. YNAB keeps your information encrypted and secure. Should you choose to leave the service, YNBA says your information will be deleted.
You can use YNAB without connecting to any of your financial information through a manual entry, but that defeats the purpose of helping your specific budgeting.
You are directed to balance your budget, making sure you meet expenses and don’t overspend in any category. It’s beneficial for people who live paycheck-to-paycheck. They can learn where their money goes while becoming more aware of income and expenses.
At A Glance
Honeydue is aimed at couples who desire more transparency in their relationship, especially when it comes to spending. The app is free and it can work for couples at any stage of the relationship, so long as they are ready to begin sharing financial details with each other.
The app lets you track your accounts across a range of financial institutions including bank accounts, loans, and investments. Timely notifications and bill reminders keep you on track of your payment schedules and help you avoid late fees.
Honeydue can provide a joint bank account for both you and your partner, though this service is optional. The account is FDIC-Insured with Sutton Bank, comes with a free debit card, and requires no minimum balance or annual fees. You don’t need a Honeydue bank account to take advantage of the app.
You can even chat with your partner over the app, though some may still prefer to do this in person.
Your information is securely encrypted in 256 bits, both in transit and in storage. Honeydue also requires multi-factor authentication, designed to protect access to your account.
At A Glance
Joy is a financial coaching and savings app that focuses on the user’s happiness, as it relates to purchases. After creating a profile, the user is asked to link their spending account to the app (a checking account or credit card). Users are then prompted to report on recent spending.
By asking the user to rate their purchases as “happy” or “sad,” Joy provides guidance on how dollars and cents relate to satisfaction. Low value (or “sad”) purchases should be avoided, while high value (“happy”) purchases are OK.
By systematizing reflection on spending, the app attempts to help the user make connections between spending that adds benefit to one’s life and spending that provides little or negative value.
Joy also serves up a steady stream of contemporary, easy-to-read financial articles. This library of resources helps stoke savings motivation and keep one’s goals Top-of-mind.
Joy users can open a Joy Savings account. The app identifies savings opportunities and then transfers money to the account, with the user’s permission. The savings account is FDIC-insured, and users can make withdrawals or close the account at any time.
Joy has access to your purchase history after you link your spending accounts. Lock your phone after installation if you don’t want others in your household to have access to your purchase history. Additionally, follow best practices when you create your password.
At A Glance
Qapital allows you to save money with relative ease, through gamification and the small actions you take in everyday life. It does require you to open a new account, which is FDIC-insured (no minimum balance or monthly service fee).
How do things work? If you buy coffee each morning, Qapital rounds up the price and puts the change in a savings account. If you come under budget for anything — such as groceries or commuting expenses — you could put that balance in something else, such as a vacation fund. Before you know it, almost invisibly, you are saving money in ways you never imagined. It also connects to IFTT (an app that stands for “If this, then that’’), which suggests more ways to save.
Qapital also has some cool features, such as asking if you’d like to learn a new skill like cooking or photography. If so, you are asked to estimate how much money will be needed, then you’re walked through a process that helps you configure ways to save that money.
There might be qualms with opening a new account. Terms and conditions are there to examine before providing personal information, such as your Social Security number. If you need more reassurance and aren’t quite ready to open a new account, there’s a “dummy scenario” provided, where you can create savings goals, go through the motions of setting up automatic deposits and see how things work as if you were connected to your bank accounts and a Qapital savings account.
At A Glance
Digit is geared toward people who want to save money without making much studious effort. Almost in Big Brother fashion, Digit evaluates your spending habits and transfers money from your linked bank account into your Digit account. How does it work? Every two or three days, Digit makes a transfer, generally after interpreting your checking balance, upcoming income, upcoming bills and recent spending patterns. Based on these variables, Digit calculates a non-essential amount that you won’t notice based on your spending patterns.
You might think, “Wait, can’t I do this stuff on my own?’’ Possibly. But Digit is geared toward the generation that relies heavily on technology and trusts it implicitly. For those folks, it’s worth the fee and convenience.
Plus, all customers earn a 1% annualized Savings Bonus for every three months that they save with Digit. There’s also a $5 referral bonus if you get a friend to join the service.
Digit also includes a text service with SMS messaging that allows customers to perform regular banking transactions (viewing a balance, initiating withdrawals, viewing upcoming bills) without using a computer.
Digit is simply set up to generate smaller savings, catering to the tech-savvy millennial population.
The Digit Savings are in a secure account and FDIC insured up to $250,000. There is never a transfer of more than you can afford and there is a no-overdraft guarantee.
At A Glance
There’s a savings method — a pretty old-fashioned one, actually — where you physically divide all your cash into separate envelopes. There’s an envelope for groceries, an envelope for your telephone bill, an envelope for fuel costs, etc.
Think of Goodbudget as a series of virtual “envelopes.’’ It allows you to specify how to spend and save your money. The free membership provides a basic way to control and track finances. The paid membership is more appropriate for more expansive budgets.
Goodbudget provides “regular’’ envelopes for frequent expenses such as rent, groceries and entertainment. There are “more’’ envelopes for annual expenses, vacations, Christmas gifts and an emergency fund.
Envelopes can be customized by adding income and listing a financial account such as checking, savings, credit card or cash.
The balance of each envelope will be represented by a colorful bar on the home screen. Green means you have money left in the envelope. Red means you’ve gone over budget. Goodbudget’s free plan provides 10 regular and 10 annual envelopes.
Customers of the pay plan can track as many categories as they please.
Goodbudget is fairly easy to understand, but it’s a bit cumbersome and time-consuming. Even if files are imported from your bank account, each transaction still must be categorized manually.
Accounts are protected with read-only access and a PIN.
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.