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Bargains and Deals, Strategies to Save

15+ Apps That Help You Make Money

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Need extra money? Your mobile device could actually unlock a world of additional income for you. There are many ways to earn money online, and they are now conveniently available on smartphones and tablet devices. Add an internet connection, and you’re set. Pursuing a side hustle can be time consuming, but if you’ve got a financial goal like getting out of debt or saving up for a down payment on a home, these apps could be a good start to boosting to your income. All the apps here are free to use via web browser and/or mobile device.

Surveys

Swagbucks

Devices: Android, iOS

The Swagbucks iOS app. Source: iTunes.

Swagbucks is a popular survey website with a couple of app counterparts (discussed below), including Swagbucks Local and SB Answers. By taking surveys, you accumulate points called Swagbucks, not actual money. These surveys usually ask about your demographics, preferences, and behaviors on topics like cereal you eat, places you shop, TV shows you watch, and other lifestyle choices. Plan to spend 15-30 minutes on each survey, though there are occasionally seven- to 10-minute surveys.

In terms of how the conversions work, one Swagbuck is about 1 cent, and you can redeem them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, and popular retailers like Walmart and Target. You even have the option to donate your Swagbucks to more than 10 charities featured on the site.

So, how good are the payouts? A three-minute survey could offer you five Swagbucks or approximately 5 cents. A 20-minute survey pays out 80 cents on average. However, many people earn much more with the Swagbucks referral program: 500 Swagbucks (worth $5) per person once the referral is active. Plus, you’ll get 10% of your referrals’ point earnings over the lifetime of their account.

You have a few options to earn Swagbucks on your mobile device:

Surveys On The Go

Devices: Android, iOS

The Surveys On The Go iOS app. Source: iTunes

Surveys On The Go allows users to take various surveys with pretty decent payouts: You’ll get surveys for between 25 cents and $1. However, be prepared to spend time on these surveys. You can spend 15-20 minutes completing them (or more).

There also aren’t always a lot of surveys available. I’ve logged in a few times and found there were no surveys for me. The survey availability will depend on your demographic and even location. Sometimes, there are high-paying surveys ($15-$20), but it’s hard to tell when and where that will happen.

There’s no way to know how often there will be surveys available, but you can choose to receive app notifications when there is a new survey you qualify for.

Unlike Swagbucks, these surveys offer you actual money. You’ll need to earn $10 before you get a payment via PayPal. A nice thing about this app is that you get a consolation compensation of 10 cents if you start a survey and are not qualified to complete it.

InboxDollars

Devices: Android, iOS

InboxDollars iOS app. Source: iTunes

Much like Surveys On The Go, InboxDollars offers cash rewards. The app also offers “sweep” points, which allow you enter sweepstakes for more sweeps, money, or other prizes.

This app usually has plenty of surveys to take, though they are not all optimized for mobile viewing. At times, the interface can be a little wonky and a tad clunky to navigate.

You should also know that you can get deep into a survey (say, 5-15 minutes) only to be disqualified because of your answers. Your hourly “wage” comes out to be pretty low considering you make anywhere from 20-25 cents per 20-30 minutes spent answering questions. You cannot request a payout from the app until you’ve reached the $30 minimum. A $3 processing fee applies to every payment request. Your payment options include a check, gift card from Target or Kohl’s, or a prepaid Visa card (the latter two options available to Gold members only.)

Other survey apps to explore include Panel App, QuickThoughts, and SurveyMini. Overall, if you are looking to make a living wage from taking surveys, you likely won’t come close. With payouts that amount to just a few cents an hour, you’re better off with other ways to produce extra income (unless there’s absolutely nothing else you can do to earn).

Fitness

What’s better than losing unwanted inches? Getting paid for it. There are a few apps that allow you to convert your fitness activity into financial benefits. As always, you’ll want to consult your physician before starting any fitness program.

DietBet

Devices: Android, iOS

DietBet iOS app. Source: iTunes

DietBet allows you to turn your fitness goals into money. In order to enter a bet, you have to put money up front in a game that pools the money of other people with weight-loss goals. Those who make their goals win the bet and split up the pot (minus DietBet’s 10%-25% fee) that is paid out by those who don’t make their goals. WayBetter, the company behind DietBet, also has a StepBet app that offers similar games where you put down money when you set activity goals and win the bet if you meet them.

On DietBet, you can participate in a short, four-week challenge called a Kickstarter or a six-month game called a Transformer. You can be in multiple bets at a time to maximize your earnings. The company says Kickstarter winners get back an average of 1.5-two times their bet, while the average Transformer winner takes home $325 for winning all six rounds, or $175 for winning just the final round.

DietBet and StepBet have a No Lose Guarantee, which states that if you win, you will not lose money. They’ll forfeit their cut of the pot to make this happen. Of course, if you don’t win, you don’t get anything, so there’s potential to lose money here. The average Kickstarter bet size is $30, and Transformer costs $25 a month (or $125 up front).

Sweatcoin

Devices: Android, iOS

Sweatcoin iOS app. Source: iTunes

The Sweatcoin app converts your outdoor steps into currency called Sweatcoins (SWCs), which you can redeem for products like watches, fitness apparel, and gift cards. Currently, you’ll earn .95 SWCs for every 1,000 steps you complete. The exact conversion of these coins seems to change depending on the reward: Past promotions include a $12 smoothie gift card for 150 SWCs, a $120 Actofit watch for 1,600 SWCs, and a $88 VICI Life gift card for 250 SWCs.

The items available for purchase with Sweatcoins are limited and change often based on availability and the company’s promotional schedule. This app requires access to your GPS data and location in order to verify that your steps are taken outside.

Shopping

There are many apps that reward you for doing something you’d do anyway — shop. Here’s how most of these apps work: If you purchase a product, the app developer usually gets commissions on purchases you make at their suggestion, which they split with you. In this way, they can provide you with rewards that literally pay you for shopping.

Ibotta

Devices: Android, iOS

Ibotta iOS app. Source: iTunes

Ibotta offers rebates for buying certain products in nearby stores. Once you let it access your geodata, you’ll find deals on items at retailers like Walmart, Whole Foods, Costco, and more.

Sometimes the deals are super product-specific, and other times you can see generic items like milk or eggs offered with a chance to get 25 cents back. In order to get your rewards, you’ll have to scan the item’s barcode with your phone’s camera and snap a picture of the receipt. You’ll then submit these through the app.

This can be somewhat time consuming. For example, the receipt can be long, requiring a few pictures, or you could accidentally throw away the packaging (which I’ve done on a few occasions).

This is another app with a generous referral bonus: You get $5, while your referral gets $10. You accrue referral bonuses and rebates in your Ibotta account and can request payouts via PayPal, Venmo, or a featured gift card once you meet the $20 threshold.

Ebates

Devices: Android, iOS

Ebates iOS app. Source: iTunes

Similar to Ibotta, Ebates gives you rewards for shopping through their portal and purchasing featured items, but Ebates also offers discounts. There are popular stores like Loft, Tom’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, and more. You’ll get your earnings via PayPal every three months (unless you’ve accrued less than $5.01.)

Ebates also has a great referral program. The payouts change from time to time, so you’ll need to check their referral program page for current payouts. At the moment, when you refer one friend who makes a minimum $25 purchase, you’ll get a $5 bonus, while your friend gets $10 added to their account balance after their first purchase.

Shopkick

Devices: Android, iOS

Shopkick iOS app. Source: iTunes

Shopkick pays its users points called Kicks for a variety of shopping activities.

When you open the app, it detects your location and shows you a list of nearby retailers and products that can help you earn Kicks. If you allow the app to access your GPS data, you’ll hear a cha-ching sound when you get close to a participating retailer.

Shopkick is set up to show you the best deals and popular products from retailers like Best Buy, American Eagle, Yankee Candle, and many more.

Kicks can be redeemed for gift cards to places like Best Buy, Starbucks, and Target. The referral program offers 250 Kicks for each friend who signs up and completes their first in-store action.

In terms of the conversion rate, 250 Kicks equals $1 for most rewards. You’ll need to check the rewards section of the app for conversions on specific items.

Gig economy

If you’ve got time and a certain skill set, you can make money helping someone nearby. The apps below are variations of the Uber-like work arrangement we are all getting more familiar with. Given the higher earning potential these opportunities offer, they also require more commitment: Before you can start earning money through these kinds of apps, you may have to submit an application and agree to a background check.

TaskRabbit

Devices: Android, iOS

TaskRabbit iOS app. Source: iTunes

TaskRabbit allows you to complete small tasks like errands, cleaning, or handyman work for people nearby. As a “tasker” you can choose the types of tasks you’ll complete, your rates, and your own schedule. There’s no minimum to the amount of work you can do; however, the site explains that you cannot invoice for jobs that are under one hour. TaskRabbit takes 30% of your earnings and is available in 39 U.S. metro areas.

The application process is straightforward but stringent. In addition to your general demographics, you’ll need to verify your account with official identification like a driver’s license. You will also need to complete a background check. The TaskRabbit website explains that the company receives a large amount of registrations and cannot give you a timeline on when you’ll be approved.

Fortunately, once you get going, it’s pretty easy to see tasks available, accept them, and even invoice your clients. Although earnings for individual taskers vary due to a number of factors, a report by Priceonomics puts the average monthly earnings are around $380.

GoShare

Devices: Android, iOS

GoShare iOS app. Source: iTunes

GoShare is an app for people who need moving and delivery help. You can earn money with this app if you have a vehicle for large deliveries and can lift heavy items. However, GoShare is only available in nine cities among three states: California, Georgia, and New Jersey.

GoShare users can also work with large retailers to help unload shipments and deliver items to customers. For example, someone who ordered a refrigerator from Home Depot could request a GoShare driver to deliver it.

If you live in one of the areas GoShare serves, you can apply to be a driver. Potential earnings vary by vehicle type: The website says someone who drives a small pickup truck could earn up to $47.52 an hour, while someone with a cargo van can earn up to $61.92 an hour.

Uber/Lyft

Devices: Android, iOS

Left: Uber iOS app. Right: Lyft iOs app. Source: iTunes

Probably the most popular of the bunch, Uber and Lyft offer people the opportunity to use their own car to drive people around and get paid for it. Rates are typically set by the company and depend on your location, time of day, type of car you have, whether or not a passenger will share a ride with other passengers, and a few other factors. Uber is in more than 630 cities around the world, and Lyft is in more than 550 U.S. cities.

Chime

Devices: iOS

Chime iOS app. Source: iTunes

Chime is a division of the popular child care site, Sittercity. Chime is a mobile app designed for people who need quick connections for child care. Again, the premise is: I’m available, you need help, let’s connect with this app. Chime is available in Boston, Chicago, New York City, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

According to Chime, all sitters are thoroughly vetted and have completed a background check as well as undergone ID verification. The hourly rate is set according to your local market starting from around $15-$18 per hour.

Rover

Devices: Android, iOS

Rover iOS app. Source: iTunes

The Rover app is like Chime but allows users to look for and offer house-sitting and pet care services. Once you apply to be a sitter, your profile, if accepted, takes about five days to be approve. (Note: You can opt to complete a background check through a third party, but it’s not necessary.) You should also know that you get to set your own rates for services.

Once you agree upon a price with your client and complete a job, your client pays through the Rover app. Those funds are released to you within 48 hours, less the 15% transaction fee Rover deducts. Your payments stay in your Rover account until you withdraw them.

A community forum thread on the Rover website puts part-time earnings at $500-$1,000 per month.

GreenPal

Devices: Android, iOS

GreenPal iOS app. Source: iTunes

There are a few Uber-like apps for lawn care, and GreenPal is just one of them. The only issue is that some of these apps don’t have enough users to make it worthwhile for either service seekers or gig workers (GreenPal currently serves 12 U.S. cities).

As a vendor, you’ll apply through the company’s website. Part of the vetting process is passing a criminal background check, providing client references, and confirming that you have proper lawn care equipment.

Once you are approved as a lawn care provider, you’ll get notifications of nearby jobs. You are able to upload photos of your finished work (kind of like a lawn care portfolio), and then your client will rate you.

Depending on your location and market, expect to bid anywhere from $25-$45 per job. GreenPal takes a 3% transaction fee when your client pays you.

If you have a financial goal in mind and need more earning options, apps like these can certainly help. Just remember to weigh the value of your time against the potential of earning more money before you commit to chasing income this way.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Aja McClanahan
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Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Strategies to Save

Digit’s Surprise $2.99 Monthly Fee Stuns Users

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By Kalyn Wilson

Digit, a once-free automated savings app, now charges users a $2.99 monthly fee.

Consumers are in an uproar this week over the Digit’s new monthly fee. The once-free automated savings app announced Tuesday in a Digit blog post that users will be charged $2.99 a month after a “trial period” of 100 days.

The company said in the announcement that it will increase the “Savings Bonus” — that’s the rate Digit pays to those who store their savings with the app — from 0.2% to 1%, to “reward” users.

The new monthly fee frustrated existing users (who also will have 100 more days of free use and then be charged) so much that Money.com reported the site went down on Tuesday due to increased traffic from complaints and so many customers trying to close close their account. The site was up Wednesday.

Digit CEO Ethan Bloch told Forbes the decision was based on the fact that they needed to monetize the company but didn’t want to sell customer data and advertising that would compromise its brand integrity.

“We went through this huge exercise and a lot of it was in philosophical debates,” Bloch told Forbes.

The app has been free since its launch in 2015. Many customers ranted on social media about the new subscription fee and Digit’s website outage. Some said they planned to abandon the app.

Here’s what you need to know about Digit’s new $2.99 fee and possible alternatives.

Is the app worth the fee?

Considering that no new or enhanced features have been added to the app aside from the increased Savings Bonus, there appears to be no clear benefit from the monthly fee. However, based on the amount of funds you may save due to using this app, some consumers may feel as though the fee is worth the return.

If I decide to leave, how can I cancel the account without getting charged?

For those who signed up for Digit after April 11 — when the changes went into effect — you have a 100-day trial period from your start date before being charged.

If you want to cancel your Digit account without being charged, go to Dashboard > Help > Close My Account within 100 days, as of April 11, 2017.

 

 

 

What are some free alternatives for automated savings?

Other companies offer free automated savings tools, programs, and services to help you reach your savings goals. Here are five options:

  1. Chime offers automatic savings per purchase, plus a weekly bonus reward. This service also offers a “spending” account, a Visa Debit Card and boasts no minimum, overdraft or ATM withdrawal fees.
  2. Qapital allows you to set goals based on “rules” in order to increase your savings potential. For example, the Spend Less Rule encourages you to set a lower budget than what you usually spend in a category, then saves the rest (e.g., if you spend $25 on fast food instead of $35, the app will save the extra $10). The company makes money by accruing interest from your savings and promises there are no fees.
  3. Simple boasts a Safe-to-Spend feature along with its goal-setting and automatic savings feature.
  4. Dobot is similar in its plan for you to establish goals and set aside small amounts toward those goals.
  5. For Bank of America users who prefer the traditional bank atmosphere, you can enroll in the Keep the Change Program. The bank rounds your purchases to the nearest dollar amount and saves the difference. You must have a Bank of America checking account, savings account, and debit card

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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Banking Apps

The Best and Worst Mobile Bank Apps of 2016: 100+ Banks & Credit Unions Ranked

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The Best and Worst Mobile Bank Apps of 2016

 

As big banks shed brick-and-mortar branches left and right, it’s never been more important for financial services to reach consumers where they are: their smartphones. In the past five years alone, adoption of mobile banking more than doubled, while the number of people banking on tablets increased more than eightfold, according to recent findings from Javelin.

That being said, mobile banking technology is still relatively new. And when it comes to creating a digital banking experience that is as simple as a quick trip to the local bank branch, some banks are certainly doing better than others.

In its third annual Mobile Banking App Study, MagnifyMoney compiled the ratings of iOS and Android banking apps from over 100 of the biggest banks and credit unions, including the 50 largest banks and 50 largest credit unions along with a selection of top online direct banks.

The data, collected from iTunes and Google Play the week of November 30, 2016, was used to create a composite 1 to 5 rating, factoring a weighted average of the ratings from both the iOS and Android platforms. We ranked each app based on its rating score. This year’s results include comparisons to our 2015 results to see which banks and credit union apps have most improved and deteriorated.

Summary of key findings:

  • Best Overall App: Eastman Credit Union with a score of 4.8, up from 4.7 in 2015.
  • Best App Among the 10 Largest Banks: Chase with a score of 4.5, up from 4.2 in 2015.
  • Worst App Among the 10 Largest Banks: BB&T with a score of 2.8, down from 3.8 in 2015.
  • Best App Among the 10 Largest Credit Unions: PenFed with a score of 4.3, down from 4.4 in 2015.
  • Worst App Among the 10 Largest Credit Unions: First Tech Federal Credit Union with a score of 1.9, down from 3.3 in 2015.
  • Best Online Direct Bank App: First Internet Bank with a score of 4.5, unchanged from 2015.
  • Worst Online Direct Bank App: EverBank, with a score of 2.7, down from 3.0 in 2015.
  • Overall Most Improved App: BECU, whose score rose 58% year over year, from 2.5 to 3.9.
  • Most Improved Traditional Bank: Citibank, with a 19% ratings increase year over year, from 3.2 to 3.8.
  • Overall Most Deteriorated App: VyStar Credit Union, whose score dropped 57%, from 4.7 to 2.0 year over year.

You can read more about the findings in the charts below:

10 Overall Best and Worst Bank Apps

(Across all banks and credit unions reviewed)

2016mobileappratingsgraphic-best

10 Best and Worst Bank Apps

(Among the 10 largest banks and credit unions)

mobileappratingsgraphic-1-v3

Credit unions dominate the ratings for the third year running

Credit unions nearly swept the top 10 rankings for all apps this year, taking 9 of the top 10 spots. That’s an even better showing than last year, when credit unions nabbed 8 out of the top 10 spots. A 2% ratings improvement was just enough to give Eastman Credit Union the edge this year, securing the no. 1 spot for 2016. It’s a familiar position. Eastman was caught in a five-way tie for first place in 2015. The bank’s most recent update in September added Apple Watch compatibility to its list of features. This year, four banks tied for second place with a score of 4.7 — ESL Credit Union, Redstone Federal Credit Union, SEFCU, and Wright-Patt Credit Union.

Still, credit unions aren’t all bulletproof. Four out of the top 10 most deteriorated apps in 2016 were from credit unions. VyStar Credit Union was the least improved of all, stinging from a 57% ratings decline year over year, from 4.7 to 2.0.

Sample customer feedback from credit union iOS app reviews:

Eastman Credit Union: “Love the convenience of the app! Mobile check deposits are great and being able to check account balances & transfer money between them on the go is amazing.”

ESL Credit Union: “I check my account quickly with the fingerprint scanner. I love the ability to look at checks that have been written and current balances. The ability to mobile deposit [sic] checks is great for me because I never get to the bank to cash them.”

Redstone Credit Union: “It just keeps getting better and better! I have other bank apps and they don’t even come close to how good this app is!”

SEFCU: “Transferring funds, depositing checks, checking balances is straightforward and the app is sleek.”

Wright-Patt Credit Union: “The WPCU app has improved immensely since I first downloaded it.”

Big Banks Coast into 2016; Citibank is the Most Improved Big Bank for 2016

The average rating for all large banks remained unchanged year over year at 3.7. Android users, however, remain happier with their big bank apps than iOS users. Average Android ratings were 3.8 vs. 2.9 for iOS.

Citibank’s average rating improved by 19% in 2016, increasing from 3.2 to 3.8 year over year. The app’s most recent iOS update boasted improvements for brokerage account holders, offering up-to-date market data and allowing them to buy and sell stocks and mutual funds directly from the app.

Bells and whistles like these matter greatly, but overall app functionality and ease of use should come are crucial to banks’ ability to win over customers. “People want speed, ease and convenience so they can get in, get the task done and get on with their lives,” says Steve Shaw, director of digital bank marketing for financial services technology firm Fiserv.

citi-2 screen696x696ciit

Samples of Citi user feedback from iOS users:

“They have really made a lot of awesome improvements.” — Dec. 8, 2016

“It has come up a long way. Each update better than the last. Because of this app I rarely have to physically go to the bank.” —Dec. 7, 2016

10 Most Improved Apps (among credit unions and banks)

  1. BECU: +58%
  2. America’s First Federal Credit Union: +27%
  3. Citibank: +19%
  4. PNC Bank: +17%
  5. Nationwide: +15%
  6. Capital One: +12%
  7. Fifth Third Bank: +10%
  8. Chase: +8%
  9. American Airlines Credit Union: +7%
  10. Delta Community Credit Union: +6%

Chase #1 Among Big Banks for 2nd Year Running

Chase made a strong showing again in 2016, performing best out of the top 10 largest banks for the second year running and marking an 8% ratings improvement. With an impressive 12% ratings improvement, Capital One effectively tied for first place along with Chase, boosting its rating from 4.0 to 4.5, but with a lower Android rating at 4.5 vs. 4.6 for Chase.

It was a good year to be an Android user and Chase bank customer. In 2016, Chase added long-awaited support for Android Pay and made improvements to fingerprint sign-on for Android users.

Sample Chase feedback from iOS app users:

“Love this app & the convenience of being able to quickly check my balance, pay my bill & find answers to the majority of my questions within seconds.” — Oct. 31, 2016

“The interface is well designed [sic], intuitive and responsive. I cannot think of a single issue.” — Nov. 21, 2016.

At the bottom of the big bank rankings were BB&T and HSBC. BB&T’s rating fell 25% year over year, from 3.8 to 2.8, while HSBC saw a 6% decline, from 3.7 to 3.5.

The Top 10 Largest Bank Apps Ranked by Ratings:

  1. Chase: 4.5
  2. Capital One: 4.5
  3. SunTrust: 4.1
  4. Wells Fargo: 4.0
  5. (tie) Bank of America: 3.9
  6. (tie) TD Bank: 3.9
  7. (tie) PNC: 3.9
  8. Citibank: 3.8
  9. HSBC: 3.5
  10. BB&T: 2.8

First Internet Bank Steals the Crown from BankMobile for Top Online Direct Bank

2016 marked something of a fall from grace for last year’s #1 direct online bank, BankMobile. A stinging 19% ratings decline sent the app tumbling from first place to no. 7 this year. That opened the path for First Internet Bank to nab the top spot, despite not seeing any significant ratings improvement year over year. Its average rating remained steady at 4.5.

First Internet Bank has been around since 1999, one of the early internet-only banks to hit the scene. Launched in early 2015, BankMobile is a division of Customers Bank in Pennsylvania, but available nationally and designed to be the first fully mobile native bank.

This year, First Internet Bank was among several regional banks and credit unions to add new “eye print” sign-in technology, in which users sign in by pointing their smartphone camera at their eye. The app then compares their eye to an existing image of their eye on file.

Shaw says customers should expect more high-tech advancements to their favorite bank apps in the near future. “Some banks are leveraging the photo capability of the phone to not only enable check deposits, but to enable people to capture photos of receipts for filing or to take a picture of their driver’s license so they can verify their ID while opening an account,” he says.

First Tech Federal Credit Union Earns Worst Overall App Ratings for 2016

The lowest rated app overall belongs to First Tech Federal Credit Union, with an overall rating of 1.9 marking a 42% decline year over year. The app performed equally poorly among both Apple and Android users. Some reviews of the bank’s app in the Apple store pointed to disgruntlement with an update that was released in the fall.

“This app used to be OK but with the new update it has become so very slow,” one user commented in October. Another user complained about losing Touch ID password access. To be fair, the bank released an update most recently on Dec. 13, which promised “General performance improvements” but there have been no reviews of the latest update yet.

Last year’s worst app, Umpqua Bank, saw some improvement in 2016 but still landed among the worst apps. After facing a 40% decline in ratings in 2015, the app managed a 3% ratings improvement in 2016, enough to move up four spots.

The 10 Worst Bank App Ratings Overall

  1. First Tech Federal Credit Union: 1.9
  2. VyStar Credit Union: 2.0
  3. InvestorsBank: 2.1
  4. Patelco Credit Union: 2.2
  5. Umpqua Bank 2.3
  6. Logix: 2.3
  7. Tinker Federal Credit Union: 2.6
  8. American Airlines Credit Union: 2.7
  9. First National Bank: 2.7
  10. EverBank: 2.7

*MagnifyMoney is an affiliate partner of Chase credit cards, and does receive advertising compensation from Chase. However, compensation from advertising partners did not impact the methodology or results of the mobile banking application survey.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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Reviews, Strategies to Save

Review: You Need a Budget (YNAB) — The Budgeting Tool That Makes Every Dollar Count

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Budgeting Tool That Makes Every Dollar Count

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is subscription-based budgeting software available both on desktop and mobile devices. Its trademark mantra is, “Give every dollar a job.” That means as you have money coming in, you assign it a budget category. Once you have one month’s worth of expenses fully funded, you can start budgeting funds for future months.

How Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Work?

When you first sign up for You Need a Budget, you will be asked to link your checking, savings, and credit card accounts. This allows the app to see exactly how much money you have at this very moment.

Next, you’ll add upcoming transactions like rent, utilities, and groceries. As you add these expenses, you’ll also be prioritizing them. The ones that are most important (generally rent or mortgage payments) will go on top, and the ones that are a little more frivolous like entertainment spending will go at the bottom.

After you’ve set up transactions you know are coming, you’ll be able to establish goals. You can set up goals by a date, in which case the app will tell you how much you have to save per month to meet your objective. You can also set them up by how many dollars you’d like to allocate toward them per month, in which case the app will tell you how long it will be until they are fully funded (or in the case of debt repayment goals, paid off).

6 January screen shot 1

You’ve linked accounts. You’ve accounted for bills and upcoming spending. You’ve set goals. Now it’s time to fund all of those things! You start with the money you have, and not a penny more. You assign each dollar to a certain line item, again, starting with the most important items at the top. Once you reach the end of your current funds, you won’t be able to budget any more until you get more cash in your hands.

If you are able to fully fund one whole month, then you can use any excess funds on hand to start funding the next month. The more you do this, the happier the founders of YNAB get. Their entire philosophy is that you should “age your dollars,” meaning the further in advance you can fund a transaction or goal, the more financial stability you will have.

How Much Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Cost?

Currently, You Need a Budget offers a 34-day free trial — no credit card required. After that, you will have to pay either $5 per month or $50 per year. Students get twelve months free, after which they’ll be eligible for a 10% discount for one year. If you have a previous version of YNAB, you’ll be able to score a 10% lifetime discount on the latest version.

Fine Print

 YNAB  Budget App
YNAB is extremely transparent and seemingly ethical in their practices. They do not sell information to third parties, but may give others access to it in the course of business as they work to facilitate the software through companies such as Amazon Web Services and Finicity, which are two trusted names in the Fintech industry as far as security is concerned. Your data is always encrypted, and will be completely and irreversibly deleted upon request should you ever choose to close your account.

Pros and Cons

You Need a Budget is commonly recognized as one of the best budgeting apps around. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect for everyone, though. Think through the pros and cons before downloading.

Pros

  • Transparent company.
  • Committed to security and positive user experience.
  • Helps you change your financial habits through a simple, yet revolutionary, process.
  • Prioritizes your expenses each month.
  • Forces you to address overspending.
  • Allows you to set goals.
  • Can be used by those who get paid regularly and receive W-2s or by freelancers.
  • There are user guides and lessons accessible to members to deepen your understanding of common personal finance principles and concepts.
  • There is a community where you can get support.

Cons

  • There is a price for your subscription.
  • This won’t be good software for you if you’re a percentage budgeter as the interface makes no allowance for that method.
  • At this point in time, there are no reports or analyses to help you disseminate your habits. They are promised on the horizon, though.

How Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Stack Up against the Competition?

YNAB is an extremely useful and user-friendly app. However, it does come with a fee and is far from the only budgeting software on the market. Here are some other options you may want to check out if the YNAB $50 annual subscription is getting you down:

Mint.com

While it may not use the “give every dollar a job” philosophy, Mint.com solves very similar budgeting problems in a very free way. It allows you to link accounts, plan for upcoming expenses, and set goals. It also provides charts and graphs to analyze your past behavior and provides your FICO score at no charge — two things YNAB doesn’t do. The biggest con to this no-cost application is that it is laden with ads.

Wally

If you don’t like the idea of your financial accounts being linked to a third-party app, another free option is Wally. When you use this app, you’ll have to be a lot more diligent at inputting your income and expense as none of it will be automated, but that’s the price you pay for keeping your bank account info completely separate.

Level Money

Level Money is a free app that allows you to link accounts, gives you insights into how much you have left to spend in any given category on any given day, and comes 100% ad-free. This app isn’t the best for the self-employed or those with variable income, and also isn’t as useful for those who make a lot of cash purchases.

Who Should Use You Need a Budget?

You Need a Budget is great for anyone who wants to get a hold on their money today, but doesn’t necessarily want to analyze their past spending. It’s developed for people who prefer budgeting by dollars rather than percentages, and comes with extra savings for students who are trying to establish good money habits at a younger age. It is time-tested, and is created by a company that has continually shown it cares for its customers.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne at brynne@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews

Lenny App Review: Offers Credit Lines, Credit-building Tools, and Free FICO Score Monitoring

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Lenny App Review: Offers Credit Lines, Credit-building Tools

If you’re looking to build credit history, the Lenny app offers a credit-building product that’s worth checking out. Lenny is a licensed lender of California that provides students and other candidates who have limited credit history access to credit lines.

Once approved for a Lenny credit line, you can transfer money to a connected bank account or send money to friends and family. The Lenny credit line account includes additional resources, such as a credit score monitoring tool. There’s also a Lenny Points program that rewards you for actions that have a positive impact on your credit score.

You won’t qualify for the credit line if you live in a state other than California. However, anyone in the U.S. can use the Lenny app to send and receive money from their own bank account. There’s also a waiting list you can sign up for that will notify you when the Lenny credit line becomes available in other states.

In this post, we’ll review what you need to know about the Lenny app before signing up, including:

  • How Lenny works
  • How to earn Lenny Points
  • How much Lenny costs
  • Pros and cons

How Lenny Works

After downloading the app to your device, setting up an account requires entering your name, Social Security number, and birthdate. You must provide personal information to use the Lenny app even if you’re not applying for a credit line because Lenny is a financial institution and has to verify your identity.

California residents have the option to apply for the Lenny credit line within the app dashboard. The credit application won’t impact your credit score. Once approved for a credit line, the account record and payments are reported to two credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion.

The credit line interest rate ranges from 7.90% to 14.99% APR, and the credit line is open-ended, which means you can revolve a balance from month to month.

The initial credit line offered is typically between $100 and $1,000 depending on your creditworthiness. The Lenny Points program allows you to earn points to unlock credit line increases as well.

How to Earn Lenny Points

lennyYou can earn Lenny Points when you pay bills on time, keep your credit utilization below 30%, or pay your bill off in full. You also earn 10 Lenny Points just for signing up.

Here’s the amount of Lenny Points you can earn for each action:

  • 2 Lenny Points for an on-time payment
  • 4 Lenny Points for a month-end credit utilization ratio under 30%
  • 4 Lenny Points for paying your bill in full

The actions that earn Lenny Points are the same actions that improve your credit score, so the rewards program enforces habits that will benefit you long term.

You can earn additional Lenny Points when you reach certain credit scores. For example:

  • 30 Lenny Points for reaching 670
  • 40 Lenny Points for reaching 740
  • 50 Lenny Points for reaching 800

Lenny Points never expire. You can get your first credit line increase when you reach 60 Lenny Points, the second when you reach 100 Lenny Points, and the third when you reach 140 Lenny Points.

Keep in mind, the purpose of Lenny increasing your credit limit isn’t so you can rack up more debt. A higher credit limit can increase your available credit limit, thus lowering your credit utilization rate and likely improving your credit score. Credit utilization is how much credit you’re using compared to how much is available to you.

To calculate credit utilization, divide the amount you owe by your credit limit and multiply by 100. For example, if you owe $500, and your credit limit is $1,000, your credit utilization is 50%. You always want to keep your credit utilization below 30%, and Lenny gives you a reward for doing so.

Lenny Costs and Terms

Lenny charges a $2 per month membership fee for the credit line account. Lenny does offer a referral program that can help you cover the cost. A referral gets you and the person you refer a $5 bonus.

The penalty fee for a late payment, returned payment, or returned check is $15. You get one late fee waiver per calendar year. If you pay your bill with a check, there’s also a $15 fee. According to the Lenny website, these fees can change without notice.

Pros and Cons

Lenny gives you a free FICO score Pro: Lenny gives you a free FICO score. FICO scores are still considered the industry standard of measuring creditworthiness, so having access to FICO score monitoring is a major benefit of this product. Lenny offers the FICO 8 score based on Experian data.

Con: The Lenny account isn’t free. You’ll need to set aside $24 per year for the membership fee.

Pro: The Lenny Points program. The Lenny Point system is innovative in the way it incentivizes you for actions that will build your credit. Lenny rewards you for paying your bills on time, keeping your utilization low, and paying off your balance in full, which can encourage good lifelong credit habits.

Con: It’s a credit line you may or may not need. You shouldn’t open this account or take out any form of credit on a whim, especially if you’re a student. Although building credit is necessary for future major purchases, taking out credit before you’re ready can do more harm than good. Make sure you’re at a place where you’re prepared to manage credit responsibly or are bringing in a steady income to pay the bill before opening an account.

Pro: Lenny comes with credit recommendations, and it’s easy to use. The credit education component of the Lenny credit line account is valuable. The dashboard gives you advice on actions you can take to improve your score. And even if you don’t use the credit line feature, Lenny could be an easy way to transfer money between friends.

Con: Only available in California. Non-California residents won’t qualify for the credit line at this time.

Other Ways to Build Credit without a Lenny Line of Credit

You need credit to build credit; there’s no way around this fact. The problem is financial institutions are often hesitant to give you credit unless you already have a positive credit history. Lenny serves consumers that may not be able to qualify for credit elsewhere, but it’s not the only option.

Here are a few other ways to build credit:

Appeal to a cosigner: A cosigner applies for credit or a loan with you and also assumes responsibility for your debt, which minimizes the risk for financial institutions and improves your chances of getting approved. Asking someone to cosign for you is no small favor since the account will also appear on their credit and negatively impact their credit score if you skip payments. For this reason, family and close friends will probably be the most willing to cosign for you.

Become an authorized user on another account: If you know someone who’s kept a credit card in good standing for a long time, you can ask to become an authorized user on their card. Becoming an authorized user makes their account appear on your credit history. The new record can lengthen your credit history and have a positive impact on your score.

Get a secured credit card: Secured credit cards are cards that require a deposit for your credit line. Once you build up enough credit history, you can start qualifying for regular forms of credit that don’t require a deposit. You can also get your deposit back from the card issuer. Check out secured card options here.

Who Will Benefit the Most from Lenny

The two standout features of Lenny are the Lenny Points reward system and the FICO score tracking tool. These features may be a great benefit to someone who’s unfamiliar with credit because of the credit education component. However, Lenny has an annual membership fee, and there are other methods of building credit on your own, such as applying for a secured credit card, that are free.

You can find a list of fee-free secured cards here. For the education aspect of building credit, you can always fall back on a site like Credit Karma that offers free credit scores, reports, and advice on how to improve your score.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Investing, Reviews

Apps That Make Investing Easy: Acorns, Betterment, Robinhood, Stash

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The smartphone has revolutionized the way we manage our finances — from paying bills to tracking our credit scores. Thanks to a wave of new investing apps, it’s never been easier for novice investors to get their start in the market. Services like Acorns, Betterment, Robinhood and Stash let users invest small amounts of money to begin to grow wealth.

But how good are these apps at growing your money, and what are the pros and cons?

Read on to find out all you need to know about investment apps. We’ll periodically update this post with new apps and reviews.

Acorns

acorns

How it works: Acorns is an app that is designed to help users invest their spare change by rounding up purchases to the dollar. By linking your checking account and credit cards to the app, it can take everyday purchases like a $4.22 latte and round it up to the nearest dollar, which in this case would be $5. Once you’ve accumulated $5 in round-up savings, the app invests the money for you in a portfolio of your choosing.

Acorns’ main selling point is how simple it is to choose your investments. To get started, Acorns asks for your age, how long you’re looking to invest, your income, your financial goals, and your risk tolerance. From there, the app recommends one of five portfolio blends. Each portfolio comprises six low-cost exchange traded funds (ETFs). Portfolios range from conservative (with a larger allocation of bonds) to aggressive (with a larger allocation of stocks).

Fees: Like any product aimed at convenience, Acorns’ investing platform comes at a price: $1 per month for accounts with $5,000 or less, and an annual fee of 0.25% of the account value for balances over $5,000.

Making withdrawals: Acorns does not charge a fee for withdrawing money, but it will take some time to hit your bank account. Withdrawals take five to seven business days, the company says. That’s because Acorns has to sell the stocks and bonds from your account to cover the withdrawal, which could take up to three business days alone. Then, the company transfers the funds into your account, a transfer that could take one to three days.

Best suited for: Individuals who struggle to set aside savings each month and want to invest for short-term goals.

The pros:

  • No minimum balance is required.
  • No monthly deposit requirement.
  • You can deposit extra funds to your account at any time or set up a recurring deposit.
  • Withdrawals are free and can be made at any time.
  • The app is totally free for students.
  • Users are free to accept or decline portfolio recommendations and can change portfolios at any time.
  • Easy to withdraw funds without any penalty or fees.

The cons:

  • Acorns’ $1 or 0.25% fee may sound nominal. But for an app aimed at investors who are saving only small amounts of cash on the side, those fees can quickly eat into your long-term investment gains. “If you only have $100 and you’re charged $1 a month, you’re paying $12 a year,” says Robert Farrington, founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com, an investing and personal finance site aimed at millennials. “A 12 percent fee is criminal … and once that money is gone, it is not going to compound.”

There are plenty of ETFs and mutual funds out there that charge far lower fees. But Acorns’ main selling point is the ease of selecting a portfolio, which takes away the headache of comparing dozens of different funds on your own.

Betterment

betterment

How it works: Betterment is a service that pretty much takes all the guesswork out of investing. Users input their investment goals, and the app suggests individual portfolios based on an investor’s risk tolerance and goals. Betterment uses software and algorithms to manage money by investing it into a blend of Vanguard exchange traded funds (ETFs), including U.S. and international stocks, short-term Treasuries, inflation-protected Treasury securities, and emerging market stocks and bonds. Betterment’s algorithm manages your investments for you and rebalances them over time, making sure you’re properly invested in the right mix of funds.

Fees: Betterment currently offers a promotion of up to six months for free. After that, fees are relatively low — 0.35% per year on accounts with a minimum monthly auto deposit of $100 and 0.15% for accounts that hold at least $100,000. But beware: If you do not contribute at least $100 to your Betterment account each month, they’ll hit you with a hefty $3 fee.

Making withdrawals: Betterment does not charge any fees or a penalty for making withdrawals, which usually take four to five business days to process. The website notes that a withdrawal might be delayed if a user recently made a deposit, because the deposit needs to fully settle first before another action.

Best suited for: Novice investors who are investing for long-term goals like retirement.

The pros:

  • Betterment currently offers a promotion of up to six months managed for free. After that, fees are relatively low (0.35% a year on accounts with a minimum monthly auto deposit of $100 and 0.15% with a minimum of $100K).
  • The website also offers personalized retirement advice to help educate first-time investors.
  • It is easy to withdraw funds with no penalty or fee.
  • Betterment recently launched RetireGuide, which offers personal retirement savings advice to users.
  • Betterment’s SmartDeposit feature lets users choose a certain amount the app is able to transfer from their bank account into their Betterment account. It’s a savings feature aimed to help people who struggle to set aside extra funds.

The cons:

Robinhood

robinhood

How it works: Robinhood is a brokerage service that offers zero-commission stock and exchange traded fund (ETF) trading. Once you sign up for the service and link it to a bank account from which to pull funds, you are ready to trade stocks. Just type in the name of a particular stock and either put it on your “watch list” or buy shares. On the company’s homepage you can find out how much each share of stock is selling for and read current news about the stock. Once the trade has been placed, you can either buy more shares or sell what you have.

Fees: There is no minimum investment to get started, and Robinhood charges no trading fees.

Making withdrawals: Uninvested funds must remain in your Robinhood account for five trading days before they can be withdrawn. The company states that the holding period is established for “anti-money laundering and risk management purposes.” You must also wait for your funds to settle after a sale before withdrawing. From the date the trade is made, it will take another three days.

Best suited for: Individuals who know a bit about stock trading and want a commission-free way to try their hand in the market.

The pros:

  • There is no minimum investment to get started and no fees.
  • Users can set up automatic transfers.
  • Proceeds when you sell stocks and ETFs are available immediately to reinvest.

The cons:

  • This app is not for suited for novice investors. Unlike Acorns or Betterment, there is no ready-made portfolio designed for your needs. Robinhood is a hands-on service, aimed at people who have a grasp on buying and selling stocks. Robinhood also provides minimal information to investors to reassure them during times of market volatility. “It’s self-directed and you need to know what you’re doing,” Farrington said.
  • Robinhood currently only allows users to trade stocks and ETFs. You’d have to look elsewhere if you want to trade options, OTC securities, warrants, or mutual funds.
  • The service does not allow users to transfer existing brokerage assets into the app. However, the company says this will be changing soon.

Stash

stash-2stash invest

How it works: Stash lets you pick from 30 different flavors of exchange traded funds (ETFs). To make the app more approachable, the ETFs come with friendly names like “Clean & Green” and “American Innovators.” Clean & Green, for example, is the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF, a fund broadly invested in renewable energy companies. The American Innovators fund is the Vanguard Information Technology ETF, which has holdings in over 300 tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. The Slow & Steady portfolio is the PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF, a fund invested in low-volatility stocks. Depending on your risk tolerance and investing goals, Stash suggests which funds best fit your needs.

Fees: Stash is similar to Acorns in terms of fees. It charges $1 per month for balances under $5,000 and 0.25% annually for balances of $5,000 or more. (Stash offers a promotion of the first three months for free.) Fees are taken from your bank account, however, and do not come out of your investment portfolio. You only need $5 to get started.

Making withdrawals: Withdrawing funds is fee- and penalty-free, but they are capped at $10,000 per day. Withdrawals take one to three business days to process before funds become available in your bank account. The company notes that the process might take a few more days if you need to sell investments first.

Best suited for: Novice investors who want to get into the market but are intimidated by all the jargon and don’t have much money to play with. It also works for investors who don’t want to pick stocks piecemeal and like the flexibility of investing in fractional shares.

The pros:

  • Fees are relatively low assuming you put enough money in the account each month to offset a high percentage fee.
  • Along with ETFs, users can invest in some individual stocks, but only if they are listed as investment options.
  • You only need $5 to get started, and Stash offers a promotion of the first three months for free.
  • Stash allows you to invest in fractional (or partial) shares in companies.
  • Its “Auto Stash” feature allows you to schedule automatic deposits into your account.

The cons:

  • The $1 monthly fee can bite into investment gains. And once your account hits $5,000, Stash begins charging 0.25% annually.
  • You can only view your account on a smartphone, as there is no desktop platform.
  • Stash is effectively letting investors choose funds that are widely available for anyone to invest in outside of the app — without the additional 0.25% fee.

Farrington noted that it is important to review your investment portfolio on an annual basis to ensure that fees aren’t too high and that it has the investment choices you want. “These apps are designed to be a kickstarter to help you get started, but they might not be able to get you to the next level,” he said.

Regardless, Farrington believes that investing apps are an overall positive. “In general, the easier companies make it for people to invest, the better it is as a whole,” he said.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Amy Kraft
Amy Kraft |

Amy Kraft is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Amy here

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Banking Apps, Reviews, Strategies to Save

EveryDollar and EveryDollar Plus: a Budgeting App to Keep You On Track

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Overdraft_lg_mobile vs trad

With so many budgeting apps and options available on the market, it can be hard to decide which tool will work the best for your personal financial situation. One of the newest options that just came out last spring is EveryDollar.

EveryDollar is the budgeting app created by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey. No matter if you agree with all of Mr. Ramsey’s financial advice or not, his “Total Money Makeover” program has helped scores of families get out of debt and gain control of their money.

“I’ve been using the EveryDollar budgeting app for about 6 months now and I initially found out about it by listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast,” said Allison Haffner, a money conscious millennial from Colby, Kansas. “If I hadn’t heard about it on his show, I probably wouldn’t have started using it.”

EveryDollar is a budgeting app that can be used on your computer or your smartphone. There are two versions of the program – one is free and the other is a paid option that offers more features for it’s users.

How it Works

EveryDollar

The first step to using EveryDollar is going to the EveryDollar website to create an account and set up your zero-based budget. This process should be quick and easy. The website claims that you can create a budget in ten minutes or less, and it’s probably true if you don’t have a complicated budget.

The EveryDollar website creates eight different spending categories that cover the basics of most peoples’ budgets, but you also have the option to create custom categories for your budget if needed.

In addition to creating spending categories, you can also create and set up “funds” which is their term for different savings accounts, like an emergency fund, a vehicle maintenance fund, and more.

After you’ve finished the initial set-up of your budget and financial goals on the website, you can easily maintain your budget by updating it with your day-to-day expenses and purchases with the app.

As you add your expenses to your budget in EveryDollar, it will help you ensure whether or not your spending is in line with your planned budget by showing you graphs of your spending. This is a good reminder for you to make adjustments to your spending as needed throughout the month.

Pros of EveryDollar

Track in real time: Because EveryDollar is a budgeting app that’s available on your iPhone, it’s easy to put in your spending in real time throughout the day. This gives you plenty of reminders to make sure you are staying on track with your goals.

Split transactions: Another feature that’s great is the ability to “split” transactions when you put them in with your iPhone. For instance, your next trip to the grocery store might include more than just food for your family. If this is the case, you can easily split up the transaction to reflect the money you spent on pet food or other items besides just groceries.

Utilize Dave Ramsey’s Method for current followers: EveryDollar also helps you set financial goals and follow Dave Ramsey’s famous “Baby Steps” with a special tool just for those seven steps of your financial journey.

Sync with your bank accounts: In addition to the basic version of EveryDollar, there is a premium version called EveryDollar Plus that can be connected with your bank account to pull in your transactions automatically. This process occurs overnight and then you’ll have to categorize your expenses with a drag and drop system. You can connect multiple bank accounts and major credit cards to your EveryDollar Plus account, which makes it easy to track all of your spending.

EveryDollar makes it easy to keep track of your budget and have confidence that the information is correct because it does sync across multiple devices. This is a great feature for married couples that will both be accessing their budget on different iPhones or computers.

Cons of EveryDollar

Only iOS enabled: Unfortunately, the EveryDollar budgeting app is only available for iPhone users in the AppStore. Although it is not available for Android users at this time, you can still use the program on your computer. But this option may require you to keep better track of your spending as you are out and about so you can input it into your budget later when you get home and have access to your computer.

Can only sync to bank accounts if you pay: another downside of EveryDollar’s free version is that it can’t be connected to your bank account to automatically pull in your transactions every night as they hit your account. If you don’t want to pay for EveryDollar Plus, you will have to input all of your expenses manually. Although if you’ve been using a handwritten budget or even a spreadsheet of your own making, you’ve likely been doing this anyway.

Takes awhile to adapt: Haffner said the biggest downside she experienced with the EveryDollar app was that it took a little getting used to before she could easily use it for all of her budgeting needs.

“It did take me a little while to learn how to use the app to track my spending. I kept using my old spreadsheet alongside the app for a while until I got the hang of it,” she said.

Misnamed transactions: Another thing to watch out for if you decide to try EveryDollar Plus is the translation of merchant names on your transactions. When the app pulls in the transactions from your bank account or credit card, it converts the merchant names from an abbreviated version to the longer version to make it easier for you to drag and drop your expenses into categories. However, the translations are sometimes incorrect.

EveryDollar Plus Costs

EveryDollar Plus is offered for free for 15 days so you can try it out and see if it will work for your financial needs. During this trial period you will have access to all of the premium features, the most popular of which seems to be the automation between the app and your bank account. After the trial period, the cost for the premium version of the app is $99 per year. However, even if you decide to stick with the free version, the EveryDollar budgeting app offers a lot of features and benefits.

How Does EveryDollar Stack Up?

As mentioned, there are lots of options for budgeting apps. In fact, we even put together a list of the 10 best budgeting apps available.

Mint Budgeting

Mint is one the most popular budgeting apps because it’s 100% free for users. It also offers free transaction syncing between your bank account the app to help you keep track of your expenses. This is a feature you’d have to pay for with EveryDollar Plus. But budgeting with EveryDollar is actually faster and more user-friendly than Mint. Some of the “helpful hints” on Mint are actually ads, and users have been reporting more problems with Mint’s account syncing feature over the past year.

 YNAB  Budget

Another popular budgeting app is You Need a Budget, or YNAB. This app is actually quite different from Mint and EveryDollar because it focuses more on budgeting into the future instead of analyzing the past and present. The YNAB program is based on living off last month’s income, encouraging you not to spend the income you’ve earned until 30 days later once you’ve built up a savings buffer. YNAB is $50 per year and if you are a data lover, this may not be the best option for you, as it doesn’t provide much in the way of analysis and trend data for your spending.

Who Will Benefit Most

Overall, EveryDollar has a very user-friendly interface that should make it easy for budgeting beginners to get the hang of creating and sticking to their first zero based budget. It’s also a good option to consider if you are on-the-go and want to refer back to your budget before making a purchase that could make or break your category for the month.

EveryDollar is a budgeting app that will likely be very popular due to it’s association with popular personal finance guru, Dave Ramsey.

That said, it might be hard to convince people to switch to EveryDollar since there are other budgeting apps, like Mint, that allow users to connect their bank accounts and sync transactions for free.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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Banking Apps, Reviews

Does Mint.com Fit All Your Budgeting App Needs?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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All Your Budgeting App

There are so many online financial tools in 2016 that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. One of the most widely known tools is Mint.com. Started in 2006, Mint.com now has over 16 million users.

What is Mint.com?

Mint Budgeting
Mint.com is a website that provides you with an online software for 1) budgeting, 2) setting financial goals and 3) credit score reporting.

Budgeting: Through Mint.com’s budgeting software, you can connect their bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and other financial accounts, and Mint.com will track all transactions from the accounts (i.e. spending). Not only does Mint.com track spending and saving, but you can also see all transactions in charts and graphs, which makes visualizing budgets easier.

Goal Setting: You can set financial goals, and Mint.com will show the progress over time.

Credit Score Monitoring: Mint.com shows you your credit right on the dashboard of your account. While this is a credit score based off the Equifax credit-scoring model, it is still a credit score nonetheless and likely a close estimate to your FICO score.

How does Mint.com work?

After you signup for an account with Mint.com, you can connect your financial accounts very easily by entering in your financial account information (usernames and passwords). Your accounts will sync with Mint.com and your data will be updated automatically each time you log in to Mint.com. For these reasons, Mint.com is very user friendly and easy to use.

What security features does Mint.com offer?

To use Mint.com, you must provide their names and login information for all of the accounts that they will link to Mint.com. According to its website, Mint.com keeps login information “stored securely in a separate database using multi-layered hardware and software encryption to protect users” (read more about Mint.com’s security here).

Mint.com requires a two-step authentication before allowing you to access your account. This means that when you try to log in, they will first be asked to verify their identity through email or text messages.

Who is Mint.com best for?

Mint.com is best for you if you are just starting to budget, you want to have software do most of the work for you (versus paper budgets), and you want access to your information on mobile friendly devices.

Mint.com is great if you are a beginner who needs to get organized and if you are learning how to manage money and want to create a budget to track spending and meet financial goals. The web-design and features make Mint.com simple to use on any device, which means financial information is easily accessible on mobile devices.

What does Mint.com cost?

You can signup for Mint.com for free and continue to use Mint.com completely free of any charges.

Mint.com makes money not through users paying for the service, but through offering users financial products for which Mint.com gets a referral fee. So, you can use Mint.com completely free and clear, but you will find advertisements and offerings of financial products throughout the software. Be aware that products pushed to you on Mint are based on the fact the company gets a referral fee, so it doesn’t necessarily mean the product is the best fit for you.

What are the pros and cons of using Mint.com?

If you are deciding whether to use Mint.com, consider the following pros and cons.

Pros

  • Simple to use.
  • Goal-setting tools provided to help you meet your goals.
  • Provides a complete budgeting software system that links all accounts.
  • It’s completely free.
  • You have access to a free credit score.
  • You can visualize their saving and spending through graphs and charts.

Cons

  • Mint.com has a lot of advertisements and aims to get you to buy financial products, which may or may not be the best fit for you.
  • For advanced investors or budgeting experts, Mint.com may be too basic. There is no trading or actual investing through Mint.com.
  • Like any online tool, there is always a security risk of a hack and your data being compromised.

How does Mint Stack up Against the Competition?

Mint.com is not the only web-based program that offers budgeting. LevelMoney, EveryDollar, and Personal Capital are three alternatives to Mint.com.

Level Money
Level Money is a simple program that makes budgeting very easy (by categorizing your spending as income, bills, save, and spendable). Level Money gives you a dollar amount that you can spend per day (this is helpful if you’re a big spender). Unlike Mint.com, which gives you a complete overview of your finances at any given time, Level Money aims to help you control your money and spend less. It’s like a moral compass for your money.

EveryDollar
EveryDollar is a budgeting software system developed by Dave Ramsey’s team that allows users to track saving and spending under the zero sum budget strategy. Budgeting in EveryDollar is super fast and easy (even easier than Mint.com), but it costs. If you want the ability to link all your accounts to the app like you can with Mint, then you’ll need to pay $99 annually. There is less clicking and refreshing – everything you need to complete your budget is done on one page. However, EveryDollar doesn’t have the graphs and charts that Mint.com does with respect to reporting on your historical spending. For that reason, if you would like a more in depth tool, Mint.com may be better.

Personal Capital
Personal Capital is similar to Mint.com with the additional feature of actual investing and no advertisements. You can actually invest your money with Personal Capital, unlike with Mint.com (read more about Personal Capital here). Otherwise, the features of Mint.com and Personal Capital are very similar – both use charts and graphs to show your financial snapshot and historical spending. One feature about Personal Capital that is nice is that it doesn’t have any advertisements because it makes money through people paying them for their services (i.e. investing with them). However, both services are free to use, so you can’t go wrong with either.

Should You Use Mint.com?

You should decide whether to use Mint.com by identifying whether it will help you.

Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide weather to use Mint.com.

  1. Are you just getting started budgeting?
  2. Do you need an online tool to help you track your saving and spending?
  3. Do you need encouragement and tracking software to achieve financial goals?
  4. Do you wish you had access to a free credit score?

If the answer is yes to these questions, then Mint.com may be a valuable tool for you to use. The bonus is that Mint.com is completely free and you can deactivate it at any time.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Natalie Bacon
Natalie Bacon |

Natalie Bacon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Natalie at natalie@magnifymoney.com

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College Students and Recent Grads, Strategies to Save

5 Money Apps Every College Student Should Have

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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5 Money Apps Every College Student Should Have

For most teenagers, heading off to college is the first time they’re fully out on their own. It’s also the first time they’ll be responsible for managing their own money. It can get tricky to juggle classes, extracurricular activities, and maybe even some part-time work or internships. When you throw financial responsibility on top of that, things can start slipping through the cracks.

Thankfully, today’s undergrads can catch a break with the wealth of apps out there that are designed to help them do more with their money. Here are 5 money apps every college student should have.

Mint1. Mint 

No list of money apps can really get started without first addressing the fact that Mint is the tool to help college students (and everyone else) better track and evaluate their finances. Mint is especially useful for students because they’re just now learning how to manage money and multiple bank accounts.

Mint makes it easy to track spending and financial goals, and will even make suggestions on how to alter current behaviors to meet goals faster. The app provides real time information and graphs to help students visualize how they’re using their money — and what they’re using it on.

digit2. Digit

Some college students may have a little extra money to spare each month, but could lack the awareness, habit, and discipline it takes to actually transfer cash into savings. Digit makes savings easy by moving the money for you.

It’s a free service that has users connect a bank account to the app, which then analyzes deposits and withdrawals in that account. Based off the information, Digit will find “small amounts of money it can safely set aside.”

Every 2 to 3 days, Digit will transfer anywhere from $5 to $50 into a Digit account. According to their website, the app will never transfer more than a user can afford (again, that transfer amount is based off the activity in your account). It also states it will cover an overdraft fee if a Digit transaction causes you to overdraft. When you’re ready to access what Digit saved on your behalf, send them a text and they’ll transfer the money back to your bank account on the next business day.

We recommend cashing out your Digit money into an actual savings account each month because Digit offers 0% interest and you should be tucking your savings away in an account earning at least 0.99% like Ally or 1.25% like My Savings Direct.

Scoutmob3. Scoutmob or Living Social

When you’re a broke college student, a thriving social life full of pricey experiences, evenings out, and fun things to buy should not be on the top of your priority list. But that doesn’t mean enjoying local events and things to do should be completely out of the question, either.

Students can use Scoutmob to help budget in the fun stuff. The app offers two different options: access to unique items to buy, or deals from local small businesses. Either way, it promises to save users money on the things they want to purchase.

livingsocialThe team behind the app works directly with local business owners and independent makers to give users “exclusive deals, crafted goods, and curated experiences.”

Alternatively, students can check out LivingSocial for a similar experience: deals on local events and businesses in their cities and coupons or discounts on gifts and items for sale.

Paypal4. PayPal

College students can easily exchange money with their friends by downloading PayPal’s mobile app. This makes it fast and simple to split restaurant tabs, pay someone back for tickets to the game, or get paid for odd jobs during the summer.

Close55. Close5

Admittedly, this one’s a bit of a stretch. While not technically a money app, it can help college students save and make money. Close5 is an app that’s on a mission to make buying and selling items simple and safe.

After downloading the app, students can list items by taking pictures on their phone and adding in a description and price. Once an offer is made or accepted on a listed item, users can privately message each other through the app to coordinate and complete the sale.

Students can also browse through listings that other users have posted to find great deals on furniture for their dorms or apartments.

In addition to these apps, students might want to download apps that are specific to their bank or institution where they hold credit cards so financial information is easily accessible anywhere, anytime. By using these tools, they’ll build good habits around managing their money — and simply being aware of their personal financial situations.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kali Hawlk
Kali Hawlk |

Kali Hawlk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at Kali@magnifymoney.com

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Banking Apps, Best of, Consumer Watchdog

Best and Worst Mobile Banking Apps: From 100+ Banks and Credit Unions

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Overdraft_lg_mobile vs trad

Having a mobile banking app that works reliably is more important than ever as the number of consumers using mobile apps to deposit checks has grown over five times since 2011 according to a recent Pew study.

MagnifyMoney compiled the ratings of iOS and Android banking apps from over 100 of the biggest banks and credit unions, including the 50 largest banks and 50 largest credit unions along with a selection of top online direct banks.

The data, collected from iTunes and Google Play the week of November 20, was used to create a composite 1 to 5 rating factoring a weighted average of the ratings from both the iOS and Android platforms.

The best and worst mobile banking apps include:

  • Best Big Bank App: Capital One (4.1)
  • Best Credit Union App: Eastman Credit Union, ESL Credit Union, Redstone Federal, SEFCU, VyStar (tie: 4.7)
  • Best Regional Bank App: East West Bank (4.5)
  • Best Online Direct Bank App: Simple (4.6)
  • Worst Big Bank App: Citibank (3.1)
  • Worst App Overall: UMB Bank (2.5)

You can read more about the findings below these graphics…

10 Best and Worst across all banks and credit unions reviewed

MobileAppRatingsGraphic-SummaryAllSizes

 

Best and Worst among the 10 biggest banks and credit unions

MobileAppRatingsGraphic-LargestInstitutions

Credit unions top the ratings

8 of the 10 highest ranked apps were from credit unions. Five credit unions shared the very top average score of 4.7, including Eastman Credit Union, ESL, Redstone Credit Union, SEFCU, and VyStar Credit Union.

Simple was the only online direct bank in the top 10, while East West Bank was the only traditional bank in the top 10 with a 4.5 rating.

Of the 10 highest ranked apps, 9 of them used an interface from an external app developer, Digital Insight, including all 8 credit unions and East West Bank. This is in contrast to internal development favored by larger banks. The un-flashy Digital Insight interface (pictured below) was cited for simplicity and reliability by users.

DigitalInsightInterface

Bank apps have room for improvement

Across all institutions surveyed the average rating was 3.8 out of 5.0, with traditional banks averaging 3.7, online direct banks best at 4.0, and credit unions at 3.9.

Among the 10 lowest rated apps only two were from credit unions, while 7 were from traditional banks. Only one traditional bank’s app ranked among the top 10 highest rated.

Capital One has the best app among big banks, while Citibank lags.

Among the 10 largest banks in the country, the average rating ranged from a high of 4.1 for Capital One to a low of just 3.1 for Citibank. Capital One’s app was cited for its ‘Sureswipe’ feature and reliability.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.18.53 PM

Citibank’s app was cited for crashing during check deposits and a low limit for mobile deposits of just $1,000 per day. In comparison online direct bank Ally recently raised its mobile deposit limit to $50,000 per day.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.20.44 PM

The average for all traditional banks surveyed was 3.7.

SunTrust bank had the lowest rated iOS app among the 10 largest banks at 2.1, while PNC bank had the lowest rated Android app at 3.4.

Simple leads online direct banks.

Among the online direct banks reviewed, Simple had the highest rating at 4.6, while Ally had the lowest at 3.1. Ally’s app received complaints for mobile deposit issues following a recent update as well lacking more advanced login options.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.23.41 PM

UMB Bank takes the bottom.

The lowest rated app overall was from UMB Bank, with a 2.5 combined rating. The app has not been updated since 2011, lacks a mobile check deposit feature and is no longer compatible with the latest devices.

Untitled

Android users are more satisfied

Across banks, credit unions, and online direct institutions, Android users were significantly more satisfied, with an average 4.0 rating versus 3.1 for iOS users. iOS users tend to have more complaints about apps not leveraging the latest hardware capabilities.

Methodology

App ratings were recorded the week of November 20, 2014 in iTunes and the Google Play store and include ratings for all app versions. Overall ratings are a weighted average of iOS and Android ratings based on the number of reviews for each platform. Institutions with no mobile apps were excluded from ranking summaries.

The 50 largest banks are defined as those with the largest deposits per FDIC data June 2014 were examined. Banks with fewer than 200 app ratings were excluded, as were those that primarily target investment accounts.

Among credit unions, the 50 largest by assets according Bauer Financial, March 2013, were examined. For online direct banks, 10 of the largest Online Direct Banks were chosen by number of app ratings.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brian Karimzad
Brian Karimzad |

Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at brian@magnifymoney.com

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