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Review of Rize Savings App

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

In a sea of micro-savings and investing apps, there’s another offering coming from Rize. The savings app hasn’t launched yet, but there’s plenty of information in the site’s FAQs to get a feel for how the app will work.

With Rize, customers can either save their money in an account that earns a set interest rate, or invest it in a mix of stock and bond exchange traded funds (ETFs). Users will be able to set goals with time horizons and then set up schedules for automated savings toward those goals.

Though the premise is simple, Rize is missing a basic component: FDIC insurance for its savings accounts. The company claims that because your account will be a brokerage account, all money will be covered with Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance, though this raises some potential issues.

“In general, SIPC protection is determined on an asset-by-asset basis and extends only to cash in a customer’s account that is on deposit for the purchase of securities,” said Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts.com.

If you’re interested in what the app will offer, here’s how it breaks down.

Rize savings account vs. Rize investing account

This app offers two distinct ways to save: You can choose to simply save money and earn 2.15% APY (as of August 30, 2019), or you can invest your cash. If you invest, your money will be put into stock and bond ETFs based on your time horizon. In general, the faster you need the cash, the more conservative the investment approach will be.

The site doesn’t discuss investment returns. The investment mix (stocks vs. bonds) will vary based on how quickly you plan on using the money you invest. You can’t adjust the mix, beyond tweaking your time horizon for a goal, and you can’t choose your investments. Rize uses just two ETFs for investing: Vanguard Total World Stock and Vanguard Total Bond Market.

Brokerage services for Rize are provided by Apex Clearing Corporation.

How does the Rize account work?

Although it’s not possible to test drive the savings app since it hasn’t launched yet, opening an account appears to be as simple as inputting your personal information and linking a bank account for funding. There is no account minimum requirement.

Once you’ve linked your bank, you can create and name your goals and then add a target date and/or an amount you’d like to save. You’ll then set your deposit schedule, and it will automatically save for you each month or week, or based on whatever schedule you set. Note that you can only set one deposit schedule overall.

For each goal, you can opt to either have the money saved or invested by toggling from “cash” to “invest.” The app will help you calculate how much you’ll need to save on a monthly basis to meet your goals. It also will suggest a “cash” or “invest” approach based on your time horizon, but you can choose to follow or ignore the advice.

If you choose “invest,” the app will put your money into ETFs —a mix of stocks and bonds and, if your time horizon is short, cash — based on when you need the money. Unlike many other robo advisors, the app doesn’t ask any questions about risk tolerance, since “research shows we as people aren’t all that great at judging our risk tolerance,” Rize states.

It takes five to seven business days to buy or sell investments.

Does the Rize app charge account maintenance fees?

It has an unusual fee structure. The savings aspect of the account operates on a kind of choose-your-own-adventure schedule where the end user decides how much to pay each month. You can contribute $3, $2 or even nothing at all. There are no other fees and no minimums.

On the investing side of the account, the app requires a minimum fee of $2 per month, plus an annual management fee of 0.25%. The site points out that this is a quarter of the 1% fee you’d pay with a traditional financial advisor, but it’s comparable to robo advisors that offer far more functionality, and even slightly higher if you’re investing a small amount because of the $2 additional monthly fee.

Is my money safe with Rize?

Rize deposits aren’t FDIC insured. This is troublesome, since FDIC insurance protects deposits in federal banking institutions up to $250,000 per depositor, and Rize bills itself as a “full bank replacement,” enabling customers to “manage spending through our Rize Checking Account,” according to Molly Moran Edling, head of marketing at Rize.

It states that user funds are SIPC-protected up to $200,000 for cash and $500,000 for invested assets. SIPC coverage protects cash and securities such as stocks, bonds or mutual funds in accounts at SIPC-member brokerage firms. And indeed, brokerage services for Rize are provided by Apex Clearing Corporation, which is an SIPC member.

That said, cash on deposit with a brokerage for the sole purpose of earning interest isn’t protected by the SIPC, according to Josephine Wang, SIPC president, “even if held at an SIPC member firm.” In other words, the money you have on the “save” side of the app would not be insured.

The company did not respond to questions about its SIPC coverage, but the folks at the SIPC were clear about the status. “SIPC has not been approached by Rize for confirmation of SIPC protection,” Wang said. “SIPC is not working with Rize prior to Rize’s account rollout nor would it be SIPC’s practice to do so.”
This means is that, unlike a traditional savings account, if you use Rize to save money (and not to invest), and the Rize operation goes under, you could potentially lose your nest egg with no recourse. That’s a decidedly risky proposition.

This is something that’s come up before, such as when stock trading app Robinhood offered checking and savings products and claimed they’d be insured by the SIPC — and then quietly withdrew its cash management offerings when it became clear that the SIPC wouldn’t cover them.

“Now it looks like Rize is going down that same road,” Tumin said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide on a different model.”

Rize savings app noteworthy features

  • Competitive interest with no fees: The app offers high-interest savings with the option to pay no fees, although the lack of FDIC protection takes a bit of the shine from this feature.
  • Multiple savings goals: You have the freedom to save for anything you want, and you can create as many goals as you’d like.
  • Built-in features to help you save more: Accelerate, one of the site’s two “Power Ups,” will automatically increase your savings contribution by 1% each month. Boost, another Power Up, will keep an eye on your checking account and transfer “a bit of spare change” once or twice a week, up to 5% of your monthly savings.

Alternatives to the Rize savings app

There are other options available for saving your money, although they have different pros and cons to consider as well.

Chime — FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts

Chime is essentially a no-fee checking and savings account, albeit one that earns almost no interest. (The savings account earns0.01%.) There is no option to invest your money. That said, Chime has partnered with The Bancorp Bank to provide FDIC insurance, so that’s a plus. If you’re looking for a no-frills place to stash your cash, Chime is an option, but you won’t earn much of anything in interest.

Simple — FDIC-insured cash management account

Simple offers a combination of a checking account (earning 2.02% APY on balances of $.01 or more) and budgeting tools, including a Safe-to-Spend feature that shows you how much of your balance is available after setting aside money for your spending categories and savings goals. Choose goals and elect to save over time, and Simple will move money automatically into your “goal” savings at preset intervals. Money in a Simple account is held by BBVA USA and is FDIC insured up to applicable limits. For people looking to earn a little on savings, this is a safer choice offering a similar interest rate.

Acorns — Micro-investing for beginners

Acorns is a micro-investing app that rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar, deposits the spare change into your account and then invests in ETFs every time you’ve saved at least $5. You have the option of investing your money in a taxable investment account ($1 a month), a taxable investment account plus IRA accounts ($2 a month), or all of the above plus a checking account ($3 a month), which could get pricey for small balances.
You can choose from five different ETF-based portfolios ranging from conservative to aggressive, but it may take a while to amass much, since you’re saving in small amounts. While Acorns offers the option to earn cash back from selected retailers, there is no interest offered on the checking account. Acorns investments are SIPC-insured and its checking account is FDIC-insured.

Is the Rize savings app right for me?

Although it’s possible that the company will make material changes to its model before the app launches, in its current state, there are better (and safer) places to put your money. While it is offering a healthy interest rate on savings, with the option of no fees, experts have concerns about the safety of your money in an account that is not FDIC insured.

On the investment side, if you’re new to investing and you’re happy to let the algorithm manage your money, this may not be a bad place to start. But fees here are comparable to other robo-advisors with vastly more functionality, more investments to choose from and more control over your investment mix.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kate Ashford
Kate Ashford |

Kate Ashford is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kate here

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Banking

Review of Cleo

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Cleo is a budgeting app that serves as a sassy Siri for your finances. The app is a “chatbot,” which you interact with via text messages. Cleo makes a budget for you, helps you build savings and talks to you about your spending habits and your financial life. It also offers a digital wallet account for saving funds, and a form of overdraft protection.

While Cleo’s chatty approach to your finances make it stand out from competitors, its digital wallet product raises some red flags for us: The wallet pays no interest, and does not carry Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insurance. If you’re serious about saving money, you need to understand the downsides to Cleo’s core features before using this app.

What is the Cleo app?

Cleo is designed to help you make a budget and stick to it. You connect your checking account to the app, which scans your transactions and analyzes your financial habits. Cleo spots spending trends and provides advice — sometimes brutally honest advice — about how you should be spending or saving your cash.

The chatbot functions of Cleo are central to how it works: You link your Facebook account to the Cleo app, which then chats with you via Facebook Messenger about your finances. You can ask Cleo for updates on your account balances, tell the app to build you a budget or have it set up reminders to reel in the spending on certain categories.

For instance, Cleo will tell you your spending by category, date or merchant. You can ask Cleo a question like, “How much did I spend on Uber this month?” or “Can I afford takeout tonight?” and the app will provide you with instant answers.

Cleo is headquartered in the U.K., and the company says it’s compatible with more than 3,000 U.S. financial institutions, including big banks like Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Capital One.

Cleo’s free features

Cleo offers two account tiers, a free account and a $5.99 per month account called Cleo Plus. The free account gives you access to Cleo’s budgeting tool and digital wallet, plus a weekly quiz with chances to earn cash rewards. The paid account adds in cashback rewards and overdraft protection.

Cleo budget tools

Cleo analyzes your finances and suggests a budget. It lets you adjust the budget plan to meet your needs. You must link Cleo to your checking account, although Cleo does not specify whether it can support more than one bank account. The app will identify recurring bills and send you reminders to pay them. The app only lets you set one budget — unlike some other budget apps that allow you to create different budgets for different categories. Cleo categorizes your spending patterns and provides regular summaries by category.

Cleo digital wallet

Cleo’s digital wallet lets you stash money in the account, but it does not pay an APY and does not offer FDIC insurance. The app prompts you set up recurring, automatic deposits into the wallet, and also lets you move money into this account on demand.

Note the company goes out of its way to remind users that this is not a savings account. Not being able to earn interest should be a deal breaker if you’re looking to seriously grow your savings — there are a number of high-yielding, online savings accounts that reward you with interest rates climbing over 2%.

The company states that in the U.K., funds stashed in Cleo’s digital wallet are held by U.K. banks Barclays and MangoPay. It is not clear which institution holds your wallet funds in the U.S.

When it comes to deposit insurance, Cleo “pledges” up to $250,000 in protection, although the terms of this pledge are not anything like the deposit insurance offered by the FDIC. Cleo says “… [the] pledge provides protection for up to $250,000 in losses to U.S. bank accounts and credit cards where the losses are attributable to sign-up and use of Cleo.”

Cleo weekly quiz

Every week, you can participate in a quiz with questions about your own recent spending and savings habits. If you get all the answers right, you’ll be entered to win a cash prize.

Cleo Plus paid features

For $5.99 per month you get Cleo Plus, an upgraded version of the app with the features above plus Cleo Cover, a form of overdraft protection, and Daily Cash, a cashback rewards program.

Cleo Cover lets you borrow up to $100 if you need a bit cash to get by or if your checking account is in danger of going into the red. No interest is charged on the loan amount, so long as you repay what you borrowed within three to 28 days later. Cleo determines your eligibility for Cleo Cover on a case-by-case basis, based on factors like your spending habits and whether you have regular income.

Cleo Cover comes with a major caveat, though: To get your Cover payment on the same day, Cleo will charge you a $3.99 fee. If you’re needing Cleo to spot you cash or cover an overdraft, chances are you need the money immediately.

Daily Cash provides cashback rewards on purchases you make from certain retailers. The app shows you the retailers you shop at most — and each time you make a purchase at one of those retailers, you’ll get up to 7% of your purchase deposited back into your Cleo Wallet. Other ways you can get cashback are shopping on the Daily Cash page in the app, and by completing challenges, like sticking to your budget or using the app frequently.

Advantages of Cleo

  • The app’s nonchalant, sometimes snarky tone makes managing your money a little less intimidating and a bit more fun.
  • Cleo provides a fast, convenient way to figure out if you can afford a certain purchase. Instead of sitting down and analyzing your budget, simply ask Cleo if you can afford it.
  • Cleo Plus’s added features — Cleo Cash and the cashback rewards program — could be useful for some users, if you understand the costs involved.

Downsides of Cleo

  • You don’t earn an APY on savings stashed in your Cleo Wallet. If you’d like to grow your money, these funds should be immediately stashed in a savings account that earns a decent APY.
  • Cleo “pledge” to protect up to $250,000 of losses “attributable to sign-up and use of Cleo” is a major red flag. This is not FDIC deposit insurance, and users should understand that if the company were to go out of business, any funds kept in the Cleo Wallet could be at risk.
  • Not being able to set different budgets for different categories — which is a feature of other budgeting apps like Mint — is a drawback.
  • It can take up to four days to transfer funds from your bank account to Cleo Wallet, and vice versa. That’s not a short amount of time.
  • The chatbot on the Cleo app is not very intuitive. After asking the chatbot several questions about how many bank accounts you’re able to link and whether Cleo Plus offers 2% interest on savings — something that is advertised on a company press release but cannot be found on its website — we received the same slew of auto-responses repeatedly. If you have questions about the app or the funds you have stashed in it, the app provides little to no direction on how to get in touch with an actual Cleo employee.
  • Facebook has had its fair share of privacy concerns. Cleo’s integration with Facebook could make you wary. If your Facebook is hacked, it could make your conversations with Cleo vulnerable.

Cleo vs. other budget apps

Cleo offers a little bit of everything that other fintech apps offer: Budgeting, saving, motivation, and cashback. However, Cleo falls short on delivering in each of these categories when compared with its competitors, proving that even if you can do everything, that doesn’t mean that you should.

Cleo vs. Mint

In terms of its budgeting component, Cleo falls short in comparison to Mint in the following ways:

  • Cleo’s budgeting tool doesn’t allow you to set up different categories for different transactions, something that Mint does feature.
  • In addition to allowing you to set up different categories, Mint lets you customize those categories by renaming them or recategorizing transactions, something that you can’t do with Cleo.
  • Mint’s budgeting tool is much more intuitive, and will automatically separate expenses like an ATM withdrawal and an ATM fee, filing those expenses under their designated categories.
  • Mint allows you to create custom alerts to notify you when certain bills are due. While Cleo gives you general budget notifications, you cannot set up custom alerts.

Cleo vs. Digit

As for Cleo’s saving money feature, the Digit app does the same thing and arguably does it better:

  • Funds in Digit are FDIC-insured, up to the legal limit. Funds in the Cleo Wallet are not insured. That’s a deal breaker when it comes to the savings you’ve worked so hard to build.
  • Digit rewards you with a 1% Savings Bonus if you save for three consecutive months.
  • Digit allows you to customize particular savings goals, something that Cleo lacks.

Cash back is something you can easily get with credit cards, which often offer cash back for spending done in entire categories, not just at specific retailers.

As for the motivating factor, Cleo does have a leg up on its competitors with its witty “roast me” or “hype me” money management feature — depending on whether you’re in the mood for some tough love or a pep talk.

Is Cleo right for you?

Cleo attempts to make money management more approachable by incorporating a chatbot with attitude and offering games — so if you’d rather get a root canal than craft a budget, it could be tempting to check out.

Your finances, though, are anything but a game. Cleo offers no interest, no FDIC insurance, potentially high costs on Cleo Cover loans and a bare-bones budgeting tool. The chatbot’s jokes can’t compete with a detailed budgeting app like Mint, high-yielding savings accounts offered by online banks and competitive credit card rewards programs. Take your money management seriously, and leave the laughs for other forms of entertainment.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Sarah Berger
Sarah Berger |

Sarah Berger is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah here

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Banking

Credit Unions vs Banks: What’s the Difference?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Credit unions and banks are similar financial institutions, although there are key differences between them. Both banks and credit unions offer financial services like checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs). They both offer mortgages and personal loans. But banks are for-profit companies, while credit unions are nonprofit institutions that serve their members and their communities. Read on to discover more about the differences between banks and credit unions.

What is a credit union?

A credit union is a not-for-profit financial institution that is formed by another entity, such as a corporation or community group. Ranging in size from small local operations to large nationwide networks, credit unions are owned and controlled by their members, who are also their customers.

Under the credit union business model, members buy shares in their credit union, and their deposits are used to provide loans and other financial products to each other.

A credit unions is run by a volunteer board of directors that is elected by its members. Credit unions are chartered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) or by a state or federal government.

Credit Unions are growing in popularity: The assets of the average credit union have increased from $150 million to $260 million since 2012. Average membership at credit unions nationwide have grown by more than 20% since 2012.

How is a credit union different from a bank?

One of the chief differences between banks and credit unions is their ownership structures. Credit unions are owned by their members, while banks are owned by their stockholders. These different ownership structures dictate how these institutions operate. Credit unions serve the best interest of their members, while banks have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, not their customers.

Credit unions and banks dispose of their profits differently. As for-profit institutions, banks redistribute their earnings to investors and shareholders. Credit unions use their earnings to reward their members by giving them dividends, discounted loan rates, higher interest rates on savings and investment products, and lower-cost services.

Unlike a bank, not everyone can open an account at a credit union. To join, you must meet certain criteria, which is often dependent on your employer, family, geographic location or membership in a group, such as a professional organization, school, church or labor union.

Finally, customer service can be another difference between credit unions and banks. Bank rules and policies are set by their boards of directors, who are often located in another city. Credit unions, on the other hand, are run by members, who are likely living in the community. In studies, credit unions often rank higher than most banks in terms of their quality of customer experience.

Feature

Credit Union

Bank

Management

Controlled by its members

Controlled by board of directors

Purpose

Serve its members

Make a profit

Revenue

Returned to members through dividends

Distributed to shareholders

Account holder rights

Account holders have voting rights

Account holders have no voting rights

Service

Account holders are members who can help set policies by voting

Account holders have no say in policies

Eligibility

Must meet eligibility requirements to open an account

Anyone can open an account

How to join a credit union

Finding a credit union near you is as easy as an internet search. You may be surprised at the number of credit unions in your area. The NCUA has a Credit Union Locator that can help you find a credit union near you. You can search by your address, the name of the credit union or by its charter number, which is a unique number assigned to the credit union by NCUA.

See if you are eligible

After you locate credit unions in your community, visit their website to learn about their eligibility requirements for membership. If the credit union does not include this information on its website, call or visit its physical location for more details.

In general, anyone who belongs to a certain community or organization may join the community’s credit union. Members typically share a common bond, such as

  • They work for the same employer
  • They live or work in the same geographic area
  • They have a family member who is a member of the credit union
  • They belong to the same organization, such as a religious group, school, labor union or homeowners association

Some credit unions are open to anyone and will approve membership based on charitable contributions. For example, you can join Alliant Credit Union by making a $10 donation to the Foster Care to Success Foundation.

Open an account

If you meet a credit union’s membership requirements, you can open an account by submitting proof of your identity, residence address and proof of eligibility. Then make the minimum deposit, which for credit unions will range from $5 to $25.

Is my money safe in a credit union?

In terms of safety, there really is no difference between depositing money with a credit union and depositing it with a bank, as long as the credit union is a member of the NCUA. The NCUA Insurance Fund provides members of federally-insured credit unions with a maximum up to the legal limit in insurance coverage, which is the same coverage the FDIC offers to bank account holders.

If you have more than one type of account ownership, such as individual accounts, joint accounts, revocable trust accounts and certain types of retirement accounts, it’s possible to qualify for more than the insurance limit in coverage.

Advantages of credit unions

  • Better interest rates: Because credit unions are not-for-profit organizations, they boast competitive rates and fees for their members, unlike commercial banks. Credit union members typically enjoy higher interest rates on their deposit accounts, as well as more affordable loan products.
  • Lower fees: According to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), credit union members on average can save $102 every year versus banking with commercial banks. For example, credit unions charge about $3 less on average for each non-sufficient fund in a checking account than banks do, and almost $10 less for late payments on credit card debt.
  • Decreased closing costs: In terms of mortgage closing costs, people who use credit unions for loans pay $210 less than those who take out loans from banks.
  • Capped credit card rates: Credit unions have an 18% cap on how much interest they can charge on loans including credit cards, which distinguishes them greatly from traditional bank credit card issuers. Credit unions charged an average 11.82% interest rate on credit card debt; whereas commercial banks charged 13.65%.
  • Personalized loan reviews: If you’re building your credit and want to use a personal loan to establish or improve your credit score, a credit union may be more likely to work with you than a big bank. Members of credit unions may also be able to appeal credit decisions if they’re turned down.
  • A voice and vote: Your deposit in a credit union makes you a part of the ownership of the institution. Interestingly, in this structure, one person’s loan may come from another’s deposit. It also gives you the right to vote.
  • Access to nationwide ATM networks: If you are a member with a credit union, you have access to a national network called CO-OP, which has over 28,000 ATMs across the country and allows anyone who belongs to a credit union to access funds without a charge. This is more than what Chase has (around 16,000).

Disadvantages of credit unions

  • Limited access to branches: While some credit unions work hard to offer the same conveniences as banks, their branch locations are limited compared with megabanks. And you won’t likely find your credit union branch when you travel to another country.
  • Slower to adopt new technologies: Assets of some small local credit unions are often a fraction of those of big national banks. Some don’t even have their own website. They may also struggle to afford higher costs of adopting the new mobile banking technology, which can limit the need to visit a physical branch or ATM location.
  • Fees aren’t always lower: While some fees may be lower at credit unions, that doesn’t mean you can always save money in fees with a credit union. For instance, Chicago-based Alliant Credit Union charges an outgoing wire transfer fee — $50 for international and $25 for domestic. However, Chase Bank, which is also available in Chicago, doesn’t charge an outgoing wire fee for checking account holders.

Credit union vs bank: Which should you choose?

Choosing between a bank and credit union comes down to personal preference. Identify the services and banking experience that matter most to you. Consider things like customer service, online tools, branch location, interest rates and loan requirements. Make a checklist of the features in a financial institution that are most important to you.

Ultimately, it comes down to comparing products, services, fees and convenience. Remember, you can have accounts at a bank and a credit union. In some cases, this may be the best way to determine the right fit for you, allowing you to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza |

Stephanie Vozza is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stephanie here