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I Tried the ‘Joy’ App and It Totally Changed the Way I Think About Spending

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

What makes you happy? In the final quarter of 2017, amid growing interest in a growing field of a study called behavioral economics, financial services company Happy Money — formerly known as Payoff — released the Joy app to help you answer that question. At least, when it comes to your spending decisions.

What is Joy?

Joy is a personal finance app that uses psychology and financial behavior to help change the way you think about, spend and save money. The Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company behind Joy claims it will help “drive awareness of how spending is connected to happiness, and to encourage people to build savings.” In other words, it may help you find the joy in handling your finances.

Joy has joined the ranks of many, many other fintech apps designed to help you keep track of your money. The app was released by Happy Money in November 2017 as one of its three core products: Joy (the app), Payoff (the loan) and soon-to-be-released Happy Money Score (a Happy Money rating).

“I think it really resonates for people. People care about happiness and want to understand how to use their money to be more happy,” said Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D., Joy’s scientific advisor and co-author of “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.”

In the book, she and researcher Michael Norton lay out the following five research-based principles on how to find financial happiness:

  1. Buy experiences — People gain more happiness from buying experiences than material things.
  2. Invest in others — People seem to derive more happiness on average when they use their money to benefit others, rather than themselves.
  3. Buy now, consume later — People derive happiness when they pay in advance for something they will consume later because the brain feels like it’s “free.”
  4. Make it a treat — People gain more happiness when they spend money on a “treat.”
  5. Buy time — People derive happiness when they buy time. For example, buying their way out of their a task, like cleaning the bathroom.

After finding out how handling your finances affects your well-being, Happy Money’s team of psychologists, data scientists, neuroscientists, tech experts and financial professionals came together to create the Joy App to give people a tool to track how their spending makes them feel.

Joy has two core functions:

  1. Rate your spending — After you connect your bank accounts and credit cards, the app has you rate each transaction you’ve made with a happy face or sad face.
  2. Save money with Joy Savings — Each day you open the app, you’ll be reminded to save an amount of money that Joy’s algorithm has found “safe” for you to save — called a Daily Save — to an FDIC-insured Joy Savings account.

Rating your purchases is intended to help you better recognize what kinds of purchases bring you happiness, so you can focus on making more of those and fewer purchases you’d rate with a sad face. Over time, theoretically, you’d develop a habit of making more spending decisions that make you happy as a result.

The free savings account is supposed to help you make a habit out of saving money. The app prompts you daily to save money, but doesn’t save the money for you automatically.

Dunn says that’s because you create a different association with saving money when something happens automatically than when you are involved in making it happen.

“People figure out what they themselves are like in part by observing their own behavior,” said Dunn. “It seems very plausible to me that if you engage in this habit, you will start to see yourself as the kind of person who cares about and is capable of saving money.”

The MagnifyMoney Joy review

I’m personally intrigued by ideas about how human psychology tends to influence our financial decisions.

I’m also part of the camp that isn’t always thrilled to glance back at their recent spending decisions. You know the feeling: you make a few ‘guilty’ purchases then just avoid checking up on your checking account balance or reviewing your recent transactions (which one should do because it’s sort of key to properly managing one’s finances).

That being said, I was curious about what many reading this are probably wondering now: How exactly will downloading yet another app to track my spending habits make me any happier about my spending? Or, at the very least, motivated enough to keep tracking them after a spending binge.

So, I decided to try out Joy for myself to see if the app would do what it claims.
The following is my account of how the Joy app — featuring very bright colors and a chatty robot — forced me to get face-to-face with my spending habits and and decide if they (really) made me “happy,” or, um … not so happy. Unfortunately, the app didn’t really help me save much money, but we’ll get to that later on.

What I liked about Joy:

It forces you to review your spending
I liked that the app asked me to rate whether or not my recent transactions were “happy” or “sad” spends each time I opened it up. After a few days of doing this, it started to affect my real-time spending decisions. Since I knew I’d have to decide how I felt about my spending decisions afterward, the thought began to cross my mind before I swiped my cards. For example, since I know I made a “sad” spend last time I ordered food at a restaurant I knew I couldn’t finish and ultimately wasted, I thought about my ability to actually eat the food I planned to order rather than what my tummy was saying when placing my brunch order.

Set reminders to review your spends and check your Joy Savings
I thought it was nice to be able to set a reminder prompting me at the same time each day to go over my spends and make a daily save. I set a reminder for a time at the end of the day when I’m usually relaxing, so I’d have a few minutes to think about how each of my transactions made me feel.

Since the daily safe-to-save amount can differ from day to day and isn’t automatically transferred, it was helpful for me to set a reminder to check on my Joy Savings account and decide whether or not to transfer the suggested amount.

See changes over time
A cool feature of the app is its ability to show you how you’ve been doing over time. I just had to ask my money coach a question to see details like how much I’ve spent this month versus last month, how my happy spends compare with sad spends or how I’m doing with my savings habits compared with other people with my money personality, among other stats.

Savings aren’t automatic
Because the savings aren’t automatic, there was no danger of using funds I thought I had in my checking account and accidentally overdrafting. I only keep a low balance in my main checking account and make transfers if I need to, so it’s especially important to me to avoid overdraft and NSF fees. If you keep a low balance and use an app that automatically transfers money for you, you may be thrown off if you don’t stay on top of what’s going in and out of your account.

Saving out of sight
The Joy Savings account is separate from my checking and saving accounts, so I don’t see how much money is in the account when I check my bank balances. To me, it’s like that money doesn’t even exist, so it’s a nice surprise when I do see the balance in my Joy Savings account. Because the daily save amount is a small amount that’s “safe to save,” I don’t miss the money in my main checking account at all — I don’t even notice the money’s gone.

Saving does feel good
It feels great to hit “save” each time I check the app. I have all of my other saving automated, so I don’t have to take action to save the money and I almost never see the funds. By making saving a daily action, I feel like the kind of person who actively saves money, instead of the kind of person who has to try really, really hard not to spend — or even look at — her savings.

I’m saving more money
I thought I was already saving as much as I reasonably could since I have a budget and make my saving automatic. So I didn’t expect the algorithm to calculate much of anything. I keep less than $100 in a main spending account. So it often calculated daily saves of $2 or less. Having to save money from my spending account was, for me, just extra saving, but it showed me I could actually collect a little bit more if I tried.

What I didn’t like about Joy:

Unclear how to utilize my ‘money personality’
I enjoyed taking the personality quiz, but outside of knowing I was a “free spirit” and setting me up with an AI robot to chat with, I don’t get much of any sense about how my money personality applied to my use of the app’s spending and saving features. For example, my designated personality type didn’t seem to affect the amount of money the algorithm calculated for me to save or how my happy and sad spends were split up, so while it’s nice to know, I didn’t see much opportunity to apply the knowledge within the app.

The app is only available on iOS
As of this writing, the Joy app is only available on iOS, so only those with Apple products are able to download and use the app. That was fine news for me since I have an iPhone, but anyone who doesn’t have an iPhone or iPad isn’t able to try out Joy.

My experience with customer service
I had a negative experience with customer service when I first tried to use Joy Savings. I misunderstood the instructions and accidentally linked the wrong account to my Joy Savings account. I connected it with an emergency savings account instead of my main checking account. I thought I’d easily be able to change the linked account within the app. I was wrong.

I searched the app and I asked my money coach, but didn’t see anything related to unlinking the account. So I went online to search for a solution and found out I’d have to email [email protected] for help. I sent an email asking for assistance on Dec. 19 and got a reply from a customer service representative saying they’d reach out to an engineer and let me know when they were ready to re-link my new account. So, I waited for an email.

When I didn’t receive any correspondence by Dec. 26, I emailed the same representative back. Nothing. I emailed again, including the original [email protected], asking, “Any word yet on fixing my Joy Savings account?” Again, I didn’t get a reply back. I sent another email nearly a month after I had sent the initial request. At this point, the wrong account was still linked to my Joy Savings account and I still had no way of fixing the issue on my own.

By mid-January, I was in the middle of writing this review, so I was able to enlist the help of the company’s press representatives in resolving my Joy Savings mistake. When I informed them of the difficulty I was having with customer service, they acted promptly and were able to unlink the wrong account within a couple of hours. I linked the correct account and finally got to start making a daily save on Jan. 19 … a full month after I initially asked for help.

Ironically, I finally got an email back from the service representative who was supposed to help me, whom I emailed four times by now — on Jan. 22. He said my conversation had been lost in the queue. I sent a final email letting the representative know my issue had already been addressed, but thanking him for working on it. I hope he gets it.

Cannot change Joy Savings account in app
As of this writing, you are unable to change the account linked to your Joy Savings from within the app. A company spokesperson said the Joy app is still in its soft launch stage, and the company will soon introduce new features like having more control over connected accounts and settings.

Who the App is Best For

If you are new to personal finance, it may benefit you to use Joy to get a sense of your spending habits. The Joy app seems to be best for those who:

  • Aren’t into budgeting
  • Want to develop a habit of reviewing their transactions
  • Want to be more conscious of their spending habits and/or
  • Have a difficult time finding money to save in their budget

How to use the Joy app:

Create your account

Before you can use Joy, you’ll need to create an account using your phone number. The app will send a specific code to your phone, which you’ll need to enter to start using Joy. You should see a gif and a message welcoming you to Joy pop up on the screen for a few seconds.

Sign up for Joy.
When the gif disappears, you’ll begin a text-bubble chat with Joy. You’ll be confronted with a questionnaire designed as a text-bubble conversation.

You’ll then be asked for basic sign-up information like your name, annual income and whether you rent or own where you live. You’ll be able to respond to most of the questions with pre-made responses, almost like a multiple-choice test.

Get your money personality

Next, Joy will tell you about yourself. Joy will ask you five questions and use the responses you give to help you discover your “money personality.” There are a 12 different money personalities in total. Chris Courtney, Ph.D, Happy Money’s senior director of science, says your personality is directly responsible for how you spend your money. You can continue on to the questions, or, if you’re curious, ask Joy why it needs to know that.

Knowing your money personality upfront is also supposed to help personalize your experience with the app. Joy’s creators claim this helps you feel less judgmental toward the process compared with other existing budgeting apps that employ a cookie-cutter approach to their users’ finances.

“By taking the time to get to know each person and giving them some information and context regarding their own personality, it kind of expresses to someone we don’t expect everyone to be the same,” said Dunn.

Joy says I’m a free spirit with my finances. In my opinion, that’s fairly accurate. I’m almost never on time (just ask my editor) and I do very much hate categorizing my budget. I don’t last long with budgeting apps that make you have spending categories because my habits don’t always fall into easy-to-estimate budgeting groups. I’d much rather pay my bills and allocate my savings to end up with chunk of money I know is safe to spend, which is why I already have my bills and saving automated. Well done, science.

Get your money coach

Having your money personality also helps Joy set you up with an artificially intelligent robot dubbed your personalized money coach. You’ll meet your money coach next. There are four coaches in total — Dash, Gem, Ava and Atom. My coach is Gem.

Your money coach’s interaction with you depends heavily on your money personality. Courtney says to think of the coach like a personal trainer at a gym.

“Some people will respond well to an intense and challenging approach, while others will want small goals with a lot of positive affirmation,” said Courtney.

Everything about the way your coach interacts with you — presenting goals, celebrating victories, encouraging you to do better, punctuation, emojis, and slang — stems from your money personality. It’s supposed to make you feel more comfortable when dealing with a financial advisor, as opposed to being judged.

“People feel happier when they are with others who are similar to themselves,” said Dunn. “It creates a sense of well-being and comfort when you are interacting with people who speak like you do.”

You can start a chat with your coach whenever you want. The topics and responses are somewhat limited, but give you all the information you need to use the app. Your coach can give you stats about how you are doing with your spending or saving, for example, or how others, such as those with your money personality, are doing.

 

Add your credit cards and bank accounts

Of course, you’ll need to connect your bank accounts and credit cards to Joy so it can track your finances. You’ll see the option to link spending accounts on the spending side of the Joy app. You can add bank accounts and your credit cards. The app will use the linked accounts to pull up transactions for you to rate.

I was able to link all of my accounts easily and the app was able to bring up my recent transactions within a few minutes.

Review your recent spends.

Once your accounts are all set up, you can begin rating your spends. You’ll be asked to rate each of your recent transactions with either a happy, smiling face or a sad, frowning face in response to “how do you feel about your spends?” You’ll rate transactions in batches of ten, then, if there are more to be rated, you can continue until you’re through with your recent transactions.

Don’t overthink this part. I did, so I’m warning you. Take the $13 I spent at Zaxby’s fast-food restaurant the other day, for example. I felt conflicted when I had to rate the transaction because I thought, “Um … both?”

I was visiting my hometown in Georgia, and I really, really missed eating Zaxby’s since I live in New York now and there is no Zaxby’s up here. The food tasted magical. But, I’ve become a bit more concerned with my health since I was in college, eating Zaxby’s every week so I did sort of feel bad (physically and emotionally) after eating fast food.

So, what would I put? A happy face because the Wings-N-Things meal I’d ordered was tasty and satisfying? Or a sad face because I spent money on something that wasn’t a very healthy eating or spending choice (since my mom had “free” food made for me at home). Honestly, I didn’t need to spend the money. But, it’d been nearly two full years since I’d had Zaxby’s! I couldn’t decide. I was frustrated there weren’t more faces. Maybe a [shrug] emoji?

Dunn says the app only gives you two choices on purpose. It makes it easier for you, with everything going on in your daily life, to extract useful information.

“If every time you spent $15 you had to reflect on 17 different aspects of the emotional experience, you wouldn’t do it,” said Dunn. “This is kind of asking people to go, ‘okay what’s your overall ledger?’ You can suck up a lot of the variability in a wide range of emotions with the happy face and sad face.”

I eventually rated the spend “happy.” But, now that I know spending money on food that’s not great for my health makes me feel bad, I avoid it like the plague.

Set up your Joy Savings Account.

When your accounts are all linked, you can set up your Joy Savings account. You’ll chat with your coach to get an explanation of how Joy Savings works.

First, you’ll link an account to fund your savings account. The algorithm will use to calculate an amount you’re able to save each day, so it should be the checking account you use for most of your spending.

Each day you open Joy Savings, you should see your “Daily Save” and the option to go ahead and transfer the money to your Joy Savings account, or choose to pass on saving today. Whenever you decide you want your money, you can request to transfer the amount you’d like from your Joy Savings account to your checking account. The deposit should clear within 1 to 3 business days.

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.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]

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Reviews

WebBank Review: Savings and CD Rates

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Year Established1997
Total Assets$0.8B
LEARN MORE WebBank’s secure websiteMember FDIC

If you’ve ever taken out a personal loan or have refinanced a loan with popular online lenders, you may have noticed a line in the fine print that refers to “WebBank” as the originating bank. While the Salt Lake City-based WebBank indeed does a large part of its business supplying the funds for these loans, you might not know that it also offers deposit accounts to consumers. Its repertoire is somewhat limited – just a high-interest savings account and a handful of CDs that it refers to as “time deposits.”

This bank has been around since the early days of internet commerce, established in 1997. Just like its name promises, it’s an internet-only bank. There are no branches you can visit to make transactions and you can’t even deposit paper checks or cash. All deposits into these accounts must be made either by wire transfer or ACH transfer. If you’re curious to learn more about this bank and whether it might work for you, read on.

WebBank’s Most Popular Accounts

APY

Account Type

Account Name

Compare Rates from Similar Accounts

2.50%

Savings

WebBank Savings

2.10%

American Express National Bank High Yield Savings Account

on American Express National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

2.80%

CD Rates

WebBank 1 Year CD

2.60%

Goldman Sachs Bank USA High-yield 12 Month CD

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

Member FDIC

3.10%

CD Rates

WebBank 5 Year CD

2.90%

Goldman Sachs Bank USA High-yield 5 Year CD

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

Member FDIC

WebBank’s savings account option

Savings

This is a great savings account, as long as you don’t mind managing it entirely online and can keep at least $1,000 in it at all times.

APY

Minimum Balance to Earn APY

2.50%

$1,000

  • Minimum opening deposit: $1,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $1,000
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: N/A
  • ATM fee refund: N/A
  • Overdraft fee: N/A

WebBank’s savings account is a great choice for savers looking to stash their money in a separate bank in order to earn a high rate. This bank doesn’t offer a checking account, so your money is somewhat isolated. This can be a good thing, however, especially if you’re often tempted to dip into savings for everyday spending.

Access to your money is more limited than with many other savings accounts. There are only two ways to add money to a WebBank savings account: by ACH transfer or wire transfer. Similarly, there is no access to ATMs, checks, or branches in order to make withdrawals. It does adhere to the six withdrawal monthly limit imposed by Regulation D. If you go over this limit, this bank can deny those extra withdrawals and even close your account.

Secondly, you’ll need to deposit — and maintain — at least $1,000 in the account in order to keep it open and earn interest. This isn’t a huge amount of money, but the account isn’t for those who are just beginning to save. If your balance ever drops below $1,000, the bank will close your account and return your funds “in a manner deemed appropriate by us.”

How to get WebBank’s Savings account

As long as you meet the following simple criteria, you can easily open up a savings account with this bank today:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a Social Security Number or other taxpayer ID
  • Have a physical address inside the U.S.

In addition, you’ll need to make your first deposit with an ACH transfer. The bank does use wire transfers, but you’ll need to wait for the account to be opened first before you can use this option.

Learn more Secured

on WebBank’s secure website

Member FDIC

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How WebBank’s savings account compares

Good news for those looking to max out their savings account interest rate: this bank currently offers one of the highest interest rates of any savings account available today. It also falls a bit in the “Goldilocks” zone for the minimum deposit: Some banks offering similar rates require a higher minimum deposit, while some offer less.

If you’re still shopping around, it’d be worthwhile to take a look at the best online savings accounts to compare other similar banks based on factors that may be important to you as well, such as the ability to use ATMs, or banks that also offers a checking account.

WebBank’s CD rates

Time Deposits

These CDs offer great rates, if you can afford to plunk down at least $2,500.

Term

APY

6 months

2.50%

1 year

2.80%

2 years

2.90%

3 years

3.00%

5 years

3.10%

  • Minimum opening deposit: $2,500
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $2,500
  • Early withdrawal penalty: This depends on your CD’s term length:
    • For the 6-month CD, you’ll pay three months’ worth of interest
    • For the 1-year and 2-year CD, you’ll pay six months’ worth of interest
    • For the 3-year CD, you’ll pay nine months’ worth of interest
    • For the 5-year CD, you’ll pay one years’ worth of interest

CDs are pretty well insulated from spending temptations by their nature, since they come with early withdrawal penalties. But if you’d like another layer of removal from your checking account or if you’d like to transfer money from an existing savings account at this bank, opening a CD with this bank is a great choice because it offers high APYs.

The downside is that it only offers four different term lengths. Still, the most useful terms — short-term six-month CDs and long-term, five-year CDs — are represented here.

Once you deposit the money into one of these CDs you generally won’t be able to get it out again until it matures without paying a penalty. Once the CD does mature, you’ll have a 10-day grace period to decide what to do with it. Lest you forget, this bank will also send you a notice in advance. If you don’t do anything with the CD, such as add more money or withdraw it, the bank will automatically roll over the funds into a new CD and you won’t be able to access the money again until it matures.

How to get WebBank’s CDs

It’s very easy to open one of WebBank’s CDs. Again, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old, have a physical address within the U.S., and have a Social Security Number or other taxpayer ID. You’ll need to make your opening deposit with an ACH transfer from your current WebBank savings account or from another bank.

Learn more Secured

on WebBank’s secure website

Member FDIC

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How WebBank’s CD rates compare

WebBank’s CD rates are very competitive, and rank near the top of the highest-paying CDs nationwide for every one of its term lengths. If you’re looking for a higher APY, you can find better rates in some cases but not by much. The only downside is that this bank doesn’t offer a four-year term, so if you won’t be able to do a staggered set of one-year CDs as per a standard CD ladder. But if any of these term lengths fit, they’d be good options.

Overall review of WebBank’s banking products

Since it doesn’t offer a checking account, WebBank isn’t a bank for your everyday needs. But if you’re just looking for a place to stash your cash and earn some of the best rates possible, this bank is a fantastic choice. It may have made a name for itself as the originating bank for many online lenders, but it’s more than that. It can help you grow your own wealth, too.

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.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

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Reviews

Simple Bank Review — a Simple Way to Budget

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Year Established1964
Total Assets$92.6B

LEARN MORE Simple’s secure website

Like most things in the world of “adulting,” managing your finances isn’t always as simple as it should be. This is where online bank Simple stepped in seven years ago, providing customers with a mobile bank account rolled into a budgeting app.

Acquired by Spanish bank BBVA in 2014, Simple was founded in Portland, Ore. in 2009 and launched commercial operations three years later. The money in a Simple account is held by BBVA Compass, the American subsidiary of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A., and FDIC-insured up to $250,000.

Though Simple offers only one type of bank account — consumer checking — it promises a simple way to save and budget while offering features found at bigger banks, such as photo check deposit, plus additional features, including Goals, Expenses, and Safe-to-Spend(R). In an effort to attract new banking customers, Simple is offering a 2.02% APY return on balances of $0.01 or greater in a Protected Goals Account.

We’ll review Simple’s bank account, its pros and cons and what else you need to know to determine if it’s a good fit for you.

Simple’s Most Popular Accounts

APY

Account Type

Account Name

2.02%

Checking

Simple Checking Account + Protected Goals Account*

LEARN MORE Secured

on Simple’s secure website

What is Simple?

The Simple bank account is a checking account that incorporates budgeting tools into a consumer’s everyday banking.

Simple banking is provided through both desktop and mobile applications, although you will need to download the app to deposit checks using a photo. The free mobile app is available for Android and iOS-powered devices. You can complete all other necessary banking tasks on both platforms.

The Simple account

Minimum deposit amount to open

$0

Annual percentage yield

2.02% ($0.01+)

Overdraft fee

$0

Monthly service fee

$0

ACH transfer fee

$0

ATM fee

$0

Out of network ATM fee

$0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Simple’s secure website


Simple Visa debit
Simple customers are issued a Simple Visa debit card for daily purchases and to use at more than 40,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network. In-network ATMs won’t charge you a fee, and are easily found using the ATM finder both online and in the app. Simple doesn’t charge you a fee for using an out-of-network ATM, but you may be charged by other banks and ATM owners.

Simple bank review
Simple

Safe-to-spend
Simple’s Safe-to-Spend(R) feature helps you resist the temptation to spend every dollar in your bank account when those funds should be reserved for more important and urgent things. The budgeting algorithm sets aside funds for spending categories in your budget and your savings goals. The app subtracts the amount of money you’ve set aside from your total account balance so you can easily see how much money you have left to spend — your safe-to-spend number.

Goals
The Simple bank account makes it easy to set aside money for long- and short-term goals. The feature also serves as a digital envelope budgeting system for your monthly budgeting needs.

A warning to chronic overspenders: Although the amount set aside for goals is subtracted from your total balance so you know what’s safe to spend, the goal money is kept in the same account as the rest of your funds, so you can spend the money if you really need to. We will address how to use goals to save and budget in the following section.

Simple bank review
Simple

Analytics
Simple provides spending reports to give you more insight on how you’re spending your money. You can use the graphs and breakdowns Simple creates to analyze trends in your spending. With that information, you can evaluate whether or not your budget is meeting your needs or if you need to make adjustments in your spending habits. You can also add hashtags, notes and images to each transaction.
You will need to go online to view reports as the feature isn’t yet available in the Simple app.

Protected Goals
You can set up separate savings goals and an emergency fund within the Protected Goals account. Unlike the money for your short-term goals, money in the “protected” account is separate from your main Simple bank account. If you need to use your money, you can make unlimited transfers from a Protected Goals account to your regular Simple checking account. That means there’s no need to worry about hitting the six withdrawals per month limit most other savings accounts have under Regulation D, and the common fees associated with making excessive withdrawals.

If you are looking for a high-yield account, the Simple bank account may be the one for you. Right now, you can earn up to 2.02% APY on balances of $0.01 or more in the entire Protected Goals Account. If you choose to set up an Emergency Fund or Savings Goal under the Protected Goals Account, the combined amount will earn the 2.02% APY.

Although they may lack the bells and whistles Simple incorporates, there are many alternative high-yield checking accounts that earn a much higher yield on your money with no minimum deposit. You can also compare rates and terms on the best savings options currently available here that also have higher rates than this account.

Simple Shared
Simple offers joint accounts it calls Simple Shared accounts. The Simple Shared account is a separate Simple bank account that you co-own with someone else. The joint Simple Shared account allows pairs to plan budgets and complete savings goals together. Couples can even save for an emergency under the Shared account. Emergency Funds are now available for Simple Shared accounts.

Both co-owners of a Simple Shared account must have individual Simple accounts, too, and they have to keep the individual accounts open in order to have a shared account. Your individual accounts stay private.

Simple Instant
Simple Instant is a peer-to-peer payments system exclusive to Simple users. It’s the quickest way to send money to other Simple account holders instantly, for free. After you add the Simple user to your Instant contacts, you can send money to them using an email address or phone number.

Simple bank accounts work with most third-party p2p payment services like Venmo and Square Cash, too, so you can still send money to your friends who don’t use Simple, although you may be required to pay for instant transfers.

Where Simple falls short

A 1% fee for foreign transactions
Simple doesn’t charge you any fees for making foreign transactions, but Visa does. Each time you swipe your Simple card overseas, you may be required to pay a 1% International Service Assessment fee to Visa. That fee may not be a deal breaker for some frequent travelers, but it’s a bummer to pay any more than you have to, ever.

Additionally. there is a $1,000 daily spending limit for international transactions, but you can have that temporarily raised to $6,000 if you let Simple know you’ll be traveling.

No checkbooks
Simple users are not issued checkbooks to write paper checks. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to send a personal check or pay a bill, you can use Simple’s free bill pay service to have Simple send a check on your behalf. The bill pay feature is found online and in the app. You may also request a treasurer’s check — similar to a cashier’s check — from Simple.

Simple mobile app

When you don’t know exactly how much you have to spend on the things you want but don’t need, you’re either constantly running out of time, money or both. When you’re running around living your life most of the time, keeping track of your money can become a chore.

The Simple mobile app incorporates features that help you keep track of how much money you have left to work with for the month while on the go. You can even get instant push notifications that will send you spending updates in real-time.

Features that stand out

The goals feature is what sets the Simple app and account apart from other mobile-first fintech startups and online banks, which we will get into in detail below.

Using Goals to save money
When you create a goal in Simple — after naming it and adding an optional memo — you’ll set the amount and date by which you would like to complete it. You can fund the goal in two ways: (1) set aside money right away, or (2) elect to save over time.

When you save over time, an algorithm will calculate how much money to move over incrementally from your safe-to-spend amount to the savings goal so it’s fully funded by your preset completion date. You can move money each day, or set a custom funding schedule so the app only moves money on predetermined days.

Using Expenses to budget
You can use the Simple Expenses feature to mimic old-fashioned envelope budgeting. Envelope budgeting is a method in which you set aside cash in physical envelopes for each budgeting category. You set aside what you think you’d need to cover categories like gas, groceries or shopping for a period and if you run out of money for that category, you stop buying in that area. Simple offers a digital version.

You would create an expense and name them for each spending category in your budget for the month and determine how much to set aside for purchases made from that category. Here’s an example budget from Simple:

Simple bank review
Simple

Ideally, you would fund the expense immediately and not over time. That’s what Simple really focuses on doing. It’s a “set it and forget it” mentality. This feature runs off of “Funding Schedules”. So, once you create an expense through this feature, Simple will recreate the expense for you so that it’s paid off again the next month. You can set this up by creating an Expense and choosing the category you want the Expense to automatically come out of. You only need to set this up once. After you’ve set up all of your expenses, the funds will be automatically debited from the appropriate Expense each month.

What if I overspend?
As mentioned earlier, you can intentionally or accidentally spend money set aside for your goals if you go over your safe-to-spend amount. Of course, dipping into your goal money may cut into your progress. If you fall behind on saving or need to edit a goal, you can always edit the target date and/or amount, or delete the goal. On the flip side, if you complete a goal and want to save more money, you can choose to automatically save more over time.

Other features that deserve an honorable mention:

  • You can deposit checks — This is the only feature exclusive to the app and may be in found in the “Move Money” tab. Simple recommends submitting the deposit before 5 p.m. EST, as it allows the bank to process the deposit on the same day. However, if you submit the deposit after 5 p.m. EST, the deposit won’t be processed until the next business day. Keep in mind that “processing” is not the same as “funding”. For example, if you make a Photo Check Deposit before 5 p.m. EST on a Monday, the deposit will be processed the same day, but won’t be posted to your account until Tuesday at 3 a.m. EST. If you make the deposit after 5 p.m. EST on a Monday, the funds won’t post to your account until Wednesday at 3 a.m. EST.

The limit on how much money you can deposit using a photo check will depend on factors such as how long you’ve been with Simple and the number of checks you’ve recently deposited, so it varies by individual user. You can find out your current check limit under “Deposit a Check.” If the check is too large, you can deposit it by mail.

  • You can block and unblock your debit card — Blocking your card is useful if you lose your card or think it’s been stolen. Go to your profile and select “Your Simple Cards” then block the Simple Visa card. If you see any unauthorized transactions made on your account, you may be covered by Visa’s Zero Liability policy if you report it in time.

How to open a Simple Bank account

Opening a Simple bank account is a quick and easy process (see how I didn’t use the word “simple” there? I saved you from a very punny sentence). Signing up takes all of about five minutes. Simple requires applicants to be U.S. citizens and 18 years or older with a Social Security number.

The company also recommends you have access to a device that can run its mobile app. The device will need to be running on either Apple iOS 10.0 or higher or Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher.

You can open an account online or on the Simple mobile app. The application requires you to create a username and password for your Simple bank account, and indicate how you plan to use the account. Then, it asks for personally identifying information like your name and Social Security number.

Simple bank review
Simple

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on Simple’s secure website

Who could benefit from the Simple bank account?

The Simple bank account would be most beneficial to individuals and household budgeteers who want to be able to manage their budgeting and bank account in one place, in real time.

Most household money managers are well aware how much their bills will come up to each month and what their short- and long-term monetary goals are. However, it’s naturally difficult to keep the numbers you’re juggling on the top of your head when you are busy and often on the go. Other budgeting apps may keep you organized, but you have to make an effort to keep them on track with your actual spending.

Simple makes keeping up with bills and savings goals effortless.

Simple’s safe-to-spend feature allows even the busiest among us to easily keep track of how much money you actually have available to spend freely. You can use Simple from virtually anywhere, desktop or on your phone, so there are no excuses. Just checking your bank account balance and seeing the difference between the total balance and your safe-to-spend will remind you of your budget and savings goals.

With Simple, you can create and automatically contribute to an emergency fund account, one separate from your other financial goals, so that it actually gets done this time around. The amount you want to save in your Emergency Fund is based on how much money you want to save in a certain period of time. Based on those two things, Simple will put together a daily contribution amount.

Simple’s Goals system can help you stay organized, compartmentalize your budget and keep your financial priorities straight. If you don’t immediately fund a goal, the app has your back. It calculates and makes small transfers to get you closer to your goal for you.

Alternatives

Simple is one of many fintech companies that have recently released a mobile-first or mobile-only banking option. Next, we take a look at how Simple compares with its peers: the Aspiration Summit account, Chime, Beam and Finn by Chase. Rates are as of  the date of publication.

Simple vs. Aspiration Summit account
 SimpleAspiration Summit

Overdraft fee

$0

$25

APY on Checking

2.02% APY

2.00% APY

APY on Savings

n/a

n/a

The Aspiration Summit account is the mobile-only banking option for those trying to be a bit more socially conscious. Aspiration’s standout feature is its Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM), which measures your social impact based on where you spend your money.

You get a personal AIM score, calculated based on the businesses you choose to support, which also each get an AIM score. For businesses, the AIM score is split in two: a “people score” based on factors like employee pay and access to health care, and a “planet score” based on things like the company’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to knowing how the money you spend affects the world around you, you can feel confident knowing Aspiration donates $0.10 of every dollar it makes to financially-focused charities.

Like the Simple bank account, the Aspiration Summit account is a checking account. While the Simple bank account earns up to 2.02% APY, the Aspiration Summit account earns a slightly lower 2.00% APY on all balances. But, Aspiration doesn’t give you the opportunity to open a separate account to set aside savings like Simple does. Aspiration also doesn’t provide any budgeting and goal-setting features on its account, while Simple does. Aspiration requires a $10 minimum deposit to open an account, but no minimum balance to maintain the account.

Aspiration charges is a $25 overdraft fee and a $5 daily fee for each day your balance remains negative. Meanwhile, Simple charges no fees but won’t allow a transaction if it will overdraft your Simple bank account. Like Simple, Aspiration doesn’t charge its users a fee to access ATMs anywhere in the world but goes a step further by fully reimbursing you (on the 10th of each month) if you’re charged a fee by an out-of-network ATM. If you’re traveling overseas, you’ll be charged a fee equal to 1.1% of the transaction using the Aspiration Mastercard debit card.

Simple vs. Chime Bank
 SimpleChime Bank

Overdraft fee

$0

$0

APY on Checking

2.02% APY

n/a

APY on Savings

n/a

0.01% APY

Chims is a fee-free, mobile-first banking option that features automated savings, but doesn’t come with the analytics and goal-setting features that Simple has.

With Chime, you can automatically save 10% of each paycheck in a savings account and, if you’re enrolled in direct deposit, you can get access to your paycheck up to two days earlier than the money would become available with most other standard checking accounts. Once enrolled in Chime’s automatic savings program, Chime will automatically round up each purchase made with your Chime Visa Debit Card to the nearest dollar and save the difference in your savings account.

If you ever need to split a bill, Chime does the math for you and lets you send a text to a friend with a link to pay you back using Venmo, or Chime’s in-app peer to peer payments feature (Pay Friends) if the friend is a Chime Member. Money sent between two Chime members is received instantly. Simple doesn’t do the math for you, but you can send money instantly to other Simple users using its built-in p2p system, Simple Instant.

Chime offers both a checking account and a designated savings account, unlike Simple, which offers a checking account and the option to save emergency funds in a “protected goals” account.

If your savings are in a Chime savings account, you won’t be granted more than a 2.02% yield on your funds. On the other hand, if you place your savings in Simple’s Protected Goals Account, you earn up to 2.02% APY on balances of $0.01 or more. Neither Chime nor Simple charge overdraft fees. While Simple doesn’t charge you for using out-of-network ATMs, Chime charges $2.50. You can find more than 38,000 in-network ATMs using the ATM map in the Chime app.

Simple vs. Beam
 SimpleBeam

Overdraft fee

$0

n/a

APY on Checking

2.02% APY

n/a

APY on Savings

n/a

2.00% APY; up to 4.00% APY

Beam is a fee-free, mobile-only high-interest deposit account. You can earn a much higher yield on your savings with Simple than you would with Beam. Beam accounts promise a minimum 2.00% APY compared with Simple’s 2.02% APY. However, Beam gives its customers the opportunity to claim rewards that can earn them up to 4.00% APY on their funds daily. Beam calls its rewards “billies” and they can be earned by engaging with the app and doing things like referring a friend to Beam. The “billies” are awarded daily between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time. Neither service requires a minimum balance to earn interest on funds.

Beam doesn’t issue users a debit card or give users ATM access like Simple does. Beam is intended for use alongside a primary checking account as a supplementary bank account, while Simple is intended to be used as a primary checking account. If you want to use your money in a Beam account, you must first transfer it out to a primary checking account, which can take up to two days. Beam also doesn’t have any special saving or budgeting features and doesn’t show you spending analytics like Simple does.

As of this writing, Beam is not yet available for widespread use, but Simple is. Beam is still in a “private beta” stage, so it can only accommodate a limited number of customers. If you want to use Beam, you’ll have to sign up on the waiting list, which currently has more than 126,000 names.

Simple vs. Finn by Chase
 SimpleFinn by Chase

Overdraft fee

$0

$0

APY on Checking

2.02% APY

n/a

APY on Savings

n/a

0.01% APY; up to 0.04% APY

Finn by Chase is a free mobile-first banking option from Chase Bank. Finn by Chase offers checking and savings accounts, and you are required to have both types. For comparison, Simple only offers a checking account. Finn by Chase users earn 0.01% APY on balances below $10,000. For balances that are $10,000-$25,000, Finn users earn 3%, then 0.04% APY on higher amounts. Simple doesn’t offer increased interest on larger balances. Finn does not offer joint accounts, but Simple does.

Both banks issue users Visa debit cards for daily purchases and to use at the ATM. Finn charges $2.50 if you use an out-of-network ATM, while Simple doesn’t charge a fee at all. Finn says its users have access to more than 29,000 in-network ATMs while Simple advertises more than 38,000 in-network ATMs.

The banks both show users’ spending analytics and offer automatic saving features but differ in how their features work.

Finn lets users rate each transaction as a “want” or “need” and how it makes the user feel. Users can choose happy, sad or indifferent faces. Finn also provides users analytics via charts and graphs that summarize their spending habits.

Finally, Simple lets you send money instantly to other users using Simple Instant, but Finn by Chase lets you send money to anyone in the Zelle network, even if they are with a different bank, instantly for free. Both services let users send money with third-party platforms like Venmo, Google Wallet and PayPal.

The bottom line

The Simple bank account is a solid one-stop shop for hassle-free banking and budgeting. Simple, the company, doesn’t charge any fees, but BBVA Compass may charge fees. Make sure you to read the Simple Deposit Account Agreement. Fortunately, it won’t cost you to use their budgeting and analytics system if budgeting and saving is what you’re really after. Additionally, the 2.02% APY on balances of $0.01 or more is a huge perk as you don’t have to maintain a balance requirement to earn the high APY.

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Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]

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