Who knew 10 years ago that your mobile phone would be the "go to" place to save money and improve your household budgeting?
With the advent of smart phones over the past decade and the evolution of mobile application technology that's constantly putting new and better apps on digital devices, the golden era of personal financial apps is here, and brother, business is booming.
According to Statista, mobile apps will generate $189 billion in total revenues by 2020. Popular online app stores like Apple's (AAPL) App Store (2.2 million apps available as of 2017) and Google (GOOG) Play (2.8 million apps) are pushing mobile apps to the masses and the personal financial app category is one of the most popular categories for digital shoppers.
What mobile money apps are connecting best with U.S. consumers? After review, we think these personal financial apps - with everything from credit card rating services to household budget calculators and much, much more - earn the top grades.
This mobile app promises a nuts and bolts personal financial planning experience for users, with regular updates on bank deposits and withdrawals, snapshots of real-time spending, and the ability to pay bills. Mint also offers a helpful (and free) credit score tracking service, but on the downside, Mint updates appear to be somewhat dated, with updates on things like online bank deposits appearing in your email box days after the transaction actually occurred.
Acorns is somewhat unusual - even for the technology-advanced mobile app market. It's not really geared toward budgeting and savings, but instead takes your spare change from linked debit card and credit card transactions and steers it into an investment account loaded with exchange-traded funds. The app was designed with the help of famed Wall Street investor Harry Markowitz, so if nothing else, Acorns has the pedigree factor covered. There is a small $1 fee for accounts with less than $5,000. There's also a $2 monthly fee for an individual retirement account.
Otherwise known as You Need a Budget (get it?), YNAB, created by a professional accountant Jesse Mecham, focuses on a single goal - to give users the best household budget possible - if you're willing to pay $6.99 per month for the privilege. The app is a holy trinity of personal financial apps - a budgeting tool, an investment tracker, and a bill payment service, all in one seamless package.
This money mobile app, like YNAB, offers personal financial budgeting and tracking as its primary feature that helps consumers keep tabs on everyday spending. It also offers direct guidance on the impact those $100 jeans will have on your household budget. Another upside: there are no annoying in-app ads and banners asking you to spend more money - something that goes under radar - or should - in the money app market. MyBudgetBook is available in 10 languages and its easy-to-read graphics are state-of-the-art. On the downside, ramping up on what you'll need to do to get your bookkeeping up and running can take some time.
Digit is all about the easy, efficient scheduling of automated payments to your bank savings accounts. The app reviews your personal financial picture and figures out a reasonable, doable amount of money from your monthly income and steers it straight into your savings account. Digit uses a sophisticated algorithm to decipher the best amount of money it can pop into your savings account from your monthly income. The idea is that you'll barely notice the cash is missing, and it promotes good savings habits. The first 100 days on Digit are on the house - after that, the app costs $2.99 a month.
Tony Robbins Money
Some call him a prophet and some call him a huckster, but you can't deny the Tony Robbins brand is at the top of the self-help pyramid. For that reason alone, his money app is worth a look. Users do report having problems accessing the site but the Tony Robbins brand says those issues are resolved. What the site does offer is exclusive financial advice from Robbins and his many guest experts who appear with him at conferences and seminars. Unlike most financial apps, the Robbins app promotes holistic steps to take to reach money nirvana, like deep breathing exercises. The app is free.
This personal finance app takes a straightforward, almost simplistic approach to personal money management. You create an account, sync it with your bank account, and then sit back and watch PocketGuard analyze your everyday spending and everyday bills, then give you a "what's left in your pocket" glimpse of your current financial standing. It also calculates your personal net worth and net income and helps you find savings in key budget areas like insurance, credit cards, and home mortgages. Basic PocketGuard is free, but you can pay $4 a month for PocketGuard Plus, which offers advanced features, like more "pockets" and the ability to track cash on a real-time basis.
This money app focuses on saving money at grocery stores and big pharmacy chains, enabling users to save money on food, consumer drug brands, and other consumer goods products. Simply link your grocery store or drug store's loyalty card number in the app or just upload store receipt data to the SavingStar app. That will help you earn more discount and promotion offers that can save big bucks that go right into your SavingStar account.
Prism bills its app as a tool that "takes the pain out of bill paying." In point of action, it really does help to see all of your bills and all of your account balances in one place, as Prism does. In addition, Prism can help you set up payments, make those payments, and it provides bill payment confirmation right on your smart phone. The app is free.
This "all-in-one" personal financial app is used primarily for budgeting and regular, ongoing cash management. The app collects all of your financial accounts -investments, credit cards, home loans, mortgages and more - and pops it all onto one easy-to-read dashboard. That provides a one-time snapshot of where you stand with your personal finances, and allows you take actionable steps - like tracking investments or saving for retirement - right there on the app. Interesting side note - Personal Capital is also a registered investment adviser, managing about $7 billion in investor assets. Opening an account is free of charge.
Consumers may understandably view Quicken as an accounting and bookkeeping product for small businesses - that's where Quicken has made hay over the years. But its mobile app for individuals has a lot going for it. Besides managing expenses and tracking spending (and overspending), Quicken does a good job on the data security front, as its one of the most aggressive money apps in fighting financial fraud. Quicken offers stronger password access and it notifies you on potentially fraudulent purchases quickly and efficiently. Hey, it's better to know now that your personal data has been breached than it is to find out weeks from now on a credit card statement that you've been victimized by financial fraud.
This money-saving app is designed specifically to help financial consumers save cash in ways that meet their needs best. The app, which is free, is really more of mobile banking app than anything else. It basically rounds up your regular purchases on a real-time basis. You have savings options with Qapital - you can reroute cash into your Qapital savings account when you get paid or you can use the "round up" method of rerouting your spare change from purchases directly into a Qapital savings account. The app is free, has no hidden fees, and your account is FDIC-protected, just as if it was a regular bank savings account.
Ever hear of robo-advisers? These digital investment software platforms replace (mostly) human-based advisers with robotics-based financial software that pinpoints your exact money management needs using advanced algorithms and create a tailor-made portfolio investment plan just for you. With Betterment, the app interface is both intuitive and graphically elegant, and best of all, it runs itself once you've got the app set up. Betterment has two investment planning tiers - its basic platform charges 0.25% of total assets in your account while Betterment Premium charges you 0.40%, but you get direct phone access to actual human investment advisers. If you're a hands-off investor, Betterment could be for you.