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SmartyPig Review – Savings Account Alternative with High Interest Rate

By Mark Riddix

You may have heard of a new personal financial site known as SmartyPig, but what is it?

SmartyPig was created in 2008 as an online site to help individuals save money for a specific goal. Think of SmartyPig as an online piggybank that pays a high interest rate. You can save for anything on SmartyPig including a wedding, a vacation, or a down payment on a home.

SmartyPig defines itself as “a simple, smart and secure way to save for a specific goal.” The unique aspect of the site is that SmartyPig lets friends, family members, and other users contribute to your savings goal. You can also contribute to other people’s savings accounts to help them achieve their goals.

Examples
Imagine that you are trying to save $2,000 for a 70 inch flat-screen television, and you log into your SmartyPig account to find out that your friends have donated $200 towards your goal. Wouldn’t that put a smile on your face? SmartyPig lets you do the same thing for someone else. You can contribute money to help them reach their goal.

Let’s say you want to withdraw your $2,000 savings from SmartyPig. If you withdraw your savings out on a Macy’s gift card, SmartyPig will give you a cash boost of 12%. That’s a $240 dollar bonus on your account. See the full list of best-in-class retailers offering a cash boost. There are quite a few including Macy’s, Best Buy, Amazon.com, iTunes, KMart, and more.

Opening a SmartyPig account is as easy as 1-2-3.  Here’s how it works:

1. Complete the account application.
You need the following information to open an account:

  • Driver’s license number or state issued ID
  • Social security number
  • Home address
  • E-mail address
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number

2. Set up your savings goals.
You can save any amount from a minimum of $25 to a maximum of $250,000, for any purpose.

3. Fund your account.
You can fund your account with any existing checking or savings account. Just link your existing checking or savings account to your SmartyPig account.

SmartyPig’s Key Features

  • Gives you the ability to set up as many personal and family goals as you want.
  • Offers a variety of options to achieve your goals.
  • Allows you to add additional money to your goal at any time.
  • Share your goals with your family and friends.
  • Provides tracking tools that let you check your savings progress.
  • Enables you to consolidate your savings account to one place.
  • Funds can be redeemed via a debit card, bank account transfer or placed on a retail card.
  • Access your account anywhere, anytime using your cell phone.
  • Savings account can be integrated into other money management sites.

Advantages

  • Contributions can be made to other user’s accounts to help them meet their goals.
  • Opening, funding, and withdrawing money from your SmartyPig account is always free.
  • The interest rate is much higher than interest paid at traditional banks and many online banks. (APY is currently 2.01%)
  • Interest is compounded daily which allows you to earn more money.
  • Automatic contributions makes saving easier.
  • Accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000.
  • Low minimum to open an account. (The account minimum is just $25).
  • Earn an additional 12% if savings account money is transferred to a retail card.
  • Tracking Account Visualizer takes the guesswork out of savings.
  • Gift cards can be given to anyone that you would like to help start saving.

Disadvantages

  • It costs 2.9% to make a contribution to another user’s account.
  • Credit cards can be used to fund savings account contributions.
  • A checking or savings account is needed to fund your SmartyPig account.

Background Information
SmartyPig is not a bank. All SmartyPig savings accounts are held at West Bank and insured by the FDIC up to $250,000 per account. Michael Ferrari and Jon Gaskell started SmartyPig so that individuals could automatically save for their goals and allow others to help them reach their goals.

Final Thoughts
I love the fact that SmartyPig lets you share information with other users about your goals. SmartyPig allows you to let your whole social network know about your goals using Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or email. Accountability makes it a lot more likely that you will stick to your financial goals. The extra support from other users should keep you motivated to reach your savings goals. SmartyPig is the only site that I am aware of that offers the ability for friends and family to contribute to your savings goals. The cash boost incentives are also nice for those people looking to save for a specific item that they can buy from one of SmartyPig’s preferred retail stores.

Overall, SmartyPig is a great product for those of you that want to set up specific savings goals and be transparent about it with your friends and family.

Open a free online savings account with SmartyPig today and start saving up to reach your goals.

Mark Riddix
Mark Riddix is the founder and president of an independent investment advisory firm that provides personalized investing and asset management consulting. Mark has written financial columns for Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area newspapers and is the author of the book, Your Financial Playbook.

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  • http://www.maketodaypayday.co.uk Kate

    What an interesting concept. I might have to sign up for an account today! My birthday is coming up and everything is asking me what I want, wouldn’t it be great to direct them to this?

    • Mark Riddix

      It sounds like a great birthday idea.

  • http://madsaver.com Mac

    I heard about this site some time ago, but have yet to check it out. Sounds like it’s come a long way since then. Currently, I use my ing savings acct to save for a particular goal, but SmartyPig seems to do that and a whole lot more. Though I don’t like the fact that it costs 2.9% to contribute to another users fund, I actually like the idea of using your credit card to fund your account…however there must be some fine print on that. Somebody has to pay the exorbitant credit card fees on the transfer, and I would assume the account owner would be doing that and losing more money in the process.

  • Chris

    The cashback boost looks the most enticing to me. I’ll check this site out.

  • Em D.

    The cashback boost caught my eye too. Though the “Earn an additional 12% if savings account money is transferred to a retail card” is a bit misleading. You can earn up to 12% but Macy’s is the only retailer I see on the list at that rate, most of the retailers only give a 2-5% boost.

    • http://madsaver.com Mac

      12% for Macy’s isn’t very appealing. If they offered a cashback boost to a store I frequent, then this is an excellent deal. It’s not a good deal when you need to find an excuse to buy something at a store you wouldn’t otherwise.

  • gina

    I do like that others can see what you are saving for, but I really think that the 2.9% cost will be a turn off when someone can just give you a check directly without the fee deducted.

    • Mark Riddix

      Good point.

  • Karmella

    I am a huge Smarty Pig fan. I didn’t realize that it costs an extra 2.9% for someone to contribute to your goal, that’s not so great. But I like that it pays a great interest rate, and I set an amount and a goal and there’s an automatic withdrawal every month. I also like that it’s totally separate from any other accounts – I don’t really see it so it’s easy to just let the money accumulate.

    As an aside, interesting that contributions can be by credit card – I wonder how much extra the contributor’s credit card company charges for that… But I don”t think it’s necessarily a disadvantage that it’s an option – I am all for having more options, and it’s up to each of us to evaluate those options and make good choices.

  • http://madsaver.com Mac

    Just saw an ad on the front page for SmartyPig. Their savings rate is still at a high 2.01% APY, nearly twice as much as ING Direct at only 1.1% APY. With the added advantage of being able to use a cc to fund the account (more miles), I’ll be signing up right after I buy my next house. I don’t want to do so now as I’m sure SmartyPig will do a hard pull on my credit line.

    • James

      I’m pretty sure that the pull smartypig does is a SOFT pull on your credit. At least that seems to be what all the various reviews of the site seem to mention.

    • Mark Riddix

      I believe that the pull will be the same as with any banking institution.

    • Smith

      Fortunately rates are up to 2.15% as of May 15. However, rough calculations estimate that this equates to a compounded rate 1.6% if comparing to companies that compound interest each day. While SmartyPig interest is “accrued” each day, I believe it is only added to your account once per quarter. This means you receive the same amount of interest each day throughout a single quarter. Check this out for me if you get a chance. Thanks.

  • Charles

    I’m concerned that Smartypig is NOT a bank. They deposit your funds in an FDIC insured bank. But, they are the depositors, not you. You never have any direct contact with the actual bank. Hence, the FDIC is insuring Smartypig should the bank fail. But, what if Smartypig fails? Since the funds are not deposited in your name, but rather in the business name, would they become assets in the bankruptcy process? You might not get anything back.

    • Daniel

      Is Smartypig lying then? Because they say that your funds are HELD IN YOUR NAME at their deposit institution (BBVA).

      • Mark Riddix

        Daniel,

        The funds are held in your name. SmartyPig uses BBVA Compass as the bank to deposit funds into. BBVA Compass is a FDIC insured bank.

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  • veronica

    Smarty Pig SUCKS – you can’t withdraw partial funds –
    if you want to close a goal you can only deposit back into the account the money the account came from even if you have done transactions with other banks with them. POORLY DESIGNED – Customer Service were really RUDE too the lady started yelling at me. RUN don’t walk away from Smarty Pig.

  • http://www.ukpaydayloans.org.uk Laura Kent

    I think the one lesson to be learnt from the banking crisis is not to put all you eggs in one basket. Research carefully the institutions where you are considering depositing your cash and then split your funds between the two or three that you have most confidence in.

  • Reno Gulch

    I’m about a month into my membership with SmartyPig and I really like it. Altho rate has dropped from months ago, it’s way better than my credit union for simple savings. I also like that I can transfer between goals. I plan to have one big monthly transfer each month into one main goal and then fund my other goals from that main one — that way I don’t have so many different transfers out of my bank and I can distribute the dollars myself on the SmartyPig side. You do have to transfer the minimum $25 to set up a goal but you DON’T have to have recurring contributions to each one. I’ve also had a chance to redeem a goal into an Amazon.com card — worked slick, and I received the electronic gift code within about 10 minutes (they advertise 2-4 days). The bonus cash wasn’t huge (3%), but felt like free money since my purchase was tax-free and delivered free. .

  • Angelo

    Stay AWAY from Smartypig! These guys are serious bad news. I tried to close an account with them and they made me wait 9 business days!! I had over $41,000 with them in deposits and I tried to close the account – but they held it up because they needed 9 (that’s NINE) business days to verify whether a recurring (get this) $10/month fund deposit would in fact clear. When I explained that they were holding $41,000 that I needed access to within 5 days hostage for $10 (which they could simply credit back or hang on to for all I care), they SO could not care. Stay away from this bunch – quite rude and inflexible. Oh and their website really works hard to hide their phone number from you….

    • Scott_D

      That’s a good warning, but not a reason to stay away. Just plan ahead.

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