We could all stand to save a few bucks. Maybe more.
The long-running (and ongoing) boom in personal finance apps ensures we have a great deal of help in this endeavor. From budgeting and financial education apps to lightweight money management apps to apps that instantly find better prices on planned purchases, there’s no shortage of programs designed to preserve and grow our respective slices of the pie.
But it can be hard to make sense of the ever-expanding universe of money-saving apps on the market right now. It’s divided into three broad categories: budgeting and financial education apps, banking and investing apps, and cost-cutting apps. Some are entirely free to use, others combine free and paid options, and still others ask all users to pay by the month or year. But all have a common goal: to boost users’ fiscal health.
Budgeting & Financial Education Apps
These apps help users create budgets and spending plans, provide helpful guidance on tricky financial topics, or both. Many appear on our list of the best budgeting apps on the market.
Personal Capital is a robo-advisor that makes money by managing users’ investments, not recommending third-party products and services. That means its budgeting tools come with no salesy recommendations for anything other than Personal Capital’s wealth management service, which is not available to users with less than $100,000 in investable assets.
For users who don’t want or can’t afford to manage their money with Personal Capital, there’s a nice lineup of free personal finance resources and budgeting tools available at no cost. These include retirement and education planners, which help illuminate the cost of two major life goals (and estimate how much you need to save and invest to reach them) and a fee analyzer that exposes the true cost of your managed investments. You can also take advantage of the investment checkup feature, an allocation analyzer that’s a godsend for do-it-yourself investors who don’t regularly rebalance their portfolios.
Read our full Personal Capital review for more information about this app.
Tiller Money merges the granularity of old-fashioned spreadsheet-based budgeting with the convenience of a cloud-based app that syncs with nearly 20,000 external financial sources: bank accounts, brokerage accounts, employer-sponsored retirement accounts, and credit products like credit cards and personal loans. No matter where you bank, borrow, and invest, your U.S.-based financial institution should sync with Tiller.
Tiller updates custom-created Google or Excel spreadsheets daily with auto-categorized transactions pulled from your synced accounts. For example, a $50 grocery store purchase today appears as a “Groceries” or “Food” transaction (depending on your preference) tomorrow. You’re always in control of your own categorization rules and color scheme, so your spreadsheets should always be easy to decipher, even if you don’t check them every day (or week). And you can always manually recategorize synced transactions if you’re not satisfied with your current categories.
Tiller offers an optional email alert feature that serves up a daily digest of your transaction activity to your inbox. If you manage your finances jointly with a spouse, domestic partner, roommate, co-parent, or anyone else or have a professional financial planner evaluate your cash flow from time to time, you’re free to share your spreadsheets securely with them.
Tiller Money offers a risk-free trial for 30 days from sign-up. You can cancel at any time without penalty during this period. Once the trial ends, Tiller costs $79 per year.
MoneyPatrol is a dashboard-based budgeting app that syncs with thousands of financial accounts, including nontraditional spending reserves like gift cards and prepaid debit cards. If you’re spreadsheet-averse and prefer not to make rule-laden budgets, MoneyPatrol is for you — the heart and soul of its budgeting operation is the Alerts & Insights feature, which provides bite-size bits of information by text or email. If and when you want to drill down into the meat of your budget, MoneyPatrol has plenty of charts, tables, and panels that illuminate how you’re spending your money and where you could do better.
MoneyPatrol costs $59.99 per year after a 15-day free trial.
PocketSmith is a deluxe personal finance app with three plans, one of which is free:
- Basic. The basic plan is the free version, and it shows. Unlike many digital budgeting platforms, PocketSmith’s basic plan supports only manual transaction importing — it doesn’t sync with external financial accounts. It’s also somewhat restrictive: It limits you to six months of cash flow projections, 12 budget scenarios, and just two accounts. If your personal finances are simple, basic might be all you need, but you need to upgrade otherwise.
- Premium. For about $10 per month or $7.50 per month when paid annually, the premium plan allows unlimited budgets, 10 external accounts, and cash flow projections up to 10 years into the future. And it syncs automatically with external accounts with automatic transaction categorization if and when manual transaction importing becomes a chore.
- Super. For about $20 per month or about $14 per month when paid annually, the super plan allows unlimited accounts and cash flow projections up to 30 years into the future. If you’re able to keep your financial plan on track, that’s long enough to replace a human financial planner at a fraction of their likely cost.
PocketSmith’s advantages include a bank feed that supports accounts in 36 countries and multiple non-U.S. currencies, both of which are excellent news for American emigrants and those attending university abroad. It also has a budget calendar that helps you schedule bills in an intuitive calendar view. PocketSmith also integrates seamlessly with Xero, a small-business accounting software product, and Mint.
Cleo is a lightweight budgeting app that uses sophisticated algorithms and a user-friendly messaging interface to deliver budgeting insights, recommendations, and reminders in plain English.
In addition to offering a custom budgeting capability that dispenses with dense spreadsheets, Cleo’s free version makes it easy to set and fund financial goals — with catchy goal category names like “Kill My Debt” and “Yay for Vacay.”
Cleo also offers periodic games and sweepstakes that polish your financial literacy and put you in the running for decent-size cash windfalls (the game currently advertised on Cleo’s website pays $150 to the winner). And its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered texting app is a super-convenient way to make sense of your upcoming bills (among other budgeting musts) without poring over account details.
For $5.99 per month, Cleo Plus offers some value-added benefits, including cash back on select purchases, short-term salary advance loans up to $100, and access to a regularly updated credit score.
Mint is a free budgeting app with a comprehensive feature lineup designed to simplify and streamline users’ financial lives.
Mint’s accounts tracker syncs with thousands of United States-based financial institutions and updates connected balances in nearly real time. Its investment tracker does the same with external brokerage accounts with a bonus: identifying hidden 401(k) plan fees, which sap returns over time.
Mint’s core is a set of user-friendly budgeting tools that calculate average spending by category and provide insight into longer-term spending patterns. A daily tracker provides an up-to-the-minute snapshot of precisely how much you can safely spend before your next payday. Customizable account alerts warn of approaching due dates, suspicious activity, and other potential red flags. And you can check your FICO score for free on demand.
Although Mint doesn’t charge a membership fee, it does serve up customized product and service recommendations based on user-provided information (such as net worth and homeowner status). On the bright side, you don’t have to act on these recommendations.
Read our full Mint review for more information about this app.
Banking & Investing Apps
These apps help users manage their money in deposit accounts or investing accounts (or both). Many appear on our roundup of the best investment apps. Unless otherwise noted, all deposit accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to the legal maximum per account type (currently $250,000).
Chime is among the best online banks for multiple reasons, not least of which is its early payday promise. Some direct deposit customers get paid two days earlier than usual (most often Wednesday rather than Friday). Chime also makes no secret of the fact that it never charges hidden fees — a significant advantage over traditional banks.
Chime’s spending account, basically a checking account, comes with a fee-free Visa debit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide. An optional savings account is a great place to store funds you don’t need immediately, bearing in mind that withdrawals are limited by law to six per statement cycle. The automatic savings feature is a rules-based tool that allows you to transfer up to 10% of each paycheck to your savings account without manually doing so each time.
Stash is a micro-investing platform that caters to self-directed investors seeking total control over their stock portfolios. Stash allows you to invest in fractional shares. That means you can purchase individual stocks, bonds, and exchange-traded funds in increments as low as $0.01 — and create a truly diversified portfolio on a shoestring.
Stash has three plans, none of which are free. The lowest-priced plan, Beginner, costs $1 per month and offers:
- A taxable investing account
- A checking account with an early payday feature (up to two days early) and fractional stock rewards (Stock-Back) on eligible transactions
The Growth plan costs $3 per month and adds a tax-advantaged retirement account. The Stash+ plan costs $9 per month and adds a metal debit card with twice the Stock-Back earning potential, a monthly market insights report, and the option to add up to two custodial accounts to teach your kids about money. An automatic savings tool is available at all price points.
- Varo Bank Account. This checking account has an early payday option^ and no-fee overdraft up to $50 when you complete at least five Varo Visa® debit card purchases in each calendar month and receive at least $1,000 in total direct deposits into your account in the same calendar month
- Varo Savings Account. This high-yield savings account has one of the best annual percentage yields (APYs) around.
Neither account comes with minimums or hidden fees. Varo does ask customers seeking high savings yields to make an effort. To maximize your savings account yield, Varo recommends you “[o]pen a Varo Savings Account and meet Varo’s three easy requirements to earn 2.80% Annual Percentage Yield* on balances up to $50,000 — one of the best online savings yields in the business. Otherwise, earn 1.61% APY. The three requirements are: Make at least five Varo Visa debit card purchases in each calendar month, receive total direct deposits of $1,000 or more in the same calendar month, and maintain a savings account balance up to $50,000.”
^ Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the payer’s submission of deposits. We generally post such deposits on the day they are received, which may be up to two days earlier than the payer’s scheduled payment date.
* Varo annual percentage yield (APY) is accurate as of April 1, 2020. This rate is variable and may change. There’s no minimum balance required to open an account. Balance in savings account must be at least $0.01 to earn interest.
Qapital is an excellent online stock broker for novice and intermediate traders and a sound online bank for consumers looking to park daily funds. Although it doesn’t have a free plan, it does offer a set of powerful features that more than pay for themselves with consistent use. These include the option to round up the change on every debit card transaction and a payday savings feature that automatically transfers a portion of your paycheck into your savings account.
For $3 per month, Qapital combines these features with a checking and savings account. For $6 per month, it adds a low-cost investing solution with prebuilt portfolios that align with users’ investing goals and time horizons. For $12 per month, it adds a Money Missions feature that coaches you toward financial optimization (and according to Qapital, helps users save an average of $5,000 per year).
Robinhood is the original commission-free online trading platform and another excellent choice for novice and intermediate investors. Although many other online stock brokers now follow its commission-free lead, Robinhood continues to innovate with new features like a cash management account with competitive yields and access to alternative investments like precious metals and cryptocurrencies. Soon enough, Robinhood plans to roll out fractional share investing too.
For a limited time, apply for a new Robinhood brokerage account and get approved to get a free stock worth $2.50 to $200 per share.
Much like Stash and Twine, Acorns is a low-cost micro-investing and money management app that makes it easy to boost your portfolio’s balance through automatic roundups and recurring deposits. Its prebuilt portfolios span a range of risk tolerances and investing objectives, from conservative (mostly bonds) to aggressive (all stocks).
For $1 per month, the basic plan offers access to Acorns Invest, Acorns’ basic taxable investing account. For $2 per month, it adds Acorns Later, a tax-advantaged retirement investing option. And for $3 per month, it offers Acorns Spend, a checking account with no additional fees and opportunities to earn bonus cash. Thanks to these opportunities, new Acorns Spend customers can earn up to $100 on the first $1,000 spent.
Digit is an automated savings app that cleverly and painlessly squirrels away funds for a rainy day (or any of the many custom goals you can create and fund in the app). The secret is a powerful algorithm that utilizes historical cash flow data to learn how and when you spend your money — and how much Digit can safely add to your FDIC-insured savings balance at any given time.
For $5 per month after a 30-day free trial you can cancel at any time, Digit offers:
- Unlimited savings goals you can create and customize
- A 0.5% bonus on all savings balances every three months
- Unlimited withdrawals
- No minimum balances
- Automatic credit card payoffs — Digit saves up as you make only the minimum payment, then neutralizes your balance once you’ve saved enough
Twine is a fun, low-cost app that helps you organize and reach your saving and investing goals, helping you achieve your near- and long-term goals.
Twine uses the appropriately named Twine Save and Twine Invest accounts to work its magic. Simply open one or both accounts and begin creating customized savings goals — whether that’s a vacation, credit card debt, or a security deposit. If you manage your finances jointly with someone else, such as a spouse, partner, roommate, or co-parent, invite them to the app and sync your accounts to work together toward your shared savings goals.
You’re not obligated to invest with Twine. If you do, it charges $0.25 per month per $500 invested, which works out to an annualized management fee of 0.6% — higher than most robo-advisors but lower than most full-service financial advisors.
These apps help users reduce or avoid expenses. Some do this by tracking and eliminating redundant or unnecessary bills, while others offer discounts or rewards on planned purchases. You’ll find a couple in our list of the best shopping rewards programs and apps.
Trim is an AI-powered virtual assistant that saves users money on obligations like bills, subscriptions, and credit cards. To get started, simply connect any accounts you’d like Trim to track. Trim then goes to work — analyzing your spending patterns and pointing out opportunities to save.
Trim’s free offering includes a financial dashboard that displays all linked accounts, including important financial details such as overdraft fee tracking and notifications, personalized alerts, reminders about pending due dates, and a feature that lets you cancel subscriptions you no longer need.
Trim has some paid value-adds, including:
- A high-yield savings account that pays a 4% annualized bonus on the first $2,000 saved and includes an automated savings feature
- Bill negotiation (Trim negotiates directly with your payees)
- A debt payoff feature that could help you pay down high-interest credit card debt faster
Trim isn’t clear about pricing for savings or debt payoff. Trim’s bill negotiation service costs 33% of any yearly savings. If Trim can’t lower your bills, you won’t pay a dime; if it can, it takes about a third of the windfall.
Truebill is a lot like Trim: a user-friendly assistant that helps users reduce recurring expenses and pay down debt faster. With visibility into deposit and investment account balances in addition to billing accounts, Truebill’s financial dashboard is even more comprehensive than Trim’s. And like Trim, it has a free subscription cancellation feature.
Truebill’s paid bill negotiation feature is a bit pricier than Trim’s. Truebill takes a 40% cut of any negotiated savings.
Billshark is another financial assistant in the Trim and Truebill vein, though it’s even more narrowly focused on two money-saving functions: negotiating bill balances downward and canceling subscriptions that busy users have forgotten about (or just don’t have the energy to cancel).
Both features are paid. Bill negotiation costs 40% of any savings and nothing out of pocket if Billshark is unsuccessful. Subscription cancellation costs $9 per subscription — a small price to pay, but still a drawback relative to Trim’s and Truebill’s gratis cancellation features.
Capital One Shopping
Capital One Shopping is a powerful free app and browser plugin built to help users save money on purchases they were planning to make anyway — and deals too good to pass up.
The money-saving browser plugin is the real standout here. When you shop Amazon, it automatically searches hundreds of other online merchants to find a better deal. If Amazon has the best price, it lets you know. And when you shop non-Amazon retailers, Capital One Shopping automatically looks for coupon codes and other discounts to reduce your final price.
Read our full Capital One Shopping review for more information about this app.
Like Capital One Shopping, Honey is a free browser plugin that searches hundreds of sources to find better prices. The plugin works on thousands of retailers’ websites, boasts countless active promo codes, and automatically compares Amazon prices against a slew of competitors’. According to Honey, the average discount is nearly 18%, and the average user saves $126 annually.
Ibotta is a free cash-back app that works for online and in-store purchases with more than 1,500 retail partners. Use the browser extension or mobile app to earn instant cash back on digital purchases or link your store loyalty accounts to earn cash back on in-store purchases within 24 hours, or use the Ibotta mobile payments feature to earn instant cash back at the point of sale. You can even use the app to submit paper receipts for cash back. Location-enabled alerts for nearby offers ensure you never miss an opportunity to save when you’re out.
For a limited time, get a $20 welcome bonus when you join Ibotta.
Read our full Ibotta review for more information about this app.
Fetch Rewards excels at one thing: saving users money on grocery store purchases. Fetch partners with hundreds of popular brands to offer rewards on thousands of products every day. Just scan your receipt after you shop, and Fetch does the rest — tallying up your rewards and depositing them into your account. Redeem for more than 100 different retail gift cards or opt for a Visa or Mastercard gift card that’s accepted at millions of locations worldwide.
Dosh users automatically earn cash back on eligible spending with partner retailers, restaurants, travel merchants, and more. The process couldn’t be simpler — just link your cards to the secure app, spend as you normally would, and watch cash back appear in your Dosh account. With more than 100,000 locations eligible to earn cash back through Dosh, you’re never far from your next opportunity. Cash out by bank transfer, PayPal, or Venmo once you hit $25 in accrued rewards.
Each of these apps strengthens users’ finances in some way, whether by making it easier to track spending, finding opportunities to trim bills or reduce the impact of planned expenditures, or painlessly squirreling away funds for a rainy day. Even those that charge for their services — and many do — more than justify their cost with consistent use. And there’s no limit on the number of money-saving apps you can use to make sense of your personal finances.
What’s your favorite money-saving app? What do you like about it?
Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the Capital One Shopping extension using the links we provided.