Modern technology makes a lot of things easier. The internet and electronic databases have revolutionized virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives, including how we work, play and shop. The efficiencies derived from these new technologies and business processes have saved consumers countless hours and saved businesses billions of dollars.
The technology adoption curve varies from sector to sector, and the financial industry has been one of the leaders in adoption of mature “second wave” technologies as the case for the improvement in their bottom line is clear. As is often the case, financial technology startups have actually done most of the innovating in developing useful new financial products and more efficient business processes, and larger financial institutions have jumped on the “fin tech” bandwagon by acquisitions or copy-catting.
From the perspective of the consumer, fin tech is mainly about apps they can use to make budgeting, saving, borrowing and investing quicker, easier and more profitable. The four apps discussed below are just a few of the many useful financial apps available to consumers today, so you should definitely comparison shop to find a budgeting app or banking platform that fits your needs.
Although they advertise themselves as an “anti-bank”, Simple is really a free, full-service online bank with a few surprising bells and whistles.
Unlike many personal finance services that just provide services using existing bank accounts to help users save or invest, Simple is designed to completely replace a traditional bank. The FDIC-insured institution has a low-cost web-based model so it operates without any fees for account holders. There is no minimum balance to open a Simple account, and users are given access to a large network of partner ATMs with no fees charged.
The company points out that it makes money from service fees that merchants pay when you swipe your Simple debit card and from interest off of deposits.
You can use the “Goals” feature in Simple to set up a savings plan. Users just set an amount and a date they want to save money by, and the app will automatically debit the account and transfer it into a separate account until you hit your goal.
Mint is one of the most popular budgeting and savings apps. Boasting more than 15 million users, Mint is an easy-to-use personal financial platform. It’s free, and new accounts can be added in just minutes. You can link your banking, credit cards, loans, and even your brokerage accounts to Mint.
Your financial data gets updated automatically every time you log into the app or website. All of your financial data is presented in an intuitive interface with lots of graphs and visuals.
Mint makes it easy to set and manage goals. A new goal, such as paying off a loan or saving for a down payment on new home, can be set up with a few clicks, and will be a part of your monthly budgeting going forward.
In a major development, Mint also recently launched a free credit score tracking option. When you click on the “Show Details” button, you can see your credit score, payment history, age of credit accounts and other info. For a complete analysis of all the data in your credit report, however, you have to upgrade to a paid premium version.
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Think of Digit as a virtual change jar for savings. You set a savings goal, and the free app analyzes deposits and spending habits from a specific checking account, taking out a small amount of money every few days when it decides the cash can be spared.
Digit is different from other saving and budgeting services like Mint as it does not involve a page with a breakdown of spending habits, instead using a text chatbot you can query directly for information such as checking account balance, recent transactions, and how much money saved to date. You can use a Digit dashboard with an overview of account activity, but most interaction with Digit happens via text/built-in-app messaging service.
The app achieves its purpose of making saving money easy, but is designed for users with a steady income. The service might prove frustrating if you spend irregularly and/or your income comes in larger chunks at not predictable intervals, because Digit may think you have cash to spare and withdraw money you were counting on in a few weeks.
Using a similar model to Digit, Qapital moves small amounts of money into a savings account. However, with Qapital, you can set the rules. All you have to do is connect the app with your bank account and credit cards and input a savings goal. Moreover users can customize the plan by deciding which actions lead to a deposit.
For example, you can choose to round up the extra change from purchases to the next dollar, set a fixed amount daily or weekly, or even sync the app with Apple Health to boost savings for achieving fitness goals.
Almost everybody could use a little help with their financial life. So do some research, consider your personal needs and goals, then download an app to help you take charge of your finances today.