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Over half of U.S. households not having enough savings to cover a surprise $1,000 expense, so the idea of tucking away some money each month may seem to many like an impossibility.
One way to get started with building up savings is by using a money saving app. Several mobile banking apps come with features that help to make saving money easier and keep it a priority on consumers’ radars. Whether you’re planning to start your savings from scratch or pad an emergency fund, these banking apps can aid in developing helpful savings habits.
Ally Bank Surprise Savings
The Surprise Savings feature offered by Ally Bank is a convenient option for consumers who want to save money effortlessly. The feature, part of the bank’s mobile app, analyzes a linked checking account to look for places where money can be saved and automatically transfers the funds to an Ally savings account that pays a competitive interest rate.
There are safeguards to prevent the Surprise Savings feature from making transfers of $100 or more and no more than three times a week. An Ally savings account is needed to use Surprise Savings, but it can be linked to any checking account.
Best for: Unexpected savings
Huntington Bank Money Scout
Huntington Bank’s Money Scout is an automatic savings tool designed to help the regional bank’s customers figure out how much they can save.
The Money Scout tool analyzes customers’ spending habits, income and recurring expenses to determine how much money can be moved from checking to savings. When Money Scout finds money that’s not being used in checking, it transfers the amount ($5 to $50 ) into savings. The feature sends an alert each time a transfer is made, so that consumers can monitor their account balances for any overdraft risk and cancel the transfer before midnight that day if the funds are needed.
To use the Money Scout, having both a checking and a savings account with Huntington are required. The bank offers a couple of interest-bearing checking accounts for a monthly fee, and it has one free checking account option that doesn’t earn interest. There are also ways to get the fees waived, such as by maintaining a minimum account balance.
Best for: Small transfers
Cost: Free. But a Huntington checking account and savings account are required to use the feature. Some fees may apply to manage these accounts.
USAA Saving Booster
USAA, a bank that serves military members and their relatives, offers several automatic savings options through its Savings Booster. A notable feature is the text savings tool, which analyzes consumers’ checking accounts to see if they can afford to automatically transfer $1 to $9 into savings every few days.
USAA sends a daily text with the amount available in your checking account, and if the amount falls below $100, no money is transferred into savings.
Savings Booster can also be set up to automatically transfer rebates that USAA reimburses for out-of-network ATM fees into savings, up to $15 a month.
To take advantage of the Savings Booster tools, both a USAA Bank checking and savings account are required. Neither account charges monthly fees, and Savings Booster comes at no cost.
Best for: Military members and veterans
Fifth Third Bank Smart Savings
Fifth Third Bank’s mobile Smart Savings tool makes automatic savings transfers for customers with a Fifth Third checking account and a Fifth Third Momentum Savings account.
Transfer amounts range from $1 to $80 and are made each Tuesday and Thursday. Account holders can customize their automatic savings by setting limits on how much can be transferred each week.
In addition to Smart Savings, Momentum Savings account holders can also set up specific in the Fifth Third app — up to four at a time — and apply specified amounts of money to each goal.
A $5 monthly service fee applies to the Momentum Savings account, but it’s waived for customers who have any Fifth Third checking account (other than Express Banking) or when customers maintain an average monthly balance of $500.
Best for: Achieving specific goals
Cost: Free with a Fifth Third Momentum Savings account.
Long Game is a free personal finance app that was recently acquired by Truist and aimed especially at Generation X and millennials (ages 18-41). It implements “gamification” — the idea of making savings more fun by making it a game — to help users manage their money and achieve savings goals.
The app works by having users link a U.S.-based bank account to it. In the app, users set personalized savings goals, which are broken down into virtual missions. When a user achieves one of these goals, they earn coins, which can be used to unlock more games and win prizes, including cash prizes.
Long Game also provides a map to illustrate users’ savings progress.
Best for: Making saving money a game.
Note: Bankrate’s review showed that though the app is available for download, new users can’t create accounts. Instead, they are instructed to join a waitlist while Long Game is updated as part of its integration with Truist.
What to watch out for
As you explore mobile app savings options, there are several precautions to keep in mind.
First and foremost, make sure the app is secure, by using one that requires multifactor authentication, says Jacob Dayan, CEO of Community Tax, an accounting and tax advisory firm. “Multifactor authentication can be annoying, but this is one way to make sure no one will be hacking into your account,” he says.
When it comes to personal finances, it’s important to know how much of your income you can comfortably stash away. Though it’s possible to move as much money as you want into a savings account, there are limits on how often you can take money out of a savings account, says Lacy Rogers, the founder of financial advisory firm
Another thing to watch out for is the risk of potential overdraft charges when there isn’t enough money in your checking account to cover spending. “You’re better off setting up an alert to let you know if your balance gets too low rather than relying on overdraft protection,” Rogers says.
–Freelance writer Sarah Sharkey contributed to a previous version of this article.