If saving money feels overwhelming, you have options to help you kick-start the chore.
There are a growing number of apps that help you save money regardless of your starting point. These easy-to-use apps require only a checking account and smartphone. Each app has its own style and strategies to help you save. But at their core, they’re designed to inspire you to get into the rhythm of saving without overthinking it, at a time when millions of Americans don’t have much savings, if any.
Keep in mind, you will need to share your bank data with these apps (unless, of course, it’s also your bank), so review the terms and conditions. Also, make sure your checking account has a balance buffer greater than a few bucks; you don’t want to risk an accidental overdraft.
Best money savings apps
- Digit: Best for optimizing savings decisions
- Dobot: Best for price
- Qapital: Best for those who are motivated by visuals
- Long Game: Best for a game-like experience
- Simple: Best for competitive APY with auto-savings features
- Chime: Best for those who want their bank app to save their spare change
- Current: Best for young adults seeking a banking alternative
- Acorns: Best for novice investors
Launched in 2015, Digit is one of the most well-known automated savings apps and for good reason: The service makes savings decisions simple. Digit analyzes what goes in and out of your checking account. Then, it periodically moves funds from checking to savings in amounts its algorithms believe are safe to save.
Digit is a good option for those who identify as spenders, not savers, and like outsourcing decisions.
The app is no longer free, however. Digit charges subscribers $5 a month. For that fee, you’ll get the auto-savings feature as well as the ability to use the app to pay down credit card debt and establish savings goals. You can earn a 0.10% percent annual savings bonus that Digit pays every three months — a perk that can help offset some of the subscription fee.
If Digit determines you can’t spare any money, it won’t withdraw anything and backs it up with a “no overdraft guarantee.” Digit will refund up to two separate instances of your account overdraft that it caused. You can also opt in for overdraft prevention.
To move money back into your checking account, it will take one to three business days. If you need the funds right away, you can pay 99 cents to have the money sent back into your checking account within 30 minutes.
Your money is held at FDIC-insured banks, so you are protected up to $250,000.
Best for: outsourcing optimizing savings decisions.
Cost: Free for 30 days, then $5 per month.
Dobot is another simple option that makes saving money regularly a breeze. After you link a checking account, Dobot will automatically move small amounts from it into your savings account every few days. It’s a good app for anyone looking for a free way to start saving for things you care about most.
One notable difference is Dobot’s owner, Fifth Third Bank. While you can use Dobot with a checking account from another bank, you will park your savings deposits at Fifth Third.
Standout features of the app include its price — free — and the ability to assign photos to your goals, which you can name yourself. The visuals are designed to help you remember why you’re passing on instant-gratification spending and saving instead. The app will also send you messages that update you on your progress and share savings tips. You can also save with friends and others on the app and track each other’s progress.
If the service causes an overdraft, the app says it will cover the fees. You will not earn interest on your Dobot account, however.
Best for: price.
Qapital also aims to help you effortlessly save small amounts of money but with a twist: It lets users set up savings rules. For instance, you could set up a guilty pleasure rule so the app stashes money into your savings every time you buy takeout, or “other stuff you’re trying to resist.” Like some investment apps, Qapital can also round up your change on purchases and apply that money to your savings. If you use a debit card to buy a $3.50 latte, for example, the app withdraws 50 cents from your checking and moves it to your savings. You can also set a rule to make the roundups larger.
The app is often applauded for its visual goal-based approach. You can attach photos to your goals so that the portal serves as a digital vision board for your money.
To use the app, you have a number of options: You can link an existing checking account or you can sign up for a Qapital debit card. You can also use Qapital to make investments in an ETF portfolio for your longer-term goals. What products you get depends on the plan you pay for.
Best for: those who are motivated by visualizing their goals.
Cost: Offers tiered-membership plans. The basic plan starts at $3 per month. You can get a 30-day free trial.
Long Game tries to redirect some of the cash people spend on lottery tickets into savings. On the app, users who put money into savings get a chance to win extra money. It’s called prize-linked savings, and the more you save, the more chances you have to play games with a chance to win more cash. Don’t worry — the account is FDIC-insured, and you’re not playing with your principal, or the money you’ve deposited into. Long Game. The app also pays 0.1 percent savings on your balance.
You can also set up a rule on the app to save money on payday.
If you like the thrill of a lottery and want savings to feel fun, you might want to try this app.
Best for: a game-like experience.
Simple is one of the original challenger banks in the U.S. While Simple is now owned by a bank, it continues to offer consumers checking accounts with savings tools under the Simple brand.
In becoming a Simple customer, you will have a bank account that offers what you would expect, like a debit card that pairs with a mobile app. The app’s tool does the “can I afford this?” for you. It also incorporates round-up savings rules: Each time you buy something using your Simple account, the brand can round up your purchase to the next dollar and transfer that money into a Protected Goals account. There, your money will also earn interest.
More recently, Simple rolled out a tax refund feature that lets customers choose a portion (or all) of their anticipated tax refunds to automatically move from their checking account to their savings account.
Best for: pairing a competitive APY with auto-savings features.
Cost: No monthly fees
The digital-only brand Chime has won over millions of customers since launching in 2014. It offers bank accounts that include several auto-savings features.
You can automatically move your spare change into a savings account. If you send your direct deposit to your Chime account, you can also establish a rule for Chime to move a percentage of your paycheck into your savings. A round-up option is also available to boost savings.
Like other challenger banks, Chime doesn’t hold your bank deposits — it is not a bank. Its partner, The Bancorp Bank, holds your deposits. You will also earn some interest on your savings.
Best for: those who want their bank app to save their spare change.
Cost: Free banking app.
Current is another newer digital brand that offers a variety of financial health tools through a mobile banking app. If you’re a customer, you can set up savings goals (or “pods” as Current calls them) to automatically sweep money aside for your chosen goal, like a rainy day fund or a vacation. You can also move money directly into your savings pod.
Best for: young adults seeking a banking alternative.
Cost: Free basic checking account.
If you already have some emergency savings and want to take on some risk, you might want to invest. Acorns is one of the more popular apps that puts your spare change into an investment account.
Once you link a debit or credit card to the fintech app, Acorns will round up the total on what you buy to the next dollar and invest that spare change into an diversified investment portfolio based on your goals. You can also set up a recurring transfer into Acorns.
Best for: novice investors.
Cost: Starts at $1 per month for Acorns Invest.
Are money saving apps safe?
Fintech companies take multiple security measures to protect your data. The safety of an app will vary by company. So, review the terms and conditions to see if you’re comfortable with the ways in which the company is handling your financial data.
Why you should use a money-saving app
If you tend to spend before you save, these apps can help you adjust your behavior patterns. They’re also a great option if you’re just starting to build your savings. Rather than requesting a big lump sum like some traditional savings accounts do, these apps regularly move small amounts of money into your savings so the to-do is accessible for more people.
Once you’ve built up some savings, you might want to consider moving your money into a high-yield savings account. While yields have been dropping in the current environment, you can still earn a higher rate if you park your savings at certain banks. You won’t get rich, but online banks tend to offer savers a higher return. If you don’t need to access your savings for a certain amount of time, you can also consider parking your money in a certificate of deposit.
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