People have become so dependent upon technology, especially with their smartphones. That’s why many applications have been developed for every aspect of human life. This article from USA Today provides a list of finance-related apps that can help people with their financing needs.
A man displays Apple’s iPhone 5 smartphone.(Photo: Philppe Huguen, AFP/Getty Images) | Image Source: usatoday.com
Fitness monitors and activity trackers are hot smartphone apps, promising better health and happiness. But even the most physically fit also need to stay on top of their financial game, and there’s an app for that — several, in fact.
Half of American smartphone owners use them to monitor their bank accounts, according to a Federal Reserve study. Frequently, that means checking the balance when deciding whether to pull the trigger on a big purchase.
While U.S. bank depositors are going mobile at an astonishing rate — every day last year, 74,000 tried a mobile banking application for the first time, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — only 24% of smartphone owners track their spending with the devices. And not even a third of those who do employ a special app in the process, the Fed study shows.
Some smartphone software developers are betting that Americans will soon latch on to programs that help them watch their pocketbooks and stay on target as they strive to reach their financial goals.
"Our vision at BillGuard is that personal finance software should help people make actionable, real-time decisions, not just visualize their money in pretty pie charts,” Yaron Samid, BillGuard Inc.’s chief executive, said by email. "We help our users detect card fraud, grey charges, billing errors and data breaches, as well as find smart ways to save on future purchases based on their unique spending patterns.”
The best of these apps let consumers see multiple accounts at once, track spending and balances, and set and monitor saving goals — all in real time. That means users aren’t basing purchasing decisions just on cash in the bank, but on available funding, which can help them build more wealth in the long run.
Here’s a look at some of the best apps designed with these budgeting and wealth-building functions in mind:
• Level Money offers a simpler approach than some iPhone and Android apps that have been around longer. Once it has access to a user’s credit and banking account information — a prerequisite for this and most similar products — the program tracks expenses against the individual’s virtual wallet. Using income and spending history, the app subtracts estimated recurring expenses and adjusts available funds based on a preset savings rate to provide a look at how much money is left for discretionary use on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
The app “acts as a financial GPS, offering a simple way to spend smarter and save more,” says Jake Fuentes, Level Money Inc.’s chief executive and co-founder. The product “provides an automatic analysis of spending history, displaying what you have left to spend today to ensure your bills are paid and your goals are met.” Some, particularly younger people with less complicated financial lives, will find the simplicity of Level Money’s free app to be a plus, while others may want a product with more features and that provides greater depth.
• BillGuard, a free iPhone and Android app that monitors credit/debit card transactions and spots suspicious activity, has been enhanced with features such as budgeting and spending analytics. Every purchase made with connected credit and debit cards is categorized, and the effects on a user-set budget are calculated to show current balances as well as where and how funds were spent. The app also automatically searches for online coupons based on past purchasing history and then alerts the user in case they can be applied later. Easy to use with informative graphics, BillGuard marries financial monitoring and budgeting with robust fraud detection and reporting to provide the heavy lifting needed to keep on top of your finances.
• Mint is probably the most well-known personal-finance app and one that lets a user manage it all in one place. Introduced in 2007 and acquired by Intuit in 2009, Mint has been enhanced by the tax-return software maker to become the most comprehensive personal-finance smartphone tool available. Android and iPhone users can employ the free app to automatically track expenses, set saving goals, get spending alerts via text or e-mail and manage investments held in brokerage and retirement accounts, all of which provides a more complete picture of financial health. Mint also makes recommendations for certain financial products based on your spending habits — suggestions that enable Intuit to distribute the app without charge, as it collects commissions from user signups for credit cards, insurance and mortgages.
• Spendee doesn’t need access to bank and credit card accounts to track a user’s spending. Instead, the free iPhone and Android app acts more like a financial notepad to jot down purchases and bill payments. It can then generate charts showing where the money goes. Users wary of divulging sensitive bank and credit information to mobile app may find Spendee to be a good fit.
The way to financial health remains unique to every individual, but technology can help peel back the layers that can obscure important aspects of fund flows and provide a clearer path to long-term goals. Even without committing to monitoring every purchase, getting a fresh look at personal finances through a handy smartphone can be enlightening, even for the thriftiest consumers.
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