Clarity Money – Why It Makes a Great Banking Hub
Over the past couple of years, I’ve reviewed plenty of personal finance apps — many of which would seem to serve similar functions. Yet, in exploring them more closely, I’ve managed to find what makes each of these applications different from the others. That’s exactly what happened when I discovered Clarity Money. With its elegance and original features that combine to create a great banking hub, this is one finance app that I believe is worthy of your consideration.
What makes Clarity Money stand out is that, while budgeting and spending do play a major role in the app’s content, they’re hardly the main focus. Instead the app’s clever feed allows users to get an overview of their finances at a glance and even make money moves on the fly. Before I get too excited, let’s jump into the review and look at what Clarity Money has to offer.
Clarity Money App Overview
Normally in these app reviews I go through each section and discuss what features are offered. Off the bat, this is where Clarity Money is different. While there are still a few different tabs (giving you a closer look at your accounts, transactions, and settings), it’s mostly just a single feed where you’ll find all the information you need. I’d actually compare this feed to the “Today” screen of your iPhone — complete with plenty of helpful little widgets. Naturally, like with other apps of this nature, these widgets are infinitely more useful if you connect all of your banking and credit card accounts first.
Balances and transactions
Once you’ve set up your accounts, the first info you’ll come across in your feed — following a brief greeting and random quote, that is — is a look at your current balances. This includes your cash on hand (meaning account balances, not literal cash), credit card debt totals, and investment balances. Below that is a quick tally of how much you’ve spent in recent days followed by another fairly standard feature: a list of recent transactions you’ve made. However one nice touch is the inclusion of company logos that sit beside these transactions.
Reminders and graphics
Elsewhere on this main tab are a selection of other widget-type blocks that may vary from user to user. In my case I currently have a reminder of my credit card bill’s due date, a graphic totaling my income so far this month, and a graph representing how much I’ve spent compared to what I’m expected to earn for the month. As a note, to obtain this data, the app will first ask you how much you make per month.
Below that is where things really start to get interesting. I’ve spoken before about the micro-investing app Acorns. Clarity Money actually offers integration with Acorns, allowing you to view your account balance and current settings right from your feed. However, if you want to adjust any settings such as your investment mix, you’ll need to launch the actual Acorns app.
“What did I spend on…”
Next, in what is one of my favorite mini-features of Clarity Money, is a widget where you can easily view how much you’ve spent at a specific retailer. Tapping the retailer name will allow you to select from a few other popular choices such as Walmart, Amazon, and Netflix while tapping the phrase below that will let you adjust the length of time — this week, this month, or this year. Perhaps most helpfully, you can also quickly see how much you’ve spent on bank fees, which could inform your decision to take your money elsewhere.
As I teased in my intro, Clarity Money is less of a budget app to me and more of a financial hub. Nevertheless they do offer some traditional budget features. These are fairly basic but they do allow you to set up spending caps in various categories. To start this process, you’ll first be asked to confirm your monthly income and will divide that into a weekly budget. It will also show you how much you typically spend in a week, with those figures being based on your past three months of transactions.
Like I said, these budget tools aren’t very extensive. For example, there doesn’t seem to be a way to add a custom spending category. Still, these elements are more than what the app previously offered.
Another cool feature in Clarity Money is the “Anything You’d Like to Cancel?” widget. From this part of your feed you can select from some of your active subscriptions and potentially cancel them right from the app. Now, I will warn you that I have yet to actually complete a cancellation through the app since I’m currently happy with my services, so I can’t speak to the entire process. However it seems that, for subscriptions like Spotify and Netflix, you can fill out a form in Clarity Money to cancel the service you select. For other services like my Geico auto insurance, tapping “cancel” will just display a phone number or e-mail address where you can contact the business directly.
Also notable is that, in order for this particular widget to appear, you will need to have at least a few recurring bills. In the event that Clarity isn’t properly recognizing some of your transactions as such, you can tap the purchase to view more info and then toggle on the “Recurring Expense” option.
While that novel cancelation feature could certainly come in handy, a more useful tool follows: you can actually create and customize a savings account in Clarity Money by selecting an amount you want to set aside, when you want to make automatic deposits, what account the money should be pulled from, and what these savings are for. For example you can have the app take $10 from your checking account every Friday to help you set aside money for a big trip coming up. These funds are accessible anytime, there are no fees, and deposit automation can also be paused or adjusted at any time.
I started using this feature not long after I initially reviewed this app and, just recently, it got a big upgrade. See, last year, Clarity Money was purchased by Goldman Sachs. For some that may sound ominous but it’s proven to be a good thing so far. Now Clarity Money users have the option to upgrade their automated savings to a Marcus by Goldman Sachs savings account. The benefit? An impressive interest rate on your savings (currently a 1.3% APY as of May 12th, 2020).
Converting my regular Clarity Money savings to a Marcus account was fairly easy, although you will, of course, need to confirm some information and sign off on a couple of things in order to get going. Once my account was opened, the only change this widget experienced was the addition of the Marcus by Goldman Sachs logo — my current savings amount, deposit schedule, set goals, and balance picked up right where they left off.
Since joining Marcus, interest has been added to my account on a monthly basis. It’s now been over a year since I made the switch and I’ve slowly been adding money to this account as a mindless way to set some cash aside. Plus, with Marcus offering an APY just as good if not better than some of my other accounts, I feel no need to move my money out until I have a purpose for it.
Finally there’s an option to refer a friend to Clarity Money. This can be done via text, Facebook, or just copying your invite link. Sadly, once upon a time, the app offered you $5 for each person you successfully signed-up, but now the app makes no mention of any such reward. So it seems that you’re sharing is really just for karma points these days.
Final Thoughts on Clarity Money
First off, Clarity Money is still the sleekest, most polished, and downright pretty personal finance app I’ve tried. In my opinion, the graphics and the widget-esque feed make this app a joy to use. Even small additions like displaying brand logos next to transactions just makes navigating and understanding your spending that much easier. Plus, now that automated savings on Clarity Money can earn you a healthy interest rate, I can easily recommend taking advantage of this feature — especially if you don’t already have an online savings account. As a result, it’s no wonder that the app is one I continue to use regularly well after my initial review.
In terms of what I don’t like about Clarity Money or think it could be better, I do have a few thoughts. While some widgets such as the Acorns integration can be deleted if they don’t apply, the majority of the blocks are there to stay. Furthermore, from what I can tell, there’s no way for users to customize their feeds and move certain blocks higher or lower. That said I don’t have any specific gripes about how Clarity Money’s default feed is arranged, but the ability to customize is always appreciated. Speaking of customization, such a feature is also missing when it comes to transaction labels. Although you can select from a set of spending categories, there’s no way to add your own.
Overall I’d say that, if you really want an app to help you track your spending and stay on top of your budget, Clarity Money likely won’t have everything you’re looking for (perhaps try Mint or Personal Capital instead or in addition). However, as a banking hub and a daily financial feed, the app excels and sets itself apart from other personal finance apps on the market. For that reason, I recommend checking out Clarity Money for yourself and seeing what the app’s widgets can do for you.
Also published on Medium.