In the year since I started this column, I’ve reviewed my fair share of personal finance apps. As different applications were brought to my attention, I always assumed they’d be too similar to justify getting their own full review. However, in each case I was proven wrong, as each app I try out offers something unique that makes it worthy of discussion. The latest personal finance app to come across my desk is Clarity Money, and I’m happy to report that its elegance and original features combine to create a great banking hub worthy of your consideration.
What makes Clarity Money different 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, 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. Natually, 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.
Once you’ve set up your accounts, the first info you’ll come across in your feed — following a brief weather report and greeting, 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 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.
After those basics comes 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, which I (perhaps prematurely) ended up leaving. Anyway, 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.
Next, in what is one of my favorite mini-features of Clarity Money, is a widget where you can see easily view how much you’ve spent at a specific retailer. For example it turns out I’ve spent the shockingly high total of $625 at Starbucks so far this year (although, in my defense, that also includes the soon-to-be-extinct Teavana). 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.
As I teased in my intro, Clarity Money is less of a budget app to me and more of a financial hub. Case in point: 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 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 you can call the business directly.
While that novelty 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 whenever. In the interest of transparency, this is another feature I have yet to try but I’m impressed with how easy this feature seems to be.
One function I have taken advantage of is the Transfer Money widget in Clarity Money. This feature makes it easy to transfer money between your connected accounts, so I thought I’d try sending a few dollars from my Wells Fargo checking to my wife’s PNC savings account. While it did take a few days to fully process, this worked like a charm. On both ends, the transaction was also clearly labeled with my name and Clarity Money, making it easy to identify.
Finally there’s an option to refer a friend to Clarity Money. This can be done by selecting the person you want to invite from your contacts or by entering their phone number. For each person you refer, you’ll get $5 placed into your Clarity Money Savings account, up to $15. So if you end up liking the app and have friends you think will too, this is some easy money.
Overall Clarity Money Review
First off, Clarity Money is easily 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. Plus even small additions like displaying brand logos next to transactions just makes navigating and understanding your spending that much easier.
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 of 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 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.