For the past 18 months or so, planning travel has been a bit treacherous and frustrating to say the least. Meanwhile, many haven’t even bothered trying to plan a trip for fear that it will likely get canceled (see: my latest booking cancelation). However, with at least some hope on the horizon, it’s understandable that some may be fantasizing about taking the trip of their dreams in 2022 or beyond. Of course, dreams don’t always come cheap, so there may be some saving needed to make these vacations and adventures realities. That’s where Savely comes in.
Savely is an app with a focus on helping travelers stash money away for their future trips. So how does it work and is it safe to use? Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know.
What is Savely and How Does it Work?
Technically, when you initially start using Savely, you’ll build your trip and see your savings plan before actually signing up for the app. But for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to cover this part first.
When creating your Savely account, you can choose to use an Apple or Google account or simply sign up using an email address (which is what I did). In terms of information you’ll need to provide, it starts with your first and last name and email address. Of course, you’ll also need to create a password. Then, you’ll provide your phone number and will verify it using a code sent to you via SMS.
Next, Savely will ask you to link an existing bank account. To do this, the app uses the secure API Plaid, which allows you to log into your account in order to allow transfers. By the way, looking ahead, you can disconnect a linked account at any time by heading to Settings, then Accounts, and choosing to disconnect.
Later in the process, you may need to further confirm your identity. This includes providing your address, date of birth, and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Note that this verification is actually done by the service Dwolla and isn’t shared with Savely. Once your identity is confirmed, you’ll be able to start using the app.
Pricing your trip
As I mentioned, when you download Savely and open it for the first time, you’ll start by pricing out your dream trip. To do this, you’ll enter where you’re traveling from, where you want to head to, when you plan on taking your trip, how many people are traveling, and what hotel level of hotel accommodations you prefer (budget, average, premium, or luxury). With this information, Savely will provide a breakdown of what your trip will cost, including budgets for the flight, hotel, food, and activities. However, you can edit any of these category budgets to meet your needs and can also add custom spending categories.
So how accurate are Savely’s estimates? Well, it’s a bit hard to say — although I did two trials for comparison. For one, I entered a trip to Tokyo for next April. In this case, the flight price Savely estimated was significantly lower than what was currently available on Expedia. Of course, with this being more than six months out, it stands to reason that better deals will become available. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, I punched up a trip to Paris for next month. This time, I was able to find a flight for far cheaper than it was estimating. That said, one thing I did notice through this trial was that the budget, average, premium, and luxury hotel descriptors don’t just plug in a set price and do fluctuate based on location and timing. For example, “budget” for my Tokyo trip next year showed a rate of $35 a night while the Paris one for next month stretched the term as the estimate was $325 a night. Just for fun, I moved the Paris trip to February 2022 and the “budget” price per night adjusted to $129.60. Pretty cool.
Overall, I’m inclined to think that Savely’s estimates are based on plenty of data we’re not privy to. Furthermore, this data is likely based more on the time you book, not the time you initially explore. So while you may want to do a quick and dirty search for yourself and adjust your budget accordingly just to be safe, I think Savely’s figures will probably help you get in the ballpark.
Setting your savings plan
Now that you’ve determined how much your trip will cost, Savely will help you figure out a savings plan. The first step in putting this plan into action is to select whether you want to make transfers daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. In each case, the app will show you how much you need to set aside each recurring period in order to meet your goal. However, you are free to ignore this advice and set up a plan that works for you. What’s also nice is that you can select what day you want your savings plan to start, which will also dictate when subsequent transfers occur. The good news is that you can adjust this at any time, so there’s no problem is starting small and ramping up. Additionally, you can make one-off transfers at any time by visiting your goal, tapping the + button, and selecting how much you want to transfer.
One thing I do want to note is that, by default, Savely calculates your contributions based on the date of your travel. However, this of course does not take booking time into consideration. Sure, you could still take out what you’ve saved in order to cover your booking while still saving for the rest, but then I’d imagine that the app would show you falling short of your goal. So, instead, perhaps it’s better to shorten your goal time by a couple of months, giving you enough time to complete your goal and still book before the last minute.
If you’re planning a group trip and want to get all of your travel party on the same page, you can invite them to save up with you. By tapping your goal and selecting “Add” under “Invite people,” you can ask others to join your goal. To do this though, you’ll need to give Savely access to your contacts. At this time, I don’t see an alternative method for inviting people manually. Despite this minor annoyance, I do think that this could be a useful feature for some.
Freezing your plan
Since things happen and you may not be able to contribute to your savings as planned, Savely allows you to easily freeze your automated transfers. To do this, simply tap the three-dot icon in the upper right when viewing you’re goal and then select “freeze.” When frozen, Savely will cancel any automated transfers until you unfreeze your goal by following the same steps.
One major thing I’m unclear about with Savely is where exactly the money is held. Looking at their site, I see no mention of a partner bank or institution and there doesn’t seem to be an FAQ section on the site either. Therefore, I’m unclear on whether funds are held in an FDIC-insured account.
I did reach out to Savely via their support email for clarification but I haven’t heard anything back. That said, upon some further research, I see that Dwolla does have financial partners. Yet, again, I’m not sure what this means for Savely specifically.
Ultimately, I don’t want to say that Savely doesn’t have an FDIC-insured banking partner because I’m honestly not sure. However, if they do, it seems like something they’d want to disclose more prominently. In either case, this is obviously my biggest hang up with the app at this time and hope to have some resolution in the future.
Final Thoughts on Savely
Overall, I really like the concept and execution of Savely. While there are plenty of automated savings tools, this app’s twist of not only making your savings goal travel specific but also going the extra mile in actually pricing out a trip takes it to the next level. I also see a lot of potential for future updates, such as even greater trip budget tailoring and the ability to book from the app.
With all that said, the question of whether or not funds held on Savely are FDIC-insured still hangs heavy over my review — and was a main reason why I’ve put off writing this for as long as I have. While I personally did not have any issues storing money on the app or transferring my accrued funds back to my bank account, I don’t feel comfortable recommending the service overall until I have a better idea of how the banking side of things actually works. Therefore, although I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Savely as a potential tool, I’m not sure it’s a viable option at this time.