Money at 30: Top Personal Finance Apps for 2019
Happy 2019! Okay, so we may already be a few weeks into the new year but I feel like I’m just now getting my bearings. This means I’ve spent the past few days not only contemplating the coming year and working towards some financial goals of my own but also reflecting on the year that was.
As part of this, I started thinking about the various personal finance apps I reviewed throughout 2018. More importantly I’ve been focusing on which of these apps I continue to use frequently and which have more or less fallen by the wayside after the fact. This reflection has led me to land upon what I think are the top finance apps for 2019 — meaning which applications you should consider downloading and trying for yourself before we get too much further into this still-relatively-new year.
So, without further ado, here is my top 5 (or so) list of personal finance apps you should be using in 2019:
When I went to make my “top personal finance apps for 2018” video over a year ago, Clarity Money was among the first inclusions. Ever since I initially reviewed it, Clarity has been one of my most-used finance apps and I utilized it to set aside extra money on a recurring basis. The downside there was that, as I noted once upon a time, the app’s built-in savings account came sans any interest paid.
Welp, that all changed last year after the app was purchased by Marcus, which is part of Goldman Sachs. Now users can either stick with the regular free saving account or upgrade to a Marcus account. This will require a short application process, but you will be rewarded with an impressively healthy interest rate on your savings. Currently these accounts are earning a 2.25% APY, which is up from the 2.05% offered when I first joined.
Other than the improved savings benefit, the rest of the app has remained largely the same — including many of the widgets and small design touches that first attracted me to the app. For all of those reasons, it was a shoo-in for my 2019 list.
Another app that I stumbled upon and that’s really grown on me is Long Game. This isn’t to say that I didn’t appreciate the app when I first reviewed it but it’s proven fairly addictive (which is a good thing in this case) and has kept me coming back on a near-daily basis. Why is that? To put it simply, Long Game makes good on its promise to make saving fun.
The idea behind Long Game is that you set up automated transfers from your checking account to a special savings account. As you make deposits and your stash grows, the app rewards you in the form of coins. These coins can then be used to play a variety of games that may bear resemblance to some gambling favorites, such as scratchers, slots, and spinning wheels. However, these games of chance will not imperil your savings in any way as the digital coins are the only “currency” at risk.
Since we’ve been discussing interest rates, it should be noted that Long Game actually does pay a modest APR 0.1% on savings. That’s better than some institutions but is a far cry from what Clarity Money or other online options offer. But, to be fair, the cash awards that are up for grabs as part of Long Game’s mini-games can help raise your overall return. In fact the app estimates that my effective interest rate has been 2.71% since I joined. On top of that, the app does a great job of incentivizing you to save, which make this an awesome option for those looking to get into the habit.
I don’t spend a lot of time on Instagram but, if using the social network leads me to discover more apps like Bumped, perhaps I should. That’s right — this is one application I first learned about from an Instagram ad that I thought sounded too good to be true. Yet, once I made the jump from the waiting list into the beta program, I learned that Bumped was actually more impressive than I even initially thought.
Bumped is aiming to change the way consumers are rewarded for their brand loyalty. Instead of earning points towards free items or discounts on the spot, this app gifts you with fractional shares of stock when you shop at select restaurants and retailers. You can actually choose one brand in each of 13 categories to earn stocks from, with some of my current favorites including Starbucks, Walmart, AT&T, Red Robin, and others. Each brand will offer a different percentage that will correspond to how much of your purchase amount will be given to you in stock. For example the 3% Starbucks offer meant that my $50 gift card reload earned me $1.50 in stock.
So far, I’ve earned $13.42 via a diverse portfolio of stocks on Bumped. Additionally, I did sell a $.22 stake I had in Chipotle just to check out that whole process (spoiler alert: it worked). Another spoiler alert: assuming Bumped retains anywhere near the same line-up of brands it currently has on its roster, expect this one to end up on my 2020 list as well.
Let’s get this out of the way up front: Robinhood didn’t exactly end 2018 on a high note. After announcing what sounded like an awesome “Checking & Savings” feature, the company was forced to walk back their plans after pretty much getting called out by the SIPC. It’s wasn’t a good look, to be sure, but there’s no denying that Robinhood’s core business is still attractive to newbie investors like myself.
When I initially downloaded Robinhood, my first course of action was to purchase a share of The Walt Disney Company. Thanks to the app’s helpful limit order function, I managed to buy another a short time later when the price pulled back. Since then I’ve also been able to participate in shareholder votes and earn dividends from Disney as well — all though Robinhood’s platform. Oh, and this all came without me paying any commissions or fees.
Ultimately I do hope that Robinhood’s now-called Cash Management feature manages to get off the ground in 2019 as planned. That debacle aside, I still feel the app deserves a spot on my 2019 list regardless. If you’re looking to dabble in investing but don’t want to worry about fees, I believe Robinhood is your best bet.
Recently I wrote an article comparing Dosh and Ebates on their pros and cons. After writing that piece and concluding that both were worth your time, I couldn’t very well choose one over the other to fill out my list, now could I? And so my “top 5” becomes a “top 6” by way of a tie between these two top-tier cash back tools.
As I wrote in that match-up article, on the whole, I’ve found that I prefer Dosh for in-store shopping while Ebates has an undeniable dominance online. That said I also learned over the course of writing that piece that the two can actually be used in tandem, with some (albeit not many) offers overlapping. In case you missed my magnum opus example of this, I’ll share once again that I was able to earn $1.99 in cash back on Dosh, $.99 in cash back on Ebates, and $1.99 in Uber credit from Visa Local Offers all from a single $24 Sephora purchase. Mind. Blown.
Needless to say, if you don’t already have Dosh and Ebates downloaded, there’s no better time than now. Furthermore, in the case of Ebates, I highly recommend installing their Chrome/Safari/Firefox browser extension for desktop. Together these two apps have the potential to earn you easy cash back on your everyday purchasing, making them no-brainer inclusions on my “best of” list.
There you have it — my definitive list of the top personal finance apps you should be downloading as 2019 rolls on. I trust that these free applications will help you save money, earn cash back, and boost your investing this year. More importantly, I hope that these apps along with so many others that are available help you achieve all of your financial goals in 2019 and well beyond.
Also published on Medium.