The best money-saving apps: What to know

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In a Nutshell

If you’re having trouble saving, various money-saving apps can help you stash away money for a rainy day, your next big goal and even retirement.
Melanie Lockert co-runs a women’s finance conference that has been sponsored by Stash and Tip Yourself. Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.
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Do you ever feel as if there’s never any money left over and it’s impossible to save?

If you struggle to save, you’re far from alone. In fact, 44% of Americans said they couldn’t come up with $400 for an emergency, according to a 2017 report issued by the Federal Reserve. Getting started with saving can be difficult, but money-saving apps may be able to help you tackle the hard work.

And some apps go a step further, helping you make investments that can grow your money.

Let’s take a look at some of the best money-saving apps that could help you start an emergency fund, build savings and grow wealth.



1. Digit

Pros Cons
Saving is automatic Fee of $5 per month after first 30 days
No-overdraft guarantee Doesn’t earn interest

What if you could “save money without thinking about it”? Using Digit, you can.

After you connect your checking account to Digit, it looks over your income and spending habits to analyze how much you can save each month. Digit will then transfer money from your checking account to your Digit account, based on what you can safely afford.

Don’t worry, though — as Digit has a no-overdraft guarantee. This is one of the best money-saving apps out there, as it takes some of the hard work out of saving and does it for you

Digit is available on iPhone and Android and offers a 30-day free trial. After that, Digit users pay $5 per month for the service. While Digit is a great way to save, you don’t earn interest but instead get rewarded with “saving bonuses,” which are essentially cash back rewards.

This is a great tool when saving for a trip or something fun that’s a few months out. You will surprise yourself with how much you can save in small increments.

Krista Neeley, managing vice president of Appreciation Financial, on Digit

2. SmartyPig

Pros Cons
No fees Deposits are held for five business days before being eligible for transfer
High APY You must deposit at least $10 for a recurring contribution

As a kid, you might’ve had a piggy bank to stash your change and save for a treat. With SmartyPig, you can use that same philosophy. SmartyPig is a free online piggy bank that empowers users to save and reach their financial goals.

When you sign up with SmartyPig, you link to an external funding source (a bank account), set up a savings goal and track your progress along the way. You can set up recurring contributions or you can fund your SmartyPig account whenever you want. Using SmartyPig, you can stay accountable with your savings goals through its goal planner.

SmartyPig is free and has no fees, and unlike Digit, you accrue interest on your savings. Currently, SmartyPig is FDIC-insured and part of Sallie Mae Bank. It offers accounts with an annual percentage yield of up to 0.70% as of February 2021. When it comes to savings accounts, those interest rates are higher than average and can help you get a bigger return on the money you save. There’s no mobile app available for SmartyPig, but you can make transactions on its website. Also keep in mind that if you want to set up a recurring contribution for automatic savings, it must be a minimum of $10. If you can’t afford that, you’ll have to do manual transfers.

I love that it helped me focus on one savings goal at a time.

Harlan Landes, Adulting.tv., SmartyPig user

3. Qapital

Pros Cons
Automated investing feature available Monthly fees of $3–$12 after first 30 days free
Customizable and goal-focused Deposits take three business days

What if saving money could feel more like a game? If you’re using a money-saving app, it can.

The Qapital app allows users to save based on their goals and set up rules to make the process more fun. Let’s say you wanted to save for a car or your next getaway. You’d set that as a goal and include a goal amount. Then you get to take advantage of some of the savings rules.

For example, Qapital has the Round Up Rule, where your spare change can be added to your savings goal. You can also use the Spend Less Rule, where you can save the difference if you end up spending less on some of your favorite expenses.

Qapital also allows users to invest in the app’s pre-built portfolios and choose the level of risk they’re comfortable with — from very conservative to very aggressive.

You’ll have to pay to use the app, though. Monthly fees range from $3 for a basic plan that helps with savings to $12 for a master plan that gives you access to Qapital’s investing tools and allows you to preview new features.

Qapital provides you with goals that seem fun and manageable. Saving money feels like a game that you actually want to play.

Jennifer Dane, founder of Debt Free Utopia

Money-saving apps that also include investing

These apps focus on letting you save your money in investment accounts.

4. Stash

Pros Cons
Earn free stocks by using Stock-Back Card Monthly fees of up to $9 per month depending on the plan you choose
Invest based on your values No longer offers first month free

Investing can often seem difficult or make you feel as if you need a lot of money to get started. Mobile app Stash is out to prove that isn’t true with a mission to make investing “simple and accessible.”

Stash blends features of investing, savings and banking — with a dash of life insurance thrown in. Three plans with varying features range in price from just $1 to $9 per month.

All three plans include Stash’s investing features that allow users to buy fractional shares (less than a full share) of a range of stocks and exchange-traded funds. For $1 a month, the basic plan — Stash Beginner — also includes banking and savings tools, a debit card and personalized advice.

Stash Growth, at $3 per month, adds retirement tools to the basic Stash services. And the $9-per-month Stash+ incorporates all the basics and retirement tools with exclusive debit card bonuses and premium research and advice. All three plans also include a free life insurance policy — $1,000 in coverage for the Beginner and Growth plans and $10,000 for Stash+.

Stash users also get the Stock-Back Card. When you use the debit card, which is linked to your Stash bank account, Stash will give you fractional shares on qualifying purchases. You’ll get stock value equal to either .125% of the qualifying purchase or $.01 per qualifying purchase, whichever is greater.

What I loved about Stash was that it was a lot more relatable to me as a millennial. They have funds based on different interests such as dividend stocks, eco-friendly stocks, technology stocks, etc. It didn’t just limit my options to whether I was a conservative, moderate or aggressive investor.

Eric Patrick, founder of Black Market Exchange

5. Acorns

Pros Cons
Easy to start investing Limited investing options
No minimums or trade fees Some banking fees may apply

When you think of spare change, you might not think it’s that much. But what if you could invest your spare change? Using Acorns, you can. When it comes to money saving apps, Acorns specializes in “micro investing.”

When you open an Acorns Lite account, you can connect your credit cards. Once you do that, Acorns will automatically invest “spare change” by rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar. So let’s say you paid $3.45 for a cappuccino — the app would round up and you’d invest 55 cents. If you opt for an Acorns Personal or Family account, you’ll also get an Acorns checking account that you can use in the same way to invest.

To boost your investments, you can also add a one-time contribution or set up a recurring transaction.

When you set up an account, Acorns will ask you some questions about your finances and suggest which exchange-traded funds to invest in as part of your portfolio. Acorns’ portfolios were developed by professionals for different investing risk levels. The app is available on iPhone and Android.

There are no minimums and no trading fees, but there are monthly fees that range from $1 to $5. And while there are no account fees for a Spend account, you could face fees for domestic wire transfers and returned ACH or check deposits.

I love that Acorns effortlessly allows me to save by rounding up my transactions to the next dollar. And I easily can choose a mix of stocks and bonds that matches my risk appetite.

Lee Huffman, travel blogger at BaldThoughts.com

6. Max

Pros Cons
Good for folks with large cash reserves Potentially high fees (minimum of $12 every three months)
Focus is on online banks, which tend to give depositors higher rates Works with just 18 banks (or with a Max checking account)

Max (formerly Max My Interest) is geared toward super savers. This app helps you spread your money across multiple FDIC-insured accounts, staying under the $250,000 insurance limit for any individual account.

When you join Max, you can either open a Max checking account or link your existing checking account from one of 18 supported banks.

The app automatically moves your money toward the best possible rate among a range of high-yield savings accounts. The app ensures your money in each account stays below the $250,000 FDIC insurance limit.

While Max doesn’t charge fees for transferring money between banks, and doesn’t charge fees for its own checking account, it does charge membership fees. The quarterly fee is 0.02% of the cash invested in Max, with a minimum fee of $12 every three months.


Bottom line

Finding money to save can be tough, but with the power of technology, saving  and investing are becoming easier than ever. You don’t have to do it alone or wait until you have a lot of spare money. Using one or more of these money-saving apps, you can get started with saving today.

Remember, you can also use the Credit Karma app to stay on top of your credit, and it’s absolutely free. There are also other financial apps that help you budget, track your spending or pay down debt. By pairing finance apps and using them regularly, you can get a holistic look at your finances and meet your money-saving goals.


About the author: Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and editor currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy and empowering people to take control of thei… Read more.