The best money apps for saving and investing

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In a Nutshell

If you’re having trouble saving money, there are tools that can help you save effortlessly. Through various money-saving apps, you can 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. Availability of products, features and discounts may vary by state or territory. Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about our team.
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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 percent 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 there are money-saving apps that can do the hard work for you.

What are money-saving apps?

Money-saving apps use the power of technology to help you effortlessly save and invest. Available through iPhone and Android, these apps can help shift your behavior to help you save, even if you feel like it’s impossible. To find the right app for you, take a look at the cost and the platform, and assess how they can help you meet your financial goals.

Here are some top money-saving apps.

  1. Digit
  2. SmartyPig
  3. Qapital
  4. Tip Yourself
  5. Stash
  6. Acorns
  7. Robinhood
  8. Max My Interest

Money-saving apps for savings accounts

Here are the apps that allow you to save money in a savings account. Later in the list, you’ll see apps for saving money in investment accounts as well.

1. Digit

Pros Cons
Saving is automatic Fee of $2.99 per month after first 100 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. No more excuses.

Digit is available on iPhone and Android and is free for the first 100 days. After that, Digit users pay $2.99 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 between 1.05 and 1.15 percent. 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 is no mobile app available for SmartyPig, but transactions can be made on its website. Also keep in mind that if you want to set up a recurring contribution, 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
No fees Must create a bank account with Qapital
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.

This 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.

Another rule that’s pretty fun helps create that balance between spending and saving. You can set up a Guilty Pleasure Rule so that every time you enjoy your guilty pleasure, you’re also saving. So for example, let’s say your guilty pleasure is dining out. Every time you dine out, you would also save for your goal.

There are also customizable rules you can set up if you want something specific. If you’re looking for money-saving apps that put you and your goals first, Qapital is a good option. The best part? It’s free and available on iPhone and Android.

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

4. Tip Yourself

Pros Cons
No fees Doesn’t earn interest
Focuses on rewards and motivation Deposits take three business days

 

When you go out for coffee or to a restaurant, you probably leave a tip for the great service you had. But when we do a good job, we rarely pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

One of the money-saving apps that is working to change that is Tip Yourself. Made it to the gym even though you really didn’t want to go? You can tip yourself. Went to bed early for a change? Tip yourself.

The beauty of Tip Yourself is that it’s all about habits and rewarding yourself through saving. In other words, it’s a win-win. You can cultivate positive habits while saving money.

After signing up for a Tip Jar account, you’ll link it to your checking account, which will be used to transfer your “tips” to your Tip Jar. There is also a social feed that creates a community where you can share your savings win for the day and receive “props” or comments from other users.

The app is free and available on iPhone and Android. While it’s great to save a few bucks here and there to tip yourself for positive behavior, you should note that the money in your Tip Jar doesn’t earn any interest.

Tip Yourself was easy to apply, and I love the concept of tipping one’s self for whatever reasons you want.

Cindy Yun, health medical records specialist, a Tip Yourself user

Money-saving apps for investing

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

5. Stash

Pros Cons
Low minimum of $5 High fees
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.”

You can sign up for an account within two minutes and start investing. You’ll need to hook up your checking account to get started. From there, you can build a portfolio around your investing values.

This is one of the money-saving apps that is geared toward consumers who want to start investing but may not have a lot of money or don’t know how to get started. With a low minimum investment of just $5, you can get started and become an investor by putting money into exchange-traded funds. On top of ETFs, Stash also offers the chance to invest in fractional shares of companies such as Amazon and Apple.

The app also has a Smart-Save feature — similar to Digit’s — that analyzes your checking account and transfers extra money that you can afford to invest.

It’s important to note that the app is not free, though. Stash costs $1 per month for accounts that have less than $5,000. For accounts over that amount, you are charged a flat 0.25 percent per year. The app is available on iPhone and Android.

While the fees can allow you to start investing with very little money and very little effort, they could also eat into your returns. There are cheaper ways to invest, but if you want to get started now and don’t want to worry about figuring out an actual brokerage account, this could be a good option.

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

6. Acorns

Pros Cons
Easy to start investing High fees
No minimums or trade fees Limited options

 

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.”

The way it works is you sign up for an account and 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, it would round up and you’d invest 55 cents.

While that might not seem like a lot, it can all add up over time. 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; however, there is a $1-per-month fee. If you have more than $5,000 invested, you’ll have to pay an annual fee of 0.25 percent of the account balance — which can really add up if you have a lot stored up in Acorns.

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

7. Robinhood

Pros Cons
No trade fees Can only trade ETFs
User-friendly design Limited functions, unless you opt for a paid account

 

Do you ever feel as if investing is supposed to be for the super rich or for people in-the-know only? Robinhood, one of the popular money-saving apps on the market, has created an investing app for the rest of us.

Using Robinhood, users can get free trades with U.S.-listed and over-the-counter securities and get hands-on experience with investing in the stock market. The app is available on iPhone and Android and charges no fees to open an account or buy stocks.

Through the app, you can keep tabs on your favorite stocks and also find out about new ones. Additionally, the app has a personalized feed so that you can keep track of everything in one place.

One of the Robinhood’s biggest pros is that users pay $0 for trading stocks. Being an online brokerage that is commission free makes it budget friendly for millennials who don’t want to pay $4 to $7 each time they buy or sell a stock.

Anthony Copeman, founder of FinancialLituation.com

8. Max My Interest

Pros Cons
Good for folks with large cash reserves Membership fee
Focus is on online banks, which tend to give depositors higher rates Must have checking account within a relatively small list of banks, though it’s growing

 

Max My Interest is a relatively new entrant 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. The app automatically moves your money toward the best possible rate among a range of high-yield savings accounts, online and brick-and-mortar. As of this writing, the service requires a checking account at Bank of America, JPMorgan/Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Fidelity (CMA accounts), Charles Schwab Bank, First Republic Bank, TD Bank, PNC Bank, Capital One, SunTrust, US Bank, and USAA. The membership fee is eight basis points per year (two basis points per quarter) on cash in linked online savings accounts. A basis point is one-hundredth of one percentage point or 0.01%.

 


Bottom line

Finding money to save can be tough, but with the power of technology, saving is 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 seven 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.