11 of Our Favorite Money Apps — and Their Most Surprising Features
I do this thing where I find a restaurant I like and order the same exact thing over and over. And over.
“Want to try the special today?”
Not a chance, sir.
I’m a creature of habit, and sometimes it’s a good thing. I know I’ll like what I order. But I could also be missing out on something really great — like catch-of-the-day fish tacos.
This if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality seeps into other parts of my life, too — like managing money.
Sure, I use Trim to negotiate my internet bill, Stash to invest and WinWin to save, but they offer a number of other useful features I’m not tapping into.
In the spirit of branching out, here are some unexpected features of our favorite money apps.
1. Negotiate Your Internet Bill — Then Pay off Your Debt
What we’ve been using it for: Trim is a virtual assistant that helps its users save more than $1 million each month.
How? The online tool negotiates your internet and cell phone bills. It works with all major providers, including Comcast, Time Warner and Charter. Upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim gets to work on your behalf.
What we’ve been missing out on: Trim also helps you save money with its debt-payoff calculator.
Simply enter your remaining balances, interest rates and minimum payments — no need to remember passwords or connect each debt-carrying account to the tool. As you play with monthly payment numbers, you’ll notice your debt-free date and total interest will change.
2. Keep Tabs on Your Money — Even Your Crypto
What we’ve been using it for: Connect your financial accounts to the Empower app for a one-stop money-management shop. Check your balances and create a budget.
We especially like its “find free money” feature, which will help you save on cell phone bills, insurance premiums, credit card interest and more.
What we’ve been missing out on: There are dozens of money management apps on the market, but Empower stands out because it allows you to track your crypto exchanges, too.
Connect with Coinbase, Bittrex, Binance, Kraken and more, so you can manage your bitcoin investments from one app.
3. Dodge Bank Fees — and Get Paid up to 2 Days Early
What we’ve been using it for: Online-only banks are takin’ over. Varo Money is one example. Its main draw? No hidden fees.
And if you open a Varo Savings Account, you’ll snag 2.10% Annual Percentage Yield. That’s 35 times — repeat, 35 times — the average savings account, based on a 0.06% average reported by CNN Money.
What we’ve been missing out on: When you set up direct deposit through Varo, you can get paid up to two days before your paycheck is typically posted. How? It simply posts your funds to your account as soon as your employer issues your pay.
4. Play Mindless Phone Games — and Start an Emergency Fund
What we’ve been using it for: WinWin is an easy way to develop a savings habit by playing fun mini-games: pinball, breakout, whack-a-mole, you name it.
What we’ve been missing out on: You might not realize you can save a ton of money playing these mini-games — even win some cash!
Set up auto-save (start with as little as $5 a week) and build your emergency fund. The more you save, the better chances you have of winning some extra cash. Use the app for free for 60 days, then it costs $2 a month.
5. Save on Groceries — and Travel
What we’ve been using it for: Ibotta is a cash-back app most well-known for saving you money on groceries.
What we’ve been missing out on: Ibotta has expanded a ton since its 2011 inception.
You can score cash back on just about anything, including travel. Book your flight and hotel through Booking for 7% cash back (at the time we wrote this). Next, book a rental car through Hertz and get 9% cash back. Or opt for an Uber for $1 off each ride.
6. Start Investing — Even in Cannabis
What we’ve been using it for: Stash is a microinvesting app that lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.
What we’ve been missing out on: Let’s be blunt: The marijuana industry is smokin’.
You don’t have to have tons of money to invest in the cannabis industry. Using Stash, you can invest in increments as little as $5.
Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money. It offers more than 40 exchange-traded funds, including one for those who are already seeing green on the cannabis horizon.
Bonus: Right now, The Penny Hoarder is teaming up with Stash to fund your first investment — so you’ll get a $5 bonus when you enter the code PENNYH
7. Earn Gift Cards by Watching TV — and Playing Trivia
What we’ve been using it for: Swagbucks is pretty well-known around here. It’s a free rewards community where you can earn gift cards for watching videos, taking surveys and redeeming coupons.
What we’ve been missing out on: Are you familiar with the mobile game show trend? Swagbucks has its own show called Swag IQ. Each day, Swag IQ hosts live trivia games.
The host asks 10 multiple-choice questions, which will progressively become more difficult. If you can answer all 10, you’ll split the day’s prize with the other winners — we’ve seen prizes around $1,000 a day.
8. Invest Your Spare Change — and Find Money
What we’ve been using it for: Acorns is a microinvesting app that allows you to invest small amounts into your future. It’s perhaps most well known for its round-up feature, which rounds up your debit and credit card transactions to the nearest dollar and invests your spare change. Think of it like a digital piggy bank.
What we’ve been missing out on: Acorns has a “Found Money” feature.
What’s this mean? Brands you spend money with will invest in you. For example, when you book your next Airbnb through Acorns, Airbnb will invest 1.8% of your service fee. That’s basically cash back into your investments.
Other partnered brands include Apple, Blue Apron, Expedia, Jet, Lyft and Walmart.
9. Snag Your Free Credit Score — and Crush Your Financial Goals
What we’ve been using it for: Credit Sesame is a free credit-monitoring site. Sign up to receive a monthly TransUnion score alongside a credit report card, which is basically a more digestible credit report.
What we’ve been missing out on: Once on the Credit Sesame site, hover your mouse over “My Finances” and select “My Financial Goals.”
Here, you can set up specific goals, such as purchasing a home or taking out a personal loan. Credit Sesame will offer tailored advice to help you achieve this goal.
10. Discover Ways to Save Money — and Start a Christmas Fund Early
What we’ve been using it for: Charlie is your BFF (best financial friend) who lives in your Facebook Messenger app or through your SMS text messages (your choice, though Charlie is more fun and reliable on Messenger).
Sign up for Charlie and connect your bank account, and he’ll help you find ways to save money on your monthly bills, avoid surprise bank fees and spend less.
What we’ve been missing out on: Have a savings goal? Want to save $500 by Christmas, for example? Charlie’s smart. Just type, “Help me save money!” and Charlie will prompt you to type in a savings goal and deadline. He’ll remind you when to save money and will even suggest how much you can afford to save.
11. Conquer Your Fears — Then Create a Simple Budget
What we’ve been using it for: It’s Excel, and it’s as intimidating as anything. You might have explored it in a technology class in middle school. Then swore it off for the rest of your life.
What we’ve been missing out on: Excel can actually help you create a budget — and it’s not all that intimidating. The first step is to accept the tool into your life. Then, follow our guide to budgeting in Excel. We promise — you can do it!
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer. She’s loves uncovering fun features on her favorite money-management apps.