This Free App Has Helped Me Save Over $700 in 5 Months Without Noticing

Carson Kohler pictured outside against a white brick wall
Carson Kohler has managed to save almost $700 in five months with an app called Qapital. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

I’ve been trying to grow up.

So it only felt right to pair my first “real” job and sparkly new 401(k) (thanks, The Penny Hoarder!) with a savings account — especially after those extra nudges from my dad.

But I’ve had a savings account before, and it just didn’t work for me.

Keeping a minimum balance to avoid extra fees was tough — and the “interest” I was supposedly collecting was nearly nonexistent.

When my checking account dwindled and my savings remained stagnant, I decided to shut it down. How could I build any savings when I couldn’t even afford groceries?

Now equipped with a steady income, but wary of savings accounts, I was ready to search for another option.

Could This Automatic Savings App Be the Perfect Solution?

Pronounced “capital,” Qapital describes itself as a “new way to bank that lets you save for the things you want, just by doing the things you do.”

I describe it as a money-saving game.

When I trigger certain “rules,” such as meeting my daily step goal or making a purchase from a particular retailer, Qapital moves a designated amount of money from my bank account into my FDIC-insured (yes, my funds are protected) Qapital account.

Although I’m not earning interest on that money, I’ve stashed away almost $700 in five months — easily.

How to Save Money with Qapital

This is one free app I didn’t give up on after five minutes due to complications or spontaneous combustion. It’s easy to use, even without reading the instructions (guilty!).

Even so, I’ve outlined some steps to help you get started.

1. Download Qapital and Sign Up

First, download the app, and sign up. You can either use Facebook or set up an account with your email address. Either way, you have to be at least 18 years old.

Next, link your checking account, which Qapital will verify before you can begin saving. This can take up to three days, and you must have $100 in your account to qualify.

To prevent overdrafting, Qapital only transfers money when you have at least $100 in your account; once you hit that threshold, it automatically stops all withdrawals.

Then, connect any other accounts you want to monitor, like PayPal, bank-affiliated or American Express credit cards or prepaid cards.

When you make a purchase with one of these accounts that triggers one of your rules, the app will pull money from your checking account and move it to your FDIC-insured Qapital account through Wells Fargo.

2. Set One or More Goals

Qapital is a goal-oriented app, hence its game-like nature. You can choose to “Do something,” “Go somewhere,” “Get something,” “Pay off debts,” “Just start saving” or even “Something else.”

Because I love traveling but rarely have the guts (or cash) to splurge on a plane ticket or other means of transportation, I decided to start with “Go somewhere” and named my goal “Train Trip.”

My boyfriend and I have been talking about traveling by train from Tampa, Florida, to Washington, D.C.. We estimate the trip will cost $1,100, which includes the train tickets, three nights in an Airbnb, return flights (though we’ll hopefully have earned some points on our rewards credit cards) and some fluff money.

We connected our Qapital accounts so we could save together, which makes the goal a little less daunting — $550 each.

Our money always stays separated. Plus, it can easily be transferred back into our separate bank accounts at any time, which takes about two business days.

3. Select Your Rules

Qapital automatically moves money out of your checking account and into your Qapital account based on “rules” — mostly based on whether you take a particular action.

The app offers its own preset rules, but you can also get fancy by making your own with the “IFTTT” (“if this, then that”) feature.

Basically, you can choose to do stuff or not do stuff.

Because you’re making the rules, you’ll control how quickly money moves into your Qapital account. You can always tweak the rules as you go — and even add or delete rules as you see your habits change.

Here are the rules I’ve set:

Set & Forget means a fixed amount is moved from my checking account into my Qapital account each day, week or month.

The Penny Hoarder currently gives me an $80 monthly stipend for using my own laptop and cell phone. I treat it like a bonus and set my app to dump half of it into my Qapital savings each month.

Round-up automatically rounds up all my purchases to the nearest dollar amount. After I spent $35.35 on groceries at Publix, Qapital moved 65 cents into my account.

It’s painless and adds up faster than you might think.

The Steps option gets me to be more active. Each time my iPhone’s built-in Health app registers 10,000 steps, Qapital transfers $2 toward my goal. In case I’m feeling super active that day, I have another rule set for 15,000 steps — if I hit it, another $2 gets deposited.

Before Qapital, I rarely hit the recommended 10,000-step count for each day. Since I’ve started using this app, I’ve been meeting it a few times a week.

Some of my more argumentative friends say this rule would make them lazier because they don’t want money coming out of their bank accounts. But because I’m stoked for this trip, the goal actually motivates me to get my booty in gear. (You can also use a Fitbit or Nike+ to track your steps.)

These are just the rules I’ve added — but there are tons of other options.

I’m not sure why I haven’t activated the Spend Less Rule. It’s fill-in-the-blank easy.

For example, set it to save when you spend “Less than $50,” “At Publix” “During a week.” You can also select “During a month.” So if you were to spend only $45 at Publix next week, $5 would go toward your goal.

You can set your own amount for any location, and Qapital recognizes where you spend the most money, so you can see where you might need to cut back.

The Guilty Pleasure Rule appeases my argumentative friend. If you’re not excited to take money from your account, pick a guilty pleasure, and choose the amount that gets sucked from your account each time you swipe your card there.

Say you happen to visit Chick-fil-a more than you’d like anyone to know. If you were to hit the drive-thru today, $2 would go into your Qapital account. It’s like you’re being punished and rewarded at the same time.

The IFTTT Rule lets you specify anything you want: if you do this, then that happens. Explore the endless pairing options.

Get 40 favorites on that photo you posted to Insta? Move some cash toward your goal. It’s raining? Cheer up, and dispense money into your Qapital account for a beachside vacation.

The Freelancer Rule registers each time you get paid and moves 30% (or your chosen percentage) of each deposit into Qapital. This helps you self-employed folks remember to pay that little bill you get from the IRS each year.

The 52-Week Rule seems terrifying to me, but it goes like this: Save $1 during week 1, $2 week in 2, $3 in week 3… until the end of the year-long period. (Hint: You’ll save $1,378.)

4. Let the Money Add Up

Every time you trigger one of your rules, money is automatically transferred into your Qapital account.

It took a few days for my rules to kick in, but once they got started, they were golden. I didn’t get push notifications, but I found myself checking my account as often as I check Instagram and Twitter.

It’s addictive — and not just because I want to see whether I’m ahead of my boyfriend! Like I said, it’s a game.

The Results

At first, the savings seemed to trickle in slowly. Hitting that $100 mark seemed like a huge accomplishment, though $1,100 still seemed so far away.

However, because of how I set my rules, the trickle of money quickly added up.

Now, five months later, we’re rounding the corner to $700 and getting closer and closer to our goal each day — that awesome train trip.

Qapital has some new features worth trying out, too. There’s Qapital Invest, which lets you invest your money, so it’s not sitting idly. There’s also a Qapital debit card, which you can use anywhere and will automatically round up your purchases.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.