NerdWallet’s 3 Best Money-Saving Apps

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Money-saving apps can make the process of saving money easier over time. You can fill your piggy bank automatically so that savings goals can be met without stress. Check out a few of our favorite apps below.

Best for investment options

How it works: Acorns is an investing app that rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and automatically adds the difference — taken from a linked spending account — to an Acorns investment account. That money is invested in a portfolio based on your income and goals, and you’ll earn a return on the investment.

A basic Acorns account costs $1 a month. (The monthly fee is $3 for an option that includes a retirement and checking account, and $5 if you add investment accounts for kids). Each Acorns portfolio is composed of exchange-traded funds (generally a basket of stocks and bonds), with options that range from conservative (having a higher percentage of bonds) to aggressive (having a higher percentage of stocks).

Perk: If you make purchases with one of the company’s partners — such as Apple and Walmart — using a linked debit card, the partner gives back to your Acorns investment account.

Downsides: Because investments are not guaranteed, your balance may shrink if there’s a dip in the investments where you’ve allocated your funds. It can also take several days to withdraw money from your account because shares in the invested ETF must be sold first.

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Best for goal setting

How it works: Qapital lets you set rules to automate savings. For example, every time you spend money from a linked funding account, Qapital can round up the total to the nearest dollar (or more) and move the amount into a goal account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Or you can contribute a set amount to your fund on a regular basis. You earn interest — which is low for an online savings account, but not a bad rate for checking.

You’ll need an outside checking account to link to Qapital and fund your goals. Withdrawing money from a Qapital account takes one to two business days.

Perks: Qapital gives you the ability to create joint goals with family or friends. You can set up various spending-related rules just as you would for individual goals.

Downsides: You need to be a member to use the app, and there are three levels of membership that cost $3, $6 or $12 per month, respectively, with higher tiers offering more customization and educational resources. Also, while the Qapital Spending account’s debit card is free to use for transfers and purchases, there may be fees for using ATMs. (Qapital won’t charge you, but the ATM owner might.)

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Best for simplicity

How it works: Digit calculates what you can save based on your spending and income patterns in a linked bank account. Then it transfers money that you can spare into an FDIC-insured account. There’s a 30-day free trial period when you sign up for Digit, but after that, it costs $5 per month.

Perk: You’ll earn a annualized savings bonus paid every 90 days, based on the average daily balance kept in your Digit account during that period.

Downside: While you can set a maximum daily amount to transfer from your external bank account, you don’t otherwise control the exact amount Digit transfers each day. This means Digit auto-savings could theoretically cause an overdraft in the external account. To avoid this, you’ll want to pay careful attention to your balance and transfer patterns. You also have the option to pause Digit transfers. In addition, Digit will refund up to two overdraft fees triggered by such transfers.

If you find it difficult to build a savings balance, using an app that automatically does it for you can be a good first step. Getting yourself in the habit of regularly putting aside some money — and seeing your balance compound and grow — can put you on track to successfully managing income and expenses. (.) Once you have some money set aside, you can take the next step and open or contribute to a regular savings account.

If you don’t have a savings account, you can open one by submitting an application, either online or at a bank branch. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number and contact information, along with at least one form of identification, such as a driver’s license or a passport. (For a joint account, everyone wanting access to the account must provide this information and ID.) You generally can deposit money with cash (if in person) and by check, as well as with a bank transfer from an existing account.

For a savings account that holds your , work your way toward covering three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses. You can start small — having just $500 saved can help you pay for some financial emergencies without going into debt.

For short-term needs, having multiple savings accounts or one that’s divided into “buckets” can be handy, especially if you’re tucking away money to reach specific goals, such as a vacation. But once you have a buffer for emergencies, try to begin building a retirement account with investments, where those dollars will earn more than they would in a savings account.

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