Saving up can be a daunting task — but automation helps. These four apps fill your piggy bank automatically, so that savings goals can be fulfilled without stress.
|Best for goal setting|
|Best for investment options|
|Best for simplicity|
|Best alternative bank|
Best for goal-setting
How it works: Qapital lets you set “rules” to automate savings. For example, every time you spend money, Qapital can round the spare change up to the nearest dollar and move the amount into an account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Or you can contribute a lump sum to your fund on a regular basis.
You’ll need an outside checking account to link to Qapital and fund your various goals. Withdrawing money from your Qapital account will take two business days.
Perks: Qapital is fee-free. You can also sign up for a free Qapital Spending account that comes with a debit card. Spending from the account will automatically plunk your spare change into your Qapital savings account.
Downside: You earn only 0.10% interest on all Qapital accounts — low for a savings account.
» For higher rates, see NerdWallet’s list of the best savings accounts
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 to an Acorns account. The money will be invested in a portfolio based on your income and goals, and you’ll earn a return on the investment.
You’ll pay $1 a month for a taxable investment account and $2 a month for an IRA account. Each Acorns portfolio is composed of exchange-traded funds, with options that range from conservative (having a higher percentage of bonds) to aggressive (having a higher percentage of stocks).
Acorns is also coming out with a Spend account, essentially a checking account. When you use the account’s debit card, your change will directly go to your investments. Signing up early will get you a card around Nov. 1, 2018.
Perk: If you make purchases using a card linked to your Acorns account with one of the company’s partners, such as Airbnb and Blue Apron, those companies give back a percentage of the purchase to your Acorns savings account.
Downsides: Because your money is being invested, your savings may shrink if there’s a dip in the markets where you’ve allocated your money. It can also take several days to withdraw money from your account, because shares in the invested ETF must be sold first.
» Want to learn more? Check out NerdWallet’s review of Acorns
Best for simplicity
How it works: Digit calculates what you can save based on your income and spending patterns, and puts that amount in an FDIC-insured Digit account. It typically makes two or three savings transfers per week. There’s a 100-day free trial period when you sign up for Digit, but after that, it costs $2.99 a month.
Perk: You’ll earn a 1% savings bonus paid every three months, based on the average daily balance kept in your Digit account during that period.
Downside: Because the amount taken out of your checking account can vary, overdrafts can happen. Digit refunds up to two overdraft fees, but you should set up the app to stop Digit from drawing money out of your checking account if your balance dips below a designated amount.
Best alternative bank
How it works: Chime is a mobile-only bank that offers automatic savings features. By using the app, you’ll get a Chime checking accounts and debit card, with an optional savings account. Chime is free where traditional banks may not be — there are no monthly fees, overdraft fees or foreign transaction fees.
Opt in to round up every purchase you make with your Chime card to the nearest dollar and automatically plunk the difference into the Chime savings account. Or elect to automatically transfer 10% of your paycheck to savings when it comes in.
Perk: Some bills and purchases are eligible for cash-back rewards.
Downside: The interest rate on Chime savings is a low 0.01%.
» Curious about Chime? See our Chime bank review
If you find it difficult to save money, 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 total grow — can put you on track to mapping a healthy budget to manage your income and expenses.