Saving up can seem like a huge task — but automation helps. These four money saving 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 total up to the nearest dollar and move the amount into a goal 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 one to two business days.
Perks: The Qapital Spending account’s debit card is free to use for transfers and purchases but has fees for using ATMs. (Qapital won’t charge you, but the ATM owner might.) You can set up a rule so spending with the card will automatically plunk your spare change into a Qapital savings goal.
Downsides: The three levels of membership cost $3, $6 or $12 per month, respectively, with higher tiers showing more money insights. In addition, you earn only 0.10% interest — low for a savings account.
Compare a few of NerdWallet’s Favorite 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.
A basic taxable investment account cost $1 a month. 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.
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 funds. 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 transfers that amount from your checking into an FDIC-insured Digit account. It typically makes two or three savings transfers per week. There’s a 30-day free trial period when you sign up for Digit, but after that, it costs $2.99 per month.
Perk: You’ll earn a 1% annual 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 external checking account can vary, a Digit transfer could cause an overdraft on that account. Digit refunds up to two overdraft fees triggered by Digit transfers, but you can set up the app to limit the daily amount saved.
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 account and debit card, and 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: You can receive your paycheck up to two days early when you sign up for direct deposit.
Downside: The interest rate on Chime savings is a low 0.01% APY.
» 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 balance compound and grow — can put you on track to successfully managing your income and expenses.