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.
|Best for investment options|
|Best banking alternative|
|Best for goal setting|
|Best for simplicity|
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 checking account — to an Acorns 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 taxable investment account costs $1 a month. (The monthly fee is $2 if you add an Acorns Later retirement account or $3 if you add a retirement and Acorns Spend checking account.) Each Acorns portfolio is composed of exchange-traded funds (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 using a card linked to your basic 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 banking alternative
How it works: Simple is a mobile-first banking app with a free checking account, debit card, high-quality budgeting tools and savings subaccounts all in one. The main account balance shows what is “safe to spend,” meaning your available funds minus money that goes toward savings goals or upcoming bills. The only fees are for paper checks and potentially out-of-network ATM operator fees and a Visa foreign exchange fee. There are no monthly or overdraft fees.
One notable feature is Simple’s round-up rules. Opt in to round up every debit transaction, such as card purchases and online transfers, to the nearest dollar and automatically transfer the difference into a high-yield Protected Goals subaccount.
Perk: Simple combines banking with budgeting seamlessly, making it easy to track spending and save up. Plus, the rate on a Protected Goals subaccount is high: 1.75% APY for under $10,000.
Downside: Simple doesn’t offer a bill-pay feature, so you have to pay bills directly either online or with checks.
» Curious about Simple? See our Simple bank review
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 up the total 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 goals. Withdrawing money from a Qapital account takes 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.) Qapital gives you the ability to create joint goals with family or friends, and you can set up various spending-related rules, such as rounding up a transaction to the nearest dollar and transferring the cents into a Qapital savings goal or setting up automatic transfers to “Goals” if you spend money at certain merchants.
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. In addition, you earn only 0.10% interest — which is low for a savings account.
Compare a few of NerdWallet’s Favorite Savings accounts
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 $5 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: Digit charges a $5 monthly fee. 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.
Using apps to save money
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. (Read more about how compound interest works.) Once you have some money set aside, you can take the next step and open or contribute to a regular savings account.
How to open a 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.
How much should I have in savings?
For a savings account that holds your emergency fund, work your way toward covering three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses. Multiple savings accounts or one that’s divided into “buckets” can be handy 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.