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 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 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 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 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.
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 a percentage 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. There’s also a free network of 38,000 ATMs for cash withdrawals.
Downside: The interest rate on Chime savings is a low 0.01% APY.
» Curious about Chime? See our Chime bank review
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.)