Here at Investor Junkie, the writers and I test many financial services. In the confusing array of investment tools, we want to tell you from our research what we think is the best of the best. In most cases we not only recommend these investment tools, but we use them ourselves.
In selecting these financial tools or investment services, we had the requirement that they must either help increase your investment returns, decrease expenses and/or improve asset allocation.
We’ve created the following as a shortcut for your investing needs, but this doesn’t mean we didn’t fully test out these services. With most of the services listed, we’ve done an in-depth review. So please also read the full review to know why these services are on our recommendation list.
We not only share which ones are the best, but we explain why they’re the top in their industry and what makes them so helpful. This is of course from our perspective and personal experiences.
Best Personal Finance Software – Personal Capital
Personal Capital is an excellent personal finance app that syncs your spending, saving and investing accounts. It's easy to use, plus it's free! Personal Capital has a powerful feature that completes a thorough checkup of your investment portfolio. However, its Wealth Management service, is more expensive than other robo advisors.
- Complete View of Your Finances
- Powerful Investment Checkup
- Support via Many Apps
- The You Index
- Easy to Use
- Custom Allocation of Unknown Assets
- Great Reporting
- All-Inclusive Wealth Management Fee
- Asset Allocation Is Not Customizable
- Budgeting Tool Needs Improvement
- Cannot Reconcile
- Expensive Wealth Management Service
- High Minimum for Wealth Management
- No Import Option From Quicken
- Sales Calls from Personal Capital
If you are looking for a free web-based app that focuses on investing, then Personal Capital is the best option. This app not only allows you to track expenses, it also helps review your investing plan.
Personal Capital gives you a holistic view of your finances, showing you the “big picture” of your financial life. With great customer service, strong security, and reporting capabilities that its competitors just can’t beat, Personal Capital is a great tool in your financial arsenal. In addition, Personal Capital’s premium service offers financial advisors to guide you with your investment planning needs.
Best Investing for Beginners – Betterment
Betterment is the best robo advisor platform for beginning investors, with no minimum deposit and low fees... in-depth retirement tools and effective asset allocation... plus, it's possible to receive assistance from human advisors.
- Simple Asset Allocation
- Low Management Fees
- Perfect for Young Investors
- Tax-Coordinated Portfolio
- RetireGuide Calculator
- Flexible Portfolios
- Analyze Accounts Beyond Betterment
- Personalized Advice Packages
- Not for DIYers
- Cannot Asset-Allocate With External Accounts
- No REITs or Commodities
If you are concerned about high fees, good asset allocation and whether a financial advisor has your best interest at heart, Betterment is the best solution to make investing easy. This service is great for investors who want investment guidance in an automated fashion, and at a much lower annual fee than traditional financial advisors.
Betterment focuses on your investing goals and hides the technical details on how to invest. This is perfect for beginners who don’t want to mess around with stock picking and just wants to invest for retirement.
Best Budgeting Software – YNAB
You Need A Budget (YNAB) is one of the more popular budgeting apps on the market, and for good reason. It costs very little and has great synchronization features. Although YNAB lacks the features some other personal finance apps have, it excels at creating and managing your budget.
- YNAB Is All About Budgeting
- Goes Beyond the Mechanics of Budgeting
- Low Cost
- YNAB Continues to Evolve
- No Phone or Email Contact
- Not a One-Stop Shop for All Things Financial
- Lacks Two-Factor Authentication
As of 2016 YNAB is now an online application. It does one thing and does it well — budgeting. It is an easy to use personal finance management tool that links all your accounts in one place, tracking your spending over time. Though if you are looking for investing tracking Personal Capital is a better bet.
Previously we recommended Quicken but have decided to recommend YNAB instead because they had many synchronization issues with banks, and share of poor customer support issues over the years. Plus the future of personal finance is online, and not tied to a desktop.
Best Microsavings Service – Acorns
The Acorns app provides a painless way for newbies to begin saving and investing by "rounding up" their spare change and "micro-investing" the difference. However, it isn't built for long-term saving (although it is introducing a new IRA service) and charges hefty fees.
- Painless Way to Save
- Hides the Complexities of Investing
- Start Investing With No Money
- Free for College Students
- Only for "Boosting" Your Savings
- Can Lose Principal
When you are just starting off saving you typically don’t have enough money. To get you on the path of not only saving but investing you need a service that makes it as painless as possible.
Acorns is that service. Once you link up your credit card Acorns will round-up each transaction to the nearest dollar and invest the difference. While not as ideal when compared to Betterment, Acorns primarily is targeting Millenials just starting out with little money to save.
Best Overall Brokerage Firm – Fidelity
If you're looking for a one-stop-shop banking and investing service, Fidelity Investments is for you. However, despite its stellar mobile app, the service lacks the functionality of other online brokers.
- Cheap Trades
- Commission-Free ETFs
- Large Selection of Investment Options
- Credit Options Plus Cashback
- Bill Payment
- No Minimums
- Lacks Functionality
- High Margin Rates
Fidelity offers a large selection of mutual funds, retirement accounts, discount brokerage services, retirement services, wealth management, banking, life insurance, and investment advice.
As a one-stop shopping for your investment and banking needs, Fidelity has pretty much every service you could look for. Fidelity even has its own credit card with cash-back rewards that can be directly deposited into your brokerage account. Fidelity’s Full View program allows you to link third-party accounts and get a full snapshot of your finances, similar to Mint.com or Personal Capital.
Best Discount Broker – Ally Invest
Ally Invest is Ally Bank's online brokerage firm, and together the services make for a great one-stop banking and investing package that's, frankly, hard to beat. However, it can take inordinately long for your funds to transfer to your account (up to 10 business days).
- Competitive Fees
- Comprehensive Platform
- Banking Options
- Managed Portfolio Option
- 24/7 Customer Service
- Fund Transfers Can Be Slow
- No Local Branches
- No Commission-Free ETFs
At $4.95 a trade, Ally Invest is one of lowest cost brokerage firms with no hidden fees. Previously the service was named TradeKing and now merged with Ally Bank, Ally Invest has all of the same features before, plus banking.
When they were TradeKing, they were ranked #1 by SmartMoney for customer service. In fact, I have found it to be among the most helpful customer service experiences I have had with a discount broker. Ally Invest also offers a comprehensive education center with helpful webinars and information on all the investments it offers.
Best Investment Research – MorningstarFor those looking to research mutual funds, ETFs or stocks, Morningstar is a great resource! The website does not offer technical charts advising when you should buy and sell, but instead provides you with information about proper asset allocation, low fee investment vehicles, and investments that generate consistent returns.
With any Morningstar review, they analyze investments to give you the pros and cons for each one. It has a super useful X-ray tool that ensures you aren’t over-allocated in a specific sector or stock and a Cost Analyzer to help you choose one mutual fund or ETF over another. A free membership is available, but we believe the premium membership is well worth the cost as you will likely make it up easily in investment returns. Its Portfolio X-ray tool is second to none for usefulness and has some of the best investment research available.
Best Banking – Ally Bank
We like Ally Bank for its interest-paying checking and savings accounts, as well as CDs and money market accounts. Its APYs are much higher than what you'll find at a brick-and-mortar bank and are in line with other online-only institutions.
- No Fees
- No Account Minimums
- Interest-Paying Checking
- 24/7 Customer Service
- Competitive Rates
- Easy-to-Use Online Interface
- eCheck Deposit
- Ally Invest
- Transaction Limits for Savings
- No Cash Deposits
- No Brick-and-Mortar Locations
Ally Bank offers a wide variety of finance options including checking, savings, and CDs. You can check the balances of your accounts, transfer funds and even make deposits with their easy to use mobile app.
Because Ally Bank doesn’t have expensive physical locations, it’s able to offer perks that brick-and-mortar banks cannot — like free ATM withdrawals at any ATM nationwide and no hidden fees. There is no minimum deposit requirement so you can start banking with Ally today! They have some of the best CD rates available and good customer service.
Best Accounting Software – QuickBooks Online
QuickBooks Online is the online service to beat. Their service is easy-to-use and is a good fit for most small businesses. The downside is customer support is poor.
- Easy to Use
- Online Banking
- Mobile Access
- Third-Party Apps
- Poor Customer Service
- Difficulty Importing Data
QuickBooks Online is very easy to use and is perfect for most small business owners. In fact, my company has used it QuickBooks for over 10 years. In my opinion, the features where QuickBooks really shines are in payroll, invoicing, collections and banking.
Surprising when compared to other Intuit products, QuickBooks customer service is very good. Which is especially helpful for the small business owner without an accounting background. The online version may actually be better than the desktop version, with full capabilities and a vast array of features.
Not sure if Quickbooks is right for you? QuickBooks Online has a 30-day free trial.
QuickBooks is the most popular accounting software for a good reason. It supports 18,000 different financial institutions and easily syncs with your business checking account.