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 App – 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.
Why It’s The Best: Syncs better than Mint.com and focuses more on investing than just budgeting.
Best Investing for Beginners – Betterment
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 the 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.
Why It’s The Best: Focus on your savings goals that hides the technical details to properly invest and wrapped in a easy-to-use web site with low annual fees.
Best Budgeting Software – YNAB
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.
Why It’s The Best: It automatically downloads your financial data so you stay on budget.
Best Microsavings Service – Acorns
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.
Why It’s The Best: Save and invest with each purchase you make to make it painless.
Best Overall Brokerage Firm – Fidelity
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.
Why It’s The Best: It has every major financial service you could want for your investing and banking needs.
Best Discount Broker – Ally Invest
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.
Why It’s The Best: It has superior customer service and low trading fees.
Best Options Trading Platform – OptionsHouse
Seasoned investors alike will enjoy Optionshouse’s advanced trading center, filled with free resources. Users have easy access to thousands of investment opportunities at the click of a button and customer service by phone or web.
Why It’s The Best: It has an impressive options trading platform who want advanced option trading strategies.
Best Investment Research – Morningstar
For 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.
Why It’s The Best: Its Portfolio X-ray tool is second to none for usefulness and has some of the best investment research available.
Best Banking – Ally Bank
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!
Why It’s The Best: They have some of the best CD rates available and good customer service.
Best Accounting Software – QuickBooks Online
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.
Why It’s The Best: 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.