Saving money for investing is easier said than done. If you want to save, but can't seem to remember to transfer funds on a regular schedule, what can you do?
Some checking accounts allow you to set up automatic transfers into a savings or investing account. But there are also a number of apps that can help you save with every debit card transaction, boost your savings, and even invest wisely.
Here's a look at some of our favorite automatic savings apps.
What to Look for in an Automatic Savings App
Various automatic savings apps give you different features to move cash from one account to another without intervention. Just set it and forget it. But not all apps are created equal.
Some of the most important features to look at when picking an automatic savings app:
- Pricing and fees: Some savings apps are free. Others charge a monthly fee or fees for having less than a stated minimum balance. It's best to avoid fees wherever possible.
- Saving schedule: Some savings apps offer little more than the recurring transfers you can already do with most bank accounts. Others analyze your income or use AI to move money into your savings.
- Investment options: If the app includes investing, where does the money go? Is it automated, managed by a pro or something you have to deal with yourself? The best option here varies based on your preferences.
- Interest rates: If your cash sits in savings, it should earn interest. Compare your rate to the average interest rates around the U.S. and high-yield savings banks to find out if you're getting a good deal.
- Access to funds: Can you get your money back in a day or two with an electronic transfer, or do you have to jump through hoops to cash out? Some apps give you different methods and timeframes to withdraw.
Best Money-Saving Apps
Acorns is one of the biggest and best-known automatic savings apps. It allows you to use recurring transfers, round-ups from purchases and other methods to fund a managed investment account. In addition to automated investing, Acorns offers retirement accounts and a bank account.
The biggest downside is the cost. The automated investment product costs $1 per month. Adding retirement costs $2 per month. With banking added, you'll pay $3 per month. This doesn't sound like a lot, but $1 per month on a small portfolio is a large percentage. Acorns makes it easy to start small, but you don't get much momentum with fees on low balances.
Qapital is a really fun automated savings tool that integrates with other apps. I used one of its rules, IFTTT (If This Then That), to automatically save $1 every time a specific person writes a new message on Twitter. There are a lot of different rules and saving methods, and you can save for multiple goals in one account.
However, Qapital is more expensive than Acorns. The basic plan with automatic savings goals costs $3 per month. Adding investments makes it a total of $6 per month. The “Master” plan costs $12 per month.
The first month is free, then you'll pay $1 per month for accounts up to $5,000. Accounts over $5,000 charge 0.25% per year. This is on par with other robo advisors. Depending on your balance, it may be more or less expensive than other automated savings apps. But the managed portfolios feature is definitely a standout for this group of savings tools.
Digit is an AI and machine-learning driven automated savings app that picks how much and when to save for you. Just connect your main checking account, and Digit will figure out the rest. Based on your payday and bill schedule, Digit will automatically pick an amount to move to your Digit savings with a no-overdraft guarantee.
You pay a lot for AI, however. Digit costs $5 per month. That's probably not worth it for most people. But the app is pretty innovative and makes saving a lot of fun.
Stash is an automated saving and investing app that also includes a bank account. Stash uses round-ups from purchases and SmartStash, a tool that analyzes your activity and makes transfers similar to Digit. It does a lot and is pretty cool but isn't quite as automated as some of the others when it comes to picking your investments. It is one of the apps (like Acorns) you can use to handle most of your money needs in one place.
The Beginner account costs $1 per month and gives you access to the saving and investing features. Add retirement accounts for another $2 per month. For $9 monthly, Stash+ includes investment accounts for up to two kids and a metal debit card with cash back in the form of stock.
The Bottom Line: Don't Overlook Your Savings and Investments
One of the biggest financial regrets of people across most age groups is not saving and investing more earlier on. If you struggle with saving and investing, these services can take care of the hard part for you and make it all automatic. While that help isn't free, it can be worthwhile for many people.