If You’re a Tech Nerd, You’ll Love These 4 Credit Cards

Whether you’re building a top-notch gaming PC or itching for the latest smartphone, there are credit cards that can help tech nerds.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

It’s easy to love technology these days, as gadgets and tech are ubiquitous. There’s an app for nearly everything. According to Pew Research, more than three-quarters of Americans have smartphones. But true tech enthusiasts take it up a notch, following the industry to learn the latest developments and to hunt down the best hardware and software.

Whether you’re building a top-notch gaming PC or itching for the latest smartphone, there are credit cards that can help tech fanatics.

1. My Best Buy Visa Card

Rewards: 5% back on Best Buy purchases (6% for Elite Plus members), 3% back on gas, air travel and ground transportation through September 2017, 2% back on dining and grocery purchases, 1% back on everything else
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 26.24%
Why We Picked It: This card earns rewards for Best Buy purchases.
Tech Benefits: All purchases earn rewards, with strong extra incentives for Best Buy purchases and other spending types. Earned rewards can be used toward future Best Buy purchases.
Drawbacks: If you don’t spend a lot at Best Buy, this card isn’t a good fit. The APR is high.

2. Discover it Card

Rewards: 5% cash back on rotating purchase categories, 1% cash back on other purchases
Signup Bonus: Discover will match all cash back earned in the first year.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 11.99% to 23.99%
Why We Picked It: The upcoming spending category can help you save big on gadgets, and you can link your card to mobile pay.
Tech Benefits: Discover offers 5% cash back on spending categories that rotate each quarter. From October to December this year, the spending category is Amazon.com purchases, which means you’ll save big on any gadgets ordered with the online retail giant. Plus, if you prefer to pay by mobile wallet, you can link your Discover card and earn cash back that way.
Drawbacks: Spending categories won’t always be tech-friendly, and purchases outside those categories only earn 1% cash back.

3. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Signup Bonus: $200 bonus cash back when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 25.99%
Why We Picked It: There’s a strong incentive for mobile pay and you get great cell phone protection.
Tech Benefits: All purchases earn 1.5% cash back. For one year, you’ll get a special 1.8% cash back rate on mobile wallet purchases when you link your card to an Android Pay or Apple Pay account. Plus, the card comes with cell phone protection on up to four lines, for up to $600 per occurrence and $1,200 in total coverage each year.
Drawbacks: Cell phone protection is only available if you use your credit card to pay your cellular bill.

4. AT&T Access Card From Citi

Rewards: Two points per dollar spent online at retail and travel websites, two points per dollar spent on products and services purchased from AT&T, one point per dollar spent on everything else
Signup Bonus: 10,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0
APR: Variable 14.99% to 23.99%
Why We Picked It: If you’re constantly shopping online or updating your gadgets and smartphones with AT&T, you can easily rack up rewards points. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Tech Benefits: You’ll earn two points per dollar for online retail and travel purchases and AT&T purchases, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Points are redeemable for electronics, gift cards, travel and more. Plus, with Citi Price Rewind, Citi will automatically search for lower prices on registered purchases. If they find a lower price within 60 days of your purchase, you can receive a reimbursement on the difference.
Drawbacks: If you aren’t an AT&T customer, this card won’t offer as much value.

How to Choose a Card for Your Tech Spending

Many credit cards have features with obvious ties to tech, including strong purchase protections, extended warranties or cash back at specific retailers. You should consider your specific tech needs before choosing a card. If you’re hard on your gadgets, you may want a credit card with strong product protection policies. If you tend to buy electronics as soon as they come out, price protection can help you save cash if the item in question goes on sale.

You’ll also want to consider where you tend to make your tech purchases. If you’re loyal to one store, you may want to see if they have a branded credit card. If you’re agnostic, you’ll want a card that can reward you no matter where you get your gadgets.

However, if you need a card for more than just tech, you may want one that rewards your overall spending habits. For instance, a card with a strong flat cash back rate on all purchases can help you earn cash at the electronics store and at the supermarket.

What Is Required to Get a Credit Card for Tech Purchases?

Cards that provide spending rewards and strong purchase protection policies usually require good to excellent credit. You should be confident in your credit before you apply, because a hard credit inquiry initiated by a credit card application can lower your credit score. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: Peopleimages

At publishing time, the Discover it and Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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3 Apps That Can Help You Craft an Ironclad Business Plan

Developing a solid business plan is your first step toward launching a successful startup.

The first step on the road to creating a successful startup is developing a solid business plan. This document should map out your plan for growth over the next three to five years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Your business plan is important for getting investors on board so you don’t need to fund your dream entirely on credit cards or loans from family and friends. (Your credit score helps determine how much you’ll be able to borrow. Check two of your scores with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

Documenting every aspect of your company is a daunting prospect, but there are business plan apps and software programs out there that can make the process a bit easier. Here are few to consider.

1. The Small Business Administration’s Business Plan Tool

Cost: Free

Creating a clear business plan that identifies what makes your company special is one of the most important steps for a startup company, according to the SBA. There’s a lot of ground to cover and knowing where to start is often a challenge.

Using a generic plan template helps focus your thinking by making it easier to define the important aspects of your business, including management structure, product lines, sales strategies and financial projections. SCORE, a nonprofit association established to help small businesses get started, offers free templates.

The SBA goes further, offering its free online Business Plan Tool. You start by creating an account, then the tool provides step-by-step guidance for the creation of your plan. All content is secure, and you have the option to update your plan whenever necessary, which is important as your company grows and adapts. You can save your plan as a PDF file for easy distribution.

2. Business Plan Premier

Cost: $9.99

Business Plan Premier is an app for iPad by AppIt Ventures LLC. It provides features for organizing your ideas into a logically formatted business plan. The interface breaks the plan into sections you can access from a list of tabs on the side of the screen. Selecting a tab brings up a series of questions, edit boxes and instructions for creating a detailed, coherent plan. Every edit box also has an “example” button, which displays a comprehensive example of what the content for that section should include.

When you’re finished, you have the option to export your plan as a formatted PDF or Word document to email to investors and partners. You can also upload your plan to Dropbox.

3. LivePlan

Cost: $19.95 per month; $11.66 per month if you elect to pay annually

One of the main hurdles when writing a business plan is providing all the necessary information in a structured format that investors and potential business partners can access immediately. Various apps and software applications make it easier to organize your thoughts, but don’t necessarily focus on the most important aspects of your business, making it more difficult to define what makes you stand out.

LivePlan by Palo Alto Software Inc. is a web-based subscription service with a rolling monthly charge. The service maintains the “fill-in-the-blanks” simplicity of many other programs but also provides access to more than 500 business plan templates and examples for creating a plan that accurately defines your business structure and goals.

After setting up a new business, you have the option of using LivePlan Pitch to create a one-page summary of your strategy before making your plan by working through a series of steps with the option to customize sections. LivePlan handles financial projections, generating charts based on your data without the need for spreadsheets and formulas. The tool’s Benchmarks system lets you use real data from competitors to see how your plan stacks up. Once your business is up and running, the LifePlan Scoreboard tracks your accounting information.

It’s important to read the terms and conditions of any app or software platform you’re considering to be sure you understand the costs and if it’s right for you. You can also vet services by reading online reviews or checking out a particular company on the Better Business Bureau website.

Image: andresr

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Digit’s Surprise $2.99 Monthly Fee Stuns Users

By Kalyn Wilson

Digit, a once-free automated savings app, now charges users a $2.99 monthly fee.

Consumers are in an uproar this week over the Digit’s new monthly fee. The once-free automated savings app announced Tuesday in a Digit blog post that users will be charged $2.99 a month after a “trial period” of 100 days.

The company said in the announcement that it will increase the “Savings Bonus” — that’s the rate Digit pays to those who store their savings with the app — from 0.2% to 1%, to “reward” users.

The new monthly fee frustrated existing users (who also will have 100 more days of free use and then be charged) so much that Money.com reported the site went down on Tuesday due to increased traffic from complaints and so many customers trying to close close their account. The site was up Wednesday.

Digit CEO Ethan Bloch told Forbes the decision was based on the fact that they needed to monetize the company but didn’t want to sell customer data and advertising that would compromise its brand integrity.

“We went through this huge exercise and a lot of it was in philosophical debates,” Bloch told Forbes.

The app has been free since its launch in 2015. Many customers ranted on social media about the new subscription fee and Digit’s website outage. Some said they planned to abandon the app.

Here’s what you need to know about Digit’s new $2.99 fee and possible alternatives.

Is the app worth the fee?

Considering that no new or enhanced features have been added to the app aside from the increased Savings Bonus, there appears to be no clear benefit from the monthly fee. However, based on the amount of funds you may save due to using this app, some consumers may feel as though the fee is worth the return.

If I decide to leave, how can I cancel the account without getting charged?

For those who signed up for Digit after April 11 — when the changes went into effect — you have a 100-day trial period from your start date before being charged.

If you want to cancel your Digit account without being charged, go to Dashboard > Help > Close My Account within 100 days, as of April 11, 2017.

 

 

 

What are some free alternatives for automated savings?

Other companies offer free automated savings tools, programs, and services to help you reach your savings goals. Here are five options:

  1. Chime offers automatic savings per purchase, plus a weekly bonus reward. This service also offers a “spending” account, a Visa Debit Card and boasts no minimum, overdraft or ATM withdrawal fees.
  2. Qapital allows you to set goals based on “rules” in order to increase your savings potential. For example, the Spend Less Rule encourages you to set a lower budget than what you usually spend in a category, then saves the rest (e.g., if you spend $25 on fast food instead of $35, the app will save the extra $10). The company makes money by accruing interest from your savings and promises there are no fees.
  3. Simple boasts a Safe-to-Spend feature along with its goal-setting and automatic savings feature.
  4. Dobot is similar in its plan for you to establish goals and set aside small amounts toward those goals.
  5. For Bank of America users who prefer the traditional bank atmosphere, you can enroll in the Keep the Change Program. The bank rounds your purchases to the nearest dollar amount and saves the difference. You must have a Bank of America checking account, savings account, and debit card

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The 8 Most Useful Apps for Following March Madness

Here's how to keep track of all things NCAA Tournament this year.

March Madness is almost here. With 68 teams competing for the men’s NCAA basketball championship and 64 for the women’s title, it can be hard to keep track of the latest news and the status of your bracket.

Luckily, there are plenty of apps to help you follow the tournament without leaving the safety of your couch — or your desk at work (we won’t tell). These apps can help you track your bracket, check out highlights and watch and listen to games live.

Here are our favorites.

1. NCAA March Madness Live

Platforms: iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Microsoft

Price: Free

The NCAA’s own app for the tournament might be the only one you need. Not only can you watch every game live, the app also allows you to pick a bracket.

You’ll need a paid cable subscription to watch games broadcast on TBS, TNT and truTV, but games on CBS are free. The app also works with Google Cast, allowing users to cast video on the app to their televisions.

For radio lovers — or anyone trying to keep up with the action at work or in the car — live radio broadcasts are available for every game. The app also includes highlights, scores and stats.

Bracketologists can use the app to make tournament picks with their friends and enter the NCAA Bracket Challenge Sweepstakes, with prizes including a trip to next year’s Final Four.

2. ESPN Tournament Bracket Challenge

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

This bracket app is among the most popular, thanks in part to the chance at winning $10,000 and a trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational college basketball tournament. The app also lets you see how your bracket measures up against pro athletes, celebrities and ESPN hosts.

ESPN also has live scoring and gives users the ability to make up to 10 brackets. The app also includes a Women’s Tournament Challenge, but does not offer any prize money for the best bracket.

3. Yahoo Fantasy Sports

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

This tournament app also lets you pick your bracket, and has its own competition offering a $25,000 prize to the user who picks the best bracket (again, men’s tournament only. There’s no bracket competition for the women’s tournament). The Yahoo app also lets you manage your bracket and all your other Yahoo Fantasy Sports teams. Like the ESPN and NCAA apps, you can organize tournament groups for your office, school or family.

4. CBS Sports

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

CBS is one of the broadcasters covering the tournament, so it’s a good app to download if you want to watch live games and listen to streaming video.

The app also includes scores, stats and news. And yes, the CBS app also allows you to pick a bracket.

5. Thuuz Sports

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

You can’t possibly watch all the games, especially not in the first round of the tournament, when dozens of teams are playing at once. Thuuz can help you narrow down which games to follow.

Thuuz rates every game on a 100-point scale to let you know which match-up is best. The app also includes a television guide to let you know where to watch. You can set up alerts for your favorite teams as well.

6. TuneIn Radio

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

If you’re not down with the CBS Radio broadcast, TuneIn Radio gives you access to thousands of radio stations, including live local broadcasts for teams like Kansas, Maryland and Duke.

7. Bleacher Report’s Team Stream

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

This app gives real sports junkies instant alerts as news breaks. With plenty of news breaking during tournament time, this app can help you keep up on your favorite teams.

Team Stream also has scores, schedules and stats, as well as video highlights.

8. SeatGeek

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

Nothing beats experiencing March Madness live and in-person. SeatGeek can help you find deals on tickets.

SeatGeek’s DealScore feature grades every ticket deal and lets you buy and sell tickets through its marketplace. While the men’s final is in Phoenix and the women’s final is in Dallas, the early rounds of both tournaments are all over the country, so it’s possible to catch a game near you.

Before you spend too much on tickets or bet big on your bracket, be sure you can afford it and that your credit is in a good place. You can get your free credit report summary on Credit.com. (It gives you two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, plus lets you track how you’re doing in five key areas that affect your scores.) And if you’re having a hard time managing your money, well, there are apps for that, too. Here are five of them that can help families on a tight budget.

Image: RapidEye

 

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6 Travel Apps That Can Help You Have the Best Vacation Ever

These travel apps have your next trip covered.

There’s a lot that goes into traveling, from choosing and saving up for travel expenses to deciding what you need to bring with you. Thankfully, there are a plethora of apps on the market to help simplify the process and make your vacation exactly what it should be: relaxing.

Here are six of those apps.

1. Travel Planning: TripIt

Platforms: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows

No longer do you have to store your flight plans in a different spot than your hotel and restaurant reservations — with TripIt, you’ll have all your travel plans in one place. And all these details will automatically sync to your calendars, making everything about your travel easier, whether for business or pleasure. With TripIt Pro, you can add additional features — like notifications for when a better seat or alternate flights are available or the ability to store your reward program points in the app — for $49 a year.

2. Helping You Save: Unsplurge

Platforms: iOS

There are several apps on the market to help you budget, but Unsplurge is a great one to help you focus on saving for a specific item or event. You can upload a photo of your dream destination to help you stay motivated and track your savings toward your goal. The app also offers savings tips to help you achieve your goal. If you decide to put your trip on a low-interest credit card, for example, you can tell this app that your goal is to get your card paid off sooner so you can have a stress-free vacation. (In the meantime, you can keep an eye on how that balance is affecting your credit by viewing your free credit report snapshot, along with two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) 

3. Tracking (& Using) Rewards: AwardWallet

Platforms: iOS, Android

If you’re part of several different travel loyalty programs, AwardWallet can make keeping track of those perks easier for you. After all, you don’t want to miss out on using those hard-earned rewards. You may also want to see if you can add to these perks with some of the plastic in your wallet. These stellar credit cards for international travel, for instance, can help you rack up extra points or miles. 

4. Figuring Out What to Bring: PackPoint

Platforms: iOS, Android

Packing for vacation is probably one of the worst parts, but this app can help simplify the process for you. PackPoint checks the weather at your destination so you know what you’ll need to bring. You can also tell it what you plan to do on your trip and receive recommendations on how to pack accordingly. Bonus: PackPoint has its own free travel podcast you can enjoy and garner smart travel insights from.

5. Exploring Your Destination: Time Out

Platforms: iOS, Android

You’ll certainly want to discover the best things your destination has to offer once you arrive, and this app can help you do that. Featuring big cities from all over the world, Time Out can give you suggestions on places to dine, grab drinks or even events to attend while you’re in town. And if you’re out and discover something you’d like to share with other travelers, you can do so right on the app. 

6. Understanding Different Rates: Units Plus

Platforms: iOS, Android

This is great for those trips you take abroad so you understand currency differences, which can help make purchases (and tipping) easier, but it doesn’t end there. If you’re somewhere with different metrics of speed, weight, temperature or almost anything else, this app can convert the unit for you. Best of all: The app frequently updates, so the exchange rate stays very current.

Longing for the day your bank account can fund that dream vacation? We’ve got 28 (mostly) pain-free ways to save for your next big adventure.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: Pavliha

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5 Health Apps That Can Save You Time & Money

Need to vet a doctor? Schedule an appointment? Monitor your diet? These health apps can help.

For many, healthcare costs are higher today than ever before, leaving many savvy people seeking out resources for saving money and time while addressing their health and wellness. Fortunately, with so many free and cheap health management apps available for download on your smartphone or tablet, the information and resources you need are now more accessible than ever before.

Remember, these apps aren’t meant to take the place of medical care, but they can provide supplemental assistance when it comes to vetting doctors, making appointments and managing your diet and exercise regiment. 

With that in mind, here are five money- and time-saving health management apps you can consider using.

1. ZocDoc

Cost: Free

How much time have you wasted trying to find a medical professional who is within your insurance network and has great reviews? Now, you can make finding a new healthcare specialist easier and faster with ZocDoc. This innovative app allows you to search a desired area for doctors and specialists — and you can filter based on reviews, location, insurance network, and more. Plus, once you find the right specialist for your needs, you can even book your appointment through the app and access any necessary paperwork you’ll need to fill out before your appointment.

2. iTriage

Cost: Free

iTriage was created by two emergency room physicians, and aims to help users get a better idea of what their symptoms may be caused by. Essentially, users can enter the specific symptoms they’ve been experiencing and receive a list of potential ailments or other medical issues that could be the cause. Again, this app is not meant to be used in lieu of seeing a doctor for an official diagnosis or treatment. Instead, the app will help you find a doctor or facility in your area who can treat you. Plus, it can tell you the nearest local urgent care or ER facility if needed.

3. LoseIt!

Cost: Free

LoseIt! is a great app for tracking your daily calorie intake, as well as your energy expenditures through exercise and other activities. It even features a handy scanner that allows you to simply scan a food label barcode with your phone and then automatically enters nutritional facts to your daily log. There are also some fun user challenges and contests to help you stay accountable and continue pursuing your health and fitness goals.

4. Doctor on Demand

Cost: Free, but you’ll pay $49 for any video doctor visits you opt for

Have you ever had a question for your doctor but had to wait until your next physical or other appointment to bring it up? With Doctor on Demand, you’re never more than a few taps away from speaking one-on-one with a licensed doctor, pediatrician, or even a psychologist. These specialists can talk with you about your symptoms and even write prescriptions over the phone without you having to leave your home for an appointment. The app itself is free, but be aware that you will be charged for each “visit” with a licensed specialist.

5. Fooducate

Cost: Free

Want to make smarter choices when it comes to your diet and food intake? If so, and if you’re not sure where to start, Fooducate is a great resource. This app can provide you with everything from the calorie content of a particular food to a breakdown of the macro- and micro-nutrients. It also has a handy feature that assigns each food a “grade” from A to D, so you can get a better idea of the nutrition of the food you eat and make smarter decisions.

Health & Money

These are just a few of the health management apps out there that can save you precious time and money. Remember, of course, to read the fine print of any app you’re considering closely so you know, among other things, whether the app collects any data, how it might be stored and what actions in the app may have charges associated with them.

Keep in mind, apps are just one way to potentially improve your wellness and lower healthcare costs. You can find tips for improving your eating habits, for example, on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

If you already have medical bills, there are some steps you can consider taking to address them more readily. For instance, you could ask the provider for an itemized bill so you can confirm the charges. You can also try negotiating with a doctor’s office for a lower payment (here’s some tips for how to do so.)

Remember, unpaid medical bills can go to collections and do some big damage to your credit. You can see how any medical debts may be affecting you by viewing two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. 

Image: kali9

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Review: You Need a Bugdet (YNAB) — The Budgeting Tool That Makes Every Dollar Count

YNAB app-spread

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is subscription-based budgeting software available both on desktop and mobile devices. Its trademark mantra is, “Give every dollar a job.” That means as you have money coming in, you assign it a budget category. Once you have one month’s worth of expenses fully funded, you can start budgeting funds for future months.

How Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Work?

When you first sign up for You Need a Budget, you will be asked to link your checking, savings, and credit card accounts. This allows the app to see exactly how much money you have at this very moment.

Next, you’ll add upcoming transactions like rent, utilities, and groceries. As you add these expenses, you’ll also be prioritizing them. The ones that are most important (generally rent or mortgage payments) will go on top, and the ones that are a little more frivolous like entertainment spending will go at the bottom.

After you’ve set up transactions you know are coming, you’ll be able to establish goals. You can set up goals by a date, in which case the app will tell you how much you have to save per month to meet your objective. You can also set them up by how many dollars you’d like to allocate toward them per month, in which case the app will tell you how long it will be until they are fully funded (or in the case of debt repayment goals, paid off).

YNAB direct-import-setup

You’ve linked accounts. You’ve accounted for bills and upcoming spending. You’ve set goals. Now it’s time to fund all of those things! You start with the money you have, and not a penny more. You assign each dollar to a certain line item, again, starting with the most important items at the top. Once you reach the end of your current funds, you won’t be able to budget any more until you get more cash in your hands.

If you are able to fully fund one whole month, then you can use any excess funds on hand to start funding the next month. The more you do this, the happier the founders of YNAB get. Their entire philosophy is that you should “age your dollars,” meaning the further in advance you can fund a transaction or goal, the more financial stability you will have.

How Much Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Cost?

Currently, You Need a Budget offers a 34-day free trial — no credit card required. After that, you will have to pay either $5 per month or $50 per year. Students get twelve months free, after which they’ll be eligible for a 10% discount for one year. If you have a previous version of YNAB, you’ll be able to score a 10% lifetime discount on the latest version.

Fine Print

ynab-app-icon-1024YNAB is extremely transparent and seemingly ethical in their practices. They do not sell information to third parties, but may give others access to it in the course of business as they work to facilitate the software through companies such as Amazon Web Services and Finicity, which are two trusted names in the Fintech industry as far as security is concerned. Your data is always encrypted, and will be completely and irreversibly deleted upon request should you ever choose to close your account.

Pros and Cons

You Need a Budget is commonly recognized as one of the best budgeting apps around. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect for everyone, though. Think through the pros and cons before downloading.

Pros

  • Transparent company.
  • Committed to security and positive user experience.
  • Helps you change your financial habits through a simple, yet revolutionary, process.
  • Prioritizes your expenses each month.
  • Forces you to address overspending.
  • Allows you to set goals.
  • Can be used by those who get paid regularly and receive W-2s or by freelancers.
  • There are user guides and lessons accessible to members to deepen your understanding of common personal finance principles and concepts.
  • There is a community where you can get support.

Cons

  • There is a price for your subscription.
  • This won’t be good software for you if you’re a percentage budgeter as the interface makes no allowance for that method.
  • At this point in time, there are no reports or analyses to help you disseminate your habits. They are promised on the horizon, though.

How Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Stack Up against the Competition?

YNAB is an extremely useful and user-friendly app. However, it does come with a fee and is far from the only budgeting software on the market. Here are some other options you may want to check out if the YNAB $50 annual subscription is getting you down:

Mint.com

While it may not use the “give every dollar a job” philosophy, Mint.com solves very similar budgeting problems in a very free way. It allows you to link accounts, plan for upcoming expenses, and set goals. It also provides charts and graphs to analyze your past behavior and provides your FICO score at no charge — two things YNAB doesn’t do. The biggest con to this no-cost application is that it is laden with ads.

Wally

If you don’t like the idea of your financial accounts being linked to a third-party app, another free option is Wally. When you use this app, you’ll have to be a lot more diligent at inputting your income and expense as none of it will be automated, but that’s the price you pay for keeping your bank account info completely separate.

Level Money

Level Money is a free app that allows you to link accounts, gives you insights into how much you have left to spend in any given category on any given day, and comes 100% ad-free. This app isn’t the best for the self-employed or those with variable income, and also isn’t as useful for those who make a lot of cash purchases.

Who Should Use You Need a Budget?

You Need a Budget is great for anyone who wants to get a hold on their money today, but doesn’t necessarily want to analyze their past spending. It’s developed for people who prefer budgeting by dollars rather than percentages, and comes with extra savings for students who are trying to establish good money habits at a younger age. It is time-tested, and is created by a company that has continually shown it cares for its customers.

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Apps That Make Investing Easy: Acorns, Betterment, Robinhood, Stash

The smartphone has revolutionized the way we manage our finances — from paying bills to tracking our credit scores. Thanks to a wave of new investing apps, it’s never been easier for novice investors to get their start in the market. Services like Acorns, Betterment, Robinhood and Stash let users invest small amounts of money to begin to grow wealth.

But how good are these apps at growing your money, and what are the pros and cons?

Read on to find out all you need to know about investment apps. We’ll periodically update this post with new apps and reviews.

In this guide, you’ll find reviews of:

Acorns
Betterment
Robinhood
Stash

Acorns

acorns

How it works: Acorns is an app that is designed to help users invest their spare change by rounding up purchases to the dollar. By linking your checking account and credit cards to the app, it can take everyday purchases like a $4.22 latte and round it up to the nearest dollar, which in this case would be $5. Once you’ve accumulated $5 in round-up savings, the app invests the money for you in a portfolio of your choosing.

Acorns’ main selling point is how simple it is to choose your investments. To get started, Acorns asks for your age, how long you’re looking to invest, your income, your financial goals, and your risk tolerance. From there, the app recommends one of five portfolio blends. Each portfolio comprises six low-cost exchange traded funds (ETFs). Portfolios range from conservative (with a larger allocation of bonds) to aggressive (with a larger allocation of stocks).

Fees: Like any product aimed at convenience, Acorns’ investing platform comes at a price: $1 per month for accounts with $5,000 or less, and an annual fee of 0.25% of the account value for balances over $5,000.

Making withdrawals: Acorns does not charge a fee for withdrawing money, but it will take some time to hit your bank account. Withdrawals take five to seven business days, the company says. That’s because Acorns has to sell the stocks and bonds from your account to cover the withdrawal, which could take up to three business days alone. Then, the company transfers the funds into your account, a transfer that could take one to three days.

Best suited for: Individuals who struggle to set aside savings each month and want to invest for short-term goals.

The pros:

  • No minimum balance is required.
  • No monthly deposit requirement.
  • You can deposit extra funds to your account at any time or set up a recurring deposit.
  • Withdrawals are free and can be made at any time.
  • The app is totally free for students.
  • Users are free to accept or decline portfolio recommendations and can change portfolios at any time.
  • Easy to withdraw funds without any penalty or fees.

The cons:

  • Acorns’ $1 or 0.25% fee may sound nominal. But for an app aimed at investors who are saving only small amounts of cash on the side, those fees can quickly eat into your long-term investment gains. “If you only have $100 and you’re charged $1 a month, you’re paying $12 a year,” says Robert Farrington, founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com, an investing and personal finance site aimed at millennials. “A 12 percent fee is criminal … and once that money is gone, it is not going to compound.”

There are plenty of ETFs and mutual funds out there that charge far lower fees. But Acorns’ main selling point is the ease of selecting a portfolio, which takes away the headache of comparing dozens of different funds on your own.

Betterment

betterment

How it works: Betterment is a service that pretty much takes all the guesswork out of investing. Users input their investment goals, and the app suggests individual portfolios based on an investor’s risk tolerance and goals. Betterment uses software and algorithms to manage money by investing it into a blend of Vanguard exchange traded funds (ETFs), including U.S. and international stocks, short-term Treasuries, inflation-protected Treasury securities, and emerging market stocks and bonds. Betterment’s algorithm manages your investments for you and rebalances them over time, making sure you’re properly invested in the right mix of funds.

Fees: Betterment currently offers a promotion of up to six months for free. After that, fees are relatively low — 0.35% per year on accounts with a minimum monthly auto deposit of $100 and 0.15% for accounts that hold at least $100,000. But beware: If you do not contribute at least $100 to your Betterment account each month, they’ll hit you with a hefty $3 fee.

Making withdrawals: Betterment does not charge any fees or a penalty for making withdrawals, which usually take four to five business days to process. The website notes that a withdrawal might be delayed if a user recently made a deposit, because the deposit needs to fully settle first before another action.

Best suited for: Novice investors who are investing for long-term goals like retirement.

The pros:

  • Betterment currently offers a promotion of up to six months managed for free. After that, fees are relatively low (0.35% a year on accounts with a minimum monthly auto deposit of $100 and 0.15% with a minimum of $100K).
  • The website also offers personalized retirement advice to help educate first-time investors.
  • It is easy to withdraw funds with no penalty or fee.
  • Betterment recently launched RetireGuide, which offers personal retirement savings advice to users.
  • Betterment’s SmartDeposit feature lets users choose a certain amount the app is able to transfer from their bank account into their Betterment account. It’s a savings feature aimed to help people who struggle to set aside extra funds.

The cons:

  • If you can’t contribute at least $100 to your account every month, Betterment will charge you a fee of $3. At that rate, you might be better off saving your cash in a high-yield savings account or a low-cost index fund.
  • Your investments are not FDIC-insured.

Robinhood

robinhood

How it works: Robinhood is a brokerage service that offers zero-commission stock and exchange traded fund (ETF) trading. Once you sign up for the service and link it to a bank account from which to pull funds, you are ready to trade stocks. Just type in the name of a particular stock and either put it on your “watch list” or buy shares. On the company’s homepage you can find out how much each share of stock is selling for and read current news about the stock. Once the trade has been placed, you can either buy more shares or sell what you have.

Fees: There is no minimum investment to get started, and Robinhood charges no trading fees.

Making withdrawals: Uninvested funds must remain in your Robinhood account for five trading days before they can be withdrawn. The company states that the holding period is established for “anti-money laundering and risk management purposes.” You must also wait for your funds to settle after a sale before withdrawing. From the date the trade is made, it will take another three days.

Best suited for: Individuals who know a bit about stock trading and want a commission-free way to try their hand in the market.

The pros:

  • There is no minimum investment to get started and no fees.
  • Users can set up automatic transfers.
  • Proceeds when you sell stocks and ETFs are available immediately to reinvest.

The cons:

  • This app is not for suited for novice investors. Unlike Acorns or Betterment, there is no ready-made portfolio designed for your needs. Robinhood is a hands-on service, aimed at people who have a grasp on buying and selling stocks. Robinhood also provides minimal information to investors to reassure them during times of market volatility. “It’s self-directed and you need to know what you’re doing,” Farrington said.
  • Robinhood currently only allows users to trade stocks and ETFs. You’d have to look elsewhere if you want to trade options, OTC securities, warrants, or mutual funds.
  • The service does not allow users to transfer existing brokerage assets into the app. However, the company says this will be changing soon.

Stash

stash-2stash invest

How it works: Stash lets you pick from 30 different flavors of exchange traded funds (ETFs). To make the app more approachable, the ETFs come with friendly names like “Clean & Green” and “American Innovators.” Clean & Green, for example, is the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF, a fund broadly invested in renewable energy companies. The American Innovators fund is the Vanguard Information Technology ETF, which has holdings in over 300 tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. The Slow & Steady portfolio is the PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF, a fund invested in low-volatility stocks. Depending on your risk tolerance and investing goals, Stash suggests which funds best fit your needs.

Fees: Stash is similar to Acorns in terms of fees. It charges $1 per month for balances under $5,000 and 0.25% annually for balances of $5,000 or more. (Stash offers a promotion of the first three months for free.) Fees are taken from your bank account, however, and do not come out of your investment portfolio. You only need $5 to get started.

Making withdrawals: Withdrawing funds is fee- and penalty-free, but they are capped at $10,000 per day. Withdrawals take one to three business days to process before funds become available in your bank account. The company notes that the process might take a few more days if you need to sell investments first.

Best suited for: Novice investors who want to get into the market but are intimidated by all the jargon and don’t have much money to play with. It also works for investors who don’t want to pick stocks piecemeal and like the flexibility of investing in fractional shares.

The pros:

  • Fees are relatively low assuming you put enough money in the account each month to offset a high percentage fee.
  • Along with ETFs, users can invest in some individual stocks, but only if they are listed as investment options.
  • You only need $5 to get started, and Stash offers a promotion of the first three months for free.
  • Stash allows you to invest in fractional (or partial) shares in companies.
  • Its “Auto Stash” feature allows you to schedule automatic deposits into your account.

The cons:

  • The $1 monthly fee can bite into investment gains. And once your account hits $5,000, Stash begins charging 0.25% annually.
  • You can only view your account on a smartphone, as there is no desktop platform.
  • Stash is effectively letting investors choose funds that are widely available for anyone to invest in outside of the app — without the additional 0.25% fee.

Farrington noted that it is important to review your investment portfolio on an annual basis to ensure that fees aren’t too high and that it has the investment choices you want. “These apps are designed to be a kickstarter to help you get started, but they might not be able to get you to the next level,” he said.

Regardless, Farrington believes that investing apps are an overall positive. “In general, the easier companies make it for people to invest, the better it is as a whole,” he said.

The post Apps That Make Investing Easy: Acorns, Betterment, Robinhood, Stash appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

EveryDollar and EveryDollar Plus: a Budgeting App to Keep You On Track

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With so many budgeting apps and options available on the market, it can be hard to decide which tool will work the best for your personal financial situation. One of the newest options that just came out last spring is EveryDollar.

EveryDollar is the budgeting app created by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey. No matter if you agree with all of Mr. Ramsey’s financial advice or not, his “Total Money Makeover” program has helped scores of families get out of debt and gain control of their money.

“I’ve been using the EveryDollar budgeting app for about 6 months now and I initially found out about it by listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast,” said Allison Haffner, a money conscious millennial from Colby, Kansas. “If I hadn’t heard about it on his show, I probably wouldn’t have started using it.”

EveryDollar is a budgeting app that can be used on your computer or your smartphone. There are two versions of the program – one is free and the other is a paid option that offers more features for it’s users.

How it Works

EveryDollarThe first step to using EveryDollar is going to the EveryDollar website to create an account and set up your zero-based budget. This process should be quick and easy. The website claims that you can create a budget in ten minutes or less, and it’s probably true if you don’t have a complicated budget.

The EveryDollar website creates eight different spending categories that cover the basics of most peoples’ budgets, but you also have the option to create custom categories for your budget if needed.

In addition to creating spending categories, you can also create and set up “funds” which is their term for different savings accounts, like an emergency fund, a vehicle maintenance fund, and more.

After you’ve finished the initial set-up of your budget and financial goals on the website, you can easily maintain your budget by updating it with your day-to-day expenses and purchases with the app.

As you add your expenses to your budget in EveryDollar, it will help you ensure whether or not your spending is in line with your planned budget by showing you graphs of your spending. This is a good reminder for you to make adjustments to your spending as needed throughout the month.

Pros of EveryDollar

Track in real time: Because EveryDollar is a budgeting app that’s available on your iPhone, it’s easy to put in your spending in real time throughout the day. This gives you plenty of reminders to make sure you are staying on track with your goals.

Split transactions: Another feature that’s great is the ability to “split” transactions when you put them in with your iPhone. For instance, your next trip to the grocery store might include more than just food for your family. If this is the case, you can easily split up the transaction to reflect the money you spent on pet food or other items besides just groceries.

Utilize Dave Ramsey’s Method for current followers: EveryDollar also helps you set financial goals and follow Dave Ramsey’s famous “Baby Steps” with a special tool just for those seven steps of your financial journey.

Sync with your bank accounts: In addition to the basic version of EveryDollar, there is a premium version called EveryDollar Plus that can be connected with your bank account to pull in your transactions automatically. This process occurs overnight and then you’ll have to categorize your expenses with a drag and drop system. You can connect multiple bank accounts and major credit cards to your EveryDollar Plus account, which makes it easy to track all of your spending.

EveryDollar makes it easy to keep track of your budget and have confidence that the information is correct because it does sync across multiple devices. This is a great feature for married couples that will both be accessing their budget on different iPhones or computers.

Cons of EveryDollar

Only iOS enabled: Unfortunately, the EveryDollar budgeting app is only available for iPhone users in the AppStore. Although it is not available for Android users at this time, you can still use the program on your computer. But this option may require you to keep better track of your spending as you are out and about so you can input it into your budget later when you get home and have access to your computer.

Can only sync to bank accounts if you pay: another downside of EveryDollar’s free version is that it can’t be connected to your bank account to automatically pull in your transactions every night as they hit your account. If you don’t want to pay for EveryDollar Plus, you will have to input all of your expenses manually. Although if you’ve been using a handwritten budget or even a spreadsheet of your own making, you’ve likely been doing this anyway.

Takes awhile to adapt: Haffner said the biggest downside she experienced with the EveryDollar app was that it took a little getting used to before she could easily use it for all of her budgeting needs.

“It did take me a little while to learn how to use the app to track my spending. I kept using my old spreadsheet alongside the app for a while until I got the hang of it,” she said.

Misnamed transactions: Another thing to watch out for if you decide to try EveryDollar Plus is the translation of merchant names on your transactions. When the app pulls in the transactions from your bank account or credit card, it converts the merchant names from an abbreviated version to the longer version to make it easier for you to drag and drop your expenses into categories. However, the translations are sometimes incorrect.

EveryDollar Plus Costs

EveryDollar Plus is offered for free for 15 days so you can try it out and see if it will work for your financial needs. During this trial period you will have access to all of the premium features, the most popular of which seems to be the automation between the app and your bank account. After the trial period, the cost for the premium version of the app is $99 per year. However, even if you decide to stick with the free version, the EveryDollar budgeting app offers a lot of features and benefits.

How Does EveryDollar Stack Up?

As mentioned, there are lots of options for budgeting apps. In fact, we even put together a list of the 10 best budgeting apps available.

MintMint is one the most popular budgeting apps because it’s 100% free for users. It also offers free transaction syncing between your bank account the app to help you keep track of your expenses. This is a feature you’d have to pay for with EveryDollar Plus. But budgeting with EveryDollar is actually faster and more user-friendly than Mint. Some of the “helpful hints” on Mint are actually ads, and users have been reporting more problems with Mint’s account syncing feature over the past year.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.44.03 AMAnother popular budgeting app is You Need a Budget, or YNAB. This app is actually quite different from Mint and EveryDollar because it focuses more on budgeting into the future instead of analyzing the past and present. The YNAB program is based on living off last month’s income, encouraging you not to spend the income you’ve earned until 30 days later once you’ve built up a savings buffer. YNAB is $50 per year and if you are a data lover, this may not be the best option for you, as it doesn’t provide much in the way of analysis and trend data for your spending.

Who Will Benefit Most

Overall, EveryDollar has a very user-friendly interface that should make it easy for budgeting beginners to get the hang of creating and sticking to their first zero based budget. It’s also a good option to consider if you are on-the-go and want to refer back to your budget before making a purchase that could make or break your category for the month.

EveryDollar is a budgeting app that will likely be very popular due to it’s association with popular personal finance guru, Dave Ramsey.

That said, it might be hard to convince people to switch to EveryDollar since there are other budgeting apps, like Mint, that allow users to connect their bank accounts and sync transactions for free.

The post EveryDollar and EveryDollar Plus: a Budgeting App to Keep You On Track appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Does Mint.com Fit All Your Budgeting App Needs?

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There are so many online financial tools in 2016 that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. One of the most widely known tools is Mint.com. Started in 2006, Mint.com now has over 16 million users.

What is Mint.com?

MintMint.com is a website that provides you with an online software for 1) budgeting, 2) setting financial goals and 3) credit score reporting.

Budgeting: Through Mint.com’s budgeting software, you can connect their bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and other financial accounts, and Mint.com will track all transactions from the accounts (i.e. spending). Not only does Mint.com track spending and saving, but you can also see all transactions in charts and graphs, which makes visualizing budgets easier.

Goal Setting: You can set financial goals, and Mint.com will show the progress over time.

Credit Score Monitoring: Mint.com shows you your credit right on the dashboard of your account. While this is a credit score based off the Equifax credit-scoring model, it is still a credit score nonetheless and likely a close estimate to your FICO score.

How does Mint.com work?

After you signup for an account with Mint.com, you can connect your financial accounts very easily by entering in your financial account information (usernames and passwords). Your accounts will sync with Mint.com and your data will be updated automatically each time you log in to Mint.com. For these reasons, Mint.com is very user friendly and easy to use.

What security features does Mint.com offer?

To use Mint.com, you must provide their names and login information for all of the accounts that they will link to Mint.com. According to its website, Mint.com keeps login information “stored securely in a separate database using multi-layered hardware and software encryption to protect users” (read more about Mint.com’s security here).

Mint.com requires a two-step authentication before allowing you to access your account. This means that when you try to log in, they will first be asked to verify their identity through email or text messages.

Who is Mint.com best for?

Mint.com is best for you if you are just starting to budget, you want to have software do most of the work for you (versus paper budgets), and you want access to your information on mobile friendly devices.

Mint.com is great if you are a beginner who needs to get organized and if you are learning how to manage money and want to create a budget to track spending and meet financial goals. The web-design and features make Mint.com simple to use on any device, which means financial information is easily accessible on mobile devices.

What does Mint.com cost?

You can signup for Mint.com for free and continue to use Mint.com completely free of any charges.

Mint.com makes money not through users paying for the service, but through offering users financial products for which Mint.com gets a referral fee. So, you can use Mint.com completely free and clear, but you will find advertisements and offerings of financial products throughout the software. Be aware that products pushed to you on Mint are based on the fact the company gets a referral fee, so it doesn’t necessarily mean the product is the best fit for you.

What are the pros and cons of using Mint.com?

If you are deciding whether to use Mint.com, consider the following pros and cons.

Pros

  • Simple to use.
  • Goal-setting tools provided to help you meet your goals.
  • Provides a complete budgeting software system that links all accounts.
  • It’s completely free.
  • You have access to a free credit score.
  • You can visualize their saving and spending through graphs and charts.

Cons

  • Mint.com has a lot of advertisements and aims to get you to buy financial products, which may or may not be the best fit for you.
  • For advanced investors or budgeting experts, Mint.com may be too basic. There is no trading or actual investing through Mint.com.
  • Like any online tool, there is always a security risk of a hack and your data being compromised.

How does Mint Stack up Against the Competition?

Mint.com is not the only web-based program that offers budgeting. LevelMoney, EveryDollar, and Personal Capital are three alternatives to Mint.com.

LevelMoneyLevel Money is a simple program that makes budgeting very easy (by categorizing your spending as income, bills, save, and spendable). Level Money gives you a dollar amount that you can spend per day (this is helpful if you’re a big spender). Unlike Mint.com, which gives you a complete overview of your finances at any given time, Level Money aims to help you control your money and spend less. It’s like a moral compass for your money.

EveryDollarEveryDollar is a budgeting software system developed by Dave Ramsey’s team that allows users to track saving and spending under the zero sum budget strategy. Budgeting in EveryDollar is super fast and easy (even easier than Mint.com), but it costs. If you want the ability to link all your accounts to the app like you can with Mint, then you’ll need to pay $99 annually. There is less clicking and refreshing – everything you need to complete your budget is done on one page. However, EveryDollar doesn’t have the graphs and charts that Mint.com does with respect to reporting on your historical spending. For that reason, if you would like a more in depth tool, Mint.com may be better.

Personal CapitalPersonal Capital is similar to Mint.com with the additional feature of actual investing and no advertisements. You can actually invest your money with Personal Capital, unlike with Mint.com (read more about Personal Capital here). Otherwise, the features of Mint.com and Personal Capital are very similar – both use charts and graphs to show your financial snapshot and historical spending. One feature about Personal Capital that is nice is that it doesn’t have any advertisements because it makes money through people paying them for their services (i.e. investing with them). However, both services are free to use, so you can’t go wrong with either.

Should You Use Mint.com?

You should decide whether to use Mint.com by identifying whether it will help you.

Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide weather to use Mint.com.

  1. Are you just getting started budgeting?
  2. Do you need an online tool to help you track your saving and spending?
  3. Do you need encouragement and tracking software to achieve financial goals?
  4. Do you wish you had access to a free credit score?

If the answer is yes to these questions, then Mint.com may be a valuable tool for you to use. The bonus is that Mint.com is completely free and you can deactivate it at any time.

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