Last year, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel about Women and Money with FemCity here in Atlanta. We talked a lot money hangups, but one woman asked a great question about free money apps she could use to make her life easier. I rambled off a list of the ones I liked and the ladies furiously started taking notes. It was then that I realized then that unless you're a blogger (and your job is writing about finance) or a big money nerd… you probably don't research these kinds of automatic savings apps even though they can definitely make your life (and your money) better.
With well over 1,000 apps being created every day it can feel overwhelming to find ones that will actually help you save money. I'm always hesitant to try anything new technology wise (even though it's sort of my job), but these are the ones I have in my rotation. Best of all, they do all the heavy lifting for you (hence the word automatic) and it's made such a big difference in my ability to save consistently and spend wisely.
The Top 11 Automatic Savings Apps
How it Saves Money: I don't like to coupon. Really, I kinda hate it. And I firmly believe you can't coupon your way to wealth. My thoughts on “couponing” changed when I met the SavingStar app. I log in to the app and select offers I'm probably going to use that week, then after I'm done shopping I upload my receipt and they automatically give me cash back rewards in my SavingStar app, which I can withdraw later on.
It's a great way to save a little “here and there” and feels more like a reward than knocking money off my grocery bill each week. I prefer this over traditional couponing any day. Price: FREE, unless your account is inactive for over 6 months
How it Saves Money: Digit works by directly tying into your bank and running an algorithm that decides how much money you are able to save. Digit is so confident that their algorithm will work correctly that they will pay any overdraft fees caused by their withdrawing money. I mention it here because I've used it, and like it, but stopped using it when they began charging users a fee. I wrote about this change here.
Many of my friends (especially freelancers) still leverage the app to save money for quarterly taxes, so the option is up to you. Price: $2.99 per month (Why it's near the bottom of the list)
How it Saves Money: The Google Rewards app automatically keeps track of places you have been and (when available) presents a pop-up saying you have a survey available to fill out. The surveys typically run from 1- 6 questions and will net you anywhere from 0.10 to 1.00 which you can use for purchases within the Google family of apps, like Youtube, etc. May sound a little sketchy that Google is tracking your location, but hey, you already knew that didn't you? Why not profit from it, I say. Price: FREE
#8 – Paribus
How it Saves Money: Paribus is a relatively new service, but it works by syncing with your email account and looking at recent purchases. If the price on a purchase has dropped, then Paribus monitors online stores with price drop policies and applies to get you refunded for the difference. Yes, it does this automatically because it's always checking your account for purchase and shipping notifications. Paribus is only for online purchases, and is a great way to recoup money if you do shop online quite a bit. Price: FREE
#7 – Ebates
How it Saves Money: Cash back rebates on your purchases with participating retailers. On top of using the Ebates app for cash back, installing the chrome extension means you don’t even have to think about making sure to use the Ebates link first as you shop, it will just automatically prompt you when you visit the retailer. Honestly, I wasn't earning much through Ebates until I downloaded the Chrome extension, so make sure to do that. It will prompt you – automatically – to activate cash back whenever you're at a participating retailing. Read more about why we like Ebates here. Price: FREE
How it Saves Money: Want to invest but don’t have the money to do so? Acorns could be a great option. After linking your account to the app and it will then round up transactions from your checking account to the nearest dollar. So if you buy a coffee for $2.09 Acorns will take an additional $0.91 and put it in an investment account for you. This may not sound like much but if you bought that same cup of coffee 5 days a week for 1 year, then you will have invested $236.60 with just that one daily item, and have made money on that amount. Price: $1 per month of all accounts under $5,000.
#5 – BillCutterz
How it Saves Money: Not really an “app” on your phone, but it is a service that will negotiate with your bill companies to lower your bills. Price: They'll take 50% of whatever you save. For example, if they save $100, you get $50 and then they get $50. Still, and extra $50 per month = $600 each year. This can be great especially when paying off debt or trying to figure out ways to find money in your budget.
#4 – Qoins
How it Saves Money: Similar to the way Qapital or Acorns syncs with your checking account, Qoins rounds up your purchases except it doesn't put it into a savings account you can withdraw – it puts the money toward your debts so you're automatically making those crucial extra payments. Price: They take $1.99/month but take it out of your savings. For example, if they save you $70 that month, they'll send out $68.01 as the extra payment on your credit card.
#3 – Honey App
How it Saves Money: Honey App not only saves money but also time because you don't have to hunt the depth of Google for a workable coupon code. It's a Chrome extension, so once installed it automatically looks for a coupon for the site you are shopping on, runs the coupon through to make sure it’s actually currently working, and then provides you with the best money saving option (if multiple coupons are available.) You'll also be eligible to receive “Honey Gold” by shopping with preferred retailers. Once you've earned enough “honey credit” you can cash in for gift cards in $10 increments. I use mine to get Nordstrom certificates. Price: FREE
#2 – Qapital
How it Saves Money: If you need to gamify your goals in order to accomplish them this may be the best money savings app. If you want to save money for a vacation then you go into the Qapital app, set the amount, and then set the rules in which it will save money. You could make it so you if you meet a step goal through the pedometer on your phone that you save $1, $2, or even $10. You could also make it that if you go under budget on your grocery shopping that you save the difference into the account. It can also save “round ups” on your purchases from your checking account. All of this is done automatically through the app and it is MAGIC. Price: FREE!
Hands down my favorite “automatic savings” app. I love Qapital, and I tell everyone.
#1 – Albert
How it Saves Money: This is a new-to-me app and I can't stop talking about it, playing with it, everything. I've never had a financial app that was this comprehensive. It saves money by “sneaking” little pockets of money away from your checking account (Similar to Qapital et. al), but what's nice about this one is it can house your budget, saving contributions, and other financial accounts in one place. Over time it analyzes your spending and let's you know about important trends and if you're staying on track with your budget (which it also sets up for you based on current spending – automatically.) Price: FREE! Although if you opt to do the text service, “Albert Genius”, you select an amount to pay that you feel is fair.
*this post originally appeared in Sept 2017. It was updated in August 2018.