If you’re interested in keeping track of your money but don’t feel like taking up accounting as a hobby, you might already be using Mint. It’s a lot better than going manual (it takes a special person to update their spreadsheet every day), but integration issues and a lack of investing tools are fairly common complaints, and some people just aren’t a fan of Intuit. Luckily, there’s a lot of competition out there now, and the category of “free apps that let you manage all your finances in one place” has grown significantly.
That “free” qualification limits your options a bit, as a lot of personal finance apps charge either for using the app or for the feature that allows you to connect bank accounts. There are several great options that work without charging, however, and some boast even more features and better privacy policies than Mint.
1. Personal Capital
Personal Capital (Android) is probably the most recommended money management app after Mint, as it has pretty much all the same features and then some. Its basic functionality is excellent, letting you connect and sync your financial accounts easily, and the data it gives you about your finances is detailed and easy to understand.
Probably its biggest advantage over Mint is that it also offers a detailed breakdown of your investments and recommendations on how you should allocate that money. Its budgeting and bill payment systems leave a bit to be desired, but as a big-picture finance monitor, it’s hard to beat.
Personal Capital is free because the company behind it is actually a financial advisory firm that uses the app as a way to promote some of their services, which means no ads and no personal data sales.
2. Clarity Money
Clarity Money (Android) started out as an independent app with some pretty interesting features, like negotiating lower bills for you, but it’s now owned by Goldman Sachs and has become a legitimate Mint competitor. It offers clear graphical interfaces that help you understand your finances and tools to help you save and invest, wrapped up in a pretty classy-looking package. Exploring the app will turn up all kinds of handy features and analytics, especially as the app starts to analyze your habits and make suggestions for ways you can save.
Clarity is free because Goldman Sachs primarily uses it to promote its high-interest “Marcus” accounts. No ads! You can’t access it from abroad, however, which makes it a bit difficult for travelers.
Pocketguard (Android) has all the standard features you’d expect in a modern money management app, and it sports a pretty nice interface to boot! When you set it up it will walk you through the process of linking your accounts and customizing your income and expenses. This may take a while, but the better the data, the better the plan Pocketguard can generate for you.
One of the app’s most useful features is the “In Your Pocket” service that tells you how much money you have left for discretionary spending after bills and saving. It also has a “find savings” tool that shows you expenses you may be able to renegotiate or cut. A lot of its features are predictive, though, so if you don’t have very steady income or expenses, it might not work quite so well.
Albert (Android) is a free budgeting and savings app that connects to your financial accounts and analyzes your income and spending habits to help you figure out how much you can save. If you tell it to, it can automatically put your extra money into a separate account, which enables you to save without thinking too much about it. It also comes with a pretty standard suite of budgeting tools and a not-so-standard service that can automatically negotiate to lower your bills. (If they’re successful, they’ll keep a percentage of your savings as a fee.)
The app itself is free, but if you choose to upgrade, you can get access to personal financial help from Albert’s team of “Geniuses.” This is their main revenue stream, though they also have marketing partners that Albert says don’t get any access to your data.
Safety, security, and privacy
If you’re concerned that giving your financial account logins over to an app might compromise your financial security and/or privacy, that’s fair – but you’re probably safe. Money management apps are (or they say they are) using pretty good encryption and security practices, and since they have read-only access to the accounts, they can never make transfers or change anything to do with your actual money. Anyone that gets access to your Personal Capital account will only be able to see how your retirement portfolio is doing.
Of course, financial data is a pretty personal thing, so it’s also important to many people that the company holding it isn’t trying to exploit it somehow. A lot of the apps mentioned above don’t make money off ads or anything related to your data, but if you’re worried, it’s always a good idea to look into privacy policies and information before you get started with a particular app.