Saving money isn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to get by on an income that’s barely enough to live on. Microsavings apps can help you build savings into daily life.
Microsavings apps, as the name implies, help consumers increase their savings in small, incremental amounts. These apps will round up transactions, transfer small amounts from checking to savings regularly, help cancel unused subscriptions, and more. Many have no minimum fees and no withdrawal limits.
👉 Fact: Right now, 21% of Americans say that they would have to borrow money if they had an unexpected $400 expense. Microsaving can help you prepare for unexpected events.
While low-income households are the target market for most microsavings apps, young people and savvy consumers of all income levels can use microsavings apps to save $1000 or more annually.
Here’s how microsavings apps work, and how you can use them to reach your savings goals.
How Microsavings Apps Work
Most microsavings apps make small transfers from your checking account to a savings account. The most common feature is a round-up feature in which the app automatically takes the spare change from each transaction and saves it in an account. If your latte is $4.57 with tax, the app will use $5 to pay for the transaction and transfer the remaining $0.43 into a savings account.
Other common features include:
- Automatic transfers of a specified amount with each paycheck.
- Overdraft protection to stop automatic transfers if your balance is too low or a large payment, like a credit card or student loan payment, is scheduled.
- Some, like Acorn, offer investment in exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
- Most are FDIC insured up to $250,000 or $500,000.
- Bonus incentives for recommending the app.
- Customized savings accounts for specific goals.
Microsavings apps save money, but they also build motivation and encouragement to reach bigger savings goals. You won’t save enough to retire on, but you’ll establish the habit of saving and budgeting resources. That can set you up to meet bigger savings goals.
Microsavings apps aim to address inertia or confusion about saving while building consumers’ confidence. Apps like Acorns, Tip Yourself, Qapital, and Digit aim to turn small savings wins into bigger savings goals.
👉 Noteworthy: The average American household saved between 5% and 10% of their income from 2010 to 2020. That’s not enough to create security for retirement and future goals. Add inflation rates of 2-3% and the average American household is only actually saving a small amount of what they will need for the future.
Microsavings aim to rectify this indirectly. Most people won’t be able to put aside an extra $1000 a month, but a microsavings app might help them save $100 a month. Microsavings apps can be an effective way to build the habit of saving, especially for lower-income families.
Long-Term Financial Goals
Even small savings can lead to big financial gains. A 25-year-old who starts with just $100 and places $100 per month in exchange-traded funds or other investment accounts with an average rate of return of 6% will have over $16,000 in 10 years and nearly $200,000 at age 65.
Microsavings apps help set habits that can bring wealth through small changes. Even if you start saving $200 per month at age 40, you can have $136,000 at age 65. That might not be enough to fund retirement, but it is certainly enough for an added cushion and security.
Who Can Use Microsavings Apps?
There is no age limit on microsavings apps. Whether you just got your first job or have already passed retirement, microsavings apps are a way to have fun while saving money. Awards and motivation – including watching your savings grow – will keep you motivated.
Students and recent graduates are the ideal target market for microsavings apps. You learn about money and savings, and you have the most time until retirement to leverage those savings. Even $200 saved when you are 20 will become over $2700 by retirement with 6% interest, and without any additional contributions.
Setting up microsavings apps for the whole family can be a fun way to learn about savings together. Show your kids how much you save from each purchase, and reconsider whether you need that extra latte or meal out. You can also turn it into a savings competition as you work towards shared goals such as a vacation, house upgrades, or a special meal out.
These apps automate savings. With so many other responsibilities, setting up microsavings apps to manage your savings means you don’t have to think about it. Some apps will have upper limits, while others let you send a percentage of every deposit into a savings account. With so many other responsibilities, setting an app to transfer 10% for savings can feel liberating.
Advantages of Microsavings Apps
Microsavings apps aim to remove barriers to entry. You can open microsavings accounts with even $1. That makes saving an achievable goal for anyone. With low (or no) minimum deposit and lower fees than many traditional savings accounts, microsavings apps make it easier to save, even for low-income families or on a tight budget.
The benefits of microsavings apps are:
- Ease of use
- Automatic savings
- Low costs and fees
- No minimum deposit
Microsavings apps are good for anyone who struggles to save regularly. They are psychologically appealing as you can see how small amounts add up to real savings over weeks or months. The momentum built through small savings can inspire other savings habits.
👉 Microsavings apps make saving a part of your daily routine, gradually setting new systems in place that allow for greater savings. They are a way to build your emergency fund, save for a special goal, or save for retirement.
Microsavings apps can help low-income families to take steps to build savings. The first step is often the hardest, and removing obstacles with microsavings apps can help families save more over time.
Disadvantages of Microsavings Apps
Microsavings apps come under criticism for their low potential impact. Saving $10 a week will not be enough for retirement, or even for an emergency fund. Another potential downside is accessibility: these apps require a smartphone that is compatible with the app, something that is out of reach for some low-income families.
Not all microsavings apps are created equal. Whether you can save, FDIC insurance coverage for your savings, and investment opportunities all vary by app. Fees also vary widely. Some microsavings apps don’t pay interest, reducing total savings advantages.
Taken together, microsavings apps have a lot of advantages for most people, but research to select the best app for your needs is important.
Best Microsavings Apps
You can get started using microsavings apps by exploring the ones listed below.
Qapital was founded by Katherine Salisbury and George Friedman, who wanted savings and cash allocation capabilities their bank didn’t offer. A behavioral economist, Dan Areily, joined them, and the result is Qapital.
The Payday Divvy function automatically splits your paycheck into savings, bills, and daily expenses.
The app also allows you to set savings rules. You can specify weekly savings amounts, and you can round up your purchases so that your “spare change” goes to savings. A “guilty pleasure” setting creates a savings deposit every time you buy at one of your favorite shops, and you can allocate money to pay taxes on freelance income.
The budgeting tool helps you manage monthly needs and budget for special events such as weddings. You can also invest by placing your money in any of five portfolios ranked from “conservative” to “very aggressive.”
There are three plans. “Basic” costs $3 per month, and “Complete” costs $6 per month. The “Master” plan costs $12 per month. You choose your plan based on the features you want.
There are no minimum account balances for any of the plans.
Oportun (formerly Digit)
In November 2021 Digit, an established microsavings app, was acquired by Oportun, a broader company providing a range of financial services, including loans, credit cards, investment services, and the savings functions formerly provided by Digit.
Oportun personal loan borrowers have free access to the savings functions. You can also sign up for the app without a loan.
The Oportun saving function works in three steps.
- You link your bank account to your Oportun account. Oportun uses this link to analyze your spending habits.
- You set your savings goals.
- Oportun automatically sets aside a small percentage of each of your transactions to help you meet your goals.
The focus is on knowing how much you can spend on any given day, given your bills, savings, and investments. In short, you set up your expenditures based on paying yourself first.
Also, you can invest in a portfolio based on your investment goals. Digit moves the money for you daily.
Accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC. You can withdraw funds at 55,000 ATMs.
Oportun costs only $5 per month. The app works on both iPhone and Android phones.
The focus of SmartyPig is on getting a good rate on your savings. The site offers higher-than-usual interest rates. You more you save, the better your rate. The idea is to increase your savings by adding interest. Note that interest rates change as the market fluctuates, so your initial rate may rise or fall.
You can set a savings amount you want to deposit regularly. In other words, “set it and forget it” so you automatically save money. You withdraw money by transferring it to your bank account.
There are no fees for opening an account or withdrawing money. You can also set up multiple accounts for multiple projects or goals.
Money on deposit is held by the Sallie Mae Bank and is insured by the FDIC.
Guac uses what it calls “auto-tip technology” to build savings. Each time you spend, the app adds a “tip” to your expense and moves it to an FDIC-insured savings account.
You can set the percentage you want to save and set different savings goals with different target dates. You can also earn cashback on purchases from within Guac’s own marketplace.
Guac imposes no monthly fees, minimum balances, or withdrawal limits. Deposits are automatic and immediate, and setup is quick and easy. There’s even an analytics function to keep you up to date on your progress. A free trial is available, and you can earn rewards by inviting friends.
Guac describes itself as the “best savings app in the market”. They have a vested interest in believing that, but the features do seem worth a close look if you’re shopping for a savings app.
Apps Where Savings Are Not the Primary Feature
You can find other savings opportunities by looking at apps whose main focus is not savings but do offer a savings option.
Take a look at these:
Some apps put your money in the stock market or other investments. Here are a few to explore.
Each of these apps offers different features and priorities. Choose the one that best fits your needs!
How We Chose the Best Microsavings Apps
Microsavings apps come with a variety of options, interest and savings choices, price points and fees, and other unique features. Here are the main factors we used to evaluate them:
- Minimum deposit. Most microsavings apps will allow you to start with even $1.
- Interest rate. If the app’s interest rate is less than the rate paid by your bank’s high-yield savings account, consider transferring savings to your bank or investment account instead.
- Investment options. Many microsavings apps offer the option to invest the money you save in ETFs. If there is no investment option, consider transferring savings to an investment account at regular intervals.
- FDIC Insurance. Is the app’s savings account FDIC insured, and up to what amount? FDIC-insured accounts of up to $250,000 or $500,000 are standard for microsavings apps.
- Fees. How much are the monthly fees, and how are they charged? If you choose an app with a fee, be sure the features or extra savings justify the fee.
- Number of accounts. Many apps will allow you to have multiple savings accounts for an emergency fund, retirement, a new house, etc. Some will also allow you to choose whether to hold the funds in savings or invest in ETFs.
- Savings Rules. Many apps allow you to set savings triggers like, “Save $1 every time I make a purchase at Starbucks” or “Save $2 with every restaurant purchase”.
A microsavings app can jumpstart your desire to save and show you new ways to save more in even a month. Each of the top apps offers a balance of automated features, security, and automatic savings options to help you reach your personal savings goals.
Once you get in the habit of saving, you can set bigger goals. It’s even possible to save $10,000 in six months! It all starts with making saving a regular part of your life, and a microsaving app can help you do that.