Saving and investing money is a lot like eating broccoli. We know we should do it, but it's not so easy. One easy way to save money is with an automatic savings app. To help you get started, here are the best round-up apps for both savings and investing.
Best Overall Round-Up App for Savings–Chime®
For those focused on building an emergency fund or other savings, Chime is my top pick for round-up apps. Why? Unlike most round-up apps, Chime pays interest on your savings.
Chime comes with a long list of features:
- Get paid up to 2 days early with direct deposit*
- Fee-free overdraft protection of up to $200 for eligible members**
- Over 60,000 fee-free ATMs***
- Savings earn interest (currently 2.00% APY^)
It's key feature for our purposes is automated savings. Chime automates savings in several ways.
First, it does have a round-up feature. Called “Save When You Spend,” Chime will round up to the nearest dollar purchases made with its free Visa debit card. Chime then transfers the round-up from your Chime Checking Account to your Savings Account.^^
Second, Chime enables customers to setup automatic savings. After each paycheck, you can have an amount of your choice automatically moved from your Chime Checking Account to your Savings Account.
There are other things I like about Chime. It has arguably one of the best secured credit cards to help customers build their credit. It's called the Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card, charges no annual fee and has no required minimum security deposit.^^^
Best Overall Round-Up App for Investing–Acorns
Acorns is my pick for the best overall round-up app for investing. Acorns is one of the first round-up apps with over 9 million clients. It offers both low cost investing, free checking and a free debit card. As such, it works for savings, investing or both.
After creating an account, you link the credit and debit cards you use for spending. Acorns tracks your round-ups and transfers them from your linked checking account once they reach $5.
You choose how you want Acorns to invest your round-ups. Users can select from several pre-configured portfolios, ranging from conservative (100% bonds) to aggressive (100% stocks). You can also chose among socially responsible portfolios. Acorns does the rest, making the investments for you in low cost, diversified ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds).
For savers, Acorns offers a checking account and debit card. The FDIC-insured account offers direct deposit, mobile check deposit and free nationwide ATMs. It does not, however, pay interest on its checking account.
Acorns costs just $3 a month for a personal account. The fee covers investing and checking accounts. For $5 a month, get the family plan that enables kids to start investing early.
Full List of Round-Up Apps
In addition to Acorns and Chime, here are several other round-up apps worth considering.
Best for kids and teens
Greenlight is perhaps best known for offering a debit card for kids and teens. It also offers an investing platform to teach young people the importance and power of saving and investing. With Greenlight Max, kids can invest in their favorite companies or ETFs. There are no trading fees and parents must approve all trades.
Greenlight offers several ways to encourage savings through what it calls Savings Boosts. One Savings Boost is round-ups. Transactions are rounded up to the nearest dollar and transferred to savings. Other Savings Boosts include earning 1% cash back on all purchases and up to 2% interest on their savings.
In addition to investing, Greenlight can serve as a child's bank and budgeting app. Monthly costs range from $4.99 to $9.98 a month for up to five children.
Best for microinvesting
While all round-up apps are a form of microinvesting, Qapital takes it to another level. In addition to round-ups, Qapital offers a number of Rules that will trigger automatic saving and investing:
- Payday Divvy: This feature enables you to automate how much of your paycheck goes to spending, savings and investing.
- Set and Forget: Set up automatic transfers to savings or investing every week.
- Guilty Pleasure: Enjoy your morning coffee at Starbucks, but save some money at the same time. You can designate the merchants and how much you save each time you shop there.
- Spend Less Rule: Set a spending limit at the grocery store and automatically save the difference between the set amount and what you typically spend.
- Freelancer Rule: For 1099 workers, you can set a percentage of all deposits of $100 or more to be transferred to Qapital's FDIC-insured account for estimated taxes.
- 52 Week Rule: Save $1 in week one, $2 in week two, and so on, for a total of $1,378 over the course of a year.
- Apple Health: Set automatic transfers to savings each time you walk, bike or run.
Money saved can be invested in one of several portfolios using low-cost ETFs:
Qapital offers three plans ranging from $3 to $12 a month.
Best for paying down debt
With Qoins, you create either a debt or savings goal. You can also create what Qoins calls a Bundle, with both a debt payoff and savings goal. With goals set, you pick how you want money transferred toward your goal. There are several options:
- Weekly transfers
- Payday transfers
- Smart Savings
Smart Savings is a feature unique to Qoins. You set how aggressively you wan to save, and Qoins' algorithm determines how much to put toward your goal. Unlike round-ups, Smart Savings doesn't require you to link a debit or credit card.
Qoins offers two plans costing $2.99 or $4.99 a month.
Other Round-Up Apps
I continue to evaluate round-up apps and will update this article based on new research. Here are other apps I'm evaluating:
- Worthy Bonds
It's worth noting that some banks offer round-up features. Bank of America is one example. The problem is that its interest rates on savings accounts are terrible.
How Round-Ups Work
Round-up apps bring the concept of a change jar into the digital world. When cash was king, it was common to have a change jar in the house. Each day when you got home, you took the change out of your pocket and put it in the jar. It wasn't a lot of money, so it didn't crush the budget. And while each deposit into the jar didn't amount to much, over time it grew into some serious cash.
Round-up apps take the same concept and apply it in the world of electronic payments. You connect your checking account and credit cards to the round-up app. The app then keeps track of your transactions and the round-up amount. For example, if you spend $3.74 at a coffee shop, the app adds $0.26 to your round-up balance.
Once your round-ups reach a threshold (typically $10), the app transfers the amount from your checking account to either a savings or investment account. As such, round-ups are one form of microinvesting.
The Psychology Behind Automatic Savings
There are several psychological “tricks” that make round-up apps so effective. First, they require just one easy decision. Once you turn on the round-up feature, it continues to work without any additional effort on your part. This simple decision makes it easy to overcome the status quo bias. And once overcome, the round-ups become the status quo.
Second, they are automatic. The round-ups don't require us to make decisions each day, week or month. They happen behind the scenes, even if we forgot all about them.
Finally, round-ups involve relatively small amounts of money. Trying to save hundreds of dollars a month might feel daunting. Saving our spare change every day, on the other hand, is less intimidating even if it adds up over time.
Can Round-Ups Really Make a Difference?
Yes. In fact, one study found that saving even $100 had a profound effect on financial well-being. And with the power of compounding, even small amounts of money saved over time can grow into significant wealth. For example, investing just $50 a month over a working career can grow into more than $400,000 at a 10% return.
Of course, returns aren't guaranteed and a working career can last 40 or 50 years. At the same time, $50 a month is not exactly a flood of money. It's a start. Continue to increase your savings and your wealth will continue to compound over time. In the end, compounding will generate for more wealth than the amounts you actually save.
What is the best round-up app for saving money?
Chime takes the top slot for saving money. It's combination of an excellent app, fees and interest rate earn it the top spot.
What is the best round-up app for kids?
To help your kids or teens save money, Greenlight is the best option. It's designed for kids, gives parents control features, and offers automated savings including round-ups.
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Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Credit Builder card issued by Stride Bank, N.A.
* Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.
**Chime SpotMe is an optional service that requires a single deposit of $200 or more in qualifying direct deposits to the Chime Checking Account each month. All qualifying members will be allowed to overdraw their account up to $20 on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals initially, but may be later eligible for a higher limit of up to $200 or more based on member's Chime Account history, direct deposit frequency and amount, spending activity and other risk-based factors. Your limit will be displayed to you within the Chime mobile app. You will receive notice of any changes to your limit. Your limit may change at any time, at Chime's discretion. Although there are no overdraft fees, there may be out-of-network or third party fees associated with ATM transactions. SpotMe won't cover non-debit card transactions, including ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, or Chime Checkbook transactions. See Terms and Conditions.
***Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees may apply except at MoneyPass ATMs in a 7-Eleven, or any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM.
^The Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) for the Chime Savings Account is variable and may change at any time. The disclosed APY is accurate as of November 17, 2022. No minimum balance required. Must have $0.01 in savings to earn interest.
^^Round Ups automatically round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the round up from your Chime Checking Account to your savings account. Save When I Get Paid automatically transfers 10% of your direct deposits of $500 or more from your Checking Account into your savings account.
^^^Money added to Credit Builder will be held in a secured account as collateral for your Credit Builder Visa card, which means you can spend up to this amount on your card. This is money you can use to pay off your charges at the end of every month.
Rob Berger is a former securities lawyer and founding editor of Forbes Money Advisor. He is the author of Retire Before Mom and Dad and the personality behind the Financial Freedom Show.