At Ratehub.ca, we spend our working days discussing all things money. Our work naturally leaks into our personal lives so, sorry/not sorry if we comment on what credit card you pull out at the restaurant. While we all have our different savings and budgeting strategies, I was curious to find out what we Ratehubbers used for personal finance apps.
I reached out and, to my surprise, there was no cohesion for money-saving apps among the staff. We can tell you where to get the best mortgage rate today or how to find cheap car insurance quotes in Ontario, but in terms of apps, it runs the gamut.
Why is that? What appealed to some but not others? What’s important to have in personal finance apps to people that have money ingrained in their brains?
How Ratehub.ca staff are using personal finance apps
That’s a lot of personal finance apps. Why do you have so many? Is it difficult to manage?
I have so many because my financial products are spread out among various providers. And that’s because no one bank or financial institution has all of the best products. For example, I have travel credit cards with both BMO (World Elite) and Scotia (Amex Gold).
I do my day-to-day banking with TD; I have a chequing account, and a linked savings account for travel savings.
For short-medium term savings, I use a high-interest savings account. I want that money to be liquid but also earning some interest. EQ Bank offers one of the best rates at 2.3%, so that’s the bank I chose.
Finally, I use Wealthsimple for retirement savings.
So, because my finances are spread out among various providers, I need all these apps to keep on top of everything. After all, it’s 2019: I don’t receive any paper statements. Everything I do is either online or on my phone.
What’s your favourite app and why?
My favourites are Wealthsimple and Scotia. Both allow me to log in using a fingerprint scan, which is convenient. The others seem behind in the times in this respect.
Which personal finance app do you use most often? Why?
Definitely the TD Bank app. I use it to send money transfers and stay on top of my monthly budget.
Aashti (PR & Communications Specialist) uses the dollarbird app, a collaborative and calendar based app allowing you to enter your daily and recurring expenses manually.
Why did you choose dollarbird over something like Goodbudget? What appealed to you immediately and what has kept you using it?
Dollarbird appeals to me because it is an expense tracking app and not a budgeting app. My personal belief is that you can’t build a budget without first understanding where you spend your money, and Dollarbird helps with that. I began using Dollarbird in 2018 because I wanted a clearer view of my daily spending habits, to help build a budget that actually works for me.
Is it hard remembering to manually enter everything?
I enter my expenses as I make purchases (so, for instance, if I’m waiting for my drink at a cafe I pull out my phone and input the expense). I’ve also enabled push notifications from Dollarbird to remind me to input my expenses at a set time daily. I do a full financial audit and update my balance on the app once every quarter.
Manually entering expenses can be hard, but it allows me to categorize my expenses more accurately than an automated budgeting app would. I also like that I can create custom categories using Dollarbird for more detailed expense tracking.
How could the Dollarbird personal finance app improve?
The desktop version of the Dollabird has more features than the mobile app. I would like to see some of the more interesting desktop features, like the ability to create custom expense reports, translated over to the mobile app.
Lee Robert (Backend engineer) uses Mint, an award-winning third-party app that connects to your bank and credit card to automatically categorize and track your spending. You can also set up budgets, create alerts for bills, get a free credit report, and even compare car insurance quotes. NOTE: Should your account get hacked, you’re responsible for any financial losses incurred.
Why did you choose Mint as your personal finance app?
I needed a way to aggregate my various loans, bank accounts, and credit card statements into a single view.
What do you love about it?
The ease of use and the ability to see my overall financial picture
Do you worry about security? What’re your thoughts on open banking?
Yes, very much so. Even though mint is owned by a reputable company (Intuit), if anything ever happens to my data then my financial credentials can be used for more than what mint.com needs. Open banking is very much needed in order to provide a more secure method of accessing banking information. Having to log into a bank and manually dump CSV files is far too much work when you have multiple accounts / financial institutions.
How could it improve? Are you looking at alternatives?
The main issue is the lack of read-only access to my banking information, and I believe open banking would fix this.
Brandon (Lead Software Engineer) software engineered his own budgeting app using spreadsheets. “Apps are always trying to sell me something,” he says, “most apps are square peg, round hole” He doesn’t care for categories. He has a roughly monthly spending limit and wants to know how much he’s spent to date and where he’s overspent at the end of the month. He’s more focused on if he’s living within his budget.
What would it take for you to use a personal finance app? If you built an app, what would it look like?
My spreadsheet is customized to my needs so it would have to do the same thing. I really don’t need all the fluff (and marketing) that inherently comes with a money management application. I did notice however that one of the apps on the market — I forget which one — offers the ability to track savings towards a goal. That’s pretty neat (I also have that in my spreadsheet though).
If I built one: It would be what I already have, but a little easier to use. Maybe it integrates directly with my credit card or my bank to automatically pull in my spending for the month because currently, I do this manually.
What do you not like about your spreadsheet method? Has it failed you in the past?
It doesn’t automatically ask me to update it or enter any information at the end of the month. That’s probably where an app would come in handy. It has failed me in the past, but only because I didn’t update it. I’m not sure even an app would save me there. Budgeting your money is a very personal endeavour; if you don’t want to do it, you won’t do it.
Tyler (Content Marketing Strategist, and the person writing this article) – I use RBC mobile, the Tangerine App, and just recently, Wealthsimple after Ratehub.ca implemented a Group RRSP plan to empower employees to make smart financial choices. In other words, to live what we preach.
I use RBC for my day to day banking. Tangerine is where I keep short- to mid-term savings accounts and goals. I’m in the process of transferring my retirement savings to Wealthsimple.
For my day to day money management, I’m looking at the all-Canadian app, Quber.ca – it tracks, categorizes, and best of all, rounds up expenses and invests the rest for a savings goal.
I’m also looking at You Need A Budget (YNAB) – an app that follows four simple rules that I have long believed in. (read: a plan to better manage your bills). With YNAB, they give every dollar a job, they make you embrace your true expenses which allows you to roll with the punches, and age your money aka stop living paycheque to paycheque. It tracks expenses from categories you set up.
In researching for this article, I came across Wellspent – an app that borrows from the Marie Kondo method of minimalism and tidiness, but for spending – “reflect on the thing you buy and learn what makes you happy.” Swipe left if you don’t like your purchase, swipe right if it made you happy.
However, with all these apps, I need to connect it to my credit cards and bank account, and I am worried about security and impatiently await Open Banking.
Do I like the setup? How would I change it?
As a side hustle, I offer social media marketing services to micro and small businesses using Hootsuite. One of the things I love about Hootsuite is only needing one login to access the multiple social accounts. I’d like the same in a financial app.
I want to track and categorize my spending. I want to get notifications on my phone if I’m approaching a monthly limit on something like dining out – “Tyler, stop spending money on coffee.” I want it to watch for the best mortgage rates in Ontario and remind me when it’s up for renewal.
I want it to know what I’m saving for and suggest one of the best rewards credit cards in Canada to help me reach my goal sooner. I wish it could be fully integrated with my life. I think open banking can create smarter, more financially savvy consumers and that’s good for all of us.
For this to happen, we need open banking to allow safe and secure two-way communication between the apps and our financial institutions. Apps are great, but it needs to be a two-way street. Our data, spending habits, savings methodologies, and budget planning are fantastic for these apps to have and use but without security, why give up this free information (some of these apps even charge subscription fees).
The CRA and the big banks do have a solution, but it’s still in testing. Third-party apps need to have the same access.
Are you going to try one of the apps listed? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll be sure to take it for a test spin.
The 13 best personal finance apps are:
- BMO Mobile Banking App,
- TD app,
- Scotiabank Mobile Banking App,
- EQ Bank app
- RBC mobile
- Tangerine App
- dollarbird app