Organizing your financial life is the first step to growing wealth, and technology can help you move in the right direction - specifically using budgeting apps and money tracking apps. But with the number of apps mushrooming each day, it can be tough to know which to use.
After reviewing dozens of apps, we’ve got a comprehensive view of what budgeting apps are worth downloading, and which you can safely ignore.
Plus, it's important to think about what you need for a budgeting app or spending tracker? Do you need hard-core budgeting tools, or investment tracking? Are you looking for your credit score? Every budgeting app focuses on a specific niche, and we break down the best in class for every category.
This is the short list of the best financial apps in every category.
Best Budgeting Apps
Financial tracking apps are designed to help you track your income, expenses, and net worth over time. Most of these apps also have a budgeting feature that will help you proactively plan your spending based on your income. Here are the best budgeting and financial tracking apps.
Net Worth Tracking
Ease of Use
Short for You Need a Budget, YNAB is one of the premier budgeting software services. It allows users to set a budget based on their income, and adjust categories throughout the month when the unexpected happens.
If you earn a decent income, but you’re still living paycheck to paycheck, YNAB can help you master your cash flow, start saving, and break the cycle.
The cost for YNAB is $6.99 per month or $83.99 annually. It is by far the best budgeting-specific app that we’ve seen.
Read our full You Need A Budget review here.
Clarity Money focuses on clarifying your financial picture. Its primary features are income, expense, and net worth trackers. But it has more categories than many trackers, and it now has a weekly budgeting feature which can help you proactively manage your money. The budgeting feature is best for people with predictable incomes.
As an added bonus, you can track your credit score through Clarity Money too.
Read our full Clarity Money review here.
Personal Capital is one of the original asset allocation, portfolio management, and net worth tracking apps. Users can also use the app to track income and expenses.
It's strength is in the ability to track investments better than most budgeting apps.
One word of caution: Personal Capital is also a financial advisory firm, and the firm will call you to ask you to purchase advisory services.
Read our full Personal Capital review here.
Tiller Money is an app that feeds financial transactions and balance statements to an Excel spreadsheet or a Google sheet. As far as “apps” go, it could not be simpler. The downside is that you need to be a bit of a spreadsheet expert to find the app easy to use.
However, it is a top app for people who need flexibility in their apps. You can use it for traditional budgeting, financial tracking, and to build cash flow and profit and loss statements for your business.
Read our full Tiller Money review here.
The Emma app uses machine learning to quickly analyze your financial habits. Its well-designed user interface makes exploring your finances easy and fun. It has great budgeting and financial tracking features which are helpful for people who are just getting started.
Read our full Emma App review here.
It's crazy to think that we need subscription-canceling apps, but given the world is migrating to a subscription model, these apps can be handy. They are a bit different compared to other budgeting apps since they have a focus on saving you money. However, they are building out robust spending tracking and more with every update.
These apps will analyze your spending, and then help you negotiate or cancel your bills and subscriptions - anything from Netflix to your cell phone bill.
40% of yearly savings
Trim is a clever app that helps you identify recurring subscriptions and cancel unnecessary subscriptions. Paying for Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix? Trim can help you cut those expenses.
Plus, it can also help you negotiate your cable or cell phone bills to get you better pricing.
Check out our full Trim review here.
Truebill is a subscription monitoring and bill negotiation service. You only have to pay if Truebill actually saves you money.
If you’re someone who struggles to stay on top of your costs (especially cable and phone bills), Truebill can help you save a lot of money.
Plus, Truebill has been building out more and more budgeting and spending tracking capabilities as well.
Read our full Truebill review here.
There's nothing better than getting rewarded for the spending that you're already doing! That's what these apps are all about - you get rewarded via gift cards or cash back for spending money - on things you already do (hopefully you're not spending just to get a small rebate).
Ibotta is an app where users upload receipts and get cash-back for their normal purchases. You can even earn cash-back when you shop at stores like Aldi or other discount grocers that don’t accept coupons.
I typically earn around $2 to $3 per week by submitting my grocery receipt to the app. It’s not life-changing money, but every dollar counts.
Read out full Ibotta review here.
Much like Ibotta, ReceiptPal allows you to submit photos of receipts to earn points. Points can be redeemed for gift cards to sites like Amazon or similar retailers.
The payouts from ReceiptPal seem to be lower than Ibotta’s, but you can double up on the apps. As a result, this is a great way to earn about $1 to $2 per week.
Read our full ReceiptPal review here.
Rakuten is a shopping portal and mobile app that offers cash-back (in the form of a check) when you spend money at certain online stores. Formerly called Ebates, this app/website is an amazing way to save money on Groupon offers, cruises, and even Walmart online orders.
Plus, Rakuten is offering a $10 bonus when you sign up!
Get a $10 bonus for signing up!
Best Cash Advance Apps
Cash advance apps are becoming popular payday loan alternatives. These apps are touted as using technology to help consumers better manage their money, and these apps don't nickel and dime users for borrowing small amounts of money. Plus, by doing these quick cash infusions, users can avoid costly overdraft fees and other bank charges.
Some of these cash advance apps also combine with bank accounts and more - seeking to be a checking account alternative. Check out how they compare to our list of the best free checking accounts.
Cash Advance Limit
Empower is a banking and budgeting app that allows you to also get up to a $250* Cash Advance if you're a subscriber. They don't charge any interest or late fees.
Read our full Empower review here.
This is a cash advance app that allows hourly employees to take a free cash advance of up to $500 on money they’ve already earned.
The app comes with up to $100 initially, but you can build up to being able to borrow up to $500. You must meet certain requirements to use the app.
Read our full Earnin review here.
MoneyLion is a fee-free checking account that allows premium users to receive up to $250 as a cash advance. What's great about MoneyLion is that the cash advance is included in MoneyLion's free tier - meaning once you have an account, you don't have any other added charges.
Read our full MoneyLion review here.
Best Investing Apps
There has been a whirlwind of change in the investing space over the last few months, with almost every major brokerage going to commission-free trading. This was driven by the wide adoption of investing apps to really help consumers with small portfolios get started investing.
You can see our full guide to free investing apps here.
Stocks, Bonds, ETFs
All Account Types
Fidelity is a high-quality brokerage company that supports nearly every type of tax-advantaged investment account (and brokerage accounts too). You can use the app to buy and sell stocks, options, and ETFs for free.
This brokerage earned a score of 100 out of 100 in our most recent review, and the app is excellent for most investors. It's also named our number one best free investing app.
Read our full Fidelity review here.
M1 Finance combines the best of individual stock investing with robo-advisors. Users can create their own portfolio and rebalance it regularly. The whole app is completely commission-free.
This is one of the best apps to invest for long term investors because it easily allows investors to dollar cost average their portfolios, and rebalance as new funds enter the portfolio.
Read our full M1 Finance review here.
Overall, Robinhood has changed the game when it comes to investing apps - but it does have it's limitations. It does offer commission-free trading, crypto, and more, but it's limited in other ways.
But, if you’re someone who has a bit of money in a “sandbox” for trying out trading strategies, Robinhood can be a good choice. After all, the app offers free stock and ETF trades.
Read our full Robinhood review here.
Budgeting Apps For Couples
These apps are designed for couples that have shared, or partially shared finances. Each one has features that allow you to communicate with your partner, budget together, and work towards joint goals.
Zeta is a financial tracking and budgeting app that allows couples to manage money separately and together. The standout feature in Zeta is the bill splits feature that helps couples track who owes whom money.
The great thing about Zeta is that it helps empower couples to work together with their money.
Check out our full Zeta review here.
If you and your partner are working towards a joint savings goal, but you have separate finances, Twine is a perfect app for you. It allows you and your partner to set up and contribute toward a joint savings or investment account. You can also budget or track your finances together.
Plus, as a bonus, you get $5 towards your first goal when you sign up!
Read our full Twine review here.
Get a $5 bonus when you sign up!
Best Credit Score Apps
Keeping track of your credit score is extremely important. Your credit score can help you get better deals on loans, but it could also cost you an apartment or job if you have poor credit.
That's where these apps come into play - they help you understand your credit history and credit score and give you insights on how you can improve it.
Credit Karma is a financial marketplace (it compares loans, credit cards, and more) that seems committed to giving its customers the ultimate in great money experiences. It gives you a free credit score, free tax prep services, and much more.
Plus, they recently announced a high yield savings account that should be extremely competitive.
Read our full Credit Karma review here.
Credit Sesame was one of the original credit score and monitoring apps. It has stayed in it's lane, continuing to offer a full suite of credit monitoring and tools.
If you're just looking to manage your credit score and improve your credit history, check out Credit Sesame's easy to use tools.
Read out full Credit Sesame review here.
Why Aren’t There Microsavings or Micro-Investing Apps on This List?
The idea behind these apps were that you could “round up” purchases, or save just a few dollars or cents at a time. By taking small amounts from your account, a person could save (and even invest) a few hundred dollars per year.
While the concept seems sound, and some people love these apps, I found that they add an unnecessary layer of complexity. A person who can truly only afford to save $100 or $200 per year will see their savings eaten away by the app fees.
Those who can save more don’t need microsavings apps. They can set up an automatic transfer to an investment account of their choice.
Budgeting App FAQ
Here are some common questions we see all the time when it comes to budgeting apps.
What is the best budgeting app?
This really depends on your style of budgeting and your needs. Apps like YNAB have a very specific style of budgeting, while others, like Personal Capital, are more like spending trackers. That's why it's important to find an app that matches your style.
Are budgeting apps secure?
Yes. Budgeting apps can never access your accounts to complete transactions. They are only reading data through a third-party authorized by your bank or institution. In fact, by regularly looking at your transactions, you can be aware of fraudulent activity earlier.
How much do budgeting apps usually cost?
Budgeting apps range in cost from free to $60 per year or so. It all depends on what features you want in an app. Some apps are free-mium, meaning they offer a free level, and you can pay for more features.
Are budgeting apps free?
Yes, many of the most popular budgeting apps are free. These apps typically make money by recommending products and services to you based on your profile. Remember - if something is free, you are the product.
Do budgeting apps really work?
They can - but it depends on what you do with the data and information. Budgeting (whether on paper or using an app) is only as successful as how strictly you set goals and follow them yourself.
The best tool is the one that you use. And there is always a right tool for the job.
With all of these apps, they won't help you unless you enjoy using it. So, try it out, see if it works for your style, and hopefully it helps you make positive improvements in your financial life.
* Eligibility requirements apply. Minimum direct deposits to an Empower Checking Account, among other conditions, are necessary to qualify for advances greater than $50. Free instant delivery is available for eligible Empower Checking Account customers. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.