View: The Best Apps for Managing Your Money - WSJ.com
The Best Apps for Managing Your Money - WSJ.com
For most of us, there just aren't that many "Wow!" moments in our personal banking. (Unless you count "Wow, how did my balance get so low?")
The number of apps for Apple devices recently listing finance as their primary category
So there's something to be said for the sheer fun of depositing a check in your bank by taking a picture of it with your phone. There's really nothing else quite like it among banking and other money-management apps.
Of course, check-deposit apps also offer the practical benefit of no longer having to make a trip to the bank, or even an ATM, to make a deposit. And there are plenty of financial apps that offer other conveniences. Some go a step further, helping you figure out how to manage your money better, which can be pretty exciting in its own way.Pulling It All Together
There isn't an app that can handle deposits for all banks. And not all banks offer check-deposit apps. But for those that do, the process couldn't be easier. Typically, the app will ask you to take pictures of the front and back of each check, type in the amount and choose which account to deposit the money in. Then just push a button to complete the deposit. The photos can be transmitted from a living-room couch or a lounge chair on the beach.
The Mint.com app tracks all your accounts in one place and analyzes your finances.
Otherwise, bank apps mostly let you easily do everything on your phone or tablet that you can do on your bank's website—check balances and account activity, move money around to different accounts, pay bills. Most of these apps are free and are available for both Apple and Android devices.
For a broader view of your finances, there are several money-management websites that offer mobile apps. One of the most popular of these sites is Mint.com, which is owned by Intuit Inc. INTU +0.57% A free Mint.com app is available both in the Apple App Store and in Google Play.
With the Mint app and some others like it, you can't move money around or make deposits or payments. But you can track all your accounts—banks, credit cards, loans, investments—in one place. You plug in the identifying information for any accounts you want to include, and the app will track all your activity and balances in all those accounts.
The Mint app's real power, though, comes from its analytical tools. Drawing on all your financial activity, it will, for instance, organize your spending into simple categories such as restaurants, gas, groceries, etc. The tablet version even offers multicolored interactive historical pie charts. You can also set up a budget based on those categories and keep track of how well you stick to it and where you overspend. The app will alert you if you're going over budget, and it can warn you if any of your balances are low, if there are bills to be paid, or if there is any unusual spending. On the investment front, the iPad app can show your latest asset purchases and the account's latest value.
HelloWallet will offer suggestions based on the behavior of people with similar spending patterns.
The Mint app also recommends banking, credit-card, brokerage and investment deals that it believes can save you money, based on your existing account information.
Mint has become a clear leader in money-management apps, but there are others that offer similar services, such as HelloWallet, from the company of the same name. The app is free to download, but to use it you need an account with HelloWallet.com, which costs $8.95 a month. (Mint.com relies on advertising instead of fees for its revenue.)
Like Mint, HelloWallet can slice and dice your financial information and present it in helpful charts, and help you set goals and track your progress. HelloWallet also prides itself on offering suggestions based on the behavior patterns of other customers who have similar spending patterns. One nice touch: Customers typically receive a subscription to HelloWallet through their employer, the company says, which means it can sometimes tell if they're paying for a gym membership their employer otherwise would offer for no charge.
Accounts 2 is effectively a mobile check register but also offers analysis of your finances.
Some people don't want to give such free access to their financial information to a third party, which is why many other apps don't connect to your accounts and so can't as easily sort and analyze your financial data.
Some of the more popular ones—such as Balance, free from developer Connor Wakamo, and Accounts 2, $1.99 from SVT Software LLC, both for Apple devices—are effectively a mobile version of the check registers most of us are accustomed to. Some people prefer to keep that control over their data, but it is a lot more work if you want to take full advantage of these apps.Help at Work
Other apps can help you track and report work-related travel expenses.
With a $1.99 iPhone app called QuickShot With Dropbox from GUI Cocoa LLC, you can take photos of receipts and they will be automatically stored in an account on Dropbox.com, a popular Internet file-storage service.
With Concur you can record and report business expenses and book travel arrangements.
Among other things, it can automatically record credit-card charges directly to expense reports. And you can take a photo of any receipt and the app will record all the details—vendor, date, time, cost, etc.
All expenses can be easily gathered into a report and filed with your company. If necessary, expenses can be submitted for approval through the app as well.
And it can be used to book flights and hotels for customers signed up for the company's services.
The app is free for both Apple and Android devices, but it is available only to users of the company's Web-based expense-management service.
If your employer doesn't use Concur, one option is Expensify, a free app that offers many of the same expense-tracking features as Concur, letting you record receipts by photo, track spending and manage reports on both the app and a companion website.
Mr. Sherr is a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal's San Francisco bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com.
A version of this article appeared August 27, 2012, on page R5 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Manage Your Money.
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