We all aspire to better, simpler finances. These 5 apps and tools can help.
1. Mint.com is the industry leader in the personal finance app space. I currently use Mint on my iPhone and iPad (occasionally logging into the full desktop site as well) in order to track where I am financially: Mint does a great job of showing you a “snapshot” of your total outstanding credit card debt versus your total assets/worth across all of your bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts.
2. Credit card comparison web sites. I’m obviously partial to Outlaw‘s credit card deals portal, where we rank and compare many of the top offers from major banks each week. Our user experience is amazing. Even if you aren’t in the market for a new credit card, click here to try our newest version — you can read actual customer reviews on each of the cards, access deep demographic data (such as the credit score range required to be approved for any particular offer), and even see the size of other customers’ credit lines.
Savvy credit card users are keen deal hunters, and the right 0% introductory balance transfer or cash back bonus could add a simple boost to your financial health. Competing sites offer a similar user experience; the important thing is that you compare offers somewhere. Blindly responding to “pre-approved” card offers in the mail seems archaic (and not at all precise).
3. BillGuard is an innovative “personal finance security service that analyses millions of consumer billing complaints to find deceptive, erroneous and fraudulent charges on your credit card and debit card bills.” You get monthly scan reports and real-time alerts to keep an eye on any “subscription charges” or other weird unwanted charges to your credit card that might be bogus. The free version of BillGuard allows you to monitor up to three of your cards; a paid service ($79/year) allows you to protect up to 10 accounts instead, and includes “priority support” should you need it. Yet another prudent way to keep thieves away from your hard-earned cash.
4. Banking apps. Some of the most useful personal finance apps these days come from the banks themselves. Chase’s mobile banking app is speedy and slick, offering the ability to photograph and electronically deposit checks from your iPhone (ING DIRECT’s app reportedly offers the same feature).
Capital One’s newly upgraded app, which I wrote about here, includes money-saving deals and offers for cardholders from leading merchants.
5. Square. This beautiful, simply designed point-of-sale system allows store owners and individuals to accept credit cards via an iPhone, iPad, or Android device. They send you a free card reader (in the shape of a little square), the fee structure is simple (2.75% per swipe), and customers can sign using their finger on your iPhone or iPad touchscreen; after that, Square sends them a receipt.
Deposits into your bank account are ultra-fast and Square-using businesses can benefit from the marketing boost of being featured within Square’s marketplace: Square users like to check out Square-using shops and vendors, since they tend to be independent, and you can pay in an innovative way (just say your name to the cashier; he or she looks you up in the Square system and compares you to the profile photo on file). Additionally, frequent Square shoppers can receive all kinds of discounts and perks from participating stores.
The Square system works with all major Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express cards. Square’s competitors include Intuit GoPayment (2.7% per swipe) and PayPal Here (2.7% per swipe; service coming soon).
It has been said that credit cards will serve as the foundation for a revolution in person-to-person banking apps. I think we are already seeing a strong start to that prediction with the rise to prominence of Square.
Disclosures: We’re a credit card promotions site, and as such we maintain financial relationships with numerous banks and financial institutions, including some of the offers and cards mentioned or featured herein. This article originally appeared in slightly different form on Credit Card Outlaw.
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