Apps That Promise to Manage, Not Just Track, Your Money

Personal finance apps, most famously Mint, have long allowed you to track your income and expenditures. Some, such as Digit, facilitate saving money. Now other apps are going a step further in sophistication, promising such additional capabilities as actually investing your money, negotiating to lower your bills and facilitating the cancellation of unnecessary ongoing expenses.

Clarity Money and Albert also offer some of the features of those other app types, and so are worth considering for at least select consumers, even if they already use other money apps. These apps do require access to your bank account, credit cards, and possibly even your insurance and investment information. If that raises security concerns, both apps say they have a tight security system in place that will encrypt user's information. Also, if they direct money to a new savings account they open, both use banks whose deposits are FDIC insured for up to $250,000.

Clarity Money

Clarity Money began as a Mint competitor, focused heavily on tracking your spending. Yet it earned a spot on this list because it offers services that go above and beyond a spending tracker.

Clarity Money allows users to customize what they’re saving for, whether it’s something specific, like a vacation, or simply creating an ongoing savings program. The app gives you the ability to decide how much money you want to save and when. For example, you can set it to withdraw $5 from your checking account every Tuesday, and have it placed in your in-app savings account. You can pause the withdrawals at any time.

There are more perks than just saving. Clarity Money offers several options associated with ongoing expenses. First, it uses its connection to your bank account to analyze regular withdrawals and single out those that appear to be subscriptions. It then lists those subscriptions for you and, when it can, even adds a "Cancel" button; click that, Clarity says, and they’ll order up a cancellation on your behalf.

Clarity Money also has a relationship with BillShark that promises to help you renegotiate ongoing bills, such as cable or phone payments. BillShark will contact your service provider in an effort to reduce its billed amount. If they’re successful, and you agree to take the new rate, you receive two thirds of the annual savings, with BillShark retaining the other third as a fee for the renegotiation.

Clarity Money also has a partnership with Acorns, an investment app that will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and then invest that money for you. Users have the ability to access their Acorns account through the Clarity Money one.

Clarity Money promises a more powerful way to manage bills than such tracking apps as Mint. It may be especially helpful to those interested in tracking, and perhaps reducing the amount they spend, on ongoing expenses such as subscriptions.

Albert

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Like Digit, the high-profile savings app, Albert employs Artificial Intelligence (AI) to calculate how much money you will not be spending—or might not even miss—and then places that money into a savings account. The more accounts, including insurance information, credit card accounts, even investment portfolios, you chosse to share with the app, the more complete a picture it can gain of your financial life and the more “intelligent” its decisions, at least in theory.

Albert can also be a diagnostic tool, using the aforementioned financial information to calculate a financial “health score.” The app has also teamed up with various financial companies, allowing you, it says, to get the likes of a loan “with a few taps..”

This app’s best suited to sharers who have a lot of financial information, and want an app that takes advantage of it all. Conversely, it’s less than ideal for users who are reluctant to disclose that much financial information to a single app. Also, if you’re not looking to make improvements to your financial life—by say, reducing your insurance or reviewing your investments—the effort you put into Albert may not yield enough benefits to be worthwhile.

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