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Money Minute: 5 apps that manage your money for you

There are so many financial apps out there, it can be overwhelming to sift through to find the one that fits your needs.

Worry not – we’ve done the hard work for you. Here are a handful of great apps that will help you better manage your money, whether you are investing, saving or just want to have eyes on your cash flow at all times.

Acorns

Acorns is a great way to get started investing for people with little cash. The app links to your debit card. When you make a purchase that doesn't come out to a round number, Acorns rounds the transaction up to the nearest dollar and saves that change for you. Once you’ve saved up $5, it will deposit the money in an investment account of your choosing. Depending on some personal information the app will ask you to provide – your income, your net worth and your investment goals — it will recommend one of its five investment portfolios, which range from conservative to aggressive. The portfolios consist of ETFs, which are chosen and rebalanced by the Acorns team. You can see exactly how each portfolio is invested beforehand here.

Cost: App is free to download. Acorns charges $1 a month, until you have $5,000 in your account. Above that, the fee is 0.25% of your total assets per month. There are no fees if you decide to withdraw funds.

Mint Bills

Mint Bills is the cousin of Mint, the popular budgeting app and site we all know so well. It’s a separate app in its own right, and it takes all the best Mint has to offer (simple financial account syncing and clear, beautifully designed snapshots of your overall budget) and combines it with the ability to actually pay your bills. Just sync your bill pay account and the bills you pay each month (cable, credit, cellphone, etc.). The app will figure out when your bills are due and alert you. Then you can open the app and pay the bill right then and there. You can also track your savings and investments accounts. We highly recommend taking advantage of the app's alert system, which will tip you off if any suspicious transactions occur or your account balances run low.

Cost: App is free to download. Payments made by bank account are free. But you definitely want to avoid using this app to pay bills by credit. Payments made by credit card are charged a $4.99 processing fee (that switches to a 4% fee if payments are over $125 — ouch).

Credit Karma

There are so many ways to get your credit score for free these days (credit card companies are giving them away like candy today and even Mint offers a credit score now). But we are fans of Credit Karma because it gives you your all-important credit score from not just one but of two of the three major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax and Transunion. It also summarizes your full credit history, so you can almost immediately see how things like a new credit inquiry or credit limit increase impact your credit score. It’s a great tool to use to monitor your credit for any suspicious activity as well.

Digit

Digit is a new app that makes saving so easy you don’t even know you’re doing it. Seriously. Once you sign up, you link the app to your checking account. Using a clever algorithm, the app will monitor your spending, and every few days, it will figure out how much you can afford to save. Then, it automatically siphons some cash into a Digit savings account, which is FDIC-insured up to $250,000.  Digit isn't a bank in its own right. Savings funds are kept in custodial accounts at Wells Fargo and BofI Federal Bank, a spokesperson says.

The app is designed to take only a little bit of cash at a time so you hardly notice the withdrawals. If you’re freaked out about the idea of possibly overdrawing your account, don't — Digit agrees to pay any overdraft fees. In fact, the average

savings transfer is only $18 and most range between $5-$30, they say, so chances of putting their customers in the red are low. In fact, they won't take any amounts over $150 and that's extremely rare.

There is one drawback though: you don’t earn interest on your funds.  So this is definitely the kind of account you don’t want to use for long-term savings, which are better left in high interest-bearing accounts. It could be a great way to mindlessly save up for something like a weekend getaway or gifts for the holidays.

Cost: Free to download. You can make withdrawals for free.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital has all the budget-tracking capabilities of tools like Mint, but it's also great for investors who want to track their investments in one place. One of the app's features analyzes your retirement account fees and mutual fund fees and lets you know if they're higher than average. The Investment Checkup feature gives you a snapshot of how your investments are doing in real time after you have synced your accounts to the app or website.  If you have more than $100,000 in assets, Personal Capital also has a financial advisory branch, which offers low-cost wealth management services.

Cost: The app is free to download. Financial advisory fees start at 0.89% for assets under $1 million.

A quick note of caution: Almost all of these apps require linking your financial accounts in order for them to work. Although they each have their own impressive list of privacy and security protections in place to ensure your information stays secure, we highly encourage you to take whatever steps you can to protect your accounts on your end. Set up a PIN on your smartphone (fingerprint ID is even better). And, if offered, definitely sign up for two-factor password protection and alerts that will let you know when your account changes.

For more in-depth information, check out our list of app safety tips here.

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