Welcome to another 360 Polling and Report here at Rockstar Finance! Last month we polled over 200 bloggers to find out their favorite financial *books* they love (and hate), and why, and this month we tackle another set of resources to wrap our head around: personal finance apps.
And just like with the last report, we used the data to build out something else pretty cool too for everyone – a new DIRECTORY of the best financial apps, as ranked by personal finance bloggers!
You can find it here anytime –> Financial Apps Directory
You can also find the live stats page of our latest poll as well here (it gets updated automatically anytime someone takes it), and if you’re a blogger who hasn’t taken it yet and would like to, you can do that easily at any time here (it continually stays open): Apps poll
(One really cool thing to note with this new directory, btw, is that we integrated all the bloggers’ notes on their favorite apps directly into the directory as well. So not only can you easily find the most popular apps being recommended by everyone, but also the *why* behind it. So hopefully it helps! (And HUGE thanks to everyone who participated!! It’s really cool seeing all this come together because of you!)
Now on to the report!
Rockstar 360 Report: Personal Finance Apps
Here’s our report after 137 beautiful bloggers have taken our poll so far. Click the image below to go directly to the stats page, and then to any of the icons there to check out bloggers’ profile pages!
And before we get to the analysis, let’s just get one thing out of the way: When rating your favorite financial apps, waaaay too many of you listed Microsoft Excel and… wait for it… YOUR PHONE’S CALCULATOR APP.
So this report here covers all the actual apps that the financial bloggers told us about.
The Top 3 Most Popular Apps!
Let’s get right into the juicy parts! Here were the three most popular apps ranked, along with a blurb on what each of them does and a quick note from a blogger who recommends them. The first two apps won by a LANDSLIDE btw, coming in with 59 votes and 51 votes respectfully. The third garnered 17.
Personal Capital (FREE) — A great way to visualize your entire financial picture in one spot! Connect up your accounts one time, and get immediate insight into your spending, income, investments, and net worth. It’s a turbocharged Mint.com, only geared towards investing more so than budgeting.
“I like being able to not only track my net worth, but check any transactions that hit my bank accounts, investment accounts, and credit cards. It helps quickly detect any fraudulent charges, erroneous late fees or interest (I’ve caught this a few times), or unusual activity. It’s a fun way to see how your doing financially within about 30 seconds of opening the app.” – The Wise Squirrel
Mint (FREE) — Now over a decade old with 20 million users, Mint is the OG of financial technology and designed to help you track all of your finances in one main app. Mint automatically imports all of your transactions, categorizes them for you, displays pretty graphs highlighting trends in your spending and income, sets up alerts to detect anomalies in your financial patterns, and tracks not only your bills and credit score, but also that magical number that counts the most: your net worth. A great app to start with if you’re new to managing your money.
“Mint continually earns high ratings among many of the software web sites and PC magazines for usability, which made it a big draw for me. Having used it for several months now I can attest the praise is well earned. Its mobile app is pretty good too which is a huge time saver since you can label transactions on the go. Unfortunately, Mint is not as powerful of a reporting or visual display tool as either Quicken or MMoney, but the amount of time I save using it compared with Quicken or MMoney will keep me using it for the foreseeable future. One complaint about Mint is that its investment tracking stinks. I don’t even use it, I just use Personal Capital.” – Grumpus Maximus
You Need A Budget (YNAB) (FREE for 34 Days, then $4.17/mo) — YNAB is the ultimate app/software for budgeting. With a huge fan base and following, they’ve made the process of budgeting as easy and streamlined as possible – all aligned with their 4 Rules to finance: Give Every Dollar a Job, Embrace Your True Expenses, Roll With the Punches, and Age Your Money (i.e. being 30 days ahead). While their mantra is based on *manually* budgeting for ultimate effect, they have incorporated automation – particularly around importing transactions.
“I was skeptical about YNAB at first but have grown to LOVE it. Manually entering transactions and being forced to make real-time choices between categories has seamlessly integrated the psychology into personal finance. It made me realize that most of the other budgeting apps were either reactively looking into the past or aspirationally forecasting into the future – YNAB is your money NOW. I hear complaints about the subscription fee constantly, but I think I saved myself a decade worth of fees in the first year I used it. It’s penny wise, pound foolish to write off the motivational benefits. Bonus: no ads! If it’s free.. news flash – you’re the product.” — Debts To Riches
Honorable Mentions in Popular Apps
Here’s a screenshot of the Top 10 overall apps as voted by bloggers:
(A number of people also listed their personal bank’s app as their favorite app to use, but similar to the non app-apps mentioned up top, we left them off this list. Some of the banks mentioned multiple times though, if you’re curious, were Capital One 360, Ally Bank, and USAA. We’ll be sure to run a “favorite banks” poll in the near future though so we can do a deep dive on them :))
PayPal vs. Venmo
Something interesting that caught our eye was how many people use Paypal and Venmo?? Venmo didn’t quite crack the Top 3 as you see above, but it came really close. And that’s notable for another reason: it outperformed PayPal, which offers a similar mobile service, by a 3:1 margin. And why is that notable? Normally it wouldn’t be, since we know that Venmo is the market leader in mobile money transfer, but in this demographic it means even more.
Personal finance bloggers have been using PayPal forever on their sites. For years, it was the only easy way to accept payment from random internet passersby (yes, that’s the plural of “passerby,” we looked it up), and even today it’s still one of the biggest players.
So when a popular and trusted service offers mobile money transfer to some of its best customers, you’d think there’d be very high adoption. Not only that, but Venmo had a few known security issues a couple years ago, too, so that would certainly drive this privacy/security-obsessed crowd even more towards PayPal. But it didn’t happen.
This just goes to show that an easy and hassle-free user experience (which Venmo has), along with built-in social capabilities (who knew people enjoyed “liking” transactions??) tends to win out against customer loyalty and even minor security concerns in the end. Something to keep in mind for any bloggers developing products for the mass market…
(Also PS: PayPal owns Venmo so they are winning ALL THE THINGS!)
The Most *Overrated* Apps
This area was also pretty interesting. Unlike the books poll, where everybody and their mother had an opinion on overrated books, it was quite the opposite here for apps.
The most-given answer (and remember that this was an open-ended question, not multiple choice) was “None” (or some variation thereof), with 23 votes. Other than Mint, which got 10 votes, no other individual app got more than four votes. It seems the personal finance blogging community truly is happy with their choice of apps!
Just to be thorough, though, we calculated the ratio of “favorite app” vs. “overrated app” votes for each of the top three products above, so you can see the percentage of lovers to haters:
So this tells us that, although Mint got the most overall votes for “overrated app,” YNAB is the app that got the most mixed reviews, with only a 4:1 positive-to-negative response. Mint is close behind, and Personal Capital is doing very well with 15 positive responses for every one negative response. Overall, though, the vast majority of people still replied that they could think of no overrated apps.
One possible reason the “I have no opinion on overrated apps” response is so high is because if an app sucks, we tend to delete it, forget about it, and move on with our lives. As Lee @ Bald Thoughts said, “I cannot recall any. If I didn’t like it, it has been deleted and removed from my memory.” So there you have it, folks. If a bald man says it to you, it must be true.
The Total Number of $$$ Apps Bloggers Have
The average number of financial apps bloggers have is 6 which sounds about right. But then we noticed there were a couple people above 30! So we reached out to one of them – here’s what they wrote back:
“I do use a majority of the banking and credit card apps on a regular basis. As someone focused on travel rewards, I have credit cards with numerous banks, so I have 13 apps related to banking. I track the usage of the credit cards to ensure I meet the minimum spend for new card bonuses and annual spend for benefits such as Hilton Diamond status, free nights, and the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.
7 apps are related to stocks, mutual funds, and investing. Acorns and Betterment are the ones I use the most. Acorns drips money into investment accounts every few days $5-$10 at a time based on rounding up my credit card transactions. While Betterment is a monthly investment I use towards being able to retire early.
Credit scores are an important focus to ensure I can qualify for the best miles and points offers, so I have 4 apps that track credit scoring.
And there are a handful of others for news and fun.
One of the best apps I use is Penny, which alerts me to transactions every day. This app has saved me from hackers on more than one occasion when I don’t recognize a transaction. I can quickly speak with the bank to dispute the charges and get a new card issued before the thieves are able to do too much damage.”
The Number of *All* Apps Bloggers Have
Overall in the apps department, it looks like bloggers have an average of 66 apps downloaded onto their phones. Which means bloggers devote around 10% of their phone’s function to personal finance. You’d think it be higher, but hey?
The only major outlier we saw was someone with 217, but there’s no way we were gonna reach out to them because let’s face it, that’s just ridiculous, haha…
How Often Bloggers Use Financial Apps
Based on the data we’re seeing, it looks like bloggers open a financial app just over 13 times per week, which of course comes out to right around twice a day. We looked at these results from a few different angles, and can find no way that any part of this is controversial 🙂
Just to be sure, though, we looked up how much time the average person spends in-app on their phones each day, and the average time (according to a TechCrunch report of an App Annie survey) is just over two hours – plenty of time to get in a couple checks on your PF apps!
All in all, nothing too exciting with this one… except for the guy who told us that he opens up his financial apps 140 times a week!??! We asked him to share more:
“I may have done some out of the box thinking as to what I considered a financial app. My logic was that any app I used to earn, invest, save, track or lean about money should count.
Therefore, I counted safari, kindle, podcast player, Facebook etc. along with anything I use for my job or my website WinningPersonalFinance.com all as financial apps. My view was that if I used Safari to discover the 4% rule, something that literally changed my financial life, then it counts as a financial app. These apps are in addition to the more traditional finance apps such as banking, Mint, Personal Capital etc. that I use as well.
I commute 2 hours a day round trip by train. I spend most of this time on my phone reading personal finance literature and writing for my blog. I discovered Rockstar Finance only a few months ago and reading the many sites featured there has already improved my financial picture by thousands. How can I not count the app that I’m reading this info on as a financial app?
The more I think about it, the 140 times a week using a financial app that I initially estimated was probably a little low.”
— Jason @ Winning Personal Finance
How Old (School) is Our Audience?
This was a fun question just to get a rough idea of how many people in our audience remember the “good old days,” before smartphones and apps where even A Thing 😉
What we learned surprised us quite a bit, because we found out that 98% of our audience got their first phones before smartphones were around!
While iPhones and Androids only came in at 1% each…
Are we really that old???
Here’s what the Top 4 phones looked like, in case you don’t remember:
There was only one person who reported having an old-school fancy car phone as his first phone, so of course we had to reach out to ask for more details (response lightly edited for flow):
“I believe it was 1993, yes that long ago. I had a 1982 Camaro with T-tops, come on I had my cell phone and Snoop Dog Doggystyle was the big song of the year! I told myself it was so we could contact family when we were traveling. I believe it was a Motorola, it was the small bag phone type where your phone was still on a cord and connected to the base. When it wasn’t being used it zipped up about the size of hard cover novel book. The phone worked great and at the time in my financial history I would have totally justified it as worth it. I think I totally signed up for the account and the contract for the new phone just so I could say I had one, yup keeping up with the Jones’…”
— Chris Istace @ Mindful Explorer
The $50,000 Dollar Question…
We’re not saying there’s a definite winner here, but we will say that a certain strategist on the Rockstar team told a certain founder on the team that the results would be 3:1 in favor of the apps… 😉
(YOU LOSE J. MONEY!!! **Points and laughs**)
Here were some of our favorite responses from the group:
The “I Love Lifelong Learning” Fans:
“My phone is like an extension of my body, and I’m sure that the boost in motivation and connection alone would be worth well over $50,000 during the forever timeline.Plus, what would I possibly do with a car? I take public transit or walk everywhere. Suddenly I’d have to build in budget categories for gas, parking, maintenance.. *shudder* I could sell it, I guess. Is this a tax free gift?”
“This is a sucky question and I hate whoever came up with it…. 😉 I only say no because I need my map apps as well as Find Friends when hiking. I go alone so maps are important (yeah, I don’t know how to read a real one and don’t want to carry it) as is Find Friends so my mom (awwwww) can keep an eye on my whereabouts. It keeps her sane and me safe in the event something does happen. Other than that, bring on the car (which I would immediately sell to invest the money)!!”
The Car Club:
“Much more fun than any app I’ve ever used.”
“Up until about two years ago, I had a cheap phone that with little storage. It could only hold one or maybe two apps depending on the size. After I got a Galaxy 6, I tried out a bunch of apps and ultimately settled on a few that I have now, including Poshmark, Mercari, and eBay. I mainly use apps for my side hustle of selling goods online. But other than that, I don’t use many apps and have never understood the big draw of them, especially when I could just use the websites instead. So I’ll be glad to give up all my apps and take the $50,000 car instead.”
In Which We Expose All the Guilty Pleasures…
Lastly, we asked bloggers to fill us in on any of their “guilty pleasure” apps, financial or otherwise. We just threw this one in for fun, not so much because we wanted to know each and every odd app they have on their phone (though it was entertaining), but because we wanted to see what types of apps our community defined as “guilty pleasures.”
This is just a sampling of the bountiful harvest of random-ass apps they provided 😉
And here are the stats on the breakdown in type:
- Games @ 67%
- Food @ 22%
- Utility @ 11%
So it looks like around 11% of finance bloggers are super nerds, and their guilty pleasures are what most of us use for day-to-day tools – hah. Twice as many bloggers then list food as their secret indulgence, and three times as many as THAT group like to play games when no one’s looking.
Sounds about right 🙂
We had to look up half of these as we’d never heard them before (Castle Cats? Exploding Kittens? Boom Beach?) but the one that REALLY stood out was this guy – Portillo’s Hotdogs. Why? Because of their epic website content:
“Long lines are the wurst. That’s why Portillo’s is about to chocolate-cake shake things up with our brand new mobile ordering app. Give it a try and you’ll get $5 off an online order of $15 or more…
Our mobile ordering app has all the right ingredients to eliminate your wait, so you can get food that cuts the mustard even faster.
Five lucky app users will even win Portillo’s Meals for a year. Now that’s a big dill.”
We swear – all bold emphasis is theirs!
A Few Notes on Future Polling
This poll had about 30% fewer participants than our last one on books, and when we were trying to figure out why, we realized the obvious: not everyone uses financial apps!
There are a number of possible reasons for this, but our guesses land on both *availability* and *desire.* Some people simply don’t want to download and use financial apps on their phone because they don’t find them useful or because they want their phone to be clean, while others simply don’t have access to as many due to where they live. Fintech is very China- and U.S.-focused right now, and most of their products aren’t available outside of their respective countries.
Here are the top 3 fintech countries per valuation – look how big China is!
So basically, going forward we’re going to account for all this by simply asking people right from the start whether they partake in the focused area we’re polling on or not. This way it’ll not only give us another data point to use, but it’ll allow more people to have their opinion count as well.
So there you have it: another Rockstar 360 Report in the bank! We hope you enjoyed it!
Remember, that we now have an entire sub-directory of finance apps out of this too, so anytime you’re looking for new ones to check out be sure to pop over! We’ll be constantly updating it over time…
(And if you’re a $$$ blogger and haven’t taken the poll yet, be sure to do so here! It’s ever going!)
We’ll be back shortly with our next poll: the best financial podcasts 🙂
– J. Money & Team
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