For regular readers, my love of the following five financial products won’t come as a surprise, but I realized that I have never written a single post about the handful of financial products that I love… and why I love them. The fact is, the following five products are not only highly valuable, four out of five of them are free, and all (I believe) are especially useful to us twentysomethings.
#1. ING Electric Orange Checking
I’ve had an ING Direct Orange Savings Account for several years now. Although their savings interest rate now lags other online savings accounts, I have fallen in love with the ING Electric Orange checking account. I admit, I signed up for Electric Orange more out of curiosity than a desire for a second checking account. Since then, however, I’ve found it to be a convenient way to segregate money designated for retirement savings, tax payments, and other savings. I earn interest on the checking balance, can transfer money between my Orange Savings and other checking accounts online, and have a debit card that can be used free at thousands of ATMs in convenient locations. The only downside that I’ve found to a virtual checking account is there’s no way to deposit cash to the account.
#2. Quicken Online
Quicken Online provides simple, powerful, and free online spending tracking. It automatically links your bank accounts and has a trends feature that lets you get a visual view of your income and spending over any period of time you choose. Plus, did I mention it’s free? Learn more about Quicken Online.
Why not Mint.com? A lot of my readers say they prefer Mint.com to Quicken. Personally, I’ve found Quicken easier to use. I like that it provides everything I want and nothing I don’t. But it’s an individual choice. I recommend trying them both and sticking with the one that works for you.
#3. Credit Karma
CreditKarma is a totally free service launched last year that allows you to view and track an estimate of your credit score. Although a CreditKarma score is not an actual credit score, rather a projected score based upon your TransUnion credit report, it’s the only way to get a truly free picture of your credit score. (Annualcreditreport.com provides free access to each of your three credit reports once a year, but does not provide scores. Other services either charge for your score or provide a free score only if you subscribe to and then cancel a monthly credit monitoring service).
CreditKarma also lets you compare your estimated credit score to the national average and to people in your age group and state. It also provides a credit report card that rates your credit on various factors, and a credit estimator that lets you see how making certain changes (like paying down credit card balances or paying a bill late) might impact your credit score.
#4. Lending Club
Lending Club is a social lending network that lets regular people invest in loans to others. If you have good credit and need a loan to consolidate high-interest debt, pay for education or training, or help fund a business, Lending Club may offer better rates and/or a higher chance of approval than a bank. If you’re an investor looking to get better returns than a certificate of deposit, you can create a loan portfolio on Lending Club that could earn you a 7% or higher annual return. Read more in my Lending Club review.
#5. American Express Charge Cards
I love American Express charge cards (charge cards, not credit cards). This last one is a bit controversial because these cards charge fairly hefty annual fees ($95 for the basic card, $175 for the gold card, much more for a platinum card) and a lot of people say “why pay an annual fee for a credit card when so many are free?” Well, the reason both my fiancée and I pay these fees is because with these charge cards we have to pay the balance in full every month—they are not credit cards that allow you to carry a balance.
Others say “why not just use a debit card?” Because using an AMEX card comes with an additional level of protection from fraud and disputed transactions plus it helps build and maintain good credit, just like a credit card–two things debit cards don’t do. These charge cards also pay rewards points for purchases which, most of the time, lets us earn back what we pay in annual fees. Learn more about the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Disclaimer: One way I’m able to support my blogging while helping you is to link to products I like and earn a referral commission if you sign up. I only link to products I trust. That said, you should know that if you click the links to these products and ultimately apply for and are approved for that account, I may be paid for that. If you choose to support Money Under 30 in that way, thanks!
This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.