We review a lot of products here at Money Under 30. While we’d never recommend something we didn’t think was worth your time, we do have our favorites—those products that stand out for their freshness of thinking, ease of use, and excellent benefits.
While personal finance is indeed personal, and thus no credit card or bank account will suit everyone perfectly, we think these are some the best personal finance products out there today.
Favorite everyday credit card: Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Flex℠ is one of the best credit cards to have in your wallet – hands down. Its rotating 5% categories (up to $1,500 max spend per quarter), almost always include such everyday categories as gas, groceries, and utility services, make it easy to earn significant rewards without going into unnecessary debt. It also makes redeeming your awards a breeze—whether in travel, gift cards, or directly into a savings account. (We can’t say the same for some its competitors.)
Chase Freedom Flex℠ has no annual fee and even more cash back categories including 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate rewards®, 3% on dining and drug stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. And the cash back rewards never expire.
And bonus – a personal favorite: Chase Freedom Flex℠ is offering up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year in cell phone protection. One less thing to worry about. Read our full review.
Favorite travel card: Citi Premier® Card
If you like to go on trips every once in a while but are by no means a travel hacker, then the Citi Premier® Card is for you. It allows you to earn 1 point for every dollar you spend overall, and 3 points for every dollar you spend at supermarkets, gas stations and on air travel. You’ll also get $100 off a $500 hotel stay once a year, and you can transfer your points to participating airline loyalty program.
Traveling abroad? Use your Citi Premier® Card and pay no international transaction fees.Card info has been collected by MoneyUnder30 to help consumers better compare cards. The financial institution did not provide or approve card details.
Favorite high-yield savings account for smaller goals: Capital One 360
You’re not gonna get the highest interest rate with Capital One 360 (for that you’ll want to check out our list of the best high yield savings accounts) but it’s the only high-yield savings account we know of that lets you divvy up your money into “sub-accounts.”
This makes it easier to allocate your savings toward different goals—whether an upcoming vacation, your dream wedding, or a new laptop. Divvying up your spoils means it’s easier to prioritize more important goals, and see your progress on each one.
Favorite Checking Account: Simple
With its sleek and uncluttered interface, non-existent fees, and clever innovations, Simple is a great choice for someone who doesn’t need a bank with physical branches, and who doesn’t mind using ATMs in drugstores and gas stations.
Simple makes most standard banking tasks, well, simple: Setting up direct deposit, freezing or canceling a card if you’ve lost it, or finding your account/routing numbers.
Its primary innovation, called Goals, allows you to set aside money within your checking account, and deducts any money in those goals from your “safe-to-spend” balance.
Runner up: Aspiration Spend & Save Account
Aspiration’s Spend & Save Account doesn’t have as sleek of an interface as Simple, but it does have the same non-existent fees, and offers something Simple does not: interest!
Like Simple, however, it does encourage you to store excess cash in your save account. In Aspiration’s case, they do it by offering you up to 5.00% APY when you have Aspiration Plus, which requires a fee ($7.99/ month-to-month payments, or $5.99/month when you pay annually).
And, like other online banks, they offer standard checking account features like bill pay, direct deposit, and in-network ATMs.
Read our full Aspiration review.
Favorite Insurance App: Policygenius
Policygenius offers disability insurance, life insurance, renters insurance, and homeowners insurance – and will lead you through the process with ease. With an engaging and attractive interface and the no-pressure approach of an independent broker, Policygenius makes insurance as painless as possible and notably easier.
Read our full Policygenius review.
Favorite Robo-advisor: Betterment
There are lots of robo-advisors out there, and none of them are a bad choice. But we’re particularly fond of Betterment for its attractive interface and ease of use. It’s very easy to get started, to set up regular deposits (and also easy to cancel them), and see how your investments are performing.
Betterment asks you some simple questions about your goals and finances, and creates a diversified portfolio of low-cost ETFs. It also offers tax-loss harvesting, which, for those with taxable accounts, is built to help you use losses to offset gains overall.
Betterment’s focus on behavioral economics means it can make it harder for you to give in to your worst impulses and thus less likely to spike your retirement savings in favor of some instant gratification in the here and now. Visit Betterment or Read our full review.
Favorite Savings App: Digit
Digit’s genius is in its simplicity, and how it uses the distracted way most of us manage our money to help us save.
Basically: You give Digit access to your checking account, it analyzes your spending, learns your habits, and starts to take out small sums (between $5 and $50) at moments it thinks you a) won’t notice and b) won’t need the money.
These small sums are stashed in an account somewhere (Digit supports itself with the interest from everybody’s money), and keeps it far away from your grubby little hands. (Don’t worry: You can request they put money back in your account when you need it.)
Digit will also send your little updates on how much you’ve saved, and congratulatory GIFs when you hit big milestones. And it’s all done via text. (Though they do have an app now!)
Note of caution: If you’re the deliberate type, and like knowing where every dollar of yours is going, then Digit might not be right for you. Those little deductions might have you shouting “Hey! I have plans for that money!”
Favorite (Free) Budgeting App: Empower or Mint
I’ve long been a Mint user, but lately I’ve found myself drawn more to Empower’s uncluttered interface and beautiful visualizations of potential retirement scenarios.
Mint takes a everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach to personal finance tracking, and that can be a good thing. But the interface is increasingly full of cross-promotions (which is how they stay in business), and buggy to boot (I find myself having to refresh often).
Empower, on the other hand, makes their money from premium services aimed at people with higher balances (which, no doubt, might be annoying to those people) and leaves their actual site free of promotions for credit cards or retirement accounts. They also have serious security (two-factor authentication is standard), which is comforting in our current era of data breaches and mass hacking.
They send weekly emails letting you know how your spending compares to last month’s, which can either be a nice little ego booster or a jolt of cold water, depending on how you’re doing.
One thing Empower doesn’t have that Mint does, however, is easy goal tracking. Mint is aimed squarely at us mere mortals, where Empower’s got its sights on aspiring masters of the universe. You may want to pick accordingly.
(Personal Capital is now Empower)
Empower Personal Wealth, LLC (“EPW”) compensates Webpals Systems S. C LTD for new leads. Webpals Systems S. C LTD is not an investment client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation or Empower Advisory Group, LLC.
The best personal finance products are ones that suit your needs
While these are our personal favorites, that doesn’t mean they are the best for everyone. (How could they be?) For instance, if you’re a major traveler and relatively big spender, then the Citi Premier® Card which has no foreign transaction fee and has an annual fee of $95 may be worth it for you when it wouldn’t be for a more casual or infrequent traveler.
Another thing that sets the Citi Premier Card® apart is that you can visit brick-and-mortar branches if you need help. That may be a big deal if you’re someone who likes face-to-face contact and a real person to chat with when something goes wrong.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of credit cards, bank accounts, and investment services out there (and the often-conflicting advice that goes with them). These products are a great start for anyone looking to get ahead on their finances.