Empower Review: My Experience Budgeting And Saving With Empower
Empower is an easy-to-use budgeting tool that monitors your finances and helps you ensure you stay on budget each month.
- Aspiring savers
- Those who want to budget
- Time-challenged consumers
None of us is born knowing how to spend and save money. I first learned to manage my finances using pen and paper, then tracking every dime I spent throughout the month in a notebook. Mobile banking made it easier to see what I’m spending, but that doesn’t help me stay on track.
That’s where an app like Empower comes in. Using Empower, I can link to my bank account and let the app monitor where I spend every dollar. Empower allows me to effortlessly set up a budget by allowing me to create my own spend categories and automatically monitoring how well I’m doing at staying within my goal. By knowing where and how I spend my money, it’s easier for me to set a budget and stick to it.
And bonus: Empower offers an interest-free advance to tide you over until your next payday, floating you up to $250 when you’re stuck.^ (More about that below.)
What is Empower?
Empower is a San Francisco-based financial services company that specializes in helping consumers save and reduce spending. When you sign up for Empower, you get access to a mobile app that monitors your spending and helps you stay on budget each week or month.
There were three standout features that stood out to me when I joined Empower. First was the AutoSave feature, which automatically sets money aside for me each week only when I can afford to do so. I set a goal of just $40 a week and Empower saved the money for me without me even missing it.
I also loved the budgeting feature, which made it easy for me to set targets and know when I was getting close to reaching them, thanks to alerts. The result is that I’m now far more aware of how I spend money each month and I won’t overspend.
How does Empower work?
Empower is only available through an iOS and Android app. You can input your mobile number on the website for a link or go directly to the Apple or Google Play store. Once you have the app, you can start setting up your account.
Empower will walk you through setting up your account and linking your bank account. But first, they’ll need to collect some basic information from you.
First, Empower needs to verify your phone number. You’ll be texted a code that you’ll need to input before you can move to the next step.
Now it’s time to input some information about you, including your name and date of birth.
You’ll next be prompted to allow Empower to email you special offers. I chose, “Not now” on this particular feature.
Now it’s time to link your bank account. If you have multiple accounts, you’ll need to choose the primary account which is your main checking account where you deposit your paycheck, pay your bills, and make your everyday purchases via credit or debit card. This is so that Empower has a more complete, accurate snapshot of your cash inflows and outflows so they can share with you actionable, personalized insights and tips about your money.
The next screen shows a list of the most popular lenders, but you can also search for your bank if you don’t see it there.
Once you choose your account, you’ll just need to enter your user ID and password to connect everything.
With so many financial apps available, it can be tough to choose one. Here are a few features that set Empower apart from competitors.
Empower offers an interest-free safety net to tide you over until your next payday, floating you up to $250 when you’re stuck.^ There’s no interest, no late fees, and no credit check, but eligibility requirements do apply. Here’s how it works: the cash is sent directly to your checking account and all you have to do is settle up when you receive your next direct deposit.
Tell Empower how much you want to save each week, and Empower will automatically set that money aside for you when they detect you’ve got excess cash. The app monitors your spending and determines when to move small amounts of money over to ensure you meet that weekly goal.
Subscription and bill management
Empower watches your account and alerts you to bill increases, missed bills, credit utilization, and new ways that you can save money. The app will show you a list of your subscriptions and help you cancel any you no longer want.
Paying too much for bills? Empower will tell you if there are better deals for your phone, cable, and internet, and will even negotiate on your behalf to lower your bill.
Budget categories and Spend Tracking
Empower makes budgeting effortless for your unique lifestyle. You can easily set up custom categories and plan weekly or monthly spending amounts. We all know monitoring your spending is the hardest part. The app will automatically track your spending and will give you timely updates on how you’re tracking to your spend limits so you’ll never over spend.
Empower’s Interest Checking Account has no overdraft fees, no insufficient funds fees, and no account minimums making it a no-fuss banking account.
Pricing for Empower
Empower is free for the first 14 days, then $8 per month to continue accessing all of the money management features in the Empower app. You will have helpful features like Cash Advance, Automatic Savings, Interest Checking, easy budgeting and Spend Tracking, and smart recommendations.
The Empower Interest Checking Account has no overdraft fees, no insufficient funds fees, and no account minimums. There are 3 monthly ATM fee reimbursements which include ATMs located outside the U.S.¹
My experience using Empower
My first introduction with how easy Empower was to use was through the setup. Linking to my bank account couldn’t have been easier. Once the connection was made, I could see, at a glance, my current bank balance and recent transactions.
It was also surprisingly easy to set and adjust my weekly savings goals. I kept it low, at first, but even $10 a week can add up over time. You’ll need to give this feature a little time to kick in, though. Empower monitors your habits and learns when it’s the best time to move small amounts over. At first, it was noticeable, but over time, I forgot the money was coming out. Once Empower had gotten to know my spending habits, I gradually began to increase the AutoSave amount until I was saving $50 a week.
Setting up my budget was also surprisingly easy. You just choose your category, then a set a spending limit per week or month. For example, I set a goal of $50 per week on dining out. As I spend throughout the week, Empower monitors my restaurant purchases and lets me know when I’m nearing that $50 limit so I can pull back.
Overall, I loved that Empower tracks everything for me. Now I’m on top of my monthly spending and not only reducing spending, but putting more money aside for those little unexpected emergencies.
Who is Empower best for?
Anyone strapped for cash
Empower Cash Advance is great for anyone in need to fast cash. Empower will float you up to $250 when you’re in a jam.^ No interest, no late fees, and no credit checks.
It’s important to save, but it’s hard to squeeze even a few bucks out when your bills increase but your paycheck stays steady, year after year. What I love about Empower is that it finds the money and sets it aside on its own. I don’t even miss it, as long as I keep my weekly savings goal fairly low.
These days, keeping up with all our subscriptions is tough. So many things are set up to be recurring, you can easily forget where the charges are coming from. Empower alerts you to these subscriptions and lets you cancel them easily, through the app.
Consumers who don’t like using multiple apps
The Empower app makes personal finance easy to track in an easy to use app. You no longer need multiple apps for budgeting, saving or banking since all those features are easy to use in the Empower app.
Who shouldn’t use Empower?
Frequent cash users
Although there are plenty of cashless consumers these days, some still pay in cash, at least for certain things. If you find yourself regularly going to an ATM, keeping your visits below three per month might be tough in order to avoid fees.
Unfortunately, Empower only works through an iOS or Android app. You won’t have the option of accessing your account via desktop. If you don’t have a smartphone, or you simply prefer to do your banking on your computer, this won’t be the bank account for you.
Pros & cons
- Automatic saving and interest checking — You decide how much money you want to save each week and simply choose the checking account you want to transfer from. Plus Empower has Interest checking with no overdraft fees.
- Spend tracking — Empower monitors your spending, comparing it to the budget you set, and letting you know in real-time how you’re doing.
- Cash Advance — Empower floats you up to $250 when you’re stuck with no interest, no late fees, and no credit check.^
- No remote deposit — Although you can deposit checks at an ATM, the lack of mobile deposit is an inconvenience for frequent check depositors.
- Fees — Empower isn’t a fee-free bank account, but the perks are well above what you get with many free options.
Empower vs. competitors
Empower isn’t the only app that can help you learn to budget and save. Two of its biggest competitors are PocketSmith and Personal Capital. Here’s how they compare:
Cost ATM fee reimbursement Notifications Security
Empower $8 per month Up to three monthly ATM fees reimbursements¹ Smartphone alerts regarding budgeting, spending, and smart recommendations Industry-standard encryption and authentication measures
PocketSmith Free for Basic; Premium plans start at $9.95 per month Get deal now! N/A Email summary of financial activity; budget alerts via email Two-factor authentication
Personal Capital 0.89% for the first $1 million N/A Daily or weekly performance reports based on the settings you choose Industry-standard encryption and authentication measures
Like Empower, PocketSmith links to your bank account and monitors your spending. It does not, however, hold money that you can access later, as Empower does with its AutoSave feature.
One benefit of PocketSmith is its forecasting future. As you’re creating your budget and planning out your spending, you can look forward and see how your everyday decisions have an impact on your future finances.
Personal Capital is a good option if part of your financial strategy includes investing but you also want help with budgeting and saving while managing your investments.
As with Empower and PocketSmith, you’ll link to your accounts and let the tracking begin. But you’ll also get the benefit of planning and monitoring your savings accounts. Tools include a retirement planner, which lets you set targets and work toward hitting them, and an education planner to help you save for future education expenses. Overall, this is a better tool to use if you’re ready to get serious about planning for the future.
Empower puts the power of controlling your finances in your hands. If you’re looking for an app that will help you save, while also letting you budget and monitor your progress each month, Empower is worth considering.
* Banking services for new accounts provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.
¹Reimbursement for up to 3 ATM fees per month, with a maximum reimbursement of $10 per ATM withdrawal.
^Eligibility requirements apply. Minimum direct deposits to an Empower checking account, among other conditions, are necessary to qualify for instant delivery and advances greater than $50.
- PocketSmith Review: My Experience Using PocketSmith
- 8 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances