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Recommended products & services

I’ve been writing about personal finance for 20 years. So I know a thing or two about financial products and services: Budgeting apps, bank accounts, credit cards, you name it. I’ve used them, reviewed them, and heard thousands of pitches about them.

If you’re looking for a good bank account, credit card, investment account, or app to help tackle your finances, I can tell you what products to look at and which to avoid. Best of all, I am not going to steer you toward a shitty product because they’re paying me to!

Jump to my recommendations, or keep reading to understand why you can’t find trustworthy financial product recommendations anywhere!

Why it’s so hard to get unbiased product recommendations on the Internet

Unless you can ask a trusted friend, it’s nearly impossible to get an honest product recommendation these days. Affiliate marketing — where companies pay websites or influencers to recommend their products — is everywhere. Even — no, especially — in financial services.

Now, as you probably know, when you try searching for a product (say, the best credit card or savings account), you’ll get a thousand slickly-designed websites all pitching the same dozen products. That’s because — surprise, surprise – the companies marketing those products are the ones paying affiliates big bucks.

Affiliate marketing is not necessarily bad. It used to be a big part of this website’s success and I still work with a few reputable affiliates, although I’m winding down most of them. At its best, affiliate marketing connects a brand with a customer who is searching for that company’s product. The affiliate earns a small referral fee or “commission” for making the match. It can be — and should be — a win-win-win.

The problem arises when websites recommend whichever company pays them the most, not which product is best. And it happens. All. The. Time. The practice is so rampant in financial services, in fact, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently announced a crackdown on websites that rank products based on their payout rather than the best deal for consumers.

I want to be very clear that the recommendations on Money Under 30 are what I believe to be excellent products for our average reader. These lists are not exhaustive. You might know of an excellent product I don’t mention. But part of the value I hope to deliver is curation. Shopping for a new financial service can be overwhelming. I hope you can trust me to narrow the choices some.

As I mentioned earlier, I do still work with some companies as an affiliate. When that is the case, I will make it known. You can also tell by the blue boxes that say sponsored offer at the bottom. I want you to go with the best product or service for your needs, regardless of whether it’s an affiliate or not. All I ask is that if you DO happen to read about a product you want here and they happen to be an affiliate, to please use my link rather than opening a new tab and searching. It’s what allows me to keep hosting Money Under 30 and creating new free content.

My recommendations

The following are brief summaries of my thoughts on a few common types of financial products. Most of these products are not affiliates, but products that are affiliates are identified with the 💰 emoji… 🙏🏻 if you choose to use one!

I also include links to my legacy “best of” pages where you can read a lot more about the recommended products and their competitors. Some of these pages still have a lot of overly-affiliate content on them from the years this site was corporate-owned. I’m slowly working through them and making them authentically mine again, but it’s a long process.

Checking accounts

When it comes to your checking account and other daily banking needs, avoid the really BIG banks like Chase, BofA, WellsFargo, etc. They have slick marketing and apps, but also the most fees and “gotchas”. And when something goes wrong, you are at the mercy of their big, impersonal bureaucracy of a customer service department.

For pricing and customer service, a local credit union is your best bet. The downsides are that their technology is often 20 years behind. But using a local institution usually isn’t a problem. Credit unions, for example, allow you to transact at partner credit unions nationwide. If using ATMs outside of your hometown is important, it’s possible to find banks that reimburse other banks’ ATM fees. You can find credit unions near you using the National Credit Union Administration’s Credit Union Locator.

Counter to my own advice, I’ve had my checking account at TD Bank (the 10th biggest bank in the US) for over a decade. When things are running smoothly they’ve been good, but when my wife’s debit card was stolen it took weeks and far too many phone calls to get the fraudulent charges reversed.

Savings accounts

For savings accounts, the advice is different. Most banks pay such meager interest rates on deposits it should be a crime. For example, in April 2024 the national average savings account rate was just 0.57%. Yet you can find banks paying 10x that amount. They prey on customers’ ignorance.

For a savings account, go with a bank that has a “high-yield” product. You may not do any other banking with this institution, but it’s easy to link your accounts and transfer money back and forth online.

Personally I’ve been using Barclays Online Savings 💰 (review) for over 10 years and they’ve been great. I also recommend Capital One 360 Online Savings (review) or the CIT Bank Platinum Savings Account 💰 (review) which pays a strong rate on balances of $5,000 or more. Learn more about my recommended savings accounts here.

Credit cards

Choosing a credit card comes down to two things:

  • The strength of your credit history.
  • Whether you’re going to carry a balance or pay it in full.

If you don’t have very good credit: You’re going to be stuck with whichever card you can get approved for. Capital One Platinum (no rewards, no fee) or Capital One QuicksilverOne (rewards, but an annual fee) are your best bet. If you can’t get approved for those, your options aren’t great but you can see the best of them here.

If you have good credit, but need to carry a balance: You’ll want a card with the lowest APR possible and you shouldn’t care about rewards at all. Again, credit unions are where it’s at for low regular APR credit cards. At the time of writing, the average regular APR is between 19% and 29%, whereas you can find credit union cards offering regular APRs between 9% and 18%.

If you pay your balance in full each month: Using any credit card other than a rewards card is leaving “free” money on the table. Which rewards card you get, however, doesn’t matter as much as all the marketing hype would make you believe.

I carry the no-annual-fee Fidelity Rewards Visa which gives me 2% cash back that’s deposited right into my Fidelity investment account. The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card and Citi Double Cash card are comparable 2% cash-back cards.

You can squeeze a bit more than 2% back from credit card rewards, but it will take work and/or paying annual fees. I also carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card 💰 (review) because I travel and dine-out enough to earn perks that justify the hefty $550 annual fee. I only use those rewards to book travel, which makes the rewards points more 25% valuable. It’s not for everybody, but I still like this card if your income/spending/travel warrants it. If you want to accumulate free travel but can’t justify this card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred 💰 (review) card’s annual fee is only $95 and offers some, but not all, of the same benefits.


There are two kinds of investment accounts:

  • Brokerage accounts that allow you to buy and sell thousands of investments including stocks, options, funds and even cryptocurrencies.
  • Roboadvisors that invest for you automatically according to your goals and risk tolerance.

Brokerage accounts

I have brokerage accounts with Fidelity, Vanguard and Robinhood 💰 (review). I use Fidelity and Robinhood for playing with individual stock trades. I don’t dabble in options or other advanced trading strategies, but I’ve been happy with the trading tools at both places. If you’re just getting started, I will admit that Robinhood’s app is probably the slickest financial app I’ve ever seen. It’s biggest downside is that it makes investing feel a little too much like a game. Remember that you’re dealing with real money here!

Vanguard is famous for its low-cost index funds, which is why I use them for my long-term investment accounts. Although they offer brokerage services, too, I think Vanguard is still best for long-term, buy-and-hold investing.


If you don’t want to worry about picking stocks and funds in which to invest, a roboadvisor can do it for you. Roboadvisors use AI to invest your money in a diversified fund that’s best suited to helping you achieve the goals you identify in a simple questionnaire. The cost for using a Roboadvisor is an annual fee equal to a small percentage of your account balance.

You can’t go wrong with Wealthfront 💰 (review), Betterment (review), and Vanguard Digital Advisor 💰 (review).

Vanguard’s Digital Advisor’s starting advisory fee is the lowest of the bunch at 0.20%, but they also have the highest minimum opening balance — $3,000.

Betterment and Wealthfront both charge advisory fees of 0.25%. Betterment has no minimum account balance whereas Wealthfront has a $500 minimum.


Insurance policies are so individualized that it’s hard to make catch-all recommendations.

One innovative insurer that seems to be putting the customer first is Lemonade (review). They offer US customers auto, homeowner’s, renter’s💰, pet💰 and term life insurance. I know several people who work there and their model is based upon refunding customers when they take in more premiums than they pay out in claims.

On the flip side, there are some big insurance companies you should try to avoid if possible. These include GEICO, Allstate, and State Farm. Most insurance companies are evil and will try to screw customers who make a claim. But I think a lot of people are surprised to learn that such big, well-known insurers don’t follow-through with the hassle-free claims processes they advertise.

Policy Genius isn’t an insurer, but it’s a great third-party marketplace to shop for home, auto, life and disability insurance. Their website makes it easy to compare policies online and, unlike many such insurance marketplace websites, Policy Genius won’t spam you with telemarketing calls if you don’t buy a policy.

Budgeting & tracking apps

I’ve tested and reviewed hundreds of personal finance apps in my career, and each year dozens more are introduced. Personally, there are only two apps I use on a regular basis that I would recommend to anyone, especially because they’re free:

  • Empower Personal Dashboard 💰: A free app for tracking investments and planning for retirement. It can also be used for budgeting and spend tracking. Read my review.
  • Credit Karma: The well-known free app for monitoring your credit score. Although, to be honest, I’ve used CK a lot less since most credit card issuers started including credit score tracking (I have this feature through Chase, Amex and Capital One accounts).

If you’re looking for a tool that can help you budget, there are a number of good budgeting apps to choose from, but my two favorites are You Need a Budget (YNAB) 💰 (review) and Pocketsmith 💰 (review). Each takes a somewhat novel approach to helping you budget. YNAB uses the “envelope system” in which you designate blocks of money for different types of expenses. Pocketsmith, on the other hand, uses a calendar-based approach that shows you when money will move in and out of your accounts. Both require a modestly-priced paid subscription.

Financial advisors

At some point, you may decide that you want a professional to help you make a financial plan or manage your investments. I’ve written extensively about when it’s time to hire a financial advisor and how to find a good one

In my experience, there’s no substitute for a personal introduction by someone you know who has a financial advisor they trust. Absent that, there’s a website called The Paladin Registry 💰 that can match you with the names of recommended fee-only financial advisors. The service is free to use and advisors are vetted by the independent Registry to ensure their quality.

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