Fun fact: We check our phones nearly 47 times a day. If you're in your early 20s, you get swiping 86 times a day. So, here's a thought: Make those interactions count, and we don't mean by defending your Clash of Clans army, or leveling up on Candy Crush. Here are five finance apps that can help you make money instead of wasting your time.
You can grow your own money tree via this no-brainer micro-investing app. Here's how Acorns works: You set up a free account, and link your checking account as well as any debit and credit cards you want. From there, you can start squirreling away money via what are called "Round-Ups" -- i.e., if you buy a $2.75 cup of coffee from a linked card, the app will round up the purchase to the next dollar, and transfer the difference, in this case 25 cents, from your checking account to your Acorns account.
Once you have at least $5, Acorns will automatically invest your money in a stock portfolio you've configured to reflect your appetite for risk, from conservative to aggressive. You can also make recurring or one-time investments. No commissions are charged; a $1 monthly fee is assessed on accounts with balances under $5,000; accounts at or above $5,000 are charged 0.25 percent a year. We recommend this app if you make a LOT of small purchases -- enough that you’re investing at least $25 worth of spare change monthly.
A premium account with this brokerage, the largest independent robo-advisor around, requires a $100,000 minimum balance. But you can get started for literally nothing via a Betterment digital account. (So, yeah, okay, digital accounts are assessed a 0.25 percent annual fee, but still ...)
Another cool feature: automated tax-loss harvesting. Say what? The what: Tax-loss harvesting is just selling off stock that’s lost money. That investment loss reduces your taxable income, effectively putting more money in your pocket. And in case you were wondering, Betterment automatically replaces the sold-off stock with another, similar one.
Bitcoin hot, and so is this app. In iTunes, it's the top free iPhone finance app. (And, yes, it's also available for Android via Google Play.) Coinbase is a digital-currency wallet that allows you to buy and sell bitcoin instantly from your phone, and via your connected bank account, PayPal account or whichever.
Your Ethereum and Litecoin are also good at Coinbase. Transfer fees may apply; conversion fees vary. Now, should we note here that cryptocurrency is also volatile, and should be considered a speculative move, and not an investment? Yes, we should. So proceed with caution.
With this stock-trading app, the Wall Street noob has the potential to hit the financial bullseye with little sweat -- and nada, zip, nothing in commissions and fees. The standard account doesn't require a minimum balance, and you can earn a free stock for you and a friend for a referral. So, yup, Robinhood offers a whole lot of nothing -- in a good way.
It also offers the souped-up upgrade, Robinhood Gold, a margin account that requires a $2,000 minimum balance and a flat, monthly fee in exchange for extended trading hours and instant deposits for more extensive wheeling and dealing. Like the standard account, it offers zero-commission trades.
The Mint app gets you closer to Scrooge McDuck's mint by letting you quickly see you're doing with your money, and, should you choose to use its budgeting tools, what you could be doing with your money. The veteran app is from TurboTax's Intuit, and it's free -- from its optional bill-pay service to the pie charts of your grocery purchases. CNET's Download.com praised the visuals, and awarded the app four-and-a-half out of five stars.
Now, in order to make this all work for you, you have to be willing to share -- bank-account info, utility-account info, credit-card info, etc. (It's up to you, of course, which info to share, or not.) Mint promises to safeguard your data with the help of a four-digit mobile passcode.