Banking, bills, budgets and debt are four main areas in an individual’s personal finance situation. Paper and pencil, along with a calculator and paper receipts, is the traditional method for keeping track of these financial highlights. Now the numbers show that a new tradition is taking hold via the computer and internet.
This month, a report from Javelin Strategy and Research found that “six in ten of online households bank online weekly…and seven in ten households pay bills online monthly.” Take advantage of the online resources available by trying out one or all of these personal finance websites.
The Best Interest Rates
Bankrate, Inc. started in 1976 as a banking industry newsletter called “Bank Rate Monitor.” Twenty years later they expanded and moved their services online where they now attract 7 million unique visitors every month. The company surveys thousands of financial institutions across the United States and offers their findings for free on Bankrate.com.
This site can be helpful for finding the best high interest saving accounts, certificates of deposit, and checking accounts; they have bank rates for mortgage loans and credit cards. For someone who has high finance charges on their credit cards and wants to lower them, or a family who would like to earn more money on their savings accounts, this is a trusted search tool.
Site features include:
- Local mortgage rate comparison
- Checking, savings, CD, and investment rates
- Rate search for auto and student loans and credit cards
- Insurance quotes
- Calculators such as “Will you save by refinancing your mortgage?”
- Finance articles including “A tightwad’s 10 tips to trim car costs”
Online Budgeting Tool
In October of 2008, Aaron Petzer officially launched Mint.com. It’s “money management and budgeting software” that’s available online for free. They have over 1 million users, attract 3,000 more each day, and track their billions of dollars in assets, transactions, and potential savings. So far in 2015, the site has won nine awards including one from Time’s 50 Best Websites of 2009.
The main goal of this resource is to help users create and manage a budgeting worksheet while saving money at the same time. Mint has a few key features:
- Customize alerts which may be sent by email or text message; they’ll reveal upcoming bills, low account balances, fee changes and more.
- Anonymous account setup; it only requires an email account, zip code, and password
- One click budget creation; the software categorizes each transaction and can turn it into an adjustable budget
- Investment tracking; see IRA, mutual fund, brokerage, and 401k account information in one place
- Find a credit card that’s better and find savings; Mint recommends new credit cards and other services to users after analyzing their spending to show them how much money they can save
Absolutely Free Credit Score
Credit Karma believes that it is a consumer’s fundamental right to track their credit and stay informed. That’s why, with the help of advertisers who share their vision, they provide free credit scores from Transunion to users. The company name comes from the idea that past actions affect the present and future; a person’s credit history is their “credit karma”.
Different site attributes help each user with more than monitoring credit:
- Articles and credit card advice like “Credit Cards on Campus” and “5 Steps Toward Healthy Credit”
- Credit card guide by personal credit score in order to find the best offer
- Rate comparisons for mortgages, auto loans, savings accounts, and more
- Credit trends to compare scores between consumers; historical rate trends to find the best time to buy
- Number crunchers including the “debt repayment” and “home affordability” calculators
Paying Bills Online
Yodlee prides itself on providing smarter banking solutions online. According to their website, over 20 million consumers use their utilities, every two seconds a new Yodlee user is added, and five of the top 10 banks employ their services. Their vision is that, “exponential gains in efficiency are realized when multiple online money management tools are used.” Keeping all of the individual’s accounts combined in one place is Yodlee MoneyCenter’s main feature.
MoneyCenter is divided into the four categories of Yodlee PersonalFinance, BillPay, FinancialCalendar, and CustomerCare. Each section has its own attributes which include:
- Categorized transactions
- Bill reminders
- Portfolio manager
- Spending reports
- Message center
There is also a forum where users and administrators may discuss personal finance with each other.
Personal Finance Services
These resources have been approved by their users for ease of navigation and innovative tools. Also, each site, excluding bankrate.com, takes different security measures to protect information. Mint uses bank level data security, provides user alerts, and does not allow the transfer of money. Yodlee provides password protection, firewalls, Secure Socket Layer and more. Credit Karma does not store social security numbers or share private information, and they’re registered with VeriSign and Hackersafe.