Currently the best money management software packages around are online services that let you connect to multiple accounts automatically, make inter bank payments and transfers, and help plan savings and budget expenses.
The majority of these services are free, and they are all secure. Here, in no particular order, are five of the best, based on ease of use, comprehensive service offered, mobile access and automation, plus unique features.
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If you're used to the desktop version of Quicken, you might miss some of the features that have been scaled out, such as investments and asset tracking to monitor net worth. The online version is designed to allow access to all your accounts in one place, track spending, and highlight potential areas where savings could be made. If you have an iPhone, there's also an app you can download to access your accounts on your mobile. Great for budgeting and managing cash flow, but not able to track investments and net worth.
With all the features of Quicken online plus the ability to track investments, plus mobile or text alerts, Mint offers a versatile, useful money management service. Set mobile or text alerts to warn you of low account balances, or unusual spending to help deal with or fraud. The system will also compare on your cards and offers available, and highlight savings you could make by transferring balances, or switching accounts. The links it offers you may be affiliate links, but the site is upfront and honest about keeping the service free by using advertising links, and at least they make the attempt to show you ways to make or save money in the process.
With a background in and focus on social networking, Money Strands allows you to tracks checking, savings and investment accounts as well as credit cards and debts. It learns your spending patterns each time you spend and builds up a profile on which to base the offers it shows you. It will also help you plan for long term goals and has a mobile section that should work with most internet enabled smart phones, not just the iPhone.
Another social oriented site that focuses on checking, savings and credit card accounts, without the ability to track investment accounts as yet, so it's probably best for the younger crowd. The social aspect of the site, dubbed as "collective intelligence" combined with the ability to compare yourself to or learn from others using the site are the main thrust of this offering.
Although Buxfer doesn't store your account details, it's USP is the ability to track IOUs between groups of friends. In their own words, "Buxfer generates optimized settlement plans, shuffles debts, and lets you make payments online," so if you belong to a group that is constantly loaning each other money, this is one way to keep track of who owes who what.
With so many options on offer, it's worth checking a few money management applications out with basic information before deciding which one to use over the long term, rather than opting for one then finding it doesn't suit your needs after spending a lot of time setting up your accounts.
Before you make your final choice, read the privacy and security statements of any service you might want to use, and don't sign up for anything that you are not happy with. Weigh the features you really need and will use against those that are superfluous to your requirements and will only add to the confusion. Can unwanted texts be switched off? Can you opt out of sales communications? Whatever software you opt for, keep your passwords safe and protect your sensitive information.
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