Making financial decisions can be overwhelming for anyone. It can be especially challenging for young professionals just beginning a life of financial independence.
But in 2021, it doesn’t have to be hard to get started. You can begin learning about personal finance with a variety of free apps you can download to your smartphone or tablet.
In this article, I’ll recommend the five best apps I’ve found for young professionals to use to help make smart financial decisions.
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Best Free Money Apps for Young Professionals in 2021
For this article, I focused on apps that will help in five important areas: budgeting, banking, credit monitoring, job searching and investing.
I consulted with our finance writers on Team Clark. They’ve researched these apps extensively. Also, to be considered for my list, each app must be free to use and have a combined Android and iOS rating of at least 9.0.
Here are what I found to be the five best free money apps for young professionals.
|Apps||Best For||App Ratings||Read More|
|Mint||Budgeting||Google Play: 4.5|
App Store: 4.8
|Chime||Banking||Google Play: 4.6|
App Store: 4.8
|Credit Karma||Credit Monitoring||Google Play: 4.7|
App Store: 4.9
|Credit Karma Review|
|Indeed||Job Searching||Google Play: 4.7|
App Store: 4.7
|Fidelity||Investing||Google Play: 4.4|
App Store: 4.8
Money expert Clark Howard strongly advocates spending less than you make. This is a lot easier to do if you create a budget.
Mint not only helps you create a budget, it can bring together a full overview of your finances.
According to money expert Clark Howard, Mint is an excellent app for budgeting.
“Mint has stood the test of time and will help you categorize your spending in so many different ways, and so much of it is done automatically to help you get control of what you’re up to.”
To get started after downloading the app, you’ll have to enter your email address, phone number and create a password for the account. Then you can begin linking your bank and credit card accounts to categorize transactions, set financial goals, develop a budget, track investments, check your credit score and more.
For more information on Mint, check out Team Clark’s full guide to the app.
Putting your hard-earned money in the right place is vital to avoiding unnecessary fees and earning the most interest. The best banks for fewer fees and more interest are online.
Chime considers itself a financial services software company, but at a basic level, it is similar to a fee-free online bank. Technically, it doesn’t have a bank charter. Instead, it partners with Bancorp Bank and Stride Bank, which are FDIC members.
With Chime, you can get a checking account, a savings account with a competitive interest rate, a debit card and a free ATM network.
I asked Clark.com banking expert Christopher Smith for his recommendation for an app that would best serve young professionals.
“Chime offers the most well-received app among the online-only ‘banks,’ although it’s technically a financial services company.
“If you’re 21, you’re a digital native and aren’t going to miss having access to a physical branch. Plus, your financial life probably is simple enough that you won’t need to sit with a banker for something like a home loan application.”
To open an account, download the app and then click on the “Apply Now” button. You will have to provide basic information (name, address, email address, etc.).
With a Chime Checking Account, you don’t get a checkbook. But you do get a Visa debit card with access to more than 60,000 ATM locations throughout the United States.
With a Chime Checking Account, you can add money through direct deposits, transfers from other banks, mobile check deposits and cash deposits at more than 90,000 retail locations. A Chime Checking Account also allows you to set up automatic payments for monthly bills.
A Chime Checking Account works with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. It offers free transactions and free person-to-person transfers too.
For more on Chime, check out Team Clark’s Pros and Cons Chime Review. Also read Team Clark’s complete guide to the best online banks.
Note: Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
Also good: Ally Bank.
Credit Monitoring: Credit Karma
Credit scores have a huge impact on your life. They’re a determining factor in whether a lender is willing to approve you for a credit card, car loan or mortgage – and what rate you’ll pay.
Credit Karma provides free access to credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax, two of the three major credit bureaus.
Clark really likes Credit Karma:
“What’s fantastic about Credit Karma is their entire suite of free services. You’re able to monitor your score, monitor your credit and know — before you even apply — the likelihood of you being approved for a loan.”
Credit Karma is owned by Intuit. It’s free to use but does have ads.
After downloading the app, you will need to enter your name, an email address and create a new password. Next, you’ll be required to share your mailing address, date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Credit Karma requests this information so it can access your credit reports.
In addition to credit monitoring, the app suggests credit cards based on your credit score and the likelihood you’ll will be approved. You can also get quotes for auto insurance as well as loans. (Note that Credit Karma’s website says, “We do get paid through our partners if you get a product through one of our recommendations.”)
For more information on Credit Karma, check out Team Clark’s full guide to the app.
Also good: Credit Sesame.
Job Searching: Indeed
Before you create a budget and open a bank account, of course you need some money!
Indeed is a search engine for job hunting. Not only can you search for jobs, you can also create and store a resume, read ratings of companies and even communicate with potential employers.
Clark.com job search platform expert Dallas Cox told me she recommends Indeed.
“Indeed is basically the full package when it comes to finding and applying for jobs. Plus, the app is simple and highly rated, so that tells me the user experience is probably pretty good for most of the mobile features.”
Indeed is free to use. The app makes its money from sponsored job postings. It costs you nothing to search and apply for jobs.
After downloading the app, you can begin searching for jobs without creating an account. But creating an account lets you follow companies, save a resume and communicate with potential employers.
Signing up is easy. You’ll just need to provide an email address and create a password.
You can find full-time, part-time, contract, freelance and internship opportunities on the app. You can also follow companies to get their latest job openings and corporate updates.
For more information on Indeed, check out Team Clark’s full guide to the app.
Before becoming an investor, Clark recommends becoming a saver. (One important savings account you could open is an emergency fund.)
Once you’ve got a good savings cushion, you can invest some of your money to prepare for the future. Job #1: retirement. Clark supports widely diversified investing with a long-term focus.
Fidelity Investments is a great place to get started. In his review, Christopher Smith wrote that Fidelity provides the best investor education in the industry.
And in his article, 6 Best Stock Trading and Investment Apps of 2021, Christopher Smith called Fidelity the “best overall.”
“It’s easy to look at how many of the best stock trading apps offer $0 commissions and assume they’re all equal on price. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a self-directed investment platform with better overall rates than Fidelity.”
In addition to regular investment accounts, Fidelity also offers retirement accounts, a cash management account and a 529 college savings account.
Team Clark also recommends Fidelity’s credit card because it offers 2% cash back on every purchase, and there’s no annual fee. You can even arrange to have the money you receive in cash back automatically sent to your Fidelity investment account.
For more information on Fidelity, check out Team Clark’s full guide to the app.
Don’t be overwhelmed with personal finance. It takes most people a while to become confident with financial decisions.
Mint, Chime, Credit Karma, Indeed and Fidelity will help you get started.
For further help, you can reach out to Clark’s Consumer Action Center. The center can help with specific questions, and it’s completely free.
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