A Free Personal Finance App That Does It All
In the same way that Google knows you better than anyone, the way you spend money telegraphs the type of person you are. You can’t just have one drink, you only buy products that are on sale, you’re an impulse buyer, you’re thrifty when it comes to renting hotel rooms, all these insights can be gleaned by looking at someone’s bank account. Over time, various saving and expense tracking apps have been cropping up that allow companies to get their hands on your most personal transactional data – your bank account – in exchange for some value-added service. Some of these value adds include things like:
- Helping you save money
- Helping you negotiate your monthly bills
- Helping you find subscriptions you didn’t know you had
- Helping you figure out where you spend your income
By now you have to be thinking, what sort of an utter moron isn’t capable of managing their own finances such that they’re spending money they don’t even know about? Unless you have some sort of chemical dependency problem, you ought to know where your money goes. The truth is though, most people that live in a developed market as a corporate slave pulling down some sort of monthly salary don’t really pay much attention to what they spend their money on because there’s so much going on in their personal finances. One company that wants to address all these first-world problems in one app is Truebill.
A Free Personal Finance App
Founded in 2016, Maryland startup Truebill has taken in nearly $22 million in funding to provide a one-stop shop when it comes to a personal finance app. That might sound a bit too ambitious until you read about the three Afghani brothers who founded the company. In 2001, the Mokhtarzada brothers founded Webs, the first company that allowed users to easily create websites from templates, and cashed out in 2011 when their venture was purchased by Vistaprint for just over $117 million. During their time at Webs, they noticed that many people would subscribe to the service and then forget about it. That insight led them to found their next startup, Truebill.
Update 06/01/2021: Truebill has raised $45 million in Series D funding to grow their data science and machine-learning team. This brings the company’s total funding to $83.9 million to date.
In a previous article, we talked about some startups solving first world problems, one of which tells you about subscriptions you forgot about. Apparently, there are lots of people that just pay their credit card bills sight unseen and such a service was needed. (According to Truebill, 84% of people have subscriptions they’ve forgotten about.) With Truebill, that’s just one of the perks on offer for free. There are the usual “here’s what you wasted your money on this month” insights along with a monthly budget tool so you can curb all that spending. The app will help you save money not only by putting some aside at regular intervals, but also by negotiating your bills with various service providers like Verizon, CenturyLink, AT&T, DirectTV, and many others.
“Our expert negotiators immediately get to work finding hidden discounts and promo rates available to you,” says the company. And it’s not just bills that get negotiated but also late fees. Truebill monitors all linked financial accounts 24/7 for excessive charges such as sneaky fees or unannounced price increases. If you’re wondering how they make money by providing the app for free, they’ll simply take a cut of whatever money they manage to save you.
An article by Crunchbase News a few weeks ago highlighted Truebill’s recent Series B round of $15 million that highlighted new features that the app will offer soon, things like Bill Pay, Credit Scores, and a rewards program. They claim to have “saved $50 million dollars for over half a million users since launching,” and the CEO says they’ll never sell your data to anyone so you can rest easy. When it comes to competing apps, Truebill believes their ability to categorize your expenditures is superior in that they have “humans in the loop” who make sure that your $4 Starbucks coffee doesn’t get filed under “groceries.”
Safety and Security
When we decided to write this article, nobody who helped write the piece wanted to volunteer to download the app and give it a whirl. It’s not because we’re all capable of managing our own finances like adults, it’s simply because we didn’t really feel like giving Truebill access to our most intimate information – our bank account logins. We found out later that you don’t actually give Truebill anything. Says the company:
These credentials never touch our servers, nor are they stored by us in any way. Your credentials are sent through Plaid to your bank or credit card provider. Plaid then sends back an encrypted token to us which provides read-only access to your transaction data.
By now you may have noticed quite a few apps or financial institutions that can very quickly aggregate all your various accounts using your login credentials. More likely than not, they’re all using a unicorn called Plaid. If you’ve ever given your banking credentials to another firm for whatever reason, then you’ve already used Plaid’s service and there’s nothing to worry about. (As of 2018, 25% of people in the U.S. with bank accounts have used Plaid at some point.)
Managing your finances is something that most of us should do without being prompted to. Don’t allow yourself to have credit card debt, stop buying four dollar cups of flavored water and giving Starbucks free loans by using their coffee cards, stop paying companies like Amazon for the privilege of shopping there, and the list goes on. (Amazon Prime happens to be the most common subscription for Truebill users and also the one most canceled.) For disciplined adults, an Excel spreadsheet and your bank’s transaction data ought to be enough to create a budget and control spending. For those darn millennials living like the Kardashians from paycheck to paycheck, maybe it’s best to download an app like Truebill for a much-needed reality check. You need to have money to make money, and you’re not going to have much money if you’re spending your income on a bunch of services you don’t really need or use.
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