Whether you’re on vacation in the Bahamas or making a run to the grocery store, it’s nice to have a tool at your fingertips that can instantly confirm whether your purchases will put you over budget or overdraw your account. For most of us, that’s as easy as taking out our phone and glancing at our checking account balance on our banking app. But wouldn’t it be even nicer if you could quickly visualize how your spending patterns are impacting your personal savings goals?
Unfortunately, most major banking apps only give users the ability to track their account balances – they rarely make it possible to set financial goals and track your progress.
That’s where Simple comes into play. Simple is a free online banking app with built-in tools to help users budget and save! Their mission is to help users create goals, budget and automate savings. So, let’s take a closer look at the Simple app to see if it might be the missing piece in your personal finance puzzle.
What is Simple?
Founded in 2009, Simple is an online banking platform designed to help users reach their financial goals. It’s important to note that Simple is not a bank. Simple partners with BBVA Compass for banking services. Don’t let this technicality worry you. The app interface is so seamless that users will soon forget that Simple isn’t actually a bank itself.
By partnering with BBVA, Simple is able to create an optimized online banking experience for users. This allows users to conduct most traditional banking activities without ever setting foot inside a bank!
How Does Simple Work?
When you sign up for Simple, they’ll send you a Visa debit card. The card is linked to your BBVA Compass checking account where your funds are ensured to the FDIC maximum, which is currently $250,000. Since your debit card is linked to your account, any transactions that exceed your available balance will be declined. Fortunately, Simple has a no fee policy so you won’t get hit with any overdraft charges!
Simple offers all sorts of features that make using the app effortless. With Simple, users can make in-store and online purchases, pay bills, deposit checks remotely, set up direct deposit, earn interest on their funds and much more! Not only does Simple cover the basics of everyday banking, but they offer more advanced budgeting tools, reports, and goal-setting features too!
Simple’s Finest Features
Simple goes beyond basic banking functions to ensure that users have all the tools they need to make smart spending and saving decisions. With all the tools you need to manage your money built right into the app, managing your finances becomes quick, easy and painless. Here’s a breakdown of some of the more helpful features that Simple provides.
One of the app’s best features is its Safe-to-Spend tool. When you log into the Simple app, the homescreen immediately provides users with their total available balance minus any money earmarked for savings or financial obligations that will be withdrawn from their account in the next 30 days. Basically, Simple tells you exactly how much money you have left to spend so you can feel guilt free about your spending and confident that your transactions won’t derail your budget.
Much like Acorns or Qapital, Simple gives users a variety of options to automate their savings. Simple allows users to set aside funds in a couple different way. Some users prefer a gradual approach to saving while others prefer a lump-sum approach. Simple offers flexible and customizable solutions for whichever approach suits you best. You can work toward your Goal on a daily basis by saving a little at a time or by dumping a chunk of cash into your savings bucket all at once. What’s great about this feature is that your savings are hidden from your Safe-to-Spend funds so you don’t have to worry about accidentally dipping into money you intended to set aside. Plus, you don’t have to maintain a separate account or cumbersome spreadsheets to track your progress!
Advanced Mobile Banking Features
Simple offers a range of mobile banking features so you’ll always have access to your account. Those features include:
- Visa® Debit Card
- Photo Check Deposit
- Direct Deposit
- External Account Linking
- Free check mailing service
- Free ATM withdrawals and free foreign ATM transactions
- Third-party payment services (e.g., Square, Venmo, and Paypal)
- Online Bill Pay
Trackable Spending Reports
For those who prefer a more detail-oriented approach to their finances, Simple has introduced a in-depth reports where users can examine their financial habits in chart and graph form. One of the more unique features is the ability to add photos, notes, and hashtags to every purchase! In addition, users can export all of the information into a comprehensive PDF spreadsheet.
Is Simple Really Free?
Simple really is free! There aren’t any minimum account balance requirements, nor are there any monthly maintenance or overdraft fees. Here’s a breakdown of all of the fees Simple does not charge:
How Does Simple Make Money?
Simple has a couple sources of revenue. First, like traditional financial institutions, Simple profits of interest margin. In other words, banks pay customers interest for the funds they deposit and then lend money at a higher interest rate to make a profit. Simple isn’t a bank, but their banking partners splits interest margin with them. Simple’s other source of income comes from interchange fees that merchants pay whenever you swipe their debit card.
How Simple Separates Itself from the Competition
If you’ve looked for budgeting and savings goals, you’ve probably come across Empower or Qapital. While they are well-designed apps in their own right, Simple offers something extra – elevated customer service and a banking system.
By generating revenue by investing idle funds and from debit card transaction fees, Simple has access to revenue streams that its competitors don’t. That means more funds that Simple is able to reinvest into customer service and advanced app features. Those features are a crucial facet of Simple’s business model as they must make up for the lack of brick-and-mortar banking locations across the United States.
Even in its infancy, Simple promised spectacular customer service. Simple’s founders, Josh Reich and Shamir Karkal, have maintained from the start that a bank that operates purely online must have top-tier customer service. Simple makes good on their promise by offering app messaging to service agents, social media responders, and rapid response time to inquiries by phone.
Areas Where Simple Can Improve
Based on consumer feedback, Simple has consistently improved their app every year since 2009. There are, however, still some issues they need to work out.
One of the most glaring complaints is about how difficult cash deposits can be. While some ATMs in the Simple network allow for cash deposits into their checking account, most do not. Therefore, users who earn cash tips will probably become frustrated with having to convert their cash into money orders just to deposit them in their account.
Another significant issue is that Simple doesn’t offer a savings account. Though Simple does an amazing job of automating savings, tracking spending and building a budget, it isn’t a high-yield savings account.
While you can link your Simple account to third-party services such as Mint, unfortunately you can’t link outside accounts to Simple at this time. That means Simple’s expense tracking and budgeting features will not factor in funds deposited at other financial institutions or transactions on credit cards or other debit cards. This can really limit what you can do with Simple and means you basically need to move your entire bank account to simple (which is usually quite a headache) in order to get the most out of simple’s budgeting and expense tracking features.
The Simple bank app is available on both Apple iOS and Android and offers a streamlined designed and user-friendly interface.
Is Simple Right for You?
No matter how well-rounded, few financial apps are the perfect fit for everyone. That holds true with Simple. If you struggle with integrating your big picture financial goals with your day-to-day spending, then Simple could be good for you. Additionally, impulsive spenders stand to benefit because the homescreen’s in-your-face depiction of the consequences of impromptu spending.
In a way, the Simple banking system is like a gym membership; to achieve its full potential, you must use it regularly. The app’s sophisticated software truly sets Simple apart and can create real value for users will to take the time to review the reports and adjust their financial habits.
Lastly, it’s tough to beat Simple’s no-fee fee structure. Although the most common bank fees won’t necessarily break you, Simple offers a terrific alternative to mainstream banks.