The best financial apps for Canadians

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Financial apps have the ability to make managing your finances easier. By simplifying all your money-related tasks—from creating and using a monthly budget and investing, to running a small business and saving for a large-scale project or purchase—they can be the key to achieving your long-term financial goals.

What is a financial app?

A financial app is a downloadable program that lets you manage your finances from your smartphone. There are a wide range of digital downloads available to Canadians in the personal finance category. In fact, financial apps are one of the most popular app categories in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the two biggest app directories.  

Your bank has an app

All the major banks in Canada have official apps; indeed, the BMO financial app as well as those from TD, RBC, CIBC and Scotiabank often rank among the country’s top-20 free financial apps. Banking apps make it easy to check your account balances, send electronic money transfers and deposit paper cheques via your phone’s camera. I use the Scotiabank app on a daily basis and particularly like the Quick Balance feature, which lets me instantly see how much money I have in my account. The mobile cheque deposit feature is also a real game-changer in terms of saving time. Of course, it’s not just Canada’s big banks that are in on the app game—for example, PC Financial has an app, as do most other small financial institutions, neobanks and fintechs in Canada.    

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Are finance apps safe?

Like many tech tools and products in our lives, safety and security are all in the fine print. So, it’s important to think about what app permissions could compromise you financially, and then to go into the app’s settings to turn off those permissions. Also be sure to implement all the privacy and security features that the app has in place to keep your personal information safe. 

For example, if you have the option to turn on two-factor or multi-factor authentication, always do so. This means that a PIN code will be sent to your phone to verify your identity before you can perform certain functions. Be sure to use a strong password (a phrase is better than a word) that would be difficult for others to guess. And beware of phishing scams, where a text or email asks you to click on a link and log in to change your password. Instead, open the app on your mobile device and log in at the source.

Be aware of where you browse. For instance, there’s evidence to suggest it’s not worth the risk to access your banking app (or any sensitive information, really) on a public WIFI network. So, if you need to do some banking when you’re at a cafe, hotel, restaurant etc., use your phone’s data network instead.

The best financial apps for Canadians

When it comes to financial apps for Canadians, the list of options is always growing. So, check your preferred app store regularly for the latest picks. Also, make it a habit to read app reviews online and sift through featured media to ensure you’re making the right choice for your financial information so that you can avoid any long-term issues. Here are a few of the best financial apps for Canadians that you’ll find featured on a regular basis.

Best overall financial app: Mint 

This personal finance app tops the download charts week after week, and there’s good reason for its popularity. Mint (iOS/Android) includes a number of useful (and free) features, such as a budget planner, a net worth calculator and the ability to track your spending. Plus, you can use it with your other financial tools. After you connect all your bank, credit and investment accounts, you’ll be able to see your full financial picture. There are many security features built in to protect you, so you’ll never be left wondering, is the Mint financial app safe? Intuit, the parent company of Mint, also has a few other good picks, including QuickBooks for small business accounting.

Best financial app for investing: WealthSimple Trade

If you’re looking for an easy, user-friendly way to trade stocks, this is it. WealthSimple Trade (iOS/Android) is well-known for making buying and selling stocks a cinch. Plus, there are no account minimums, no commission fees and no hidden costs. There is, however, a 1.5% fee on conversions between Canadian and U.S. currencies. This app prides itself on being straightforward for beginners, but also effective for experts. If you don’t know much about WealthSimple, this homegrown Canadian company now has 1.5 million people using its products and services.

Best real estate financial app: Plan for your dream home with Zillow

The past year has many of us thinking about where we choose to live, and in some cases, we’re more flexible than ever if remote work is a reality. If you’re on the hunt for a new house, Zillow (iOS/Android) is a smart place to start. You’ll be able to find homes nearby, but there are also a number of calculators available within the app. Three of these top calculator features include the payment calculator, the affordability calculator, and the refinance calculator. The affordability calculator is especially useful since you can include your income, your debts and more for an accurate picture of what you might be able to buy. Since a home is often the biggest purchase of your life, you want to choose an app that you can trust and one that has budgeting tools available while you’re on the hunt.

Best money management and budgeting app: YNAB

If you’re brand new to the financial app space and you want to start with something simple, try YNAB (You Need a Budget). This app not only has plenty of high ratings across the app stores, but the developers also state that new users save about $600 on average in the first couple of months of using the app. YNAB lets you easily track all your spending trends and savings targets and allows you to easily visualize what’s coming into and going out of your pocket.

Best fan favourite financial app: Microsoft Excel

When we asked readers to chime in with their favourite apps through a MoneySense social media poll, Excel was a surprising winner. With all the slick new fintech in the market, it turns out this tried-and-true program is still relevant with fans. While not a financial app per se, it is a tool that many use for customized tracking of budgets, stocks, taxes and more. As the original financial calculator, this cell-based function program allows you to organize and calculate data as you wish. If you know your way around the desktop version of Microsoft Excel, you might want to try using the free Excel app for basic budget building or for more complicated dividend tracking. If you’re an Excel newbie, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the program since it’s also a skill you can add to your resume. 

MORE ON BUDGETING:

  • Canada’s climbing debt-to-income ratio: what you need to know
  • 7 smart strategies for first-time homebuyers
  • Guide to inflation: Price changes, the pandemic and your pocketbook
  • How to start an emergency fund

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