Qapital review: customizable automated savings

Up last on the savings app reviews docket is Qapital, which is the app I’ve been using for the least amount of time, but the one with which I’ve saved the most money so far. Along with debt payment, Qapital is a large part of the reason I sometimes feel like I’m living paycheck to paycheck—which is so much better when that feeling is from enforced savings! This app is aggressive about saving if you want it to be, and I was pretty surprised by the effortless $150 I saved in the first month of using it.

Disclaimer that I’m using my referral code when I link to Qapital in this post. If you sign up through that referral, we both get $5.

Set-up

When you set up Qapital, you start with a savings goal, which you can name and customize with your own photo so it’s pretty and encourages you to save (or is that just me?). It’s the usual drill: you link the app to your checking account as a funding source. You decide which savings rules you want active (more on that below), and then Qapital does the rest for you. Like Acorns, you can choose to track purchases on as many other accounts (savings/credit cards) as you want. Also like Acorns, my transfers to my other savings apps get rounded up, which is super fun!

Also fun is that Qapital will celebrate your savings milestones (you get a celebratory screen that pops up when you reach 10%, 25%, 50%, and so on). You can also keep track of how close you are with a progress bar (but no percentage) when you view each goal. When you complete a goal, you can easily transfer that money to your checking account, and Qapital will automatically create a new goal for you to customize and start working towards.

Savings milestone screenshot
One of my most recent savings milestones

Note that this is only available as an app for smartphones—you can’t manage your account online.

Customization

Qapital is incredibly customizable. You can decide to set up only one savings goal, or have multiple you’re saving for at the same time. There are also many ways to save money with the app. Like Acorns, you can round up your purchases (I’ve actually got Qapital set to the nearest $2 instead of the nearest $1, so a purchase for $4.22 gets rounded up $1.78 to $6 instead of $5). I’ve also got the 52 week challenge option turned on, and even that is customizable if you don’t want to start at week one. You can randomly start at whichever week you want (say, week 18), or you can also choose to do it backwards and start with the $52 and work down from there.

Other savings options include the freelance rule, which will save 30% of your paycheck for you for taxes (although for something like that I’d suggest doing it yourself and keeping that money in an account that will actually earn interest), and the guilty pleasure rule where you can have Qapital automatically save if you make a purchase somewhere you’re trying to avoid. You can also set a budget (for say, groceries), and if you come in under budget at the end of the month, Qapital will save that difference for you. In case none of that was enough, you can also set recurring transfers.

Savings goals screenshot
Two of my already-completed savings goals

If you have multiple savings rules and multiple savings goals, you can further customize things by deciding where your savings go. For each savings rule you have, you can decide which savings goal(s) apply for that one. For example, I’ve got the round-ups turned on for only two of my goals because otherwise the amount transferred to each goal is miniscule. But I’ve got the 52 week challenge rule going to all four of my current savings goals because I started that rule in January and the weekly amounts are now large enough that they can be split across more accounts and still make a difference.

Integration with IFTTT

Remember when I mentioned that I’ve got my Fitbit hooked up to an app that automatically saves money for me when I hit my daily steps and distance goals? That’s Qapital and happens through an app called If This, Then That (IFTTT), which essentially links various apps to each other. I’m sure IFTTT has wide-ranging uses for smartphones in general, but I just use it with Qapital. Whenever I hit my steps goal on the Fitbit app, IFTTT has Qapital save $3 for me for one of my goals, and another $3 for a different goal when I get my distance goal for the day.

You can use IFTTT and Qapital to make what seems like any combination of actions that trigger Qapital to save money for you. You can literally save for/on a rainy day by linking the weather app, and then any day it rains, voila (same for if you want to save on a sunny day). Save whenever the International Space Station flies overhead. Connect to the stocks app and save when your stock(s) are down by a percentage of your choosing (I’ve got this set for whenever VTSMX falls half a percentage or more. The Qapital notification that this was triggered is the most I ever pay attention to its price). Save whenever you post to Instagram. The list goes on.

Downsides

Qapital will pause withdrawals and your savings rules if the balance in your checking is below $100 (or the withdrawal would cause your balance to fall below $100). In a way that’s good for avoiding overdraft fees, but I wish you could adjust this. Before I got Qapital I usually didn’t keep as much in my checking account as I do now, and it would be nice to change that number to $50. Occasionally it’s paused my withdrawals because I was at something like $96, which is a bit frustrating, especially because it takes at least a day to re-verify the balance, even if I do an immediate transfer over from one of my savings accounts and my checking balance is back over $100 instantly.

(Side note: transferring from your savings to your checking account is the opposite of the way things should go. The ease with which I can do this is a large part of the reason why I’m moving away from keeping the bulk of my savings in the accounts I have at the same bank as my checking account. I’m keeping that money in a relatively new account at a different bank (which pays a better interest rate anyway), which means I can’t get at my savings immediately. At this point my previously main savings accounts are for a) the accumulation of the part of my paychecks that go towards my rent payment plus a month or two of buffer and b) a small amount that I’ll use as a cash flow buffer or send over to other places like my new savings account/Vanguard/a credit card if it accumulates to more than a few hundred dollars. Also I’m okay with transferring $20 over to my checking occasionally so Qapital is happy because it’s still technically for savings. Okay, stepping off my soapbox now.)

The withdrawal schedule is also somewhat haphazard: sometimes Qapital will withdraw from my checking 4 times during the work week, but sometimes only 3. Because I have the 52 week challenge rule on and that amount hits on Sunday (plus my savings accumulated Friday-Sunday), I’ve learned to expect an especially large withdrawal at the beginning of the week (which is sometimes Monday, sometimes Tuesday), lately to the tune of about $65. For the rest of the week, it’s normally more like $15. I’ve learned to work around this, but Qapital certainly doesn’t operate in the background as invisibly as other apps.

This is not a surprise, but Qapital is free to use because they (dare I say it?) capitalize on the interest your savings are earning in their accounts. This is a good news/bad news kind of thing because my balance is similar to that of my Acorns account, but that’s at least in theory making money in the market for now. I’ve got two goals I’m working on right now that are $1,000 or more, and I don’t think I’ll do that again after I’m done with these. Maybe don’t use Qapital for huge goals like…a down payment (okay, I don’t actually think anyone would be doing that), and stick to smaller things in the few hundreds like annual insurance payments or trips or car registration.

(On the other hand, interest rates are pretty nonexistent which means there’s not a huge missed opportunity cost there with a few hundred dollars so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

(Another side note: Qapital is rolling out a new feature where they’ll send you a debit card linked to a “spending” (checking) account. If you take advantage of this, your accounts will start earning interest. I have not signed up for this feature, mostly because I feel like it would unnecessarily complicate my finances, especially since I hardly ever use my existing debit card anyway and certainly don’t need two.)

Lastly, while the app is very visually appealing (in part thanks to your ability to choose the photos for your savings goals), it’s a tad hard to see things just because there’s a lot going on. In order to see the first goal I ever set up, which I haven’t reached yet, I have to scroll down through a couple of already-completed goals. It’s definitely nice to see how many goals I’ve completed, but I can see this getting overwhelming if you’re using the app for a bunch of smaller goals.

Versus other apps

Okay, that was seemingly a hefty list of dislikes, but to be fair one of those paragraphs was a lecture on savings accounts, and another was about how this app is free to use because they don’t pay you interest, which is not at all unique to Qapital. Lest you be offset by the volume of words in that section, let me be clear that I can absolutely look past all of those things. I love using Qapital and it’s proven a very effective way to squeeze more savings out of my money automatically.

With regards to how it stacks up to the others: I spoke above about how Qapital and Acorns are similar with round-ups on transactions and how you can connect various accounts for tracking purposes. Obviously that’s where the similarities end since one is an investment account and one is a savings account.

Like Qapital, you can set up a specific goal (although only one at a time) with Tip Yourself, but Tip Yourself seems to reach savings goals much faster. That is, however, the nature of having one goal at a time versus multiple. Even if my daily roundups on Qapital total over $5, they get broken out among my various goals. Saving $5 a day for a single goal on Tip Yourself does indeed seem to go faster, but I also have to remember to go into the app each day to do that.

Like Digit, Qapital is an automated savings app, but it’s way more predictable since it’s constantly saving for me. Also, full disclosure, I just closed my Digit account on Wednesday because they were about to start charging me but the app hadn’t saved anything for me since August 16. That’s probably more a commentary on the spending patterns in my checking account (too many frequent withdrawals from my savings apps?). But I’ve been frustrated by long periods of Digit not saving since I opened my account in 2015, so I’m also blaming them for not having learned how my money works by this point. I prefer my automatic savings apps to actually save automatically for me, thanks!

Are you going to end this essay anytime soon?

When it comes down to it, Qapital is by far the most aggressive of the apps I use, and I definitely notice the effect on my checking account. However, I’ve set it up that way and could easily dial down the volume if I wanted: I could disable my IFTTT goals or change them to $1 instead of $3. I could turn off the 52 week challenge. But I don’t want to because it’s a pretty great boost to see real, substantial progress towards my savings goals each week.

My past strategy with savings has been to keep all of my money in one big bucket, but I have to say I’m enjoying seeing it broken out into different goals for the moment. When I reach those goals, I’ll transfer the money back into my savings accounts, but it’ll be nice to know that, for example, a particular $1,000 is for my car insurance deductible, etc.

I was a little skeptical of the app before I got it in January, thinking that I didn’t really need yet another one, but I was wrong. I really love both the ability to save for multiple goals at once and the fact that savings is automated. The fact that I’ve completed some goals already and withdrawn that money from my Qapital account but still have a current balance of about $1,200 is a testament to how effective this app is!

That’s it for the savings apps I use (unless anyone uses something else they think I should look into!). You can find my past reviews here, or individually: Digit, Tip Yourself, Acorns. If you want to sign up for a Qapital account of your own, you can do so here.

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