Six ways that clever tech can help you get on top of your finances
Young Aussies are setting a new gold standard in banking. If I could turn back time, I wish I had access to the same banking features that are now the norm.
But the good thing is that while banks have purpose-built apps for the younger generations, those of us who are young-at-heart should take advantage of them as well.
Here are six ways new technology in banking can help you stay on top of your finances.
1. Set up fee-free banking and multiple accounts
Millennials are challenging the idea of just having one or two bank accounts. Some have four.
This allows you to take advantage of some nifty features that may not be available in your main bank but are available in others.
This would have been impractical in the old days when account-keeping fees were the norm.
Today, as long as you follow simple rules such as depositing a minimum amount each month or keeping your account completely digital or mobile (that is, you're not asking your bank for a paper-based statement to be mailed to you), then you can have multiple fee-free accounts.
2. Set a savings goal and get extra interest payments
Most, if not all, banks now allow you to have multiple sub-accounts, so the bulk of your pay can go into an everyday transaction account while the rest is split up for other savings goals: an investment, a special occasion or future travel.
A notification feature tells you that if you reach a certain savings amount by a certain date (usually by the end of a fixed period), you are eligible for extra interest.
A little nudge like this can work wonders.
3. Link to a trading account
Commonwealth Bank, for example, offers its banking customers the CommSec Pocket account. You can invest in an exchange traded fund (ETF) for as little as $50.
When I was in my 20s, opening up a brokerage account would have cost a lot and the minimum trade is certainly nowhere near today's $50.
Investing always comes with the risk of losing all your money, but in my 20s I did not have the means, nor the understanding, to participate in the sharemarket.
These days you can open a broking account and limit your risk to small sums.
4. Enjoy the shopping rewards
Most banks offer their customers further discounts if they shop at certain retail stores or buy gift cards.
Reward schemes and cashbacks are not new, but they are still a useful source of instant saving.
5. Buy now, pay later
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) providers such as Afterpay and Zip are disrupting the market.
Our mantra here at Money is not to spend money you don't have, but the new thinking around interest-free credit or splitting payments can work in your favour if you're disciplined enough to make the repayments before any fees or penalties kick in.
It's only a matter of time before the major banks offer a similar feature. CommBank, for example, is launching StepPay while Westpac has launched SmartPlan to help its customers split their personal credit into manageable repayments.
6. Use budget trackers and built-in calculators
Again, this is something I didn't get from my bank when I was backpacking around Europe, but a budget tracker, which helps you monitor your spending and even nominate a limit, is built into everyday banking accounts these days, with an alert feature if you're about to go over your limit.
For example, the Suncorp app has a feature called a Dollar Tracker, which can sort out your Suncorp Bank account transactions automatically.
It can organise your spending into 14 categories, including groceries, utilities and entertainment. From this, the app can give you a report on your spending habits so you're more in control of where your money goes.
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