My Favorite Free Personal Finance Apps

I reader recently asked me a question that I’ve never considered writing about before – “FT, what apps do you use?” At first, it threw me off guard as it’s almost a personal question in a strange kind of way. But I can see how some may be curious on what apps a money-centric blogger would use on his/her phone.

In the list below, I have broken down the apps into categories, with various apps underneath. I typically only keep apps on my phone that I use regularly and delete the rest.  Also note that I use the Android operating system, but most should be available for iOS as well.  Oh, and you will also notice that all of the apps listed below are free..  what else do you expect from a frugal guy?

Here are my favourite apps installed on my phone as I write this.

Stock Trading Apps

Stock trading apps are perhaps the most important apps to use. Smooth experience and cheap fees go a long way when it comes to stock trading apps. I’ve created a separate article to reflect my thoughts on such apps simply called The Best Stock Trading Apps.

Banking and Budgeting

I have my apps organized in folders by category.  This category of banking and budgeting is perhaps the most used folder as I regularly track my spending.

  • CIBC Investors Edge/BMO Investorline/Scotia iTrade
    • I track my spending through the app because we tend to funnel most of our spending through a cash back credit card for the points/rewards (we always pay off the balance).  This is likely the most used app on my phone.  I do not have my online bank account connected to mint as it is against big bank terms of service, but I rarely use debit for a purchase anyways.
    • For one reason or another, I have a habit of checking foreign exchange rates (FX).  I’m interested in value of CAD relative to USD for a couple of reasons.  First, as an investor, I’m interested in the impact of FX on my portfolio as I hold a significant amount of US holdings. In this case, a strong USD is great. On the other hand, we’ve been on a few family vacations to the U.S, so as a budgeter, I like knowing how much things are going to cost me ahead of time.  While on vacation, a weak USD is preferred. :)
    • XE also offers its international money transfer service. Here is a review by MoneyTransferComparison.
    • This is a relatively new personal finance blog by a fellow Canadian. They have a bunch of useful little tools i use quite often, most notably this MER fee calculator which allows you to quickly play around with the numbers and see how much you can save in the long run with different setups.
  • BMO/CIBC/TD/PC Financial banking
    • I have a number of bank accounts, including PC Financial, and having access to them via an app has made life much more convenient.  The best recent advancement is the ability to take a photograph of a cheque to deposit rather than going to a physical ATM.
  • Wealthica
    • My go-to net worth tracking app.  It’s sort of like Mint – but for your investments!  It is fully compatible with most banks (see our EQ Bank Review for more details) and makes keeping track for your “big picture” simple and efficient.  For a more complete look, check out this thorough Wealthica Review by a fellow Canadian blogger.

Financial News

I’m an avid follower of financial news, and good or bad, apps have allowed information to flow freely and close to real-time.

  1. Twitter
    • This is by far my #1 source of news as it provides a steady stream of headlines.  I follow a number of financial bloggers (if you like, you can follow me here), financial personalities, and major news sites. I regularly share headlines and blog posts to my twitter followers.
  2. Globe Investor
    • The Globe and Mail is among my favourite media outlets for personal finance and investing content.  I particularly enjoy articles from Rob Carrick and John Heinzl.  One other thing is that they often publish articles in the app that are behind the paywall via regular browser.
  3. BNN Go
    • For one reason or another, I find video content a little more time consuming.  As a result, I typically reserve using this type of  media when I have time to kill.  As far as BNN goes, I enjoy Market Call and the various opinions regarding the economy on a local and global scale.

Rewards and Points Programs

As an avid points enthusiast, the real convenience of using a points program app is that it replaces the physical points card in your wallet/purse! I am a member of a number of programs, some of them include:

  1. PC Plus
    • As regular shoppers at Loblaws, the PC Plus points program has been great for us.  Every week the program sends us custom points “offers” on specific items in store.  We use the app to view the list of items to top up our points balance.  If you are also a fan of PC points, for a limited time, you can currently get a free 50k bonus ($50 worth of groceries) via this credit card deal (no annual fee).
  2. Air Miles
    • I can’t say that we are big Air Miles collectors, but we tend to shop at stores that offer Air Miles as a perk. Having the app available to collect points comes in handy.  If you are interested, here are my tips on how to maximize collecting Air Miles.
  3. Starbucks
    • I know what you are thinking, what is FT doing buying over priced coffee from Starbucks??  In this program, you load gift cards onto the app to pay for purchases in-store.  Using the app to pay for purchases earns “Stars” for benefit levels and other perks.  I’m not a regular Starbucks client, but I have received a number of gift cards which I use in the app to collect the points/stars.
  4. Shoppers Drug Mart
    • Even though we aren’t regulars at Shoppers Drug Mart, we tend to visit during their 20x points days and when we get special points offers through the app.  We also try to redeem when they have promotional redemption days.
  5. Cineplex
    • We are regulars at the movies, well at least we were before the kids.  However, with the kids getting older, we are starting to attend family movies.  The Scene points program is a great program that gives you free admission tickets once you reach a points threshold (1000 points for a regular movie).  You get 100 points per movie ticket purchased, in addition to earning points through partners such as Sportchek and Cara restaurants (Swiss Chalet, Montanas, Milestones, East Side Marios etc).  Also being a member gives you 10% off concession items.

Travel, Hobbies, and Other Apps

While finances are the main theme of the apps that I have installed, I also have other interests such as travel and photography.

  1. TripAdvisor
    • I use this app to read reviews of restaurants/places/events while travelling and consider it a must have, especially if you are travelling to a new area.
  2. Expedia
    • When booking a vacation, I tend to shop around and research the best deals available.  Over the last few years, I’ve found Expedia to be a great source for hotels.  I like the app because it stores your travel itinerary booked through Expedia.
  3. Google Photos
    • I picked up photography as a hobby after the kids were born.  In 2010, I received the Canon T2i as a gift and while I have since upgraded my set of lenses, I still use the camera body today.  I find Google Photos to be a useful app to automatically backup all those jpgs on your PC and phone.  The best part is that it offers unlimited space, the downside is that it doesn’t backup RAW files.
  4. Gas Buddy
    • Finally, this app provides a comparison of gas prices nearby your location.  While Costco around here (in NL) will always offer the best price on gas, I find this app particularly useful when travelling with a car rental.

I would consider myself a bit of a techie, but I’m far from an app expert.  Am I missing out on any must-have apps?

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FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.
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5 years ago

Hi All, I’m looking for suggestions for an app to track personal spending. I’m having a lot of trouble finding what I want (tried like 10 different apps) and there seem to be zero insightful/useful reviews out there.

My desired features are:
-I just want it primarily to track expenses. I don’t need it linked to my bank account or “monitoring” me, telling me how much I have left to spend. I don’t needs wallets and “virtual jars” of money. It’s just about expense tracking
-I’d ideally like one where I can have both my and my wife’s accounts linked. Ie we both input separate expenses into the same tally.
-I want to be able to export to Excel
-Ideally it’d be awesome if it had a receipt photo/scanner. But maybe this is asking too much.

Any suggestions?

5 years ago
Reply to  FT

I do funnel most things through a CC, but it’d be important to have the ability enter some things manually since we all still use cash a bit.

I’m also not really in love with the idea of linking apps to my bank accounts. Probably not super high risk, but just seems like a connection / bit of data sharing that doesn’t need to happen.

Dividend Earner
5 years ago

Great list. I also like Yahoo Finance. It finds a good set of articles on stocks.

One note on, if you bank with the same company as the credit cards you have, chances are your password is the same. It’s an important distinction to be aware of.

Fernando Margueirat
6 years ago

I would recommend Card Star (available for iOS, not sure about other platforms) for keeping all you loyalty programs’ cards in one place.

6 years ago

do you have a post that explains which trading accounts you use for which purpose?

how do you differentiate between CIBC Investors Edge/BMO Investorline/Scotia iTrade and which ones do you use for what?

Cool Koshur
6 years ago

What about comparison shopping apps like “Flipp”

Martin Leclair
6 years ago

Thank you for the list @FrugalTrader

We were so sad that there was no Canadian version of Personal Capital that we decided to build a similar tool for Canadians to track their investment and brokerage accounts. It’s called Wealthica. It’s similar to Mint but focussed on investments instead of spendings and operations accounts. We are already tracking about $200M worth of assets. We have a long way to go before getting to Personal Capital’s $245 billion but at least now Canadians have an option available to see and track all their investments in one place.

Full disclosure, I am one of the founders.

6 years ago

So is it ok to use mint to track credit cards usage now from their service agreement point of view? Had started using it few years back but stopped after a few weeks when got to know that most of the banks/credit cards did not allow it….did not check it since..


Robb Engen
6 years ago

The PayPal app is very good and handy! Also, ePost – for the companies that are still on it – is good for bill tracking and electronic filing.

6 years ago

In the US, a great easy way to track your accounts (bank, credit, brokerage, etc.) all together is Personal Capital. For my investing, until I start a little bit of individual trading, I am using Betterment, because it is very user friendly, flexible, and has very low fees.

6 years ago
Reply to  FT

Thanks for your comment, Martin. I’m a US citizen and permanent resident of Canada. I’ve used Personal Capital for some time to track our US retirement accounts, and now I’ll have a place to track our Canadian accounts. All our accounts are advisor-managed by one cross-border firm, but I really don’t care for their accounts view page (although the quarterly reports are excellent). I’ll be visiting Wealthica soon!

6 years ago

Check out Stocard — you can keep all of your rewards programs, library cards, etc. in one place without carrying them with you.

Works with PC Points card, too, so no need for the standalone app.

6 years ago
Reply to  Tim

I was about to suggest the same thing – Stocard is great, totally saved my wallet. Another useful one is AwardWallet – lets you track points for all your points programs in one app and sends you a summary of changes every week – like Aeroplan, Air Miles, some rebate sites, PC points, Scene, gas point programs, etc.