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.
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.
- I track my spending through the mint.com 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. :)
- BMO/CIBC/TD/PC Financial banking
- I have a number of bank accounts, 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.
- CIBC Investors Edge/BMO Investorline/Scotia iTrade
- As an investor with a number of trading accounts, I like the idea of keeping on top of my investments by having access to my discount brokerage at my fingertips. While this gives me a sense of security, I’ve yet to make a trade through an app.
I’m an avid follower of financial news, and good or bad, apps have allowed information to flow freely and close to real-time.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?