An app that helps manage your finances could be useful, but is your data secure?
These days, it seems like the next security breach is always lurking just around the corner. Whether it’s the latest Facebook password kerfuffle or a company’s credit card database being breached, news stories of innocent people’s data being exposed abound. That’s why it’s best practice to guard your personal — and especially, financial — information very carefully. But what if you’re one of the millions of people out there who could use a little help sticking to a budget?
Budgeting apps provide the convenience of all your financial data in one place, so you can easily monitor your spending. But in this climate of data insecurity, you may be wondering if it’s safe to hand over all of your financial data to an app.
It’s a good question, and one that has to be considered before setting up any budget tracking software. The good news is that it’s not as dangerous as you might think, provided you use a reputable budget tracker. We give a few suggestions below. But first, let’s look at what kind of info you’re sharing with the app and where that info lives.
In a nutshell, you’re sharing details of your credit card accounts and bank accounts. Some apps also work with other sources of income, such as stocks and investment funds. These apps will then sync with your online banking and other accounts periodically, to keep your budget up-to-date in the app. However, the apps just have “read-only” access, meaning they can see your financial activity — but can’t make any changes (like transferring money without your consent). Once they have your information, budgeting apps typically store that data on their own company servers. This is a security measure, for if someone were to steal your phone and open the budgeting app, they would not have access to your full information. The app will show your budget (things like purchases, bills, etc.) but not any of your bank login data. So if someone were to hack into your app, they still wouldn’t be able to hack into your actual bank account.
Still, you want to be smart when dealing with any money matters, so here are some best-practices for using these handy apps:
In general, if a criminal did manage to spend any of your money using your credit card, your credit card company should cover you. For the most part, credit cards offer zero-liability protection, meaning if your card is compromised and you report it in a timely manner, you will not be responsible for any unauthorized charges made on it. The Fair Credit Billing Act in the US limits consumer liability to $50 for false credit card charges, and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act protects transfers similarly. When it comes to stolen debit cards, the liability and process depend on each individual bank.
Remember, any app you use must have a solid privacy statement. Beyond that, finding the best app is going to depend on your personal needs. Are you solo, or part of a couple or family? Are you sharing costs with a roommate? Do you want financial advice inherent in the app, or do you just want a simple budget tracker? Here’s a list of five of the most popular apps in each country. Check them out and find the one that’s best for you.
Like any app, budget trackers are not 100% risk-free. But as long as you’re practicing smart digital habits on both your mobile phone and your computer (whether PC or Mac), budgeting apps can be a nice way to track your spending, pay off debt, or just save for a rainy day.
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