December 18, 2010
SmartyPig is an online savings account that helps you save up for specific goals and can give you a form of cash bonus once you meet them. The SmartyPig interest rate is competitive, the savings tools can be useful, and the bonus you get on gift cards from Macy’s, Travelocity, Amazon, and other retailers can help boost your savings.
Here’s a look at the basics of how SmartyPig works.
SmartyPig Account Opening
To get started with SmartyPig you open a savings account online, filling out information that you would to open any bank account. Just like money in a bank, your funds in SmartyPig are FDIC insured. They also earn interest; currently the rate is pretty competitive for online savings accounts. Once you have your SmartyPig account opened then you fund it with at least $25, via ACH from an existing bank account.
Right now there is no way to have joint ownership of a SmartyPig account, which would be nice for couples saving together. SmartyPig does have a “co-ownership” option but it would be nice to have joint ownership of the account.
SmartyPig Savings Goals
SmartyPig is set up so that you identify savings (or spending) goals, and set a time frame for achieving the goal. The system then automatically figures out how much money each month will need to go into the account in order for you to reach your goal within your stated time frame. You can choose how often you want money moved from your established bank account into your SmartyPig account.
If money gets tight for a while, SmartyPig does allow you to stop making automatic contributions. Then once your cash flow picks back up you can restart those contributions. You can also change your contribution amount whenever you’d like so scaling back your savings is an option.
One thing that would be nice is if you could setup ACH transactions from other sources so you could have part of your paycheck regularly deposited into your SmartyPig account.
When you reach your goal, you can take your money out of SmartyPig, and use it towards what you’ve been saving for. One thing to note, you cannot partially withdraw money from your account. If you decide you want some of the cash before reaching your goal, you have to take everything for that goal out.
Since this is an online account, it can take a while to get your money. Standard ACH times apply like any online savings account, so don’t put any money in the account that you would need to get out in a day’s notice.
SmartyPig Gift Cards
If you choose to receive your money in the form of a gift card from one of the retail partners, you get a cash back bonus on your card. The cash back percentage ranges from 2% all the way up to 11% depending on the gift card. So, if you achieve your savings goal of $1,000, and choose to put those savings onto a Macy’s Retailer Gift Card (which pays 11%) you can get a gift card with $1,120 on it.
SmartyPig Rewards Card
The SmartyPig rewards card is a pre-paid card that you can fund from your bank account or from your savings goal. It seems like funding it from your savings goal would actually be working against your goal. Even though you’re earning cash back, you’d be depleting your savings balance.
Of course, if you fund it from your bank account then it could be worthwhile. You earn cash back when you shop with the MasterCard debit card at certain stores. The amount of cash back depends on the store; it varies from 2% up to 10%. The money you earn can either go right back on your card or into your SmartyPig goal.
SmartyPig Friends & Family
SmartyPig lets you announce and update your savings goals to your friends and family through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Another cool feature is that you can send out emails with a link to a specific savings goal that other people can contribute to.
This could be perfect if you’re having a baby shower or wedding shower and were trying to save up for one big item, rather than asking for lots of smaller gifts. Another good use would be for kids or grandkids who are saving up for something big, like college or even just an Xbox. They could email those goals to aunts, uncles, and grandparents at birthdays or gift giving holidays.
Something else to note is that the system’s been around for a few years and has made a lot of improvements based on feedback from its network of users.
SmartyPig is a great tool to use if you have a specific savings goal in mind – it helps you take saving seriously.
The features like the higher interest rate, gift card bonus, and rewards card help give your savings a boost, so you have financial incentive to save. The ability to define your goals publicly and keep others up to date on your progress also gives you social motivation to save.
Opening an account and getting started is free, so if it sounds interesting and you think it could help you with your savings goals then give it a try.
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