The Ascent's 2021 Financial App Awards Winners award banner The Ascent's 2021 Financial App Awards Winners

Updated June 13, 2022
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Bank apps ratings methodology

Ratings methodology

The Ascent’s bank apps ratings methodology is heavily influenced by real-life use, both from users and through in-house testing. Our ratings models are intended to cut through the noise and focus on a select few critical factors that we think are important for most people.

For banking apps, the important factors are:

  • Availability for both Apple and Android users
  • iOS and Google Play app store ratings
  • In-app customer support
  • Options for sending and receiving payments
  • Ability to manage routine banking needs in app
  • Overall ease of use
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Best Bank App

Bank of America

Bank of America's mobile app has all the bells and whistles you'd expect from any big bank. But it outshines others with its virtual assistant, Erica. Others will know this better as a chatbot that automates routine tasks. Beyond providing account holders with personalized advice, Erica can also proactively forecast spending trends and even help lock your credit card via its text-message like interface.

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Best Online Bank App

Discover Bank

It couldn't be simpler to manage your money on the go with Discover's banking app. From bill payments, mobile check deposit, and reward redemptions, the highly-rated app puts everyday banking at your fingertips. What pushed Discover to the top was its Zelle payment feature and free FICO® Score tracking.

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Best Bank App for Students

PNC Bank

PNC's banking app checks all the boxes you'd expect from a big bank. But where PNC's app shines is its built-in tools. You can see what's free to spend after bills and expenses, track paydays and payments in a calendar view, and set budgets. These are great tools for anyone, but we think they are critical for students and other savers getting an early start to managing their money with sound financial practices in mind.

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Capital One Credit Card Mobile App

Best Credit Card Mobile App

Capital One Credit Card Mobile App

Capital One scores highly for its solid app with a smooth user experience. As you'd expect, the app provides account notifications and lets you lock/unlock cards, track your credit score, and redeem rewards. It has great built-in security features. And the layout makes it easy to see upcoming bills from your home screen and access detailed transaction information.

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Best Credit Union Banking App

Alliant

Credit union banking features are notorious for falling flat when compared to most modern online and national banks. Alliant Credit Union bucks that trend. Not only does it offer an array of banking products and services that focus on high rates and low fees, but Alliant's app also receives consistently high marks from users. The ease of use is one reason, as is a robust feature set that allows users to handle all their routine banking tasks on the go.

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Home buying and real estate agent apps ratings methodology

Ratings methodology

The Ascent’s home buying and real estate agent apps ratings methodology is heavily influenced by real-life use, both from users and through in-house testing. Our ratings models are intended to cut through the noise and focus on a select few critical factors that we think are important for most people.

For home buying and real estate agent apps, the important factors are:

  • Availability for both Apple and Android users
  • iOS and Google Play app store ratings
  • Diversity of tools and calculators
  • Contact options for finding an agent

When it comes to tools and calculators, we paid special attention to features like home valuations, search filters, real-time notifications (for new listings), and virtual home tours.

Rocket Mortgage

Best Mortgage Lender App

Rocket Mortgage

It's no surprise that Rocket Mortgage, the trailblazer in online mortgage applications, sets a high standard for mortgage lender apps. Whether you're getting a rate quote, searching for a home, or making a payment on an existing home loan, the Rocket Mortgage app is streamlined and simple to use. We love that everything you need to know about mortgage basics is accessible from the app home page. Plus, Rocket Mortgage has a long-standing reputation for top customer service.

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Rocket Mortgage

Best Mortgage Lender App for Refinancing

Rocket Mortgage

The Rocket Mortgage app leads the pack with its streamlined interface and wide range of refinance options. All the information you need is there -- if you want rates or other information, you don't have to wait for a representative to call. You can refinance entirely through the app, and you can do it quickly. Plus, Rocket Mortgage has a wide range of refi products, including cash-out refinances, which can't be said for all lender apps.

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Zillow

Best Home Buying App

Zillow

The feature-rich Zillow app is a one-stop property shop. You can browse homes for sale or rent, see how much homes are worth, and find a real estate agent or mortgage lender. Zillow simplifies homebuying process, which can be overwhelming at times. We love this app. It's easy to navigate and fun to see what your money will buy in another city. You can use mortgage calculators to estimate your payment or purchase price. Plus, you can share listings with others and tag the people you're home shopping with.

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Zillow

Best App for First-Time Homebuyers

Zillow

Popular real estate app, Zillow, has everything first-time home buyers may need. Its interface is both easy to navigate and packed with useful information and tools. One standout feature is its massive database of over 100 million homes. You can see a home's pricing history and estimated value. You're also more likely to be able to get a 3D home tour with Zillow. If you haven't bought a property before, Zillow can make the process -- from the initial search to finding a mortgage lender and an agent -- a lot simpler.

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Realtor.com

Best App to Find a Real Estate Agent

Realtor.com

Realtor.com is unbeatable if you're looking for a real estate agent. Built with input from the National Association of Realtors, it mines data from public listing services so you can be confident of accurate agent and listings information. Plus, its section devoted to finding licensed Realtors has all the categories you can imagine. You can search by zip code, agent name, and specify what credentials you want them to have. This is why it stands out if you're looking for an agent.

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Budgeting apps ratings methodology

Ratings methodology

The Ascent’s budgeting apps ratings methodology is heavily influenced by real-life use, both from users and through in-house testing. Our ratings models are intended to cut through the noise and focus on a select few critical factors that we think are important for most people.

For budgeting apps, the important factors are:

  • Availability for both Apple and Android users
  • iOS and Google Play app store ratings
  • Design and simplicity of use
  • Quality of tools to sync financial accounts

While these are the most heavily weighted factors, we also take into account the fees charged with certain paid apps to ensure there’s an appropriate balance of value and cost for users.

You Need a Budget

Best Budgeting App

You Need a Budget

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is known for its zero-based budgeting approach. This approach requires you to assign a job to every dollar of your income, such as paying down credit card debt, increasing your emergency fund, and paying your bills. This system makes you think about how you use your money, leading to better spending habits, more savings, and fewer wasteful purchases. There is a subscription fee for YNAB, but new budgeters can reportedly save more than $6,000 in the first year.

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Personal Capital

Best Budgeting App for Investors

Personal Capital

Personal Capital's budgeting, net worth tracking, and investment tools are among the best we've come across. Few apps have been able to strike the necessary balance between a rich feature set and ease of use -- even in a category packed with budgeting app heavyweights. Personal Capital shines specifically for investors as it has the ability to sync all your investment accounts in a manner that synthesizes all that disparate information into tangible insights.

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GoodBudget

Best Budgeting App for Simplicity

GoodBudget

Goodbudget is perfect for the security-conscious or budget-hesitant, particularly with its ease of use and quality design. You’re never required to share your bank information, and you’re not required to track every transaction. Users can start by logging any transactions of their choosing, from grocery spending to vacation savings (and yes, budgets can be shared within a family). The app is perfect for growing into budgeting over time, too: Unlimited spending categories and detailed spending charts are just two of the many features that can help users ease into tracking every penny with confidence.

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Zeta

Best Budgeting App for Couples

Zeta

Zeta is a free budgeting app built with couples in mind. You can sync accounts and transactions manually or automatically, make a budget, set goals, and track your progress together. Not ready to share everything with your significant other? Zeta lets you choose what accounts to keep private. Finances can often be a source of friction in relationships, and Zeta can help smooth the way. As one awards committee member said, "Think of it as more than a just budgeting app, but a peacekeeping tool."

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Mint

Best Budgeting App for Students

Mint

Mint simplifies budgeting by allowing users to link their financial accounts. For busy students who don't have much time to check their banking and credit card accounts, Mint is the perfect solution. You can track all your spending in the app, get alerts if you're going over your budget, and get personalized financial insights to help you save more. The Mint app is also great for students who need a hand to stay on top of their bills. It offers payment reminders and alerts you if a bill goes up.

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Cash back apps ratings methodology

Ratings methodology

The Ascent’s cash back apps ratings methodology is heavily influenced by real-life use, both from users and through in-house testing. Our ratings models are intended to cut through the noise and focus on a select few critical factors that we think are important for most people.

For cash back apps, the important factors are:

  • Availability for both Apple and Android users
  • iOS and Google Play app store ratings
  • Simplicity of earning cash back
  • Rewards rates

The truth is most cash back apps don’t provide much value for the time involved. Which is why our cash back app models and voting methodologies have an elevated focus on ensuring cash back is lucrative for the time involved.

Fetch Rewards

Best Cash Back App

Fetch Rewards

A huge range of partner stores and the fact that you don't have to plan your rewards in advance made Fetch Rewards stand out. Unlike some cash back apps where you need to activate the offer before you shop, Fetch Rewards users simply have to upload their receipts within 14 days. Fetch works with grocery stores, pet stores, liquor stores, drug stores, and more. With special offers, bonus points for certain brands, and referral rewards, this free app is an easy way to earn points you can then redeem for gift cards.

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Rakuten

Best Cash Back App for Online Shoppers

Rakuten

Rakuten is a popular and well-established cash back app that supports both online and in-store shopping. Activate deals before you shop to get up to 10% or more back on everyday purchases. When it comes to online shopping, its browser extension -- aka the Rakuten button -- edges out the competition. Once it's installed, if you visit one of the 2,500 plus partner stores online, the latest deal will pop up in the corner of your screen. Hit "Activate" and you're good to go.

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Fetch Rewards

Best Cash Back App for Groceries

Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards tops the grocery apps list because of the breadth of shops it works with. It boasts you can scan receipts from any grocery store, whether it's Walmart, Costco, Target, or a local convenience store. This free shopping app stands out because you don't have to plan your shopping in advance: You'll earn points for your normal spending plus bonuses for certain brands. And if you shop online, you can connect the eReceipt feature to earn rewards that way too.

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Checkout 51

Best Cash Back App for Gas

Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is one of the few cash back apps that lets you earn rewards at the pump. With 5,000 gas station partners, you can claim up to two gas offers per day of up to 50 gallons each. It's relatively simple to use and also pays cash back on grocery shopping. You don't need to activate anything before you shop, just use the app to tick off items you've bought, upload a picture of your receipt and claim your rewards.

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Payments apps ratings methodology

Ratings methodology

The Ascent’s payments apps ratings methodology is heavily influenced by real-life use, both from users and through in-house testing. Our ratings models are intended to cut through the noise and focus on a select few critical factors that we think are important for most people.

For payments apps, the important factors are:

  • Availability for both Apple and Android users
  • iOS and Google Play app store ratings
  • Ease of connecting bank accounts
  • Fees
  • Speed of sending and receiving payments
Venmo

Best Payments App

Venmo

Venmo is fast, convenient, and easy to use, a combination that puts it ahead of every other payment app. You can send money from your debit card, credit card, or bank account through Venmo. Payments process immediately, and it's free to send and receive money. There's a fee for credit card payments, but you can avoid that by using a debit card or bank account. This app's design is a big plus, as you can quickly pull up other users and send or request money. And since Venmo is so popular, many of your friends and family are probably already using it. You won't need to invite them before exchanging payments.

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Venmo

Best Payments App for Splitting Purchases

Venmo

Venmo makes it simple to split payments, especially if your friends and family also have the app. There's a good chance they do since it's one of the most popular payment apps. When the bill comes, Venmo will help you calculate who owes what and request the right amount from each person. They can pay you with the click of a button.

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Venmo

Best Payments App for Low Fees

Venmo

Venmo has hardly any fees, and it's easy to find free ways to send and receive money. Sending money from a debit card, bank account, or Venmo balance is free. If you use your credit card, there's a fee, which is standard among payment apps. It's also free to receive money and transfer it to your bank account, as long as you go with a standard transfer that takes one to three business days. Instant transfers have a fee that gets capped.

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Venmo

Best Payments App for Android Users

Venmo

For Android users who want to send or receive money from friends and family, Venmo is by far the best option. The app's intuitive design allows you to jump right in and start using it within minutes. When you send a payment, the recipient gets the money in their Venmo account right away. And you can pay with any of the most popular payment methods: Debit card, credit card, or bank account. Best of all, Venmo hardly charges any fees, so it's easy to transfer money free of charge.

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Venmo

Best Payments App for Apple Users

Venmo

Venmo is easily the most user-friendly payment app for iPhone users. It takes only a few clicks to send and receive money, and the transaction will be complete in seconds. You can add credit cards, debit cards, and other common payment methods to your account. And you can use Venmo for in-store, in-app, and online payments. With over 65 million users, its popularity makes it an even more convenient way to send money. To top it off, this app charges some of the lowest fees around.

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Xoom

Best Payments App for International Payments

Xoom

Most payment apps either don't offer international payments or make the process difficult. Xoom is the exception. Through Xoom, you can send money to a bank account, a pickup location, or even the recipient's door in 160 countries. Xoom charges transfer fees and also makes money on the currency conversion. But its costs are reasonable for international money transfers and fees are provided upfront. When you send money, you get updates every step of the way until it's received by the recipient.

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Financial literacy apps ratings methodology

Ratings methodology

The Ascent’s financial literacy apps ratings methodology is heavily influenced by real-life use, both from users and through in-house testing. Our ratings models are intended to cut through the noise and focus on a select few critical factors that we think are important for most people.

For financial literacy apps, the important factors are:

  • Availability for both Apple and Android users
  • iOS and Google Play app store ratings
  • Design
  • Quality of educational materials

Generally speaking, we shied away from financial literacy apps that weren’t free. We think the barrier to entry should be low in this category.

World of Money

Best Financial Literacy App

World of Money

This app makes financial literacy accessible to pretty much anyone. The app does a fantastic job of breaking content down by age group. Its combination of videos and flashcards makes the content easy to absorb and navigate. We love that the lessons are taught by graduates from the learner's age group, so you get to learn from your peers. Plus, the World of Money connection to the non-profit of the same name means you also get to be part of a larger mission to promote financial literacy.

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Investmate

Best Financial Literacy App for Students

Investmate

Investmate partners with learners by using jargon-free lessons to simplify often complicated topics. All the content was designed by finance experts using real-world examples. Modules are broken down by category, so it's easy to learn at your own pace. Helpful built-in quizzes reinforce important concepts. Plus, you can play around with virtual money to simulate investing scenarios. It's a solid app with many potential learning opportunities.

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Debt management apps ratings methodology

Ratings methodology

The Ascent’s debt management apps ratings methodology is heavily influenced by real-life use, both from users and through in-house testing. Our ratings models are intended to cut through the noise and focus on a select few critical factors that we think are important for most people.

For debt payoff apps, the important factors are:

  • Availability for both Apple and Android users
  • iOS and Google Play app store ratings
  • Design
  • Tools that simplify debt payoff with spending tracking and valuable insights

Debt management apps that charge a fee were also given an extra level of scrutiny. We want to ensure that users who are already struggling to cover expenses are justified in paying a fee to use the app.

Debt Payoff Planner

Best Debt Management App

Debt Payoff Planner

A debt management app needs to be simple to use and present you with a clear roadmap to pay down debt. The Debt Payoff Planner does this in spades. Once you've inputted your loans and monthly payment, you can weigh up which strategy is right for you. Compare the debt snowball with the debt avalanche method and see which one will help you become debt free fastest. With educational resources and payment calculators, this app will help you make a plan and stick to it.

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*A complete list of 2021 award winners, from financial brokers to cryptocurrency exchanges and apps, can be found here.

**You can also find more banking apps to compare by checking out The Ascent's best banking apps page.

The Ascent's 2021 Financial App Awards Winners award banner