Best New Financial Apps 2016, The List

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / butter451. Robinhood: On Target

Launched in December 2014, Robinhood is a zero-fee stock trading app that quickly gained popularity among financially ambitious millennials.

Robinhood was paid the enormous compliment of having “cracked the millennial code” by none other than Jay Sidhu, CEO of Customers Bank and founder of BankMobile.

Robinhood ranks above 4.5 in both iTunes and Google Play, and had 500,000 users lined up before its launch. To date, Robinhood has raised $66 million in total funding.

2. Level Money: Keeping Balance

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / podiusThe self-proclaimed “financial GPS” Level Money detects deposits and expenses in linked accounts, in order to give users financial control. Designed for budget-averse millennials (the truth is nearly everyone is budget-averse), Level Money automates the categorization of transactions.

The banks, ever in need for ways to retain and engage younger customers, took notice. Launched in 2012, Level Money was acquired by Capital One in January 2015, around when the app hit the 700,000 user mark.

3. Shift Card: Pay As You Like It

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / ti_to_titoShift Card, a product of Shift Payments, is a Visa debit card that allows users to easily spend any store of value. Common uses of the card involve funds held in bitcoins in a Coinbase account, or in services such as Dwolla. (Ben Milne, the CEO of Dwolla, is an enthusiastic user.)

The card is controlled by a sophisticated mobile app, which allows users to change funding sources, check balances, and shift between payment sources. This is where Shift is different than just about every other card, even those all-in-one black cards that were in vogue in years past.

The idea is to shift easily between the various places users hold value — iTunes accounts, loyalty points, and the like. Shift is also able to issue white-labelled cards for other companies to offer stored-value cards.

4. Circle Pay: Effortless Cool

 © Can Stock Photo Inc. / OG_visionCircle was born as a bitcoin wallet, but its slick user experience and smooth funding process soon moved it beyond. It’s now an international app, operating in pounds sterling, U.S. dollars, in addition to bitcoins. In April it scored a deal with Barclays, and has scored major wins with regulatory bodies in the U.S. (BitLicense # 000001 from N.Y. State) and was awarded an e-banking license from the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority.

Circle has graduated into a beautifully easy and cool way to pay. It includes some messaging functionality a la Venmo, and has powerful functionality as well. For example, it is likely the best and simplest way to exchange funds with British firends (or even frenemies.)

5. Acorns: Small Beginnings

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / sailorrAcorns wants millennials to start investing money, so it built a platform that will help make investment decisions based on two variables: how much you want to invest, and how much risk are you willing to undertake. Launched in 2012, the startup now has more thsn 1.3 million users.

Unusually, the investment platform has recently launched a media site called Grow that features millennials and financial experts — and some millennials who are themselves financial experts — discussing personal finance. In other words, Acrosn may be a service that has ambitions beyond wealth management. It will have the data and dreams of affluent or nearly-affluent young investors — pretty much what every company everywhere wants, in other words.

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