Looking to get a better grip on your personal finances? Want to know how much cash you can afford to spend today, this week or this month? Level Money for iOS could be for you - if you're OK with providing some sensitive login credentials.
In an effort to economize, I recently started putting a specific amount of money in my wallet every Monday. When that cash is gone, I know I can’t—make that shouldn’t—spend any more.
The developers of Level Money, a new, free iOS app, are going for a similar effect. After you input your credit card and bank account website logins, the app crunches the numbers. Then it tells you, in an elegant Steve Jobsian way, how much “spendable” money you have left.
If the sentence “after you input your credit card and bank account website logins” stopped you cold, Level Money, Inc. says it uses the “same 128-bit encryption as banks and other financial institutions.”
In the app’s FAQ, Level Money explains that “through a partnership with Intuit, we briefly use your bank login credentials to retrieve your transaction data and account information. We do not store your credentials and your information remains safe and secure while allowing the app to detect trends in cash flow and understand spending needs.”
Personally, I’m fine with that, but I can see how some people would still be apprehensive. If you don’t feel comfortable, this app isn’t for you.
Level Money takes 10-15 minutes to set up, depending on how many accounts you link. The app then detects your income and figures out how much you need to spend each month on recurring bills. It presents you with a list of those recurring charges, which you can correct or delete.
Next, the app totals your monthly income and bills and asks how much you’d like to save. It recommends between 5 and 10 percent of your income. Using plus and minus signs, you can calculate the percentage of your spendable income to save.
Finally, Level Money presents you with three circles: how much you can spend today; this week; and this month. How accurate those figures are will depend on how thoroughly you link your spending accounts. In my case, Level Money’s spendable money amounts were higher than my personal amounts.
The app worked smoothly for me, most of the time. After adding bank accounts, I went back later and tried to add another account (from the same financial institution). I entered my login credentials, but Level Money wouldn’t connect me. Closing the app and relaunching it did the trick.
Once I added another account, though, I had to go back through most of the same initial setup.
Level Money is currently only available for iOS, but the company says it’s working on an Android app.
It’s a valuable app, and it could become more useful with future upgrades. Level Money will help give you at least some glimpse of your spendable cash, which makes it worth a try—if you’re comfortable with its security claims.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.