BY TERRY SAVAGE
The world of financial apps and platforms has grown more creative and clever as a generation that lives without paper gravitates toward digital financial control. Not all will thrive over the long run, but here are a few that are “gaining traction,” as they say in the fin-tech world. And you don’t have to be a millennial to find them useful and easy to use.
–FeeBelly. Here’s an app designed to save you costly fees that lurk in the fine print of many financial transactions. Better to find out before you open a credit card, take on a mortgage loan or make an important financial commitment. Now you can know the additional costs of out-of-network ATM usage!
FeeBelly lets users scan or import a financial document into the app, and it will search for a list of keywords typically found in that type of agreement. Statements related to those keywords are highlighted quickly, allowing the user to identify the hidden and costly details. Then the user is can renegotiate, eliminating onerous conditions, before signing the agreement.
The app maintains the highest security levels — important if you are entering specific financial deals. And it can easily handle even large documents. FeeBelly can be downloaded free at the Apple App Store in its most basic format. Upgrades are available for $8.99 a month, offering a wider range of documents. If it saves you even one late fee, or overdraft charge, or keeps you from making a mortgage mistake that lasts the life of your loan, this app will be worth even the upgrade cost.
–PeerStreet. This platform allows individual investors to take the risk of making short-term, high-yield real estate bridge loans. (It’s up to you to decide whether you’re willing to take that risk.) But if you want to get returns of 8 percent or more, with an investment of as little as $1,000 by buying into a “bridge loan” then this is the site for you — if you’re a sophisticated, accredited investor with assets of $1 million or more, not including your residence.
The site offers the opportunity to invest in a variety of short-term loans made to property owners across the country. The average loan size is $400,000 — so you’re not taking on the entire risk of a one-property loan. Instead, you can diversify your risk by taking a small portion of many loans. The average maturity of the loans is 10 months. And they are carefully vetted before being posted on the site.
PeerStreet says it is making real estate lending transparent, allowing its members to view all the properties, all the details of the loan, including photos of the property, and how many other investors have chosen to invest alongside them, as well as what percentage of the loan is still available to investors.
PeerStreet has been funded by well-known venture capitalists, and it has been accepted on the platforms of Wealthfront, Betterment and Personal Capital. That’s a pretty strong endorsement of its process. But you don’t earn 8 percent without taking on some risk – even though in the current economy PeerStreet has had zero losses on its loan portfolio.
–Venmo and Zelle. If you’re not familiar with these two apps, you’re likely over 50 and maybe still write personal checks! These apps allow you to transfer funds directly from your own checking account into another person’s account, even at another bank.
Venmo has been around for a while and is so integrated into the millennial way of thinking that it has become a verb, in the sense that Xerox (remember that?) came to represent the verb “copy.” You “Venmo” money to a friend.
A consortium of 30 banks, led by JPMorgan Chase, decided this peer-to-peer money transfer business was too big to let it get away to a private company. So they created Zelle, which has one advantage: Zelle makes the transferred money available the same day in your bank account, while Venmo makes you wait a day. Either way, checking has become obsolete and cash is following fast for the tech generations.
Technology moves money these days — and it’s a fast-growing field, worth checking out if it makes or saves you money. And that’s The Savage Truth.