The picks below are part of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance’s annual Best Personal-Finance Websites, Apps and Software of 2016.
Free credit sites
At CreditKarma.com, sign up to see VantageScore scores and credit report information from credit agencies Equifax and TransUnion. Plus, get alerts of changes to your TransUnion report, such as a new credit card or loan account. To see your FICO score, create an account with Discover’s Free Credit Scorecard. The service is available to all, not just Discover card customers.
ID theft prevention
News that hackers stole user information from at least 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014 underscores the importance of using strong, diverse passwords and upA dating them regularly. Dashlane is a password manager that collects and stores passwords for websites you visit. The Password Changer feature allows you to automatically generate new passwords for eligible sites all at once (bank and e-mail accounts, however, weren’t on the list recently). With the Premium version ($39.99 annually), sync Dashlane across multiple devices and back up your account to the cloud.
Way to check out a charity
Charity NavA igator analyzes the financials of more than 8,000 charities and gives star ratings based on financial health (it recently updated its methodology) and on accountability and transparency. It’s easy to search for charities to support; the top-rated ones are listed by category, including charities that focus on recent natural disasters.
Online tax software
TurboTax makes the tax code understandable, which is no mean feat. It also allows you to import documents electronically from more than 1.4 million employers and financial instiA tutions. The biggest downside is cost. TurboTax Premier, which you must use to report investment income, starts at about $50 and rises throughout the filing season to nearly $80 (a state return costs $37 to $40). DIYers on a budget should consider H&R Block, which is also easy to navigate and doesn’t require an upgrade if you have investment income. Its Deluxe version starts at about $35 for early filers; a state return costs $37 to $40.
Personal finance games
Yes, it takes forever to finish, but Monopoly is about more than just real estate. Players need to make wise choices about saving and spending, assess their appetite for risk, and strategically negotiate with others. (Monopoly Junior is tailored to players ages 5 to 8.) Financial Football is an app (and online game) that’s adaptable to your age and skill level. Answering questions about banking, debt, ID theft and more determines how far you advance down the field.
Stacking Benjamins applies a light touch to a variety of personal finance topics, including quirky investments, money habits that waste your time, and how to endure a time-share sales pitch without falling for it.
College savings plan
Invest in a 529 plan directly from your state if it offers a tax incentive–which will typically win out over lower fees in an out-of-state program. If your state doesn’t offer a tax break–or if you live in Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana or Pennsylvania, which offer a tax break no matter where you invest–look for a plan that best suits your investing style. For example, for hands-on investors, we like the Utah Educational Savings Plan. For low fees, take a look at New York’s 529 College Savings Program. There’s no annual account fee and funds carry a slim, 0.16% expense ratio.
Student loan tool
IonTuition makes it easy to see all of the details of your student loans and evaluate repayment options. The site will also alert you if you miss a payment or your loan servicer changes. Its free chat feature connects you with loan counselors who can help you pick the best repayment strategy.