The Simple Dollar Awards of 2020

The Simple Dollar has been recommending personal finance solutions since Trent Hamm founded the site in 2006. But this year, we’re launching annual awards for the best of the best apps, services and resources. After months of research, here are our top picks for the most affordable, trustworthy and innovative options in 2020.

Best Apps

Best Banking Mobile App – N26

N26’s gorgeous, minimalist app does for mobile banking what Robinhood did for mobile investing — made it fun. The real-time notifications are great, but where N26’s app really shines is the Spaces feature, which lets you create custom sub-accounts for multiple savings goals. Need to save up for a new couch? Create a “new couch” space and instantly transfer funds.


Best Money Transfer App – TransferWise

If you have friends, family, co-workers or clients living abroad, TransferWise is the best way to send them money (or receive it), period. And now that TransferWise accounts come with a free debit card, you can load your account up with cash before you travel, instantly convert it to another currency at a low rate, and use the card as seamlessly as if you had a bank account in the country you’re traveling to.


Best Investing App – Robinhood

Robinhood’s not the only zero-commission trading platform around anymore, but it’s still the most accessible, practical, and fun. Plus, the research and market data available for $5 a month with Robinhood Gold is far more cost-effective than other subscriptions like Morningstar.


Best Budgeting App – Clarity Money

Most budgeting apps offer similar features, but Clarity Money stands out from the crowd thanks to its gorgeous design and AI-powered insights — including the ability to track and manage all of your subscriptions to services like Netflix and Spotify.


Best Personal Finance App for Families – Wallit

Wallit brings the best features of a budgeting app to your entire family, including parental oversight. It makes financial planning with spouses and children easier than ever, and even offers spending and saving rewards.


 

Best Services

Best Financial Advisors – Commonwealth

Commonwealth Financial has ranked number one in JD Power’s annual customer satisfaction survey for a stunning six years in a row — and last year, it wasn’t even close. Commonwealth is registered in all 50 states, and is often named one of the best places to work at its headquarters in Boston and San Diego.


Best Cell Phone Plan – Republic Wireless

Thanks to the ubiquity of Wi-Fi, there’s no need to pay $100 for a cell phone plan anymore. Republic Wireless’s plans start as low as $15 for unlimited talk and text, and $5 per gigabyte of 4G LTE data, so you’ll never pay for data you don’t use. Plus, Republic promises to “never sell, rent, or lease your personal data to third party.”


Best Meal Subscription – EveryPlate

EveryPlate’s affordable meal kits are only $4.99 per serving, with nine healthy options to choose from every week and a flat shipping rate. That’s more cost-effective than Blue Apron, HelloFresh or Sun Basket, and far less expensive than going out to eat. Recipes are deliberately kept simple, so you don’t spend more than 30 minutes cooking or prepping food, and since it’s delivered right to your door, there’s no need for last-minute grocery runs.


Best Movie Streaming Service – Disney+

Other streaming services like Netflix might have more content, but you can’t beat the quality of Disney’s entire backlog — including Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic — for just $6.99 per month. The first season of The Mandalorian is worth that much alone, not to mention dozens of new shows and movies every month.


Best Live TV Streaming Service – Sling

At just $30 per month, Sling’s two basic plans for cord-cutters are the best values you’ll find for live TV, with more than 30 channels each. Many of the most popular networks are available, from ESPN and the NFL Network to CNN, TBS and Lifetime. If you can’t choose between the basic orange and blue plans, you can get all of Sling’s channels for $45 a month (still cheaper than YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV).


 

Best Resources

Best Personal Finance Conferences

For Journalists and News-Lovers – FinCon

At FinCon, the conference “where money and media meet,” personal finance thought leaders come together to share their expertise on banking, investing and more. Can’t make it in person? Try the virtual pass.


For Financial Planners – FPA NorCal

The FPA NorCal Conference is an annual educational and networking event for financial planners and advisors. Don’t let the regional name fool you — it’s planned by Bay Area CFPs, but attended by financial planners from all over the country. Session topics range from investing to disaster preparedness, led by CEOs, economists and other experts.


For Educators – Annual Conference on Financial Education

Presented by the nonprofit Institute for Financial Literacy, the Annual Conference on Financial Education (ACFE) is an internationally attended conference covering the latest financial education strategies and techniques, from K-12 to college and professional development courses for working adults.


Best Personal Finance Podcasts

The Money Millhouse

Ellie Kay and Bethany Bayless co-host this short-form, weekly podcast from Ellie’s kitchen table in Southern California. Each episode, they invite a financial expert over for coffee and an informal discussion about personal finance strategies for everyday people. The podcast is also a production of the nonprofit Heroes at Home, which provides financial education to military families in the United States and abroad. Follow the Money Millhouse on Facebook.


Popcorn Finance

Los Angeles-based financial analyst Chris Browning is the host of Popcorn Finance, another shortform podcast that “discusses finance in about the time it takes to make a bag of popcorn.” Browning has won numerous awards and taken the show all over the country to interview thought leaders in every field. Follow the podcast on Twitter and check out the Tiny Living Series.


The Fairer Cents

The award-winning Fairer Cents podcast is co-hosted by Kara Perez and Tanja Hester, and has been featured on ABC Nightline, Forbes, and elsewhere. Perez and Hester specifically focus on diverse and marginalized communities and how they can navigate the industry’s entrenched patriarchy. It’s not just one of the best finance podcasts — it’s one of the best podcasts, period. Follow them on Twitter.


So Money

Financial reporter Farnoosh Torabi’s 2008 book So Money led to regular appearances on Good Morning America and Today. Now she hosts a fascinating podcast with guests ranging from Margaret Cho to Tim Gunn. Torabi’s personal story is inspiring and her enthusiasm is contagious. Follow her on Twitter.


SPI with Pat Flynn

After losing his job during the 2008 financial crisis, Pat Flynn founded an online community called “Smart Passive Income,” dedicated to helping others become “online entrepreneurs.” Today there’s an entire network of SPI podcasts, but we recommend starting with the original, Flynn’s weekly insights and sit-downs with influential experts. Follow Flynn on Twitter.


Best Personal Finance Reporters

Sharon Epperson

As CNBC’s senior personal finance correspondent, Epperson provides crucial insights every week with her reporting and regular appearances on Today and NBC Nightly News, with an emphasis on helping everyone — regardless of income — improve their financial wellness. Follow her on Twitter.


Lorie Konish

Konish is a personal finance reporter at CNBC who excels at explaining the financial implications of everything from business to politics. Her well-curated Twitter account is a great way to stay up-to-date on the news, financial and otherwise. She’s been featured on CNBC, USA Today, Yahoo Finance, NBC News, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter.


Ron Lieber

Over at the New York Times, Lieber’s Your Money column is worth the price of subscription alone, and his deep dives into everything from banking scandals to paying for college have a real-world impact. Prior to the NYT, Lieber reported for the Wall Street Journal and is the author of The Opposite of Spoiled. Follow him on Twitter.


Asia Martin

As a reporter for WealthManagement.com, Martin delivers breaking news and fascinating insights for financial advisors and wealth managers who need to keep their fingers on the pulse of the banking, investing, and business worlds. She’s also written for Forbes, Financial Advisor magazine, The Cranford Chronicle and NJ.com. Follow her on Twitter.


Kelly Anne Smith

In her reportage at Forbes, Smith is really good at combining topical, breaking-news content with resources guides to help everyday consumers respond to changes — like this breakdown of FICO’s new scoring method. Her reportage and expertise have been featured at Bankrate, The Penny Hoarder, CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, CBS News Radio and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter.

Methodology

To determine the winners of the first annual The Simple Dollar Awards, our editorial team researched every major brand and option in every category and ranked them based on the following traits:

  1. Affordability – We looked for the most cost-effective solutions on the market. That doesn’t always translate into the absolute cheapest, but takes into consideration how much bang you’re getting for your buck.
  2. Trustworthiness – We compared customer satisfaction scores wherever we could find them, including Trustpilot.
  3. Innovation – We prioritized products and services with one-of-a-kind features that separated them from the field.

For more details on The Simple Dollar Awards, contact Hayley Armstrong at hayley@thesimpledollar.com.

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