Chances are, you spent a lot of money on your smartphone and you spend (waste?) hours playing games on it. You can recoup some of your losses with our pick of the most helpful mobile financial applications, all of which can save you time and cash and make managing your money fun.
1. Mint.com (Free: iPhone, Android, iPad). The hugely popular Mint puts your financial data, automatically updated, onto one screen, with great graphics for tracking investments and managing debt. You can choose to receive alerts on bills, low funds, or unusual spending. For the security-conscious: You always need to log into the secure app with your email address and password, and when you log out everything is deleted from your phone. You can also configure the app to ask for a four-digit password to resume if you close it or leave it unattended.
[For more tips and advice, get your copy of 50 Smart Money Moves today.]
2. Pageonce (Free: basic version, iPhone, iPad, Android). Like Mint, Pageonce allows you to access nearly all your financial data and get reminders about bill dates. It also has some extras: You can track cellphone minutes, monitor frequent flyer miles, and get flight information. Why choose it over Mint? The debate rages, but until recently it was the only one of the two available for the iPad. Pageonce creators plan a new feature this fall allowing you to pay bills directly from the app.
3. Key Ring reward cards (Free: iPhone, iPad, Android). Loyalty cards can save you money, but how often do you turn them down because you don't want another fob on your keychain or card to lug around? This app lets you snap a photo of the barcode with your smartphone. When you're ready to make a purchase, simply log back into Key Ring, select a card, and let the cashier scan it from your screen.
4. ShopSavvy (Free: iPhone, iPad, Android). Use your smartphone camera to scan a product's barcode and ShopSavvy will find the lowest price for it on the Internet as well as show you the prices at local brick-and-mortar stores. The "Deals" feature will update you on shipping promotions, coupon codes, and other ways to nab what you want for less, while "Price Alerts" lets you set your buying price and receive an alert when the product dips below your threshold.
5. GasBuddy (Free: Android, iPhone, BlackBerry). If you want help finding the cheapest gasoline in your neighborhood, GasBuddy taps into a community of users who update prices for other users. (In major cities, updates often are current within an hour.) The app also doles out reward points for sending in reports. These can be applied toward tickets for a weekly drawing for a $250 prepaid gas card at the station of your choice.
6. Compare It (99 cents: iPhone, iPad). Shopping at the grocery store can be a challenge when comparing various brands that have different unit sizes and prices. Compare It can level the playing field by plugging in all the numbers (even converting metric to imperial) to let you see, in a graph, which product is the better deal.
7. myFICO (Free: iPhone, iPad). Financial experts like to say that your credit score is the only grade that matters after college. If you don't know yours, then consider this app from Fair Isaac Corp., the California-based firm that developed the industry-standard credit score. Should you not want to pay to see your actual score, myFICO gives you an estimate based on a series of questions. Perhaps even more useful, it lets you play with Armageddon scenarios. What happens to your credit score if you pay a bill late, or file for bankruptcy? It also lets you access information about what goes into a credit score and how lenders use this information.
[See the Secret to Living Well on $20,000 a Year.]
8. Square (Free: iPhone, iPad, Android). As we move toward a cashless society, the need for people to be able to accept credit cards has spurred a growing niche. Does a friend owe you $40 but can never pay because he "forgets" to carry cash? Are you running a garage sale? This groundbreaking free app, with its no-charge plug-in hardware, turns your device into a credit card machine, thanks to the quarter-size square reader that you attach. (Sign up at squareup.com, and the company mails you one.) You'll be charged a flat fee of 2.75 percent for swiped transactions. If you enter card numbers manually, your costs rise to 3.5 percent of the takings plus 15 cents per transaction because of the higher risk of fraud.
9. Loan Shark (Free: iPhone, iPad). Many consumers get tripped up by failing to realize the true costs of a loan. This handy app allows to you pop in any three pieces of information (e.g., loan amount or interest rate), and Loan Shark fills in the missing ones so you know exactly how much in the red you'll be. You'll also be able to access amortization schedules, and the results can be saved as favorites to review later in side-by-side comparisons. One useful feature: You can see the effect of extra (or larger) payments.
[See 6 Steps to Dig Out of Debt.]
10. ReceiptLoader (App is free; monthly plans start at $7; iPhone, iPad). If you travel or have a lot of work expenses, this app is more than worth the subscription fee. It can save you valuable time and ensure you don't forget expenses or lose receipts. Use your phone to snap a picture of your receipt, and the app identifies key information and categorizes it. When you have to submit backup for your expense report, you can export the data into one of several file types or email it from your phone. Choose from three plans: $7 buys you 30 receipts recognized monthly, $23 (100 receipts), and $42 (500). If you only have the occasional work expense, try Mobile Receipt, a similar app that's free for up to five receipts per month. It doesn't have the automatic data recognition, though.
11. Your bank's mobile app (Free: iPhone, iPad, Android). Most of the nation's 16 largest banks now have at least one mobile application, notes a recent study by financial services research firm Corporate Insight, and the number of financial institutions catering to mobile customers is growing rapidly. Besides letting you pay bills from your phone, some apps have particularly impressive features: Chase, Charles Schwab, and USAA, for example, allow you to deposit checks by snapping a photo of the front and back.
12. CalcMoolator Pro (Free: iPhone, iPad, Android). This app is a one-stop math shop, with just under 200 financial calculators that can help you figure out your hourly wage from your salary, say, or compare renting versus buying a particular home. You can also road-test debt reduction scenarios based on the factors that matter most to you—for example, whether to pay off a credit card debt in a year or at a fixed low amount for as long as it takes.
Corrected on 12/28/11: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mint offers an app that runs on the Symbian system.