Monday I talked about how I was going to use SmartyPig to save for my investment account opening balance so I thought I would give you a little more information on SmartyPig. SmartyPig is not your typical online high yield savings account. They have taken your savings and made them goal oriented like no bank ever has before. The entire idea behind the site is to get you to save for specific goals in a specific time frame. If you have a vacation you would like to take in the summer figure out how much it is going to cost you, set a goal, and start saving. This a great way to pay cash for things you would typically be putting on credit. By using a SmartyPig account you are able to track your progress towards achieving your goals. They even make it easy to take your savings goals to the social web with Facebook and Twitter integration. Here is a brief look at the sign up and account setup process along with some of the better features.
Signing up for a SmartyPig account is much the same as signing up for any other online banking account. The basic login information collected includes your name, e-mail, and phone number. They require you to complete security questions, choose a “secure” image, and help you to generate a secure password. Once you complete your login credentials you are required to provide a SSN and address which is then used to pull credit information to verify your identity. They ask typical questions about your credit to verify you are who you say you are. It is a super quick and painless process that got me rolling in no time.
This is where things start to look a good bit different from your typical online banking institution. Before you can setup your first goal you will have to setup a savings account. All you have to do is give it a name like “Kyle’s Super Smart Savings” and then provide a funding source for the account. This is usually going to be your checking account or some other account you can link using the banks routing and account number. They did not require me to verify deposits to link my account.
Once you have your savings account setup it is time to get to meat of the matter and setup some goals. I am currently working towards saving up the $500.00 it is going to take me to open an investing account at ScottTrade. All you have to do is define what you are saving for, the category it goes in, your dollar goal, and when you want to meet the goal by. Then you need to setup your funding source, provide your initial deposit (no less than $25), and optionally setup a recurring schedule for funding the goal.
SmartyPig has gone out of their way to make their site not only visually appealing and easy to navigate but they offer some great incentives to bank with them. As of 01/20/2009 they were offering a high 2.01%APY and if you compare that to other banks it is at the top.
One of the options on the goal configuration page was to “Accept Contributions.” What enabling this option allows you to do is to publicize your goals to friends and family and allow them to contribute towards your goal if they so choose. You can even setup a widget to allow your friends, family, or blog readers to contribute to your goals easily and securely. I was going to include the widget for you but it turns out the landing page includes my full legal name and there is no way to change that. Something to keep in mind when you setup your own widget, anonymity is not an option.
Probably the coolest thing they do is offer cash incentives if you use your goal money to redeem gift cards at major retailers. Right now if you are planning on taking a Sandals vacation you could change your savings into a Sandals or Beaches gift certificate and get an additional 10% on your savings. If you had saved up $5000 they throw in an additional $500, that is is pretty solid. You can even parse out your savings across multiple gift cards, so if you are saving up for holiday shopping you can get some real extra bang for your buck, especially at Macy’s where they offer a 12% bonus. Visit SmartyPig for the complete list of retailers and bonuses.