Christmas is coming quickly, and if your financial habits are like my past financial habits, you’re starting to wonder how you’re going to pay for Christmas. It’s not a fun feeling, and it’s one I understand.
I’m happy to say I’ve changed my ways. And the good news is that you can too. It’s not that my financial situation changed much. We’ve had our up years and our down years. But I started planning for Christmas much earlier…like in January.
SmartyPig is a Savings Account
Last year I discovered SmartyPig, a “social savings account.” Really, it’s a bank account with West Bank, which is FDIC insured. Right now they’re boasting a 2.0% APR, which is one of the best interest rates I’ve seen for an online savings account in a while.
When you set up an account, you set a financial goal. For instance, you set a goal to save $500 by next Christmas. SmartyPig calculates how much you need to save each month to reach your goal and automatically transfers the money from your bank account to your SmartyPig account each month.
Don’t worry. If you run into financial trouble and need to get your money out, you can cancel your goal and do that. So you’re not stuck by any means. And the best part? It doesn’t cost you a thing!
SmartyPig Gives You Cash Boosts
Here’s where SmartyPig differs from a regular bank account, though. And here’s also where SmartyPig can help with Christmas shopping. You have three options for withdrawing your money. You can transfer it right back to your bank account. You can opt to get a SmartyPig MasterCard debit card. Or, you can get a gift card from one of SmartyPig’s partners.
If you choose the last option, you will receive up to a 12% cash boost! And you can put your money on multiple gift cards, too! That’s why I think it’s so great for Christmas shopping. I tend to buy a lot of books for Christmas gifts (or even homeschooling during the year), so getting a Barnes & Noble gift card is a great option for me.
SmartyPig is Social
SmartyPig also has a social option, which I’ve never used, but could be a good thing if you’re saving toward a big goal. You can allow your friends and family to search SmartyPig by your email address, so they can see your goals and contribute. You can also place a SmartyPig widget on your blog or Facebook page to show the world how you’re progressing toward your goal.
Last year I used SmartyPig to save throughout the year, and by September I had enough to buy a Wii and some Wii accessories for the family for Christmas. It was well worth it.
With it’s competitive interest rate, multiple options for withdrawing your money, and bonuses for putting your money on gift cards, SmartyPig is a great option for a Christmas savings account.
What a wonderfully easy and effortless way to save!! Thanks for the info!
Hmmm…the 12% perk for the gift cards does make it more interesting, if it’s a merchant worth using. I’ll have to look into this.
The 12% additional for the gift cards is only on one of the merchants. The rest were 4% or a little bit higher. Yeah, it would have been great if all of them were for 12% :(
Another option is an online checking account….there are several, like community rewards, that are offered by FDIC insured institutions, that provide 4.0+ returns, provided that you set up a direct deposit and make 10 debit card transactions per month. Sure, you’re still just keeping up with inflation, but it’s the best guaranteed rate around!
This sounds like a great idea. I checked the partner stores, and there are many I shop at. However, I am concerned that the parent company, Bank West, does not have a favorable rating with bankrate.com
Since it is FDIC insured, the question is, if the bank does go under, is getting the extra 12% worth the hustle of trying to get my money back? Your experience with banks wasn’t very encouraging. What do you think?
I don’t sweat the rating for West Bank, as I don’t use SmartyPig for huge amounts of money. Since I mainly use it for a Christmas fund, if the bank were to go under, it would be an inconvenience, but I’d still be able to pay my bills while waiting for the FDIC to come through.
My current issues with the FDIC are more complicated than just a bank going under, as there is a bankrupt mortgage company, a couple of banks, and the FDIC involved. From what I understand, my problem getting my escrow money back is taking much longer than if a bank had gone under and I was just waiting for my money to be released by the FDIC.
I wouldn’t want my main accounts at a bank with a less than stellar rating, but I’m willing to take a chance with a small savings account.
Hope that helps some!
Pat, this is Jon Gaskell, President and co-founder of SmartyPig. Just wanted to let you know that West Bank is a well-capitalized bank whose accounts are insured by the FDIC to the full extent permitted by law. In the very unlikely event West Bank fails, getting insured deposits paid by the FDIC is not an involved process. It usually takes just a few days. You may email me jgaskell(at)smartypig(dot)com or call me directly at 515-221-4211 if you have any further questions. And thanks for the post, Lynnae!