How to save money automatically with QapitalIf you want to build better money habits, automation can be a powerful ally.

You’ve heard the old adage “pay yourself first,” right? It’s a classic example of automation. You save your money before you have a chance to blow it on shoes and gummy bears (my splurges of choice). There are plenty of apps and tools that can help automate your savings, but Qapital is quickly becoming my favorite.

Note: This is NOT a sponsored post; I just really like this app. But if you try Qapital and you like it, you might as well use my link and we’ll both get five bucks.

How Qapital Works

Like other automatic savings apps (Digit, for example), Qapital links to your bank accounts or credit cards, tracks your spending habits, then saves money for you in an entirely separate account. Qapital differs from other apps in that it gives you more flexibility over how you save money, though. We’ll get to that in a minute.

To get started, you download the app, sign up for Qapital, and then link as many bank accounts or credit cards as you want using your online login credentials. 

How They Secure Your Data

You have to link your bank accounts, so there’s the big question: is it secure? The short answer is yes. It’s as secure as online banking can be. They use multifactor authentication, which means you have to verify your identity even after setting up a password. They also use SSL and TLS encryption, which means the link that’s sent between servers is private, secret key. Plus, they don’t store personal information like your bank account or Social Security number on their servers. Here’s how Qapital explains it:

  • Qapital uses industry-standard, partners trusted by banks and financial institutions throughout the US to transfer money online. Transfers from your funding account are only executed once we’ve established that you own the account. We do this through either authorization using bank login credentials or micro-deposit verification.

Once you’ve linked your bank accounts, Qapital can access your spending history: where you’ve spent money and how much you’ve spent. This is where it gets interesting and useful.

Qapital App 1

How to Set Up Rules and Goals

Once you link your accounts, you have three main tabs on the Qapital dashboard: an overview of your recent activity and savings, a view of your accounts, and your profile.

Qapital uses two elements to work: Rules and Goals. Basically, you create a savings rule to throw toward a specific goal.

A Goal can be anything you want: a vacation fund, a new bike fund, a debt payoff goal, etc. You’ll see a blue button at the bottom of your screen. Tap it, then select “New Goal.” From there, you’ll name your goal, tell Qapital how much you want to save toward it, then choose a rule to use for the goal.

Quapital 2

To create a Rule, tap the blue button at the bottom of the screen and select “New Rule.” From your profile, you can also navigate to User > Rules. From your profile, you can see the rules you’ve already created and start a new one.

Qapital suggests a few rules out of the box. These should give you a good idea of what you can do with the app:

  • Round-Up Rule: Automatically money every time you buy something
  • Spend Less Rule: Save the difference when you spend less than your budget (i.e. “spend less than $15.00 at Starbucks during a week and save the difference.”)
  • Guilty Pleasure Rule: Save a certain amount when you spend at a specific store
  • Set & Forget Rule: Save a specific, fixed amount every day, week, or month
  • Freelancer Rule: Set aside a certain percentage for taxes when you get paid

Quapital 3
When you sign up for Qapital, you sign up for a bank account, too. It’s FDIC-insured just like any other bank account. This means if their partner bank fails, you’re covered up to $250,000.  You only have one bank account with Qapital, but you can have as many goals as you want within that account.

Connect With IFTTT to Create a Rule for Just About Anything

You can customize every factor of the above rules, too.

For example, the “Freelancer Rule” doesn’t just have to be for your freelancing work. You can simply save 10% of every paycheck and put it toward a home down payment goal, a charity fund, vacation goal–anything you want, as long as you’ve created a Goal for it in Qapital.

Even better, you can connect the app to If This, Then That (IFTTT) to create a rule for just about anything.

IFTTT is an online tool that manages actions between two webapps. You can connect Qapital to any number of other apps: Instagram, Gmail, Todoist, Spotify. This makes your possibilities for rules nearly endless. You could, for example:

With IFTTT, you create an “applet” based on actions for a number of different apps. These actions are called triggers. Listening to a certain song on Spotify could be a trigger. Sending an email with a certain subject line could be a trigger. Completing a task on Todoist could be a trigger. When you connect Qapital to IFTTT, you can easily create a savings rule for any of these triggers. If you’ve never used IFTTT, getting started it is pretty easy. Once you create your applets for Qapital, they run automatically.

My Favorite Rule: Embrace Gratitude, Save Money

I’ve been trying to practice gratitude, so I connected my Qapital account with IFTTT to create a gratitude rule. Every week, I list a few things I’m grateful for in an Evernote folder. I’ve created an IFTTT rule to automatically save $5 toward my honeymoon fund in Qapital whenever I add a note to my “Gratitude” notebook in Evernote.

To make it even more interesting, you could link IFTTT with Qapital and your Instagram or Twitter account, then create a rule to automatically save money anytime you use the hashtag #gratitude. This helps you embrace gratitude, stay active on social media, and save for an awesome trip.

The Pros and Cons of Qapital in a Nutshell

Obviously, I’m a fan. Qapital is awesome because it does exactly what it’s supposed to do: lets you create rules for automatic savings. It gives you flexibility and customization options. When you connect it with IFTTT, you have an almost endless combination of rules you can create.

There are a couple of downsides, though. For one, I wish you could connect Qapital to Mint.com. Mint is my budgeting tool of choice, and there’s no support for Qapital, so the money I save in Qapital is not accounted for in my budget. Bummer.

Second, the interest rate on the Qapital account isn’t great–it’s 0.10%. However, most traditional savings accounts don’t earn much more than that, and you’re probably not going to save enough in your Qapital account for interest to matter, anyway. (I mean, if you have $5,000 saved, you should probably park that money somewhere else).

Update:  Only older Qapital accounts accrue interest. Qapital also points out that they make up for it with referrals–fair enough!

In general, though, I’ve been using the app for about six months and, so far, it’s awesome. If you’re interested, you can get started with it here. If you have any questions, sound off below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Kristin writes and makes videos about money, the economy, freelancing, and travel. She's written for Lifehacker, NBC News, Mentalfloss and more. Learn more about her here.