I let a robot withdraw money from my checking account. Here's why you should too.
I'm in love with a robot, and I don't care who knows it. For the past month and a half, I've been getting daily greetings from my robotic lover via text: "Happy Monday, Caroline!" "Konichiwa, Caroline!" "Aloha, Caroline!" Every morning I wake up to a different kind of friendly hello, followed by a snapshot overview of my finances. See, this digital beau of mine is actually an app called Digit, which uses a fancy customized algorithm to help me save money without even noticing. And you guys, it actually WORKS!
I signed up for Digit shortly after the new year, partially because I wanted something interesting to write about, and partially because I was curious whether or not it would actually work as promised. Almost two months later, and I have to say I'm a pretty satisfied customer.
So how exactly does Digit work? I'm glad you asked.
Basically, Digit sets up a digital savings account for you and uses a specialized formula to analyze your spending patterns, and transfer small amounts of money from your checking account every few days. Depending on how much money you have in your account, this amount can be anywhere from $0.50 to $100, but it's completely customized to you and your lifestyle. Digit can see, for example, if you have any bills coming up, or if you've been spending more money than usual, and will hold off transferring any more money until it knows you won't miss it.
I typically keep about $500-$1,000 in my checking account, and my average savings transfer is $4. If I kept $10,000 in my checking account (SOMEDAY LOL), my average savings transfer would probably be around $40. You can access your Digit account money and send it back to your checking account at any time.
It's not actually an "app" in the traditional sense.
This was confusing to me at first. I initially tried downloading it to my iPhone from the app store, but it was nowhere to be found because there is no downloadable interface. In order to sign up, you'll have to go to digit.co and enter in your information, and from then on, all your dealings with this "app" are done via text message.
This seems weird, but it's actually kind of nice for a couple reasons.
First, I know a lot of people have problems freeing up space on their smartphones. Using Digit doesn't require a download, so it also won't require you to delete 200 pictures of your cat, dog, baby or favorite slice of pizza from different angles.
Second, I personally like the "texting with a robot financial adviser/potential lover" aspect of the Digit experience. In addition to the daily greetings and account updates, I can text Digit back with a series of commands and have it do certain things for me. Here's a list of these commands from the Digit website:
- Savings - View your Digit savings balance and the last 3 times Digit saved for you. You can text "S" as well.
- Recent - View your recent checking transactions. You can text "R" as well. You can also add a number like "Recent 5" for your last 5 checking transactions.
- More - You can text this after using "Recent" to see either more times that Digit saved for you or more recent transactions. If you used a number like "Recent 5" and text "More" you will receive 5 more transactions.
- Minimum - This will allow you to set a minimum level under which Digit will not attempt to save for you. (Example "Minimum 200" would set Digit not to try to save if your checking balance is under $200)
- Checking - View your checking balance.
- Bills - View upcoming bills.
- Save - Move money into your Digit savings balance. You can also say things like "Save 10" to save $10 to your Digit account. When within the 'Save' conversation, before you confirm the transfer, you can text 'Cancel' to change your mind.
- Save More / Save Less - You can text each of these commands up to 3 times in either direction. This will increase or decrease the amount that Digit attempts to save for you in a given day.
- Withdraw - Make a withdrawal from your Digit savings. You can text "W" as well. You can also include an amount such as "Withdraw 10" to withdraw $10 from your Digit account. When within the 'Withdraw' conversation, before you confirm the transfer, you can text 'Cancel' to change your mind.
- Pause - Pause Digit's automatic savings. You can also add a number like "Pause 5" to pause Digit's saving for 5 days. Digit will notify you the day before savings resume just in case you need to pause again.
- Unpause / Resume - If you are paused, this will resume savings the next day for you.
- Refer - Retrieve a special referral code from Digit that earns you $5 per friend who signs up for Digit.
- Settings - Adjust balance update frequency.
- Timezone - This will allow you to select your timezone. Digit updates will be sent at 9am in your local timezone.
- Nickname - Change how Digit addresses you.
- Help - Access the Digit Help Center and Digit Support contact.
- Stop / Start - If you want to stop / start messages from Digit.
- Vcard - If you'd like a friendly Digit contact card for your phone's address book.
I sometimes also like to text my BFF Digit bot "Thank you!" and always get a nice "You're welcome, Caroline!" right back. I love you too, Digit! <3
You can get free money for referring friends.
You can refer up to five friends and get $5 every time one of them makes their first savings transfer. I got my boss, Rebecca Lehmann, to sign up on my first day using the app, and got my first extra $5 the very next morning. Thanks, Rebecca! Now who else wants an invite?
I haven't missed any of the money in my Digit savings account.
With my average withdrawal at $4 every 3.78 days, I barely noticed any of the transfers leaving my checking account. And I'll be honest, despite being a full-time Brad's Deals employee, I'm not the *most* responsible spender out there.
I mean, I'm not terrible, but I don't always put a portion of my paycheck into savings, I don't monitor my bank account as religiously as I probably should, and I indulge in expensive lunches/dinners/drinks/impromptu floral dress splurges way more often than is necessary. Despite all this typical 20-something financial flightiness, I do have good credit and I do manage to pay my bills on time every month, I'm just not what you'd call a financial guru. Lucky for me...
My lack of a strict savings pattern helped me save more with Digit.
I realized this after comparing notes with Rebecca, who has a much better grasp on her finances than I do. As a result of her good habits, her experience with Digit was a lot different than mine:
"I actually didn't save very much with Digit, just $6.64 over about a five week run," said Rebecca. "I was a bit disappointed that it turned up so little. Then I realized that this was actually providing me with some valuable insight into my budgeting strategy. I already put as much as I think I can afford into a savings account every month, which means my checking account is already managed pretty tightly. So what Digit is telling me by not pulling out so much extra cash is that I'm already doing a pretty good job of saving as much as I can. It's also just really nice to get a text every morning with my checking balance. I'm more aware than ever of what my finances look like day to day."
The daily bank summaries aren't always accurate.
My bank account balance is always included in my daily "Hello!" text, but it's often a little behind the times. Sometimes it hasn't taken into account purchases I made after business hours, and sometimes direct deposits that I can see clear as day in my Chase Bank app don't show up in Digit's field of vision for a few days. This can be a little unnerving first thing in the morning, when Digit texts me to tell me my bank account balance is $300 lower than it should be.
I've learned to expect this discrepancy, however, and it's gotten me into a good habit of logging into my banking app and taking stock of my accurate checking/savings/credit card balances before I even get out of bed.
Digit Plus lets you earn interest on your savings.
And it's actually more than the interest I'd be making if I stocked my Digit cash away in a savings account. For every $100 you have in your Digit savings, you'll get $0.05 every three months. So if you have $400 in there, every three months you'll get a $0.20 bonus. That doesn't seem like much, but it is more than you'd earn on the same amount of money in a regular bank savings account.
You're not gonna miraculously save thousands every month. But it does add up.
I'm sure you're all dying to know how much I saved in past few weeks of Digit-ing. So without further ado, here it is:
Is this a lot of money? Maybe not in the grand scheme of things, but it's $74.75 more than I would have saved over two months if I hadn't been using this app, and I didn't have to lift a finger to make it happen.
So no, Digit isn't going to shake up your finances to the point where you wake up a millionaire the day after you start using it. The amount you'll be able to save is entirely based on you: your spending patterns, your checking account balance, your monthly bills. It's not going to find a magical thousand dollars you didn't know you had. But what Digit does do is make the process of saving little bit more accessible and a lot less scary to the average Joe.
Even though my experiment is over, I'm gonna keep my Digit account. I like knowing that my frugal robot boyfriend is looking out for me 24/7. When the time comes, I'll use my Digit savings to pay my credit card bill, take a much-needed vacation, or help fund an emergency purchase that just can't wait. And I'll be thankful for every early morning "Konichiwa!" and robotic withdrawal that got me there.