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Digit's killer automated savings plan now has an iOS app

Evolving beyond SMS

It's been just over a year since Digit launched its powerful automated savings plan, which painlessly saves a few dollars at a time from your checking account to help you pay down debt or save for major purchases. Aside from adding interest payments, the service hasn't changed much since. But starting today, Digit is looking and feeling significantly more polished, thanks to an iOS app for iPhone, iPad, and the Apple Watch.

Digit is a savings plan for people who hate to save money. And that's most people: when it launched, Digit noted that Americans under 35 had a savings rate of negative 2 percent. When you sign up, Digit creates a new savings account, backed by the FDIC, and manages it on your behalf. Every couple days, it transfers a few dollars — $2 to $18 on average. When you want the money back, you send Digit a text and it transfers the money back into checking. The company maintains a basic website for checking your balance, but until now interacting with it has required sending it text messages via SMS: "bills" to see upcoming expenses, "withdraw" to transfer money, and so on.

"They are like, where's my money?"

Digit founder Ethan Bloch says the company isn't giving up on SMS. But a significant number of Digit users — and I was one of them — longed for a more polished experience. When the company is holding hundreds or even thousands of your dollars, the SMS interface can feel cheap or even insecure. "They are like, where's my money?" Bloch says of Digit's native app partisans. "It can feel like this nebulous SMS world."

digit

From a design standpoint, Digit's iOS app doesn't differ significantly from SMS. It's still a message-based interface — Digit was way early to that trend — but the app builds it out with a clever keyboard that is pre-populated with Digit commands. Tap the plus icon next to the keyboard and you see a list of everything that Digit can do, sparing you from having to look up less familiar commands. You can also access and edit profile information.

Bloch won't say how many accounts Digit has, but the service is clearly growing. In August, Digit was saving $5.2 million a month; today it's saving $14 million a month. The company makes some money from the interest on those savings, but over time it plans to make more money by offering other financial services. In the meantime, Bloch is exploring ideas around letting Digit users set money for specific savings goals, and for developing ways to automatically pay down debts.

In the year since I've been using Digit, I've been amazed at how much money I can save without even trying. If you're saving for a major expense or simply want to build an emergency fund, the service is well worth a look.

The app is now available on iOS.