Digit is building on its automated savings know-how with a new $9.99 per month banking feature called Direct that will launch later this year. With the new service, you’ll have access to “spending” and “bills” accounts, a debit card (with access to ATMs), and all of the usual AI-enabled savings tools Digit’s gained over the years, but with no waiting for bank transfers and theoretically even easier saving.
Along with the banking basics offered by Digit’s partner for the service, MetaBank, Direct includes a redesign of the Digit app. Digit’s original app put savings goals front and center. Goals are still part of Digit in Direct, but the emphasis now is on the two new accounts the service adds to the mix.
At the top is Spending, which is essentially the checking account portion of Direct. The app will display how much money you have freely available, and it includes menus where you can manage your Direct debit card, see transactions, and track the money Digit intelligently moves between your various other Digit accounts. The debit card works like any other card sporting a chip, and Digit says it’s supported at 55,000 fee-free ATMs.
Below spending is bills, which is a separate account, hopefully protecting that money from being spent on things it’s not set aside for. The bills section is for upcoming payments, like subscriptions, rent, utilities, and other recurring charges. For Direct to work as intended, you’ll have to switch the payment information for your various recurring charges to your new bills account. Note that for now, the bills section can only automatically save for and track monthly charges. Digit says yearly recurring charges are on the roadmap for 2021.
The final section is savings, or the savings account portion of Direct. It works similarly to how goals did in the original Digit. You can set a goal with a specific date and dollar amount, and Digit will analyze your spending and periodically squirrel away money it determines you won’t need right away. For a more detailed savings history, you can tap in to each goal and see how Digit has moved money in to it over time.
I’ve been using the beta version of Direct for the last few weeks, and as a sort of set-it-and-forget-it service, I’ve mostly not thought about it since I signed up — which is honestly great. Digit CEO Ethan Bloch says that from its inception, the ideal version of Digit was a sort of science fiction smart assistant for finances. I would not say Direct is there yet, but even in its beta form, it does put a lot of the trickier parts of managing money on autopilot.
The timing could not be better. Simple, the online bank that I think best threaded the needle between being easy to use and actually having features that helped me save money on a set schedule, was recently shut down. Afterward, customers were transferred to its parent company BBVA, which is fine, but not nearly as user-friendly or mobile-first as Simple was.
Digit’s smarts come with a cost
Direct is in many ways poised to fill that gap, though other companies certainly match some — if not all — of what Simple had. Chime has a nice app and an optional savings account that can round up purchases and automatically save the difference. One (yes it’s a bank just called One) has a feature called Pockets that’s similar to Simple’s automatic savings goals, setting aside money for long-term payments. Both are free while Direct carries a monthly fee which, depending on what you’re looking for, might be a barrier.
For anyone already paying for the regular Digit $5-per-month subscription, the Direct monthly fee isn’t a huge increase, but it does illustrate some of the tension between whom Direct seems able to help and whom it might currently be best for. Living paycheck to paycheck while working retail, having something that automatically set aside money for my rent and utilities was a lifesaver. The main reason I joined Simple was that in addition to being free, it was an actual bank from which I could order a checkbook. Direct seems equally capable (with different access to checks), but again, the cost is worth considering.
Direct obviously brings smarts into the equation, so the real question becomes how much you value what Digit’s able to intelligently do with your money. You’ll be able to see for yourself when Direct launches this fall, with a 30-day trial and then $9.99 per month or $95-a-year subscription. You can join the waitlist to get early access to Direct starting today.