Each year, we’re introduced to new ways how technology can improve our daily lives. Phones have evolved into tiny computers that let us surf the internet, text, watch videos and download music. Communication is at our fingertips every day, and technology has wired us into a web that encompasses nearly everything and everyone.
The Internet of Things (or IoT) allows us to control appliances, lights and more with our phones. Our cars run on computerized intelligence, too. Even our dollars and cents have gone digital, and technology has changed how we save, pay bills, invest and shop.
Ready to upgrade your finances? Here are the top 10 coolest financial technologies.
- Digital Stock Trading
Remember playing a computer nemesis on a video game, and how you always seemed outsmarted? This could be the future for stock trading. Right now, you can invest online with sites like TD Ameritrade, but an article on CNBC reports that the future of trading might include a virtual assistant (kind of like Siri or Alexa) that invests per your specifications and that, in the future, it’s quite possible that “artificial intelligence and Watson-type entities will replace many analyst jobs because it will be very difficult for humans to sort through the massive amounts of information that will be generated.”
Alt Text: A smart phone displays an online banking site; credit cards rest next to the phone to illustrate financial accounts.
- Online Bill Pay
Many, if not all, banks offer online bill pay as a convenience to customers. While online banking might seem like old news to many of us, even this platform is evolving. Not only can you schedule payments, but banks also allow online transfers between accounts (in accordance with government regulations).
The convenience of online bill pay also means that some banks allow for bills to be deducted from the account within a day or so, and this makes accounting much easier for many of us. No one longs for the days when checks didn’t clear for a week…or more.
- Digital Payment Companies (Apple Pay, Paypal, Venmo, etc.)
Identity theft has become much too common, and many consumers are leery of swiping credit or debit cards for fear of having information stolen. Technology has given rise to online payment companies that make it easy (and relatively safe) to make purchases online, at stores and to pay friends, too.
Paypal has become one of the top companies for paying for goods/services and for being paid for services rendered. Companies that employ freelancers also tend to rely on Paypal as it makes it easy to securely pay invoices. However, like any online account, Pay Pal could be hacked if you aren’t careful. Keep login information safe and don’t share it with anyone.
Apple Pay and Google Pay are newer services that let users make payments at stores, restaurants and online. However, not every merchant accepts this method of payment. Apple Pay and Google Pay both let users send money to friends.
Venmo, however, is a great app for sharing costs with friends. This service allows you to pay back friends, pick up your portion of a tab at a restaurant, an Uber ride and more.
- Online Loan Companies
Don’t have time to go to a bank to apply for a loan? Head online. Many companies allow clients to apply for loans online and even shop rates. You can apply for a car loan, a credit card, a mortgage or personal loans from the comfort of home. This digital option isn’t for everyone, and some people prefer the face-to-face experience of a banker.
- Short-Term Financing
If you’ve made an expensive purchase online, you know that, in many instances, financing is available. Companies like Affirm allow customers to make monthly payments on their luxury or high-priced purchases sot that the hit to the budget seems more manageable. Interest rates may be incredibly low (sometimes 0 percent). Technology has allowed these decisions to be made online at the time of purchase without heading to a bank or dealing with a salesperson.
- Online Credit Scores
Not sure how you score when it comes to your credit? Sites like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion can help you see your score. Equifax also recommends visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Your scores may be different for each of the three bureaus, and sites may use different software to compute your scores. However, checking your scores will give you a good idea how you might rate.
- Unbanked Services
According to CNBC, the term “unbanked” refers to individuals who don’t have access to banking. These may be individuals who cannot qualify for a checking account and, therefore, need another means to pay bills and save their money. A survey by the FDIC found that in 2017 more than eight million households were classified as unbanked.
Technology has evolved to meet the needs of this sector, and services for unbanked individuals can include cards that work like debit or credit cards with funds that can be reviewed via an online account. TechCrunch reported that PayPal was expanding services to include debit cards and direct deposit options for those who are unbanked.
Alt Text: A Bitcoin app is open on a smartphone, with Bitcoins surrounding the device.
- Digital Currency
Bitcoin and other ‘cryptocurrency’ are an alternative to traditional currency. Purchase this currency and use it to pay for services and goods. You can also sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Since this digital currency is still relatively new, not all merchants accept it for payment.
- Crowdfunding or Crowdsourcing Sites
Need help paying medical bills? Want to find investors to help fund a startup? Enter crowdfunding or crowdsourcing platforms. These companies help raise money for whatever the cause may be, and sites like GoFundMe have been a means for many to get help with emergencies. Unfortunately, these sites have been abused, too, and not every online campaign is legitimate…so donate with caution. If you need financial assistance and want to start a campaign, or if you’re helping a friend or loved one by starting a crowdfunding campaign, talk to a tax professional first (there may be tax implications).
- Tax Payments
There are two certainties in life: death and taxes! Financial technology has hit the tax sector, too. Many local tax collectors offer online payments for personal property taxes. Even the Internal Revenue Service offers Direct Pay to make paying tax bills easier. These options are separate from your bank’s online payment system.
Financial technology has digitized our dollars and cents. While we have grown accustomed to online banking and bill pay, in a few years something new could further transform how we manage our money and our investments. Artificial intelligence may be the brains behind our stock purchases, cryptocurrency could displace dollars, and brick and mortar banks could be a thing of the past. Technology advances at light speed, and the possibilities are endless for the future of finance.