Plastic Review: SmartyPig

A friend of mine recently asked if I had heard of SmartyPig, a website dedicated to helping individuals save for personal or financial goals.  I hadn’t, so I decided to do some research.

My first impression of the site was positive.  A bit cutesy, but very user-friendly.  It works like this: You sign up (for free) and set up an account of sorts for your goal (or, multiple accounts for multiple goals).  Your goal could be anything from a vacation to debt repayment.  You then add money into your account whenever you like.  You can set up a monthly deposit, or add money you received as a gift or from a windfall (hello, tax refund).  You can also make your savings goal public, sharing with your family and friends, who can then make donations toward your savings goal.

This is where I found the kicker.  When other people donate to your account using a credit card (or, I would assume, the credit function of their debit card), there is a 2.9% fee.  So, the site will take $2.90 of every $100 deposited, via credit card, by people other than yourself.  There is no fee for deposits made from other SmartyPig accounts.

While I understand that the fee might be necessary, I found myself a bit irritated that one of the few fees attached to this service is for something that is one of their greatest selling points; namely, that your family and friends can donate money toward your goal.

The other hang-up I have with the service is that when you have saved for your goal and would like to remove your money from your account, it’s issued as a SmartyPig debit card.  On the one hand, I assume this feature affords the site a great deal of ad revenue, as there is a list of “Best-In-Class Retailers” who offer small discounts when you shop with them using the SmartyPig debit card.  However, I would much prefer a deposit into my personal checking account.  Or at least have that option available.

To wrap up, I think the concept is somewhat cool, and I can see how it might work for many people, especially those with children as the site is so intuitive.  But, personally, I will stick with my ING account for my savings goals.

SmartyPig Pros

  • Allows you to save for “specific” goals.  This means you can essentially name your account using your goal.
  • It’s social.  The website is also a social network, so if you prefer Last.FM to, say, Pandora Radio, you might like the socializing aspect of the site.
  • It’s easy to use.

SmartyPig Cons

  • You are charged a 2.9% fee for every credit card donation made by someone other than yourself.  I would also assume that you will be charged the fee as well if you use a credit card, although I am guessing most customers link through their personal checking accounts.
  • When you have reached your savings goal, your money is provided on a SmartyPig debit card.  It is not simply deposited into your personal checking account.

Read More SmartyPig Reviews

The Consumerist

Being Frugal

Free Money Finance

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2 Responses to “Plastic Review: SmartyPig”

  1. Michael Ferrari Says:

    @pennyplastic,

    Thanks for the review. Just a couple points of clarification. You are free to stop your goal at anytime (without penalty) and access your funds in one of three ways. Option one, you can transfer your funds plus interest to a SmartyPig Mastercard Debit Card. Option two, you can transfer your funds plus interest to a retailer gift card (such as overstock.com) and get an additional 6% cash boost. And option three, you can simply transfer the funds back to your bank. If friends and family wish to contribute $100 to your goal, they are charged a 2.9% processing fee.

    Thank you again for the review!

    Mike Ferrari, SmartyPig co-founder

  2. pennyplastic Says:

    Hi Mike, and thanks for the clarification around your offering!

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