There’s a lot of choice in the world of personal finance; competition is good. It keeps us at the top of our game and makes us better consumers as we work on growing our money and making the very best decisions about which companies to work with to make that happen.
But sometimes choice – as we know too well – is a double-edged sword, because too many options can be overwhelming and paralyzing…..not being able to make a decision because there’s too much to decide/research/think about/consider.
And when you feel like “there’s no way I’m going to be able to decide on this one,” we also know that it’s really helpful to hear what other people (especially other people with experience and expertise) think is amazing and worth checking out, to serve as a jumping-off point for deciding what you want to do.
This year, Money Under 30 asked for the expert advice of three judges – Athena Lent, Carter Cofield, and David Weliver – to help us weigh in on the awards process.
Athena Valentine Lent is the founder of Money Smart Latina, where Latinas and finance meet. Not only has she been recently featured in the New York Times and Business Insider, but she is also the recipient of the 11th Annual Plutus Award for Best Personal Finance Content for Underserved Communities. When not working, Athena can be found reading a Stephen King book with her main man, a polydactyl cat named Harrison George.
Carter Cofield is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) who is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs thrive! He’s the owner of Cofield’s Concepts which is a financial literacy website teaching people how to make more money, pay fewer taxes, and be their own boss. Check out his website and podcast for free resources.
David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. During a struggle with debt in his early 20s, David found his raison d’être: crafting and sharing the financial education he wished someone had offered him. Today, David has nearly 20 years of experience as a financial journalist and consumer advocate. He lives in Maine with his wife, two children, and an ever-growing number of dogs and cats.
How we picked the winners
The number of top-tier companies has grown significantly over the last few years. The stakes are high for companies to offer the very best options/terms/perks to compete with customers who aren’t necessarily going to go the brand-loyal route.
The days of sticking through a bank or brand through thick and thin are over, and honestly, that’s better for consumers all round. To compete in the personal finance world, what you offer and what you do has to be top-notch.
And yet, as you can imagine, it’s never easy to pick the best in a sea of seemingly limitless products.
The Money Under 30 2021 Awards Team, comprising our most senior editors, writers and content gurus, reviewed the feedback from our judges to help select the final winners. Athena, Carter, and David’s perspectives were valuable and insightful, as you’ll see: in all but two cases, the Awards Team went with one of the judges’ picks.
Money Under 30’s Best Financial Products Awards
So here we go – Money Under 30’s awards for the best in financial products for 2021.
- Athena Lent: Wealthfront has an easy to use format which helps young adults by not being intimidating.
- Carter Cofield: Betterment makes investing easier than ever before. It has great easy-to-follow steps for setting up accounts and setting your investing goals.
- David Weliver: M1 Finance combines the best things about a robo-advisor with the best things about a stock broker. Investors don’t pay a management fee yet have more control over their portfolios than they would at competing robo-advisors.
Winner: M1 Finance
M1 Finance is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best robo-advisor. M1 Finance offers an easy and seamless combination of automated investing without fees. This way, you can invest, borrow, spend, and manage your money easily – to pivot and reach your financial goals. Their platform is intuitive, smart, and free.
Congratulations, M1 Finance!
Best Stock Broker
- Athena Lent: E*TRADE has more options to help make you a more well-rounded investor.
- Carter Cofield: Robinhood has brought investing to our pockets. With no trading fees and easy to understand stock analysis, Robinhood has given easy investing access to everyone.
- David Weliver: Robinhood The verb “disrupt” is a Silicon Valley cliché, but that’s exactly what Robinhood has done to the stock brokerage industry. Trading stocks with Robinhood is easy, fun, and free. The downside? Robinhood is so game-like you might forget that you’re trading real money.
Robinhood is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best stock broker. In democratizing finance, Robinhood has made investing easy and extremely user-friendly. Commission-free trading is now the new normal and Robinhood has knocked down barriers for countless numbers of people who had otherwise never dared to jump into the investing world.
Best Real Estate Investing Platform
- Athena Lent: Fundrise is easy to understand for those new to real estate investing.
- Carter Cofield: Realty Mogul offers investors real estate deals with more liquidity potential, making it easy to diversify your portfolio. This allows common investors to gain real estate exposure without having to buy an actual property.
- David Weliver: DiversyFund unlocks access to fractional real estate deals with a low $500 minimum investment. Unlike many competitors that only deal in commercial properties, Diversyfund focuses on residential multi-family properties – a better fit for mainstream investors, in my opinion.
DiversyFund is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best real estate investing platform. So many people are looking for an alternative investment option that is not going to disappoint with an average rate of return, and DiversyFund delivers in this respect. DiversyFund lets you buy shares in a portfolio of real estate for just $500 – with zero management fees.
Best Reward App
- Athena Lent: Fetch accepts more receipts than other apps for a more diversified clientele. It’s expensive being a cat lady so you need all the points you can get
- Carter Cofield: Swagbucks offers many more surveys than its competitors. It also offers a much wider range of rewards and makes getting nice deals easier than ever.
- David Weliver: Dosh When you link your credit or debit card via the Dosh mobile app, you can earn rewards at over 100,000 national brands and local businesses that you can redeem in $25 increments via cash transfers to your PayPal, Venmo, or bank account. Best of all, Dosh finds you the rewards without sharing your info with third-parties.
Dosh is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best rewards app. With Dosh, long gone are the days that you won’t see your cash back because you’ve forgotten to scan or submit a receipt. Dosh shines bright in terms of being accessible, offering over 10,000 places you can automatically get cash back. Dosh rewards generously for simply shopping and eating out at your favorite places.
Best Financial App
- Athena Lent: Acorns has easy concepts while rounding your chance to invest.
- Carter Cofield: Personal Capital is honestly the best personal finance app I’ve ever seen. From account aggregation to investing asset allocation, this is the most robust personal finance app I’ve ever seen.
- David Weliver: Acorns There are apps that do a bit more and apps that cost a bit less, but Acorns excels at helping you invest automatically and offering a beautifully simple option to manage both your spending and investing with one affordable app.
Winner: Personal Capital
Personal Capital is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best financial app. Personal Capital understands the importance of organizing your finances in real-time to be successful in managing and investing your money. With the help of their smart financial management tools, Personal Capital has made managing your finances a heck of a lot easier.
Congratulations, Personal Capital!
Best Cash Back Credit Card
- Athena Lent: Chase Freedom Unlimited® has great cash back options and offers.
- Carter Cofield: Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers flexible rewards, an amazing welcome offer, no annual fee, and a lengthy 0% APR period. This is one of the best credit cards you can get.
- David Weliver: Chase Freedom® has been one of my most-recommended credit cards for years, but the newer Chase Freedom FlexSM is even better. Chase Freedom FlexSM adds 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% cash back on dining at restaurants to the existing Chase Freedom benefit of 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.
Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase Freedom Unlimited® is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best cash back credit card. You’re getting a card with no annual fee that’s simple and easy-to-use (cash back is automatic). And, spend $500 the first month you have an account and you’ll start off with a $200 bonus, and then comes the countless ways to earn cash back: 5% cash back on grocery store purchases up to $12,000 in the first year along, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining/restaurants, etc, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
Congratulations, Chase Freedom Unlimited®!
Best Travel Rewards Credit Card
Finalist: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Athena Lent: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has the best point collection. More points mean more places to have a romantic rendezvous!
- Carter Cofield: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great option for “travelers” and with the amazing rewards you can travel year-round for free! Not to mention other great offers like free Lyft pink and Delta sky lounge access.
- David Weliver: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has more competition than ever. But it remains a great choice for consumers who want to make the most of their travel rewards but don’t want to pay a $500 annual fee. For just $95 a year, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card gets you 60,000 bonus points — worth up to $750 in travel — after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. The rewards rate is average — 2x points on travel and dining and 1x on everything else. But the value of this card lies in redemptions; your points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best travel rewards credit card. All three judges were unanimous on this card being great for travelers even with its annual fee. A monster bonus of 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months is worth $750 in travel – a huge chunk of money for a sign-up bonus. Plus, you’ll earn 2x points on dining and travel worldwide.
Congratulations, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card!
Best Secured Credit Card
- Athena Lent: OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card gives everyone an opportunity to establish credit even if they have no history or have made mistakes in the past.
- Carter Cofield: Discover it® Secured gives customers with no credit or bad credit a real shot at repairing their credit by taking advantage of this amazing card.
- David Weliver: Discover it® Secured is unique among secured credit cards in that it offers rewards in the form of 2% cash back on gas and at restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter. Although the primary reason for getting a secured card is to build credit, not earn rewards, the Discover card’s rewards and lack of an annual fee make it a compelling choice versus the competition.
Winner: Secured Mastercard® from Capital One
Secured Mastercard® from Capital One is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best secured credit card. This is a no annual fee card accepted at millions of locations around the world that helps you build up or build back your credit. You start off with an initial credit line of $200 with a minimum deposit of just $49, $99, or $200. After six months, you can be considered for a higher credit line, and if your credit score ultimately improves, you can upgrade to another Capital One card. This is a game-changer secured credit card.
Congratulations, Secured Mastercard® from Capital One!
Best Prepaid Credit Card
- Athena Lent: Netspend® All-Access® Account by MetaBank® is backed by an actual bank. Pre-paid cards that allow you to manage your spending can be an asset to your overall financial game plan when just starting out.
- Carter Cofield: Walmart Moneycard is a great choice for frequent Walmart shoppers, and provides up to four free family accounts. This is an easy way to begin your credit building journey.
- David Weliver: Netspend® All-Access® Account by MetaBank® All prepaid cards are an expensive way to manage spending, but some are less costly than others. The Netspend® All-Access® card’s $5 monthly fee is reasonable compared to competitors. It has no activation or reload fees and withdrawals are free at MoneyPass ATMs.
Winner: Netspend® All-Access® Account by MetaBank®
Netspend® All-Access® Account by MetaBank is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best prepaid credit card. You get all the benefits from a bank, including unlimited surcharge-free withdrawals at Money Pass® and you can get paid up to two days earlier than you normally would if you have Direct Deposit to your Netspend® All-Access® Account.
Congratulations, Netspend® All-Access® Account by MetaBank!
Best Business Credit Card
Finalists: Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
- Athena Lent: Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business has low-interest rates and zero transfer fees to help streamline your business card spending.
- Carter Cofield: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card was the first business credit card I got and it was amazing. The cash back plus 0% APR period is hard to beat.
- David Weliver: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card has a signup bonus worth an insane $1,250 in travel – earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months and generous ongoing travel rewards. If you prefer cash back or don’t spend as much on travel, the other Ink Business cards from Chase are also some of the best in the vertical.
Winner: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best business credit card. With 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 in the first three months, we’re talking a whopping $1,250 toward travel rewards. Plus 3 points per $1 on travel+ on the first $150,000. This card has very much become a game-changer for small businesses.
Congratulations, Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card!
Best Bank Account
- Athena Lent: Capital One 360 is an easy app to understand, HYSA options with multiple account set up. Also has really good cash bonus options.
- Carter Cofield: Capital One 360 charges no fees to open or maintain checking/savings account, along with no minimum balance. No international fees.
- David Weliver: Aspiration is a bank that puts social and environmental responsibility at the forefront of its mission and brand. Their basic “Spend & Save” plan gets you a “pay-what-you-choose, even $0” checking account with access to 55,000 free ATMs. Debit card purchases earn between 3% and 5% cash back at “Conscience Coalition” partners — companies including TOMS, Warby Parker, and Blue Apron that Aspiration believes are “doing the right thing at the heart of their business.” If you want a simple online checking account with a company that strives to be the opposite of “big and evil”, Aspiration is for you.
Winner: Capital One 360
Capital One 360 is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best bank account. The operative perks here are no minimum balances & no fees. Rounding out the perks, this free checking also offers an attractive APY. Plus Capital One is well known for their excellence in banking and outstanding customer support.
Congratulations, Capital One 360!
Best Business Bank Account
- Athena Lent: BlueVine is great for young entrepreneurs because there are no fees for insufficient funds and no minimum balance. As a young entrepreneur, your cashflow and on-time payments is more important than what perks you can get. I like Novo too but I feel like it’s more for experienced entrepreneurs who know what they are already doing.
- Carter Cofield: I recommend Chase Business Complete BankingSM because they have the #1 systems integration in my opinion. As a business owner, you need your bank account sync to various software for bookkeeping, payroll, etc and Chase’s integration platform makes it very simple to get connected and stay connected.
- David Weliver: BlueVine – For a business checking account, it’s hard to beat BlueVine. Not only is this account free of the typical fees that make business accounts costlier than personal ones, BlueVine also pays 1.00% APY on balances up to $100,000.
BlueVine is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best business bank account. BlueVine pays 1.00% APY on balances up to $100K and has no hidden fees – monthly or otherwise. And there’s no minimum deposit or balance either. Small businesses are flocking to BlueVine for good reason.
Best Student Loans
- Athena Lent: Credible has great options. Within a matter of minutes, Credible gives you the info you need to make an informed decision instead of waiting days for a lender’s reply.
- Carter Cofield: In my opinion, SoFi gives the best rate and terms for student loans and private refinancing.
- David Weliver: Earnest offers some of the lowest student loan refinance rates available and works with borrowers who have credit scores of 650 or higher. What I like best is that Earnest looks beyond credit score – to factors like your education, employment, and spending patterns — when making a decision.
Earnest is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best student loans. You get the most competitive rates based on your credit score so that you can pay off your loans and/or refinances your loans. The process takes just minutes and without any impact on your credit score, you should know whether there is a better option out there for your student loan debt.
Best Personal Loans
- Athena Lent: Credible – When taking out a personal loan, you need to be able to compare products. Credible allows you to do just that so you can make the right choice.
- Carter Cofield: SoFi is great if you want to borrow a large amount of money and low rates. In addition, they offer unemployment protection for their personal loans.
- David Weliver: SoFi personal loans require excellent credit, but if you can qualify you can get a loan with larger limits (up to $100,000) at some of the lowest rates in the country.
SoFi is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best personal loans. With no origination fees, no pre-payment fees, and no late fees, plus noteworthy low rates on loans from $5K to $100K, SoFi has set the bar high in the personal loans market. Personal loans to consolidate your debt are a no-brainer with SoFi.
Best Mortgage Loans
- Athena Lent: Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans pre-approves you so you know what you can afford and are able to haggle better.
- Carter Cofield: Rocket Mortage® by Quicken Loans has an easy online buying experience, amazing customer service. Fast and easy all around service allowing for you to get the house of your dreams.
- David Weliver: Credible isn’t a mortgage lender, rather an online mortgage broker that will match you with the best lender for your situation. It’s free and elegant to use, and you won’t be harassed by salespeople from numerous lenders like with some other mortgage comparison tools.
Credible is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best mortgage loans. You can compare lenders in just minutes and Credible’s legwork in checking rates for you won’t affect your credit score. With Credible, you get that preapproval letter that you need to move forward in buying a home or refinancing your mortgage quickly. Credible has earned a stellar reputation for good reason.
Most Disruptive Personal Loans
- Athena Lent: Credible compares all loans to help you determine the best fit for you and your unique financial situation. You are more than your wallet and Credible acknowledges just that.
- Carter Cofield: LendingTree gives the best rate and terms on their personal loans. Also, their user interface allows for quick and easy loan applications which allows their customers to receive funding faster than ever!
- David Weliver: Credible Although there are many Websites that will match you with the most competitive lender for your situation and credit profile, Credible’s process is so easy that they are my go-to choice for personal loans (as well as student loan refinancing and mortgages!)
Fiona is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the most disruptive personal loans. As an online loan marketplace that is completely free to use, Fiona streamlines the loan process and aggregates the best rates and competitive terms for your loan with no effect on your credit score. The amount of time you will save and assurance you are not missing a better rate cannot be quantified; you have so much to gain in terms of time and money with Fiona.
Best Life Insurance
- Athena Lent: Bestow is less discriminative and provides not only life insurance but also disability protection.
- Carter Cofield: Ladder offers term life insurance nationwide and everything can be done online, making it easy. Also allows customers to decrease their coverage amount when their needs change. (Or more coverage as needed)
- David Weliver: Bestow gives young, healthy applicants the easiest pathway to up to $1 million in term life insurance with an entirely online application and no medical exam required.
Bestow is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best life insurance. Bestow offers term life insurance that you can get fast, and it is affordable too. Plus you can get life insurance with Bestow without a medical exam. Coverage is between $50k and $1 million, with 10 & 20-year terms. With policies that are with A+ rated carriers – you can rest easy knowing that your insurance policy is rock bottom solid.
Best Life Insurance Broker
- Athena Lent: Sproutt – no medical exam is needed; policies and brokers that do this shun a lot of people with previous medical issues which is no fault of their own.
- Carter Cofield: Policygenius not only makes getting life insurance quick and easy, but they also do an amazing job educating their customers on the best life insurance policy for them. I highly recommend Policygenius to all of my friends and family.
- David Weliver: Policygenius You have several good options for buying term life insurance online, but many websites are direct life insurance applications. That means you’re applying to one life insurance company. Because life insurance rates vary significantly from person to person based upon your age, health, location, coverage amount, occupation, and even your hobbies, it’s silly not to shop around. Policygenius provides an elegant application that matches you with the best rate from their many participating insurance companies. Although you can usually complete your application entirely online, Policygenius also has a staff of licensed independent insurance agents to assist you should you need the help.
Policygenius is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best life insurance broker. As one of the largest online life insurance marketplaces, Policygenius helps you make a fast and easy decision about the best life insurance for your personal needs. They offer a wealth of information to help you with the many questions that come up when you are trying to make sure you are making the best decision. Policygenius’s reputation proceeds them for good reason, too.
Best Car Insurance
- Athena Lent: State Farm allows discounts for students as well as roadside assistance included for no additional fee and lower rates than Progressive and Liberty Mutual.
- Carter Cofield: Progressive gives some of the best insurance rates for young drivers and allows them to get reduces rates for being a safe driver.
- David Weliver: Gabi isn’t an insurance company but a comparison tool the likes of which have been sorely missing for years. We’ve long been able to compare flights or loan rates, but car insurance is more difficult given the hundreds of factors insurance companies use to price individual policies. When you want to be sure that you’re (really) getting the lowest price on car insurance, start with Gabi.
Gabi is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best car insurance. As an aggregator that compares the best and most competitive prices to insure your car, Gabi will save you time and money when it comes to checking and comparing rates so that you’re sure you’re not overpaying on the car insurance front. There’s a lot of variance in prices and services out there in the auto insurance world, Gabi makes the process a whole lot easier.
Best Homeowners and Renters Insurance
- Athena Lent: Lemonade is affordable with more coverage. My cat can turn on our gas stove so I need as many people in my corner as possible!
- Carter Cofield: Policygenius – the benefits are that you get multiple competitive quotes, it’s a consumer-friendly product, with great customer service. Representatives don’t work on commission. Strong coverage calculators.
- David Weliver Lemonade is insurance done right. It’s blazingly fast to apply, and Lemonade pays claims just as fast. Unlike the rest of the greedy insurance industry, Lemonade is committed to fair, flat pricing. And if they take in more premiums than they pay out, they’ll donate excess premiums to charity.
Lemonade is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best homeowners and renters insurance. Lemonade is a stand out company that offers insurance rates that are quick and competitive (from $5/month for renters insurance and from $25/month for homeowners insurance). Lemonade is also a company that gives back, by donating your unused premiums to causes/charities that you care about. Lemonade too has earned itself a noteworthy reputation for excellence and service.
- Athena Lent: Aspiration I love the fact that they are conscious about where the money is being invested to grow, and that’s actually something I’d like to learn more about myself.
- Carter Cofield: Ellevest is an amazing platform that prioritizes investing in only socially responsible companies. I always recommend them to my clients who want to focus on investing in SRC!
- David Weliver: Aspiration Social and environmental responsibility are at the core of Aspiration’s mission and products. Aspiration guarantees that customer deposits won’t fund fossil fuels exploration or production and donates 1% of profits to environmental causes. Aspiration provides a “personal impact score” to help you align your spending with your values. They also give you 3-5% cash back on purchases at “Conscious Coalition” partners — companies that share Aspiration’s values.
Aspiration is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the best socially conscious company. They’re a “neobank,” offering a Standard plan (fee-free Spend & Save account) that allows you to pay whatever you think is fair, as well as another plan called Aspiration Plus, which comes with an attractive APY to boost your savings. You can earn up to 3% to 10% in cash back rewards when you shop with Conscience Coalition member brands – purpose-driven merchants supporting companies that are helping to drive positive social change in the world. Aspiration commits to donating 10% of every dollar they earn to charity, serving as a model for all companies trying to work for social change.
Most Disruptive Company
- Athena Lent: Venmo It’s easier to accept payment and split the costs for friends and family more than other apps. It almost makes things like PayPal and cash a thing of the past when splitting costs and expenses with their fun app that has a social media feel.
- Carter Cofield: Robinhood As someone who grow up in poverty I never thought the concept of investing would make it to my neighborhood. BUT, Robinhood has brought investing to inner-city communities with their easy-to-use platform and $0 trading fees. This app has changed the world of investing and is allowing everyone to get their piece of the American economic pie.
- David Weliver: Robinhood The year 2020 will be remembered for many things; Robinhood is among them. This app has introduced millions of young adults to the stock market. Many took advantage of the pandemic-induced recession and Spring stock market crash to get into the market. This contributed to a historic market bounce-back and will likely continue to drive the stock market for much of 2021. Love it or hate it, there have been few fintech startups ever as disruptive as Robinhood.
Robinhood is Money Under 30’s 2021 winner for the most disruptive company. With Robinhood, you have a wildly efficient and easy way to invest without paying commissions. In fact, they were one of the first companies to halt all fees. With fractional share investing, Robinhood allows you the opportunity to invest in big companies that would otherwise be out of reach for so many Millennial investors just beginning to dab their feet in the investing world.
That’s a wrap for our 2021 awards!
Thank you to Athena Lent, Carter Cofield, and David Weliver for weighing in this year with their insights and recommendations for this year’s Money Under 30 Best Financial Products Awards and congratulations to all those brands that beat the tough competition!
Hope that the discussion – in each of the 22 categories – will help in at least two ways:
- Bring to light that there’s no one “right answer” for everyone in picking financial products; the question is what is best for you and your needs right now
- Push you forward in deciding which products to go with so you don’t delay in starting to reap the benefits
Cheers to the growing field of personal finance – giving us more choice in our purchasing power than ever before.