It’s never been hotter to be a fintech brand.
Fintech startups – which include all kinds of companies aiming to disrupt lending, saving, payments and more – raised $94.7 billion over the first three quarters in 2021, according to CB Insights. Their names are appearing on stadiums, podcasts, in subway cars and even on sneakers.
Celebrities endorsing the tools are on an upswing – Leonardo Dicaprio backs Aspiration. MrBeast partners with Current. Megan Thee Stallion buddied up with Square’s Cash app. There are even trade publications like FinLedger and FintechFutures devoted to the beat.
And everyday consumers are using the tools, too. In 2021, nearly 9 in 10 Americans (88 percent) now use technology to manage their finances, according to a Plaid survey published in October. But there are a lot of fintech offerings you might not know about.
Here are the biggest fintech trends to watch for in 2022 that will help you save time and money.
1. Digital bank accounts for specific communities are on the rise
All kinds of fintech startups are partnering with financial institutions to offer digital bank accounts designed for communities that traditional banks have largely ignored over the decades.
Digital banking apps exist for the LGBTQ community (Daylight), for migrants (Majority) and even for the formerly incarcerated (Stretch).
You don’t have to be part of the community to sign up for the products, but these startups are building the accounts to solve problems that specific groups encounter. For example, Daylight customers can receive their payment cards in their chosen names (rather than necessarily their legal names) – allowing trans people to avoid being deadnamed (the name they used before they transitioned). Stretch, for another, offers job leads for companies who hire those individuals with criminal records.
While thousands of financial institutions already exist across the country, many consumers are still underserved. Expect more tailored digital banks to launch in 2022 to fill in these gaps.
What’s the promise: You can bank somewhere that helps solve your nuanced problems as well as lets you deposit a check.
What to watch out for: Most of these options are newer, so the accounts may lack a full set of digital banking features that you have come to expect.
2. More name-your-payday options will emerge
You no longer have to wait until the end of the week or month to collect your paycheck.
Chime, Varo and Current are among the growing list of challenger banks that let their direct deposit customers receive paychecks a couple days early. Even some traditional banks like Fifth Third Bank are making the perk available.
Other fintech companies let you change your payday frequency more than once and are accessible through your employer or the app store.
For example, Even partners with employers like Walmart and PayPal to let their hourly employees access up to 50 percent of their earned wages, among other things. The idea is to get paid after a shift, rather than waiting for a check to hit. Earnin, for another, is a standalone app that lets you withdraw some of the wages you’ve already worked for without paying any fees or interest. Some of these services may ask you for optional tips, but you don’t have to pay them anything.
What’s the promise: It’s an on-demand world. Expect more employers to let you name your own payday. Also expect more bank accounts to let you collect your paycheck a little bit sooner than Fridays. 2021 closed with JPMorgan Chase saying its direct deposit customers will soon have this feature.
What to watch out for: If you access your wages earlier, your paycheck will be lower later. Mind your cash flow. Some of the fintech apps ask for tips, too. Make sure the default tip setting is set at the amount you wish to pay, if you wish to pay anything at all.
3. Your favorite fintech app is becoming safer and easier to use
For more than a decade, there has been a battle over the way fintech apps work: It’s over bank data – your data.
All sorts of money-management apps (think PayPal’s Venmo and Mint) require your bank data to work. To grab that data, there is a good chance the apps require your bank login credentials. Not only is that practice considered risky, but it’s likely a reason you’ve encountered an error in, say, using your budgeting app.
But there is a big movement toward embracing what some other countries have made law. It’s known as open banking and it could change what it means to be a financial institution.
For consumers, it means sharing your financial data will get easier and safer. If it goes as intended, it’s also expected to help you improve your financial health in all sorts of ways, such as making it cheaper to access credit. This work is happening behind the scenes, so it won’t require you to change the way you interact with your favorite fintech app either.
What’s the promise: Your fintech apps will become more reliable to use. Plenty of industry observers expect more fintech innovations to develop that could help improve your financial health in ways not yet discovered.
What to watch: If you no longer use a fintech app, make sure it’s done consuming all the comings and goings of your money. Your bank app may help you discover which nonbank app has what bank data.
Wells Fargo, for example, offers a feature that shows which app is pulling your bank data. Other banks like Chase, Citi and Bank of America also offer tools to help you rediscover what company has what. If your bank doesn’t have a dashboard, you aren’t out of luck. You could use a portal offered by Plaid to see which data you’ve shared and whether you want to keep sharing it.
4. ‘Buy now, pay later’ options are so buzzy that ‘save now, buy later’ options are coming
With splashy announcements like Amazon letting some shoppers split up their bills into monthly payments by checking out with Affirm, “buy now, pay later” became one of the buzziest trends in 2021. It’s an alternative to a credit card payment, but it still has a dark side of making it even easier for you to spend more than you can afford.
In the coming months, expect antidotes. In 2021, Accrue Savings offered a glimpse of one by launching a bank account that encourages consumers to save for a product or service before buying it. The startup encourages a save now, buy later mindset by partnering with retailers like Camp and Casper to market these accounts.
If you sign up for one, the account will set you up on a savings schedule and you will receive a debit card that connects to the retailer when you hit your goal. Yes, you could use a savings account, but the experience will also include retailer rewards and other features designed to keep you motivated.
What’s the promise: It’s easy to buy something on a whim. Seek out a payment option that helps you build healthy financial habits, so you don’t take on debt for a non-essential purchase.
What to watch: Make sure you can access your money when you want to — for example, factor in the time it will take to receive your debit card if you use Accrue Savings. Also, account for your smaller savings goals using fintech apps within your overall budget.
5. Money tools for couples — and those uncoupling — will multiply (no joint account required)
The options for the ways couples can manage their money together continue to multiply and they look different from yesterday’s joint bank accounts.
For example, Zeta lets couples pay bills together, like rent, and set savings goals as a pair. But it also lets users set sharing controls on what a partner sees. It’s not the only option. Also consider Firstly and Qapital’s Dream Team.
Apps are being built for different stages of the relationship, too. Nymbus, for instance, is developing Hitched, a financial app designed for newlyweds. Onward is an expense tracking app that aims to help co-parents manage their money.
Figuring out money issues with someone else is often unglamorous and plenty of people don’t want joint bank accounts to do it. Startups aiming to help resolve issues in all kinds of relationships (roommate, exes, newlyweds) will continue to design experiences that aim to simplify the ongoing tasks.
What’s the promise: A joint account isn’t the only way to manage money with someone else. The new options are designed to let partners manage money on their terms and without the need to have the same bank account (although that’s also an option).
What to watch: Don’t overdo it by messaging your partner about finances in an app. There’s always a risk of adding friction, rather than removing it when communicating about money.
By Mary Wisniewski, Bankrate.com (TNS). Visit Bankrate online at bankrate.com.