Charlie App Review
Investing Simple is affiliated with Charlie. This relationship does not influence our opinion of this app.
Charlie is a text-based AI assistant with a “penguin prodigy” as its representative. The first thing that’s cool about Charlie is that it’s not an app; it’s far more interactive text-based system in which you post questions, and the penguin answers. No, it won’t answer if you ask for a weather forecast or what the winning lottery numbers will be, but it does have a handle on your financial picture. So, here is our Charlie review.
A cartoon penguin just told me I am spending waaaaay too much on Amazon purchases every month… let’s get into the nitty gritty.
First of all, questions you ask Charlie can be simple… such as “What’s my account balance?” and “How much did I spend last month on gas?” to the more complex “What’s the best rate for my cable service?” and “What was my income tax return last year?”
The second remarkable factor is that it’s free to use Charlie, and that’s important, because the technological genius is going to save you money in more ways than one.
How Much Does Charlie Cost?
Charlie is 100% free. We are self-funded, and our top priority is to build a great service and community. In the future, we might charge a subscription for optional add-ons like new, premium features. But Charlie will remain free. – Charlie Site
The Charlie site offers many fun facts, some of them surprising and maddening. For example, Charlie’s thousands of users spent a collective $10,549,643 in overdraft fees over the course of a year starting on March 4, 2018.
How To Get Started With Charlie
According to company instructions, it takes anywhere from two to twenty minutes to sync Charlie with your bank accounts and/or credit cards. My connection took about five minutes.
By signing up, you’re giving your consent to receive automated text messages from Charlie Finance Co. at the number you entered. These texts provide overviews of your current finances and spending, financial management help, insights, recommendations, and offers.
There will be an average of one message a day, but you can pose any questions you need help with during any given day. You can text HELP if you’re confused, and STOP to cancel.
A caveat from Charlie states “Consent to these terms is not a condition of purchasing any property, goods or services.” And that’s a really good thing, because it means the company has only your best interests in mind.
Linking Your Bank Account
Linking your bank account could not be simpler. Charlie partners with Chase, American Express, Citi, Wells Fargo, and over 14,000 other banks, from the heavy hitters to the small up-and-comers. If you don’t see your bank or credit union on the list of logos, just select “other” and key it in on the search bar at the top of the page. However – and this is important to know – Charlie isn’t affiliated with any particular bank or financial institution.
To start, Charlie will send you a link to a secure webpage that connects directly to the most popular and recognized banks. Click on that link, enter your login name and password, and voila: you’re all done.
You can connect any credit card or bank account. It works best if you add all of your accounts; particularly if you’re trying to stay within a budget or manage more than one card.
Is Charlie Safe?
For the techno-phobic, a common concern is that their bank info, which includes your password, will be compromised. Rest assured. The system uses the same 256-bit SSL encryption that banks use, with encryption for all connections to its website. This means that all data transfers on the site are protected from unauthorized access using the most advanced cryptographic algorithms available.
Charlie does not store login information in any form, and pledges not to ever sell any of your information.
If you ever delete your account, Charlie has no access to your accounts unless you choose to share your credentials again.
You Ask, Charlie Answers
It’s actually quite a bit of fun interacting with Charlie. Since it’s text-based, you can ask a plethora of questions about your financial picture and get concise answers in real time.
Some of my initial questions included:
- What’s my checking account balance? Actually, my balance was a tad higher than I had anticipated due to a refund from a return to a retail store.
- How much did I spend on groceries last month? This can be done via a search of your most common grocery stores, but it may not account for the half gallon of milk you got at Stewart’s along with your gas fill-up.
- How many Amazon transactions did I have last month? This is where I ran into trouble….I had 16 purchases in four weeks. Yikes. Fortunately, Charlie isn’t in the business of scolding and/or laughing at us.
- How much did I spend at Starbucks last month? Forcing me to ask myself, were those blueberry muffins and chai teas really worth $11 a week?”
Charlie does all the research and number crunching, eliminating the need to scan through your purchases online. You will have calculations at hand like you’ve never had before. Just prepare yourself to ask some cold, hard questions like I did, including: did I really need those new Nikes? That rice steamer? A five-pound bag of treats for my two small dogs?
After I dealt with the horror of my spending habits, I turned to Charlie for a succinct history of my income and deposits. I asked questions including:
- What was my income?
- And… what about last year?
- What deposits did I get this month?
- Hmm… what about this year?
How Charlie Saves You Money
Of course, all the updates about my income were dismal (is that all I earned?) But that’s where Charlie comes to the rescue, with money-saving insights and suggestions.
For example, it compared my monthly charges for internet with national averages and found mine to be high. Then, it showed me other available options, many of them introductory rates I didn’t know were out there. When that rate draws to a close, Charlie will let me know by text that it is time to reassess.
Charlie also uncovers recurring charges, like magazine subscriptions I meant to cancel but never got around to doing. My eyes were also opened on the high cost of Hulu TV, which I rarely watch. It also suggested a cell phone contract that could save me money.
Worried about those pesky surcharges? You can set up your account for alerts, such as when you’ve been hit with a charge for using an ATM, or if you’re in danger of having an overdraft on your account.
Having trouble staying on a budget? You can ask Charlie how much you need to set aside each week to save up for major purchases, like a security deposit for a new apartment, or down payment for a car.
You can ask for your spending habits to be grouped by category, such as restaurant expenses, or broken down to specific establishments, like TGI Fridays or Olive Garden.
This is especially helpful for people like me who aren’t enthusiastic about doing my own number crunching. I just need to see the bottom line.
Receiving Texts From Charlie
You can opt into receiving alerts that will keep you posted on spending in certain categories. For me, that’s entertainment-related expenses like eating out or going to the movies. You can ask for your balance before making any large purchases, whether or not you’re staying in your set budget, and if there’s a better deal you should be considering.
Charlie is always keeping an eye on your account, so you can get alerts if there is something worth paying attention to, such as an unanticipated fee.
You can ask anything you like that’s related to your finances. To start, try one of these questions:
- What are my five most recent transactions?
- Has my paycheck been automatically deposited?
- Have I had any ATM charged fees?
- How much have I saved towards my budgeted goal for a down payment on a starter home?
- How can I cut my expenses on entertainment?
Not sure how to start your convo? Try this: “What can you do?”
Charlie: The Verdict
Yes, there are times when you can stump Charlie. Sometimes it will pause for a while or issue a response that essentially means “umm.” But overall, for a completely free app I was impressed. Charlie helped me to identify where I was spending too much money and helped me to realize I am paying way too much for internet. Despite the somewhat dismal news Charlie delivered, I am a fan of the AI system. It nudges me to stay accountable and stick to my budget. Now, if I can only break my Amazon addiction, I’d be doing great!
Ready to see what Charlie finds for you? Sign up here!