More Than Just a Cute Penguin: Charlie Finance Review 2020Budgeting
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Many of us are constantly on the hunt for the best financial management tools. These tools can help us to monitor our money, track unexpected (or erroneous) charges, stay on budget, and even meet certain savings goals.
They typically come in the form of mobile apps or web platforms, and if you’re anything like me, you probably employ more than one in your tech arsenal.
Enter Charlie, a free AI financial assistant that offers message-based advice and monitoring of your important accounts. But while Charlie is one adorable little penguin, is it a safe assistant you can also trust?
What is Charlie Finance?
First, let’s talk about what Charlie is not: a financial app. You won’t be downloading software to your desktop or installing anything onto your phone or tablet.
Instead, Charlie is an AI-based, interactive software that communicates with you on a personal level — and you’ll link up with Charlie via Facebook Messenger.
There, you can ask Charlie questions about a wide range of money topics. Your questions can be as specific or generic as you’d like, making it easy to both get advice and transform your own financial situation with a little help.
You can also link Charlie with your existing accounts to personalize those recommendations and get a truly accurate picture of your financial situation.
What Charlie Can Do
Once you connect Charlie to your Facebook Messenger account, you’ll have full access to Charlie anytime you need him. This means that you can sign in anytime (day or night) to:
- Get reminders — Charlie will keep you on-task, reminding you to save, make extra payments, and more according to the goals you’ve established.
- Compare financial options — If you want to save for an upcoming vacation or are looking to trim your monthly household expenses, Charlie is there for you. Your waddly financial assistant can provide you with savings schedules, lucrative credit cards, and can even analyze your recurring bills to see where you could lower costs.
- Get recommendations for new products — Need to reduce your high-interest debt? Want to maximize your savings efforts? Charlie can recommend credit cards and other products that may be able to help.
- Analyze your current spending — Charlie can help you easily calculate what you’re spending in certain categories each month (like gas, groceries, or even that daily latte at the coffee shop). If desired, Charlie can also set up a monthly budget for you.
- Keep you in the loop — Charlie can send you alerts about your accounts as needed, such as if you go over your fast food budget one month or have a surprise fee pop up in your checking account.
Charlie is always learning and improving, based on your interactions and feedback. There are so many ways that you can use this cute little penguin in your own financial analysis and management.
Opening an Account
You won’t need to download any apps with Charlie or install anything on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. In fact, all you’ll need to do is click to link your Facebook account with Charlie via Messenger, and you’re on your way!
Using Charlie’s expertise for your own money management is easy, and takes just a few seconds to set up. Simply click the big blue Chat on Messenger button on Charlie’s homepage to link your Facebook account with Charlie.
If you’re not already logged in from your computer, you’ll be asked to enter your credentials on Facebook’s website (not Charlie’s) to log in. Then, you’ll automatically be directed to Messenger, where you can say hello and begin chatting with Charlie directly.
How Charlie Works
As soon as you’re ready to begin asking questions and getting advise, you can. You don’t even need to link Charlie with your existing bank accounts, credit cards, or loans just yet — you can just ping Charlie for strategies and insight on a variety of situations and topics.
For instance, I asked Charlie to help me save a little extra cash before my upcoming trip to Italy. Charlie wanted to know why I was saving, and when I needed to save it by.
I told him I wanted to put aside $2,000 before May, and Charlie both calculated my required savings rate and offered to send me weekly reminders.
I also tested Charlie out by asking how I could best get out of some hypothetical debt. I told Charlie that I had a $3,000 balance at a 5.5% interest rate, and I could only budget to put $50 toward this debt each month.
Charlie then calculated when I would be out of debt, given this information, and how much it would cost me in the end. Then, Charlie asked if I would like some recommendations for paying that balance down faster and for less money.
I said I would.
It was recommended that I open a Citi® Diamond Preferred Card and take advantage of the card’s 0% balance transfer offer. This would, according to Charlie, save me $129 in interest and get me out of debt three months faster.
Without connecting a bank or credit card account, Charlie was a bit limited in what he could help me with, as far as my financial situation. This was to be expected; after all, analyzing spending and offering personalized recommendations is where Charlie seems to shine.
If I wanted Charlie to really help me, I would need to add one or more accounts. Without doing so, though, Charlie was unable to do things like
- Analyze my interest rates
- Find sneaky expenses for me to avoid
- Help me dodge overdraft fees
- Warn me when I overspend
- Offer budget suggestions
- Look over my monthly spending
- Send me account updates
- Save me money on services I already use
Additionally, Charlie cannot actually touch customers’ money — it can only analyze data. This means that you’ll need to open your own account if you want to begin saving, transfer your own funds to meet specific goals, etc.
Charlie will not automatically transfer funds for you and cannot open new accounts on your behalf.
Linking Accounts to Charlie
I wanted to see just how helpful Charlie could be, so I went ahead and linked one of my checking accounts through our Messenger conversation. Charlie made it easy by providing a link, and I simply needed to enter my bank credentials to complete the login process.
I was quickly shown a preview of my dashboard, which analyzed my current checking account balance, my bank’s linked credit card account, and even my last few transactions. Charlie also let me know that if I ever wanted to see this dashboard in the future, I simply needed to type Dashboard into our chat and I could be immediately taken to this quick summary page.
In the next step, I was able to set a few notification preferences for Charlie, based on what I wanted him to contact me about. This included things like:
- Bank fees
- Potential account overdrafts (which would lead to more fees)
- Restaurant tips
- Upcoming credit card due dates
- Credit limit usage
Next, I was asked to choose some goals. I was given a few options to choose from, which included goals to stay on budget, save for something special (like a vacation), pay off debt, cut my expenses, and even compare my spending.
After making some selections, my account was officially linked. However, it took Charlie about two hours to finish loading everything, which was quite a bit longer than I expected.
I found that especially interesting as the account I linked is not my everyday checking account; it’s only used for bill-pay a couple times a month. Since there weren’t many transactions to sift through, I’m not sure why the process was so lengthy.
There is no fee to use Charlie. You won’t pay for access or services, regardless of how often (or infrequently) you use the service.
Charlie doesn’t really specify how it makes its money, but the answer is likely through affiliate accounts and commissions for the products it recommends (like that credit card I mentioned above). While this does raise the question of a potential bias, it does mean that using Charlie doesn’t cost you, the consumer, a penny.
Charlie Finance Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I really need to link my account(s) to Charlie?
If you want to really use our cute little friend to his fullest potential, you will definitely need to link at least one account. This allows you to set notifications about spending and fees, watch your budget, track progress toward goals, and even analyze your money.
Yes, you can use Charlie without linking a thing. However, you’ll be limited to generic advice and reminders, rather than personalized features.
- Is it safe to link my accounts?
According to the website, Charlie uses bank-level security and 256-bit SSL encryption to keep your information safe. Your account login will not be saved, and your data will never be sold.
- Is Charlie available outside the U.S.?
Currently, Charlie is only available for US-based users. This is likely to change in the future, however.
- How do I cancel?
If you decide that Charlie isn’t for you, it’s quick and easy to cancel. You simply need to type DELETE into your Messenger chat with Charlie.
After confirming your intent to delete, Charlie will go ahead and process your account. That’s it — you’re done.
Charlie Finance: Pros
1. It’s free
There is no fee to use Charlie and, according to their website, there never will be.
2. It’s easy
You don’t have to learn how to navigate a new platform or worry about where to find the information you need. With Charlie’s text-based platform, you can simply ask whichever questions you may have and get quick responses to your requests.
3. There are no apps to download
You don’t have to worry about downloading a new app, updating it often, or keeping track of new credentials. With Charlie, you only need to link up with your existing Facebook Messenger account, and you’re good to go.
4. It’s as interactive (and helpful) as you want it to be
If you only want to use Charlie to help you plan savings targets, set reminders, or get product recommendations to save you money, you can. If you want Charlie to monitor your spending, alert you to fees and due dates, set a budget, and nudge you toward your goals, you can do that, too.
5. Link everything… or nothing
You can link as many accounts and balances as you’d like, so Charlie can get a more comprehensive idea of your situation. If you don’t want to link any of your accounts, though, that’s perfectly fine — Charlie will just be a bit limited in what he can do for you.
Charlie Finance: Cons
1. Only Available on Facebook Messenger
Currently, Charlie is only available through Facebook Messenger. There is no online platform to utilize, nor can you download a smartphone app.
You’ll need to log in via your Facebook account in order to use the service.
If you don’t have a Facebook account or are wary of linking up with third-parties on your existing account, Charlie might not be right for you.
2. Charlie Cannot Touch Your Funds
If you’re looking for a system that will analyze your situation, make recommendations, and allow you to automate your efforts, Charlie isn’t quite there. While Charlie is happy to send you reminders each week — such as setting aside $45 to meet that holiday savings goal — you’ll need to actually complete them manually.
Charlie cannot touch your money, even to transfer funds for you.
3. No weekly budgets
Charlie can help you set monthly budgets and monitor your spending over those weeks. However, you are (as of yet) unable to set weekly targets or alerts.
If you prefer to take a more active approach to your budgeting and money monitoring, this might be a problem.
However, if you set specific savings goals, Charlie can send you weekly reminders so you can set funds aside.
Currently, Charlie Finance has a TrustPilot score of 4.8 out of 5 (Excellent). Much of the praise from users involves Charlie being very easy to use, not be annoying or overwhelming, and being quite helpful in tracking and monitoring accounts.
Plus, many users also praise Charlie for being able to combine data from various accounts (such as checking and a credit card) to properly analyze spending without needing to log into multiple platforms.
Should You Choose Charlie Financial?
If you’re looking for a tech-savvy, easy-to-use financial assistant, Charlie is probably worth a look. Not only is it free, but it quickly links with an existing Facebook Messenger account that you (likely) already have.
With Charlie, you can monitor your spending, set alerts and goals for yourself, and even analyze your current progress. Charlie doesn’t require you to download a new app or even visit a new website… plus, it’s entirely free and safe to use.
Want to transform your finances in 2020? Start using Charlie now and you’ll have an excellent tool already in place come January 1st.
After all, who doesn’t want to get financial alerts from an adorable little penguin?
Stephanie Colestock is a personal finance expert and writer who enjoys teaching people how to be financially independent and confident about their money choices, regardless of obstacles in their path (such as the crippling student loan debt she once held). Stephanie graduated from Baylor University, and is currently working toward her CFP certification. Her work can be seen on sites such as Forbes, Dough Roller, and Johnny Jet, among many others.