Making a big move to a new country can be overwhelming, to say the least. The good news? There are plenty of resources to help you with your finances as a newcomer to the United States. Granted, there’s a lot to learn—from budgeting, to setting goals, to opening bank accounts, to choosing a trusted money transfer service.
That’s where you can take advantage of finance and money apps aimed at helping immigrants. We’ve listed six below, including how you can use them to help you transition to the U.S.
You may already know that building credit is important to navigating the U.S. financial system. Good credit can open the door to things like getting lower rates on loans, a credit card, leasing an apartment, and more.
However, building credit for immigrants can be hard, since you may not have a credit score to begin with. In other words, accessing certain financial products may be more difficult, or you’ll be faced with higher interest rates until you can build up your score, which can take months or even years.
Nova Credit is a service that can help you ease the burden. By signing up for their services, you can use your existing international credit to get U.S. credit. Currently, it’s only available for certain origin countries such as Australia, Canada, and India. If your country is supported, this can be a great way to get a head start so you can get an apartment lease or personal loan.
Nova Credit partners with U.S. companies that will accept your international credit. You sign up for a free account and enter your personal details to retrieve your international credit. Afterwards, you select a credit card that’s the right fit and apply for one through Nova’s platform. All of this is free because Nova’s partner companies pay them every time you sign up with them.
Keep in mind that you still have to build your U.S. credit, which can take some time. However, Nova makes it easier for you to build credit by giving you the ability to apply for and open a credit card in the U.S. Plus, Nova offers lots of free educational resources to help you figure how to build credit as an immigrant.
We couldn’t leave ourselves off the list, of course! Remitly was founded precisely to make money transfers easier for customers like you.
The truth is that many banks and major money transfer services can cost a lot of money—both in fees and markups with the exchange rate. If you want to send money to loved ones or pay bills abroad regularly, those fees can really add up.
Instead, consider Remitly. Our intuitive and user-friendly app allows you to send money back home anytime you want, right from your phone. We’re committed to a safe, smooth transfer experience.
Remitly also provides the Passbook app to give immigrants in the U.S. more access to financial services. Passbook is an everyday spending account designed for multinationals, with no foreign transaction fees, cash back on international transfers through Remitly, and a beautiful Visa debit card. Plus, you don’t need an SSN to open an account. Remitly is not a bank; banking services are provided by Sunrise Banks N.A. The Passbook Visa® debit card is issued by Sunrise Banks N.A., Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. The card can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
Launched in 2015 by Carlos Armando Garcia, Finhabits was born of the premise that everyone, especially immigrants, should have access to mainstream financial services. The app is available in both English and Spanish.
Finhabits an investment platform powered by artificial intelligence, or AI. It aims to help brand new investors, starting with as little as $5 a week.
To start, the app walks you through investment basics and develops an investment plan based on your preferences and individual situation. You’ll be able to access your accounts anytime using the Finhabits app — there are no physical branches.
The app itself has an intuitive interface, with easy-to-read graphs that show how your investments are doing. You can also easily set up personalized goals such as saving for an emergency fund, stashing money for a home down payment, or investing for retirement.
Though you do pay a fee for investing your money, it’s generally lower as compared to other apps. At the time of writing, the app costs $1 a month for accounts with less than $2,500. If you have more than that, you’ll be charged 0.05% annually.
If you’re struggling to pay the bills or manage your money when faced with adversity, certain government programs can help.
However, it can be hard to figure out what’s out there, not to mention navigating bureaucratic processes for Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or getting an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.
Propel is a technology company that builds apps to help low income families navigate their finances and benefits. Right now, they’re focusing on helping people budget their SNAP benefits via their Fresh EBT app. This free app helps you instantly check your balance and clip coupons to make your SNAP dollars stretch farther.
Wondering whether you qualify for SNAP? You can find more at the U.S. government’s website on which non-citizens qualify for the program.
MoneyLion is an innovative financial app that includes online banking services and cashback rewards along with a host of other products. It’s designed for people who don’t traditionally use many financial services beyond the basics.
You start with a free MoneyLion account, which gives you a checking account that doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees. It also includes an investment account. This account gives you the opportunity to get cash advances up to $250 for 0% APR — though there are some requirements you’ll need to meet.
One of the biggest benefits to being a MoneyLion member is access to their credit builder loans, which are helpful if you’re looking to build credit as a newcomer. This loan, up to $1,000, doesn’t require a credit check and instead, reports regularly to all three credit bureaus, helping to build your credit with on-time payments.
Once approved, you’ll get immediate access to some or all of the cash with your linked account. First, you’ll need to sign up for a Credit Builder Plus membership, which costs $19.99 per month.
IRS Free File
Though technically not an app, the IRS Free File program is an important resource to know about if you can’t afford traditional tax preparation services.
Free File is a partnership between private tax preparation software companies and the IRS for those who qualify to file their taxes online for free.
You can access the program in January of each year. To qualify, your gross income needs to be $72,000 or less. If you don’t have a Social Security number or don’t qualify for one, you may still be able to use the IRS Free File to file your taxes with an ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
If you’ve recently moved to Canada or the United Kingdom, Emma is a great finance app to check out. Emma arrived in app stores in January 2018 in the U.K., and in June 2019, it became the country’s first financial app to also launch in Canada and the U.S.
Emma helps users perform a variety of tasks. These include grouping all your accounts in a single place, setting budget goals, helping avoid overdraft fees, and even offering tips and advice on how to save money and budget better.
This app also provides detailed data on your spending habits so you can see trends and respond accordingly. And it’s available on both the iOS and Android platforms.
If you’ve got a U.K.-based phone number, you can sign up for the Yolt app. It’s regarded in the market as one of the best apps for budgeting, and it’s available on both iOS and Android devices. Having earned a 4.5-star review on Finder, it’s also well-regarded. They will even send you a debit card if you need one!
Like some of the other apps mentioned here, Yolt allows you to view all your accounts in a single place and track spending. It also goes further by letting you transfer money between different accounts. This is a powerful tool for avoiding overdraft fees and declined payments. The app even offers a game challenge that promises to save you £416 a year.
Few finance apps for immigrants can claim to be the best in the United Kingdom. Money Dashboard received this honor — Best Personal Finance App — in 2017, 2018, and 2020. The app allows you to bring all your accounts into one place to view money that’s coming in and going out.
You can create specific categories of spending to better track finances, and Money Dashboard will automatically place purchases into these categories. The app will even create graphics and charts to give you a better understanding of what you’re seeing.
If you’re working to build a budget, this finance app for immigrants in the U.K. can do wonders.
These free and low-cost finance apps will help make the transition to a new country a little easier for you. While it may take some time to build credit and save for the future, the hard work you put in will be worth it.