SmartyPig, an online savings plan offered in partnership with the Iowa-based West Bank, offers online savings accounts that pay a competitive rate of interest. What makes SmartyPig special, however, is that it's designed to help users avoid credit card debt by saving for big items instead of charging them to a card. The minimum savings goal is $250. Each savings goal requires a separate SmartyPig account, funded by an automatic monthly direct deposit. You can add other deposits any time. SmartyPig also integrates social networking by letting you share as much of your goals and progress as you choose with people you invite.
There are drawbacks, however. Reviewers note that withdrawing money with a debit card, check or gift card can take more than a week. You can also transfer the funds back to your primary bank account, which typically takes three to four days. For emergency savings, reviews suggest an online savings account at an online bank such as ING Direct.
We found the most credible reviews of SmartyPig in articles at CNNMoney.com, Forbes.com and at The Wall Street Journal. BankRate.com gives a Safe and Sound rating to the parent bank, West Bank. A review at MyMoneyBlog.com provides additional details.
This article offers alternatives to using a bank for saving, checking and borrowing money. SmartyPig is described as the best option for your savings. Not just because of good rates, either. The author writes, "Of course, you can do a bit better, around 1%, at a handful of online banks, but SmartyPig serves up other benefits banks don't -- like helping you save."
Review: Yes, You Can Dump Your Bank, Ismat Sarah Mangla, Jan. 13, 2012
This detailed review discusses SmartyPig savings accounts, explaining that the high rate of interest is offered because most users schedule goals that take about three years to reach.
Review: Web Resources for Tough Times, Anna Vander Broek, Feb. 25, 2009
3. The Wall Street Journal
This review discusses SmartyPig as well as several other online banking services. SmartyPig adds social networking features to a plan that emphasizes savings goals.
Review: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouse Is, Joseph De Avila and Jane J. Kim, Dec. 17, 2008
West Bank, the parent bank of SmartyPig, earns a 4-star rating (out of 5) here overall. The ratings are updated quarterly, but this summary still gives some basis for comparison.
Review: West Bank, Editors of BankRate.com, Dec. 31, 2011
This review explains the details of how SmartyPig works, noting improvements in the terms since it began. You get a bonus percentage if you withdraw your money as a gift card rather than cash.
Review: SmartyPig Review: With Less Fees, Are Piggy Banks Back?, Editor of MyMoneyBlog.com, April 14, 2008