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at Debt Reduction Services

Level Money Management App Review

5th Review in the SeriesLevel

According to the guidelines for my personal finance app review for my Android phone and/or tablet, I’m basically looking for how the app and I “get along.” I’m not looking to “interface” with an app. I don’t want to have to go through even a 5-minute tutorial but want something that’s very intuitive. That said, what’s intuitive to me may not be to someone else, and vice-versa.

I’ve previously reviewed CheckMvelopesPersonal Capital, and Mint. The 5th app is one I have great hopes for: Level.

Here’s my review based on my previously-established criteria:

  1. 3 out of 5Account Connectivity (x5): If the app can’t connect to my bank, credit union, lender or broker, there’s no point in the app taking up space on my mobile devices.
    Level seems to be a newcomer (even though, in reality, all of the apps in this series of reviews is new in the past couple of years or so), and, as such, seems to have a relatively limited number of accounts to connect to. If you bank with a large national or regional bank, you’ll be fine. However, if you have your checking and savings accounts at a state-chartered credit union, you may be out of luck. Before giving up, though, check out their list of new financial institutions they can “potentially” connect to. You might get lucky.
    3 out of 5!
  2. 5 out of 5Stability (x5): Equally frustrating is an app that crashes regularly or predictably. If the app closes unexpectedly at some point during my mobile experience, it will receive a 2. If it crashes my phone or tablet, it’s a zero.
    No crashes in my experience. Plus, it moves pretty quickly between screens.
    5 out of 5!
  1. 5 out of 5Mobility (x5): This is, after all, a review of mobile apps, right? If the app is not fully mobile (i.e. it requires desktop activity to add an account, adjust budgets, identify expenses, etc.), it’s going to get less than a 5 on my scale.
    From the time I downloaded Level onto my phone to the point where I was using it fully, I did not need to access my account from a desktop (or even a tablet). That’s what I’m talking about! (preferably said with a Gru-ish accent, for all the Despicable Me minions out there).
    5 out of 5!
  2. 4 out of 5Multiplicity of Accounts (x4): If the app only connects with my bank or credit union checking and/or savings accounts, it will get a 2 or 3. I want an app that connects to my mortgage account as well as my small credit union checking account; that connects to my IRA account as easily as my bank’s saving account.
    Level offers access to most of the important stuff, like checking, savings, and some brokerage accounts. I would like to see more mortgage options, though.
    4 out of 5!
  3. 5 out of 5Budgeting Tool (x4): As a budget and credit counselor, I can’t NOT require this in a mobile app I recommend. If the app doesn’t easily help me create a forecast of my income and expenses, it’s going to get a 3 or less. If the app requires that I input the budget, it’s going to definitely get a 2 if not a 1. I can enter expenses and income in a spreadsheet, but I want the app to do this for me.
    The budgeting help offered by Level is one of its strengths. Tell Level how much you plan to spend in various categories each month, and it will notify you when you’re getting a bit too close for comfort (or have blown past it all together). Add or modify categories to suit your household spending. This is one of the best budgeting centers of all of the apps I’ve reviewed! Beautifully done, Level!
    5 out of 5!
  4. 4 out of 5Security (x4): I’m not going to rate the level of technology (that’s beyond my expertise), I do want to rate the security’s intrusiveness and my level of comfort with it. If I have to enter a 15-digit passcode into my smartphone every time I want to use the app, well, let’s just say I’m not going to use the app. On the other extreme, if there’s not at least a four-number passcode to punch in, I’m going to be uncomfortable having my financial information on my mobile devices.
    As is the case with all of the apps I review, I’m not too concerned about the cyber security of the program. Most are very careful to provide heavily encrypted packets to and from our phones and tablets. What I’m looking for is a PIN or password to lock the program so that no one can access the app in case I leave my phone lying around (and unlocked).
    Level requires a 4-digit PIN to access the app. My only disappointment with it is that it is not the default setting. A user could add all of their account information into Level and not realize that there is a setting that locks out the eyes of others. In my mind, this needs to be the default setting to get my highest rating.
    4 out of 5!
  5. 5 out of 5Intuitiveness (x3): This is a mobile device, for goodness sake. If the app requires either a Ph.D. in computer programming or that I refer even ONCE to its help page or online manual, it’s getting a 1 or less at best from me.
    Here’s another place that Level shines. The app is generally the “cleanest” designed and probably the easiest to navigate. Menus seem to be located right where you think they should be found. There are no graphics running off the screen. All seems right with the Level world.
    5 out of 5!
  6. 5 out of 5Expense Tracking (x3): Not to be confused with the budgeting tool, an expense tracking feature should tell me where I’m spending my money and how much I’m spending in general categories. To receive a 5, the app would have to determine automatically from my connected accounts how much I’m spending at restaurants and fast food joints, on entertainment and recreation, on utilities, on loans and credit, etc. If I have to enter the transactions myself and, gasp! categorize them myself as well, the app is getting a 1 or 0 in this category.
    Level makes it easy to see all of my recent purchases, by account. If you can add an account to Level, Level lists all of the transactions going in and out of that account.
    5 out of 5!
  7. 4 out of 5Extra (x1):  At this time, anything beyond the above criteria is a bonus. And while I love bonuses, they are not the main course. If it comes with a free credit score, a breakdown of my investment portfolio, or an analysis of my daughter’s driving habits, that’s great, but not necessary. Still, I’ll give a few bonus points for any nice add-ons the app might have.
    One nifty little feature that Level brings to the table involves its budgeting tool. If you make it to the end of the month and have money still to spend in a certain category (which is totally boss), Level lets you know and gives you the option to either roll it into the same category next month or to move it to a who new category, say, something financially intelligent like savings or investments. Neat! (yes, that makes three long-out-of-date words I’ve used in one paragraph, in case you’re counting).
    4 out of 5!

General Comments:

Level has a lot going for it, and I’ve actually quite hopeful for its success. Besides its simple, understate logo and the fact that it’s close my currently favorite color, orange, to make up its brand, Level is well organized, avoids clutter, has some sweet visual charts, and employs some of the best budget notifications of all of the apps I’ve used over the past year. Although my main credit union is not accessible through Level, I’m going to check back every six months or so. Once I can get my credit union and Level to hook up, I’ll likely be using it on an ongoing basis.

Have a great week!


Author of Everyday Money for Everyday People, Todd ChristensenTodd Christensen
Everyday Money for Everyday People

Debt Reduction Services Inc


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