While the Facebook platform has taken off over the last three months, few personal finance apps have emerged with much early adoption. While a few big brands have gotten into the game with basic portfolio tracking tools, most of the attention has been paid to lending, bill splitting, and games. Here, we’re going to take a quick glance at Facebook personal finance apps.
For those with a stock portfolio to keep track of, you can now get quick updates on your investments without ever leaving Facebook. Both Forbes and Yahoo Finance have applications that display stock prices and charts. The Forbes app has functional charts and social functions like tracking your friends’ stock picks. Unfortunately, the Yahoo Finance app doesn’t display images of stock charts – you have to click on each and wait for it to load. We think the Forbes application is a smoother yet basic experience.
For those without large portfolios to track, virtual stock market games offer a way to gain some experience researching companies and making some mistakes without going broke. The biggest and best virtual stock market game on Facebook is FSX (the Fantasy Stock Exchange) by HedgeStop.com. You start off with $10M in virtual dollars (and can earn another $10M for each friend you invite into the FSX). You can select stocks and build up a portfolio very quickly and compare yourself to the best stock pickers on Facebook or your friends. Comparisons are generally based on net dollar gains so getting additional money from friend invites should give you an advantage, though detracts from the game overall.
Several app developers have created payment apps. However, after testing several and finding most to have very few users, it would be hard to recommend any of these systems except Paypal. The Paypal Facebook Application lets you easily send or receive money inside Facebook. The Paypal application automatically creates Facebook Messages with the payment link included. Hopefully someday Paypal will have competition and we’ll see lower fees, but for now Paypal is still the best solution.
If you need some extra cash, the Lending Club Application can help connect you with others with some to lend, or if you’ve got cash on hand you can extend personal loans for a decent rate of return. Lending Club claims to have loaned over $800,000 through Facebook so far. Unfortunately, the application doesn’t contain much functionality inside Facebook, and links to LendingClub.com for transactions.
On the purely tracking side, splitting bills with roommates can cause a lot of arguments and several Facebook apps aim to make this process easier. The best applications are Bill Monk by BillMonk.com and SPLIT IT by TD Canada Trust. Both let you add roommates, add bills, and quickly figure out who owes who how much. Bill Monk has better support for roommates not on Facebook (who doesn’t?) but SPLIT IT is slightly easier to use. (And if you need to track your personal bills in Facebook, try Bill Track Reminder.)
Compared to most types of Facebook applications, these finance apps showed the best overall quality and performance. We didn’t experience any problems with applications not loading or generating errors.
Of course, the pink elephant in the room for money on Facebook is Facebook itself. Will they build payment system in house? Payments on Facebook are currently handled on outside websites, which creates a number of challenges for merchants and a poor user experience. Many developers have been clamoring for Facebook to launch a payment system fully integrated with the Platform soon.