Finance Apps and Credit Unions: Zelle, Venmo, Clarity and More

Key Takeaways

Finance Apps Aren’t New

In fact, finance apps such as Venmo and Mint have been around for as long as iPhones have existed (over a decade).

There’s an App for That

From paying a friend back to creating a budget or investing, there’s a finance app for everything.

Apps & Credit Unions

Credit unions help you save money, but their partnerships with finance apps can also help you manage and transfer money.

It might be hard to remember now, but only a decade ago, giving money to someone could be a huge pain. You’d go out to eat or to the bar with a friend; you realize you forgot your wallet. Your friend sighs, knowing they might not get their money back, or at least not soon. Because nobody carried cash. So when you’d ask, “Hey man, can you get me this time? I’ll pay you back,” they’d often have to stop themselves from rolling their eyes.

Now, because of the wonderful (terrifying?) world of technology, the conversation goes, “Oh, looks like I forgot my wallet. Do you mind if I Venmo/Cash App/Zelle you?” The financial app is not just a cool thing helping kids fairly share their money; it’s used by basically everyone, young and old, for a wide variety of things, including rent!

If you’re a member of a credit union, you might be wondering what the situation is with your institution when it comes to these types of finance apps. (And if you’re not a member of a credit union, you may want to consider switching for better fees and interest rates, if you’re into that sort of thing…)

The Rise of the Finance Apps

Founded in 2009, Venmo was invented for the reason above (and a few more), after one of the co-founders lost their wallet while hanging out with the other. Since then, PayPal has purchased the company, and others like it have sprouted up, such as Cash App by Square, which offers similar features; and Zelle, launched in 2017 but with a key advantage, as Zelle exists in your financial institution’s own application.

And this is likely just the beginning. With things like Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal becoming such common ways to buy, it’s likely even more apps are on the way.

And then there are the budgeting apps such as Mint, EveryDollar and Clarity, which help you manage your budget, investments and everything else.

The Rise of Credit Unions

Just kidding, credit unions have been around for a long time.

Okay, actually we’re not entirely kidding because, while they are an older fixture in America, they are becoming more popular and more advanced than ever before. For a long time, credit unions got a bad rap — they were always mentioned after banks.

However, within the last decade, credit unions have innovated in similar ways as banks, putting them on the same level when it comes to features, services and integration capabilities. But does that include finance apps?

Saving Up for Something Big?

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The Best and Worst Finance Apps for Credit Unions

Not that there is necessarily a best or worst financial app, but these are some of the most popular ones, both in general and as it applies to credit unions.

Making Payments Easy


Truly the LeBron James (the king) of financial apps, Venmo continues to be the best, most well-known financial app in the country. Its functionality is simple, the social element is a fun quirk, and it’s what people say when they’re sending money to one another, i.e. “Can you Venmo me?” Venmo works with a ton of financial institutions, including credit unions. Check with your specific credit union or download the Venmo app to be sure.


If Venmo is LeBron James, Zelle is Steph Curry; younger, flashier, with a much less challenging path to stardom — but still not considered the best. Zelle was founded eight years after Venmo, but was done so by some of the biggest banks in the country, who jointly own the app. Zelle’s biggest feature is that it can be installed natively in many banking apps. They have a list of their partners on their website which includes some credit unions, but they claim that you can use Zelle even if your credit union isn’t listed.

Cash App

Cash App is Venmo’s biggest competitor and has even surpassed Venmo in Apple’s list of most popular finance apps. This app does the same thing Venmo does: it lets you make payments to friends and family. However, it’s a little less social and a little more straightforward. And you can be anonymous. The app also offers discounts at different places like restaurants and coffee shops.

Setting (and Sticking to) a Budget

Credit unions help you save money, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to budget. Budgeting apps can help you figure out where to put that money you’re not spending on fees and outrageous interest rates.


Ever heard of the “cash diet”? It’s basically the juice cleanse of the finance world. We’d never recommend actual juice cleanses, but a financial juice cleanse? Hell yeah.

wine juice boxes gif

During the cash diet, you pay for everything in cash, with the exception of bills.

To do this, you take enough cash out at the beginning of every month (or every two weeks, depending on your pay schedule) and separate those crisp $10s or $20s into envelopes for each portion of your budget. (One of our writers, Maggie, used a small accordion folder.) When you head to, say, the grocery store, you leave your cards behind and only take in what cash you budgeted for groceries that week. If you need a little more, you have to pull budget from somewhere else.

It’s a fantastic way to save money, but it can be inconvenient. Not to mention how nerve wracking it is to carry so much cash around all the time.

king with money gif

EveryDollar is the solution to that problem. It’s basically the digital version of the cash diet. You set your budget, and every single purchase you make gets automatically loaded in. Each transaction has to be manually dropped into the corresponding portion of your budget. The benefit of this is that you can’t just set it and forget it, like with many other budgeting apps. You have to go in and sort it yourself, so you see exactly where your money is going and how much you have left instead of checking at the end of the month and realizing you went way over.

The best news? EveryDollar supports over 10,000 credit unions!


The veteran of budgeting apps, Mint, launched in 2007. It saw such success early on that Intuit bought it only three years later for $170 million. The most recent user report stated that over 20 million people use the app — and that report was from six years ago!

Mint is probably one of the most extensive financial apps out there, considering its feature-packed desktop app. It has budgeting; bill tracking; extensive income, investing and spending reporting; and goal setting features.

If EveryDollar is the most straightforward finance app, Mint is its antithesis. It’s robust, which can be overwhelming for some users, but wildly beneficial for others. And Mint, too, works with most credit unions.


So we’ve got a simple, straightforward app (EveryDollar) and a robust, feature-packed app (Mint). Is there a happy medium? Yup.

Clarity is a budget tracker, but it also gives you the clearest look at your spending habits out of any of these apps. There’s even a “what did I spend on” feature, where you select a category (Apple, Lyft, Afterpay, or anything else) and then a time range (last month, this year, last year). Plug it all in and you can see exactly how much money you spent on a certain thing.

It’s a good reality check — our writer, Maggie, realized she spent $500 on apps and in-app purchases in one year … yikes. The realities you can discover are painful, but they can help curb your bad spending habits.

bad spending habits spongebob gif

It also shows you a quick look at how much you’ve spent in the last few days, and it can help you cancel unwanted subscriptions. Clarity also works with many credit unions, but it’s unclear how many.


When it comes to credit unions and financial apps, in many cases it’s the same as any other financial institution. Still, you should talk to your credit union before signing up one of these apps is a priority for you, and if your current credit union doesn’t support these apps, you can always make a request through them or the financial app you’re hoping to use.

Banks, Credit Unions and You

Like we said way back up there, credit unions are catching up to banks when it comes to technology, offering the same high-tech innovations and systems as anyone else. If you’re considering a switch to a credit union, you’ll likely still get all the best programs and technology, while also receiving lower interest rates on loans, higher interest rates on savings and fewer fees.

Every Little Bit Counts

Better interest rates, fewer fees — it all adds up in the end.

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