People who use PFM tools on smartphones to track their spending and manage their budgets are more likely to rack up debts and make poor financial decisions, according to a study conducted by Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington School of Business.
Proponents of whizzy money management apps lay great claims for the technology in helping users to better manage their finances, whether setting goals for savings or keeping their spending on an even keel.
According to the GFLEC research, conducted among 1000 adults, the reverse is often the case. The study among millennial users of smartphone banking apps found that those who use mobile payments are more likely to overdraw their current account, and those who use their smartphone to track spending are not doing better in this regard than those who do not.
The research found that one-quarter of people who use their phones to track spending reported overdrawing their accounts, compared with 20% of those who didn’t use their phones.
"While smartphones are a tool of convenience — 80% of millennial smartphone owners use their device to some degree for transactional fintech purposes and 90% for informational fin-tech purposes—it is not clear whether fintech use represents a net gain for better personal finance outcomes," the paper concludes.
The truism appears to lie in a financial literacy gap among older, more savvy mobile users and younger consumers entranced by the sheen of the technology, rather than the message it is intended to convey.
States GLEF: "Fintech users benefit from being financially literate, as those with higher levels of financial literacy are less likely to overdraw their checking account. It seems that fintech is most appropriately viewed as a complement to, not a substitute for, financial literacy."
Users may also be falling into the recall accuracy trap, a term used by a research team at the University of Cologne and the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, which found that people tend to up their spending when paying by card rather than with cash. The trait appeared particularly entrenched in multifunctional cards that incorporate non-payment functions such as bonus programmes and ID, and more so for smartphones and wearables.