TIME How-To

5 Cash-Saving Tech Tools

Saving money is gratifying—plain and simple. And technology can make lining your pockets even easier.

These five apps and websites help you put more dollars where they belong: in your wallet or bank account.

Find the Best Price: InvisibleHand

invisible hand
Invisible Hand

This free browser extension for Firefox, Chrome and Safari tells you if the flight, hotel, rental car or product you’re looking at is available for less money on another site. When the tool finds a cheaper deal, it shows you a narrow yellow band at the top of the screen with a drop-down list of competing prices.

For instance, in this screenshot from Amazon, InvisibleHand found the same new TV on eBay for less money—and with free shipping. The service also includes a feature that will alert you to any available coupons for wherever you happen to be shopping.

Also appreciated: You’ll never see InvisibleHand unless it’s working.

Price: Free at getinvisiblehand.com

Save On In-Home Health Care: CareLinx

carelinx
CareLinx

Hiring in-home care for a loved one can be expensive, so this online marketplace promises to save families up to 50% over traditional agencies. It connects you directly with nursing assistants, medical assistants, nurses and the like.

The service charges a 15% fee, which covers the cost of time tracking, secure online ACH payment processing, payroll tax services and a dedicated family advisor that helps families navigate the process of hiring a caregiver. The company also runs background checks on caregivers and provides professional liability insurance that covers property damage and injuries.

Price: Hourly wages plus a 15% service fee; available at carelinx.com

Get Free Off-Airport Parking: FlightCar

If you live in Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco, the FlightCar service will let you park for free in a special lot—and earn you some extra cash while you’re away.

FlightCar rents out your car to other vetted FlightCar members while you’re away. Your take is anywhere from $0.05 to $0.40 per mile, depending on the make and year of your car and how many miles a renter drives it. Included with the service: A free car wash, $1 million in insurance, and a black-car chauffeur to the airport.

If you’re traveling to any other FlightCar city, a web app will text you information about nearby cars available for rental. The service will be expanding to Seattle next, with other cities to follow.

Price: Free, with the opportunity to make money while you travel; available at flightcar.com

Get Free Stuff: Yerdle

yerdle
Yerdle

This iOS app and website is a store where people barter for free stuff using virtual currency. If you have stuff lying around the house that you don’t use or no longer enjoy, you can offer it on the site for a certain number of “credits”—everyone gets 250 to start. A coffee mug typically goes for around 25 credits, while a Patagonia jacket might run around 650.

It’s similar to eBay in that you can set it up as an auction or set a price for buyers to “get it now.” Once someone accepts your offer, Yerdle sets you up with a UPS label. Credits will appear in your account as soon as you drop the package off at a UPS store. Shipping payments are facilitated through Amazon Payments.

Price: Free, except for shipping in the event you can’t do local pickup.

Reduce Your Interest Rates: Credit Karma

People with high credit scores get lower interest rates on their loans and credit cards, but boosting your score takes time and know-how. Credit Karma is a free web-based service that gives you insight into your TransUnion credit score, the factors that affect it and tips on how to improve it.

If you have a low score, for example, it will suggest products that can help raise your score, such as low-limit credit cards that will increase your limit as a reward for a good payment history. You can also connect your bank and credit card accounts to track your spending.

The platform includes several helpful calculators, such as one to help you determine if you can afford a home and one that figures out how long it will take to repay a debt. Companion apps are available for iOS and Android.

Price: Free at creditkarma.com

This article was written by Christina DesMarais and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME digital currency

You Can Now Donate to Wikipedia in Bitcoin

Bitcoin
Thomas Trutschel—Photothek/Getty Images

"We accept 13 different payment methods enabling donations from nearly every country in the world, and today, we’re adding one more."

The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit responsible for Wikipedia, said Wednesday that it will accept donations of the digital currency Bitcoin.

“It has always been important to the Foundation to make sure donating is as simple and inclusive as possible,” Lisa Seitz Gruwell, the chief revenue officer, said in a statement. “Currently, we accept 13 different payment methods enabling donations from nearly every country in the world, and today, we’re adding one more: Bitcoin.”

The foundation, which runs one of the most visited websites on the Internet, depends almost exclusively on user donations to cover its annual budget of roughly $50 million. Its decision to accept the digital currency comes as a growing list of corporations, including satellite television operator Dish Network, add Bitcoin as a payment method.

Seitz Gruwell said the foundation will use the Bitcoin exchange Coinbase to accept Bitcoin and will convert the currency into U.S. dollars.

“Since we now also have guidance on how to account for Bitcoin, there is a clear understanding of how to legally manage it,” she said.

 

TIME Earnings

Nintendo’s Financial Struggles Continue, Even With Mario Kart 8

JAPAN-COMPANY-EARNINGS-NINTENDO-GAMES
Customers play with Nintendo's videogame console Wii U at an electronics shop in Tokyo on July 30, 2014. Yoshikazu Tsuno—AFP/Getty Images

Even the smash hit Mario Kart 8 doesn’t seem to be able to save Nintendo and its Wii U. The Japanese video game giant posted a loss of 9.92 billion yen ($96.7 million) between April and June, according to its first fiscal quarter earnings report. Nintendo had a profit of 8.62 billion yen ($84 million) during the same period last year.

It’s not a great start to the fiscal year for a company that posted an annual operating loss during its last three. Sales for the company were also down, with revenue of 74.7 billion yen ($728 million) falling 8 percent from last year’s figure of 81.5 billion yen ($794 million).

The Wii U recovered at least somewhat from its disastrous 2013. It sold 510,000 units in the quarter, more than triple the 160,000 it sold during the period last year. Software sales were also way up, mostly thanks to Mario Kart 8, which sold 2.82 million copies and is already the third best-selling Wii U game of all time. But the 3DS, Nintendo’s true moneymaker, is on a precipitous decline, especially in Japan. The handheld gaming device sold just 820,000 units during the quarter, down from 1.4 million during the same quarter last year. Software sales also declined 22 percent to 8.6 million units.

Nintendo is still projecting that it will sell 3.6 million Wii Us and 20 million Wii U games over the fiscal year, while making almost $20 million in profit. That forecast will rest heavily on the performance of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, which is slated to launch in the fall, as well as titles like the Legend of Zelda spinoff Hyrule Warriors.

TIME technology

Amazon Investing Another $2 Billion in India

Customers Collect Online Orders From An Amazon.com Inc. Locker
An Amazon.com Inc. pickup and collect locker at Newbury Park railway station in Newbury Park, U.K., on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Bloomberg / Getty Images

Amazon CEO says he has "never seen" a market grow quite this fast

Amazon plans to invest an additional $2 billion in its India operations, the company announced Wednesday, in an attempt to grab a growing slice of the country’s online retail market.

“We see huge potential in the Indian economy and for the growth of e-commerce in India,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “India is on track to be our fastest country ever to a billion dollars in gross sales.”

Amazon launched its e-commerce site in India last year, going head to head with Flipkart, a local company founded by two former Amazon employees. On Tuesday, Flipkart announced that it had raised $1 billion in funding, the largest-ever sum raised by an Indian internet firm, the BBC reports, but still only half of what Amazon could retrieve from its deep pockets.

“A big ‘thank you’ to our customers in India,” Bezos added, “we’ve never seen anything like this.”

 

TIME United Kingdom

Driverless Cars to Hit Public Roads in Britain by January 2015

A Google self-driving vehicle drives around the parking lot at the Computer History Museum after a presentation in Mountain View, California
A Google self-driving vehicle roams around the parking lot at the Computer History Museum after a presentation in Mountain View, Calif., on May 13, 2014 Stephen Lam—Reuters

On Wednesday, the British government will announce its plans to test autonomous vehicles on public roads by January 2015, but first the Highway Code will need to be revised to allow the driverless cars on the streets

Driverless cars will be hitting British streets for test runs by January 2015 — the British government plans to announce on Wednesday — although the Highway Code will need to be revised to allow for the changes, industry experts say.

The self-driving cars for civilians will be an extension of ones already used by the British army, which are provided by MIRA, a vehicle-engineering and design company.

Britain’s trial of autonomous cars will join the ranks of other countries such as Singapore, Japan and Germany, which have already started testing driverless vehicles on public roads, Sky News reports. Google also recently unveiled plans to test out prototypes of its computerized automobile, which has no steering wheel or pedals, in California this summer.

Google says the autonomous vehicles will “shoulder the entire burden of driving,” the Telegraph reports. Despite the convenience that will be offered by the driverless vehicles, safety on the road remains a prevailing concern for British politicians and civilians.

Suzie Mills, a lawyer at the British law firm Ashfords, told Sky News that the government will have the onus of “clarifying exactly where responsibility sits,” for consumers and insurance companies in the case of an accident.

While the autonomous car remains a work in progress, the British government seems to be taking the high road by allowing consumers the option of maintaining control over the car. A government statement released earlier this month said, “Fully autonomous cars remain a further step, and for the time being drivers will have the option (and responsibility) of taking control of the vehicle themselves. Vehicle manufacturers and their systems suppliers continue to explore the opportunities for full autonomy,” the Telegraph reports.

TIME broadband

Report: You Could Be Overpaying For Your Data Plan

GAO Report Data Usage
An iPhone 5 streaming video from Netflix during a demonstration of the new Google ChromeCast at an event in July 2013. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Internet providers are swapping their unlimited data plans for usage-based plans on both mobile and at-home Internet, but consumers aren't aware of how much data they're burning up

Lost amidst usage-based pricing and ISPs, MBs and GBs, many U.S. customers are unaware of just how much data they consume, and they are in turn purchasing plans with unnecessarily robust allowances, according to a new report.

The findings come by way of a preliminary report released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO conducted a survey about usage-based plans (UBPs), in which consumers pay for a capped amount of data. Such plans are offered by various Internet service providers (ISPs) of wireless and wireline (e.g. at-home broadband) services, including AT&T and Comcast, among others. Consumer focus groups and interviews with top ISPs and industry experts revealed that customers may tend to overestimate data usage of common activities, or on the other hand, underestimate usage and unknowingly exceed data caps.

One wireless provider interviewed by the GAO indicated that only a small percentage of users are on 500 megabytes-per-month or smaller data plans, while half of North American wireless customers use fewer than 102 megabytes per month, according to a report by ISP research firm Sandvine.

Additionally, all wireless ISPs interviewed and over half of wireline ISPs surveyed by the GAO offer usage-based plans to various extents. Users who exceed their data caps on such plans can be fined up to $15 per 1GB of additional data or experience throttled-down connection speeds. An AT&T spokeswoman told TIME 97 percent of the company’s DSL customers don’t exceed their monthly data plan, but Sandvine’s report suggests that more customers will do so in the future, as cord-cutting users depending on the Internet as a TV replacement are already consuming roughly 212 GB of data per month, close to many existing data allowances.

But even users with unlimited wireline plans are subject to restrictions, especially if they’re consuming massive amounts of data.

“Last year we discovered a small number of residential customers [of Verizon’s un-capped Internet plan] consuming many terabytes of data each month with their home connections – far exceeding usage levels ever intended for Verizon’s home broadband service,” a Verizon spokesman told TIME in an e-mail. “To put this in context and just for example, these are customers who would have to watch over 4,000 hours, or 166 days-worth of non-stop HD movie viewing over a month’s time to equal their usage levels.”

Verizon—which does not have wireline broadband caps—subsequently requested those customers to move to a business grade service, a move that could be seen as generous, considering some ISPs are slashing unlimited at-home Internet altogether. Verizon came under fire in March when a spokesman inadvertently suggested it would cap its FiOS fiber broadband service, before later posting that it was a miscommunication. In 2011, AT&T implemented monthly limits for its home broadband subscribers. Recently, Comcast announced that it may roll out a wireline data plan with monthly allotments, a suggestion that’s facing harsh criticism as ISPs claim non-unlimited wireline plans may be more fair.

“Explosive Internet use has driven the need for broadband allotments to continue to invest in a sustainable network,” an AT&T spokeswoman told TIME. A Comcast spokesman confirmed to TIME that the company believes the capped approach is more flexible, allowing those who use more broadband can pay more, and those who use less can pay less.

The GAO report indicated that customers had “strong negative reactions” to usage-based pricing on wireline Internet plans. Though the preliminary findings didn’t elaborate on specific reasons for consumers’ harsh reactions, the congresswoman who requested the report—California Democrat Anna Eshoo—warns that capped Internet plans could discourage users from watching Netflix and Amazon Prime, thus encouraging customers to subscribe to more expensive cable TV packages offered by the very same companies potentially switching to capped Internet plans.

“Data caps, particularly when they’re applied discriminatorily, could have the same damaging effect on the free and open Internet as we know it,” Eshoo told the National Journal.

The consumers surveyed by the GAO, however, expressed fewer negative sentiments to wireless mobile plans with usage-based pricing, a trend that’s grown increasingly popular as wireless providers drop unlimited mobile data plans. Major players like AT&T have taken that leap, cutting its unlimited mobile data plan offerings to new customers in 2010 while marketing the change as one that would save customers money. Reports have estimated that 44% of AT&T’s customers are still grandfathered into the unlimited data plans—potentially a lot of overpaying customers, if not all are big data users.

Still, the unlimited wireless data plans that remain on the market are laced with fine print. Sprint and Verizon, two wireless providers that haven’t eliminated their unlimited mobile data plans, announced in May and July respectively they would throttle speeds for some unlimited data plan holders, a sort of data “prioritization,” as Sprint called it. These are among the “loopholes” customers fear their providers will use to overcharge them, according to the GAO report. Still, most customers’ understanding of their basic data use remains clouded, the GAO report suggests.

So just how much data does certain activities use? Online shopping and general surfing is one of the least data-heavy activities, contrary to popular belief, according to the GAO’s report. Meanwhile, video streaming like Netflix is known to be a data hog.

Here are a few wireless data consumption estimates for common smartphone activities to keep in mind:

Smartphone Data Consumption
AT&T
TIME Instagram

Instagram Just Unveiled ‘Bolt,’ Its Answer to Snapchat

Instagram

And the already existing Bolt voice call and SMS service is not pleased

The photo-sharing, Facebook-owned social network Instagram on unveiled “Bolt” on Tuesday, a new messaging app that allows users to send short-lived photo and video messages from mobile devices.

Bolt allows users to send quick messages that self-destruct by merely tapping on a user’s photo on a smartphone screen. The service is Instagram’s answer to similar apps like Snapchat, which has a smaller but much more active user base (500 million snaps per day versus 60 million Instagrams), and even Slingshot, which is also owned by Facebook.

For the moment, Bolt can only be used in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa. “We’re going to other regions soon, but are starting with handful of countries to make sure we can scale the experience,” a spokesperson for Instagram tells the Verge.

At least one group is peeved by the news of Instagram’s announcement — the startup firm Bolt, which since last year has been building technology to replace voice calling and text messaging through traditional cellphone plans. On Monday, as rumors of Instagram’s forthcoming Bolt announcement spread, Bolt publicly implored the Facebook-owned social behemoth to change the name of the service.

“We know it’s a great name, because we chose it last year when we set out to build a better mobile voice and messaging experience,” Bolt said in an open letter to Instagram. “We’ve worked really hard since then building the Bolt brand and technology to where it is today. Please don’t destroy all that effort.”

[The Verge]

TIME Earnings

Twitter Shocks Wall Street With Big Growth in Revenue, Users

Twitter Goes Public On The New York Stock Exchange
(L-R) Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone applaud as Twitter rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while also celebrating the company's IPO on November 7, 2013 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Stock shoots up 25% in after-hours trading

Updated July 29 at 6:18 p.m.

Twitter shares leapt more than 25 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday following stellar results in the company’s latest quarterly earnings report.

The social network posted greater-than-expected growth in both revenue and monthly active users during the second quarter. Twitter added 16 million monthly active users to bring its total to 271 million, the biggest period of user growth since the first quarter of 2013. Revenue for the quarter was $312 million, blowing past analysts’ estimates of $283 million. Adjusted earnings for the company were 2 cents per share, beating expectations of a 1 cent per share loss. Overall, the company posted a net loss of $145 million for the quarter when including stock-based compensation expenses and other line items.

Pundits have been writing Twitter’s eulogy for months as its user growth slowed in the last year and the company has regularly posted losses. But the latest report shows that Twitter’s plan to make its platform more user-friendly may be paying off. Features such as a more Facebook-like profile pages and a mute button that lets users remove certain users’ tweets from their timelines are aimed at making Twitter novices feel less overwhelmed by the deluge of messages.

The World Cup, which became the most tweeted-about sporting event in Twitter history, was also likely a big boost for the social network during the quarter. Twitter organized conversations around individual matches, featured real-time score updates and attached countries’ flags to hashtags representing each team. “We made progress on multiple fronts across the business and our financial performance was truly exceptional,” CEO Dick Costolo said in a conference call with investors.

A negative point for the quarter were timeline views. At 640 per monthly active user, they were down 7% year-over-year. In the U.S., views are also down from the first quarter. Twitter regularly attributes these drops to changes in its interface that make it easier for users to see interesting tweets without scrolling through a deluge of messages. Also, some of the content on Twitter’s specially curated World Cup pages didn’t count toward the metric.

As Twitter works to differentiate itself from Facebook in the eyes of investors, Costolo spent a lot of time discussing the audiences Twitter serves outside of its monthly users. He said the total number of people who visit Twitter each month is two to three times its official user base when including those who don’t log in. He also touted what we called syndicated viewers, people who see tweets while reading news sites or watching television broadcasts.

Eventually, the company hopes to monetize these less dedicated users somehow, though Costolo said for now the company is just focused on improving the user experience of Twitter’s many casual visitors. He also wouldn’t rule out the idea of a version of the timeline that selected tweets based on an algorithm, like Facebook’s News Feed, rather than showing them in chronological order. “We’re not ruling any any kinds of changes that we might deliver in the product in service to bridging that gap to signing up for Twitter and receiving that value,” he said.

Challenges still remain for Twitter, which won’t have another World Cup to goose its metrics for another four years. But the company reversed some ominous trends this quarter and proved it can take advantage of global events tailor-made for the Web’s water cooler.

TIME Video Games

Xbox One Owners Can Now Pay $4.99 Month for EA Games

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana (L) walks on stage to join the head of EA Sports Andrew Wilson (R) as they introduce the new EA Sports Madden 13 game with Kinect voice functionality at the Microsoft Xbox E3 2012 media briefing in Los Angeles on June 4, 2012. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

Only four games are available so far

Electronic Arts is adapting the subscription service model to the video game industry with a new offering for Xbox One. The new service, called EA Access, will allow Xbox One owners to download and play hit EA games for an unlimited amount of time for $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year. A release date was not announced.

Netflix this is not, so far. EA Access will launch with four games: FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4. Combined, the games retail for more than $150, so the offer is a steal if you happen to enjoy some combination of sports games, first-person shooters and puzzlers. EA says more games will be added to the lineup in the future.

In addition to the catalog of older titles, EA Access members will get a 10 percent discount on the digital version of upcoming Xbox One games like Dragon Age Inquisition and NHL 15. Members will also have access to free trials of upcoming games five days before their official release.

Video game makers are keen to get gamers used to buying and downloading games online because they get to avoid manufacturing and distribution costs while often charging just as much as versions sold in brick-and-mortar stores. So far, there’s no word on a PS4 version of EA Access, but Sony is currently rolling out a new service called PlayStation Now that will allow users to stream older games to a variety of Sony devices.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles

TIME facebook

Get Ready to Download an Extra App to Send Facebook Messages

A view of and Apple iPhone displaying th
A view of an Apple iPhone displaying the Facebook app's splash screen, May 10, 2012 in Washington. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

If you enjoy messaging with friends via Facebook’s primary mobile app, you’re soon going to need an entirely new app to keep chatting. The social network is quietly eliminating the ability to chat with friends on its iPhone and Android apps. Instead, users will have to download Messenger, a dedicated chat app from the company, in order to have real-time conversations (to be clear, users can still write on each other’s profile pages and communicate in other ways via the regular Facebook app).

The change was announced earlier this year and has already rolled out in Europe, much to the consternation of many users. Some users have griped that they don’t want to juggle two Facebook apps to perform functions that were easily done in one app before. But the social network says the transition from Facebook proper to Messenger is seamless and that people using Messenger respond about 20 percent faster, boosting usage.

“In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences.”

In the last year, Facebook has sharply increased its focus on Messenger, which now has more than 200 million active users. The app has gotten a bevy of new features, such as the ability to send videos, and a redesigned interface that allows for visual conversations, a la Snapchat. The company is also keen to divine a way to make money off its Messenger users—recently, a former PayPal exec jumped ship to Facebook to lead the company’s mobile messaging business.

News of the wider rollout of the Messenger requirement was first reported by TechCrunch.

Facebook’s plan mirrors a similar effort over at Foursquare to force users to download a new app called Swarm to check-in to locations. Unlike Swarm, though, Messenger is already a popular standalone service in its own right.

For now, the Messenger requirement will primarily affect smartphone users. People who access Facebook on the iPad, on desktop computers, on the Windows Phone and through web browsers on their phones won’t be affected.

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