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Product/Service Name

MoneyTrail

Brief Description

MoneyTrail is a free, online allowance and money management system for kids, teens, and families. Kids can track their cash, allowance, IOUs, gift cards, and checks. And, in the process, they develop smart saving and spending skills. Parents save time by eliminating the hunt through the calendar to determine when the allowance was last paid or how much money is owed. The MoneyTrail Market allows kids to create Wish Lists and parents can order the items through Amazon.com. The mobile site, m.moneytrail.net, operates on web-enabled cell phones and handheld devices.

Target audience: Families or kids aged 10 – 17

MoneyTrail

MoneyTrail

The Inspiration

As a family with four children, my husband and I struggled with keeping up with allowances and the occasional payment for extra chores. We also wanted to teach our children how to keep track of finances and make smart decisions with their money. MoneyTrail enables parents to keep up with allowances and IOUs easily and conveniently. As the children get older, they learn to take control of their own money and can track it independently. MoneyTrail facilitates quality money discussions within families as opposed to arguing about when the allowance was paid or how much money is owed.

Key Features

  • Automatic Allowance Tracking. Define the amount of allowance and interval of payments and MoneyTrail handles the rest. You can add extra funds when kids complete chores and other duties.
  • Credit Tracking. Allow children to establish a “line of credit” from the Bank of Mom and Dad, showing both deposits and withdrawals.
  • Automatic Purchases. If your child has a recurring payment for a cell phone or membership fee, you can deduct this cost automatically from the allowance at regular intervals.
  • Mobile and Web Access. MoneyTrail automatically synchronizes changes made to accounts through the web-based interface and the mobile site interface.

Benefits

Just as your regular financial situation can be difficult to track, the same can be said about tracking your child’s allowance. MoneyTrail manages all the funds coming in and out of the “Bank of Mom and Dad.” This way, it’s perfectly clear how much is owed to whom at any time.

Costs

There are no set costs involved in using MoneyTrail to manage your allowance payments. The way the site makes money is from the purchases made through the MoneyTrail Market. This is where children add items to an Amazon Wish List and parents can buy said items. When they do so, MoneyTrail earns a sales commission.

Similar Products/Services

MoneyTrail is not unique in offering a way for parents to track allowance payments online. There are countless other websites that offer similar functionality, including Kids Allowance Bank, Jandeo, Zefty, and Little Money Bags. They all have their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Opinions from around the Web

As MoneyTrail is still quite new (it’s still in beta as of this writing), there are virtually no reviews and articles on the site. The only real mention I found was on Killer Startups:

  • Positive. “Those who have more than 3 children will tell you how complicated it can be tracking all this manually. There comes a point in which that is downright impossible, because in addition to tracking allowances you also have to track how much the children owe you. An Internet tool like this one automates the tedious steps of the process, and lets you focus on what truly matters: knowing how much money you have given your children, and how much they have to give you back.” (KillerStartups)

Company Background

MoneyTrail, LLC is owned and operating by the husband and wife team of Frank and Pam Whitlock. It was founded in 2000 and is based out of Alpharetta, Georgia.

Compatibility with Other Products

MoneyTrail is entirely web-based and runs on IE 7 or above, Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox. The mobile site enables users to access their accounts and enter transactions when they are away from their computer. Accounts are synchronized immediately, whether the user is on a computer or a mobile device. Current supported mobile devices include the iPhone, the iPod Touch, Android phones, BlackBerry phones and the Nintendo DSi. Mobile access is very useful for the parent who is in a store with a child who wants to buy the perfect toy and insists that he or she has enough allowance saved up!

Smartlife’s User Advice

Keeping track of one child’s allowance can already be challenging, but when you have more children, the task becomes even more difficult. A tool like MoneyTrail, especially with the mobile site access, makes the process a little easier to manage. The credit system can be quite useful too. MoneyTrail is a free service, so there is no harm in giving it a try. If you don’t like it for whatever reason, there are many other allowance trackers available on the Internet.

Smartlife’s Recommendation: TRY IT

Image credit: cristimatei / iStockphoto

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Product Watch is part of an on-going series that cuts through the sales propaganda and marketing hype, and reviews products and services from the standpoint of the user and how they actually help us get more out of life.