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I tried Ally's Surprise Savings feature for a month, and it helped me tuck away an extra $235 I didn't even know I had

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  • Ally's Surprise Savings feature analyzes your spending habits, identifies "extra" money you don't need, and transfers it into your checking account up to three times per week.
  • After one month of trying this feature, I saved $235. I plan to keep it on for a year, and hope to save at least $3,000.
  • I found this feature to be an excellent boost to regular, automatic deposits that can be used to get you closer to your savings goals or funneled toward fun, secondary savings goals.
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Saving money has never been a talent that came naturally to me. However, getting a high-yield savings account and automating my savings finally made the habit stick.

I got a high-yield savings account with Ally Bank a couple of years ago, and since then have built up a $20,000 emergency fund and saved up for countless goals. Because automation has helped me so much, when Ally introduced its Surprise Savings feature, I knew I had to try it out.

I'm one month in, and I've already saved $235 without even trying. If things keep going at this rate, by the end of one year this feature will have helped me save over $3,000 — on top of my regular savings!

How Ally's Surprise Savings feature works

Ally Bank introduced some new savings features this year: surprise savings and recurring transfers. I already have a system for automatic monthly savings, but I wanted to give the "surprise" savings feature a try.

This feature boosts your savings by analyzing your bank account and transferring small amounts of "excess" money over to your savings. To help you avoid overdrafting your account, the surprise savings transfers are never more than $100, and Ally won't process more than three transfers in a week.

All I had to do to sign up was log on to my Ally savings account, turn on the Surprise Savings feature under the "optimize" tab, and link my checking account to my Ally savings. I don't have a checking account with Ally, but linking an account from an outside bank wasn't a problem.

I had the feature turned on for a full month before any surprise savings transfers were processed, so I'm guessing it took the bank's algorithms that long to analyze my income and spending patterns. A month in, Ally's little robots started to identify money they didn't think I would need, and I got an email notifying me that my first surprise savings transfer was happening. The first transfer was just $10.

Two days later, Ally processed another surprise savings transfer of $10. Three days later, it processed a $26 transfer. For the next month, Ally completed 10 surprise savings transfers ranging from $10 to $50 from my checking into my high-yield savings account. Each time, I'd get an email notifying me the day of the transfer. 

I did have some issues with the connection to my checking account expiring now and then, but fixing that was easy enough — I just logged into my Ally account and re-entered my checking account credentials.

How much I saved with Surprise Savings

Since the surprise savings feature started processing transfers a month ago, I've already saved $235.

It's particularly motivating because Ally is a high-yield savings account that offers a higher interest rate on your funds than you'd get from a typical bank. This means that the surprise savings feature didn't just boost my savings rate, it also helped me earn more on money that just would've sat in my checking account anyway. Right now, Ally pays a 0.60% APY on savings, while my checking account doesn't earn any interest at all. 

These $25 surprise transfers might not sound like a lot, but it adds up. If I leave this feature on, and it continues to transfer an average of $235 per month into my savings, I'll have $3,066 in my account after just one year.

This is in addition to the automatic deposits I have set up in my savings account. It works great for me as a little boost to my savings rate on top of my core savings goals. However, I could see this feature also being a great way to ease into building a savings habit as well.

Since I'm using this feature in addition to my regular deposits, I've decided to use the surprise savings funds for a different purpose. I have "savings buckets" set up on my savings account for different goals, and my regular deposits, which make up the bulk of my savings, are all funneled into my priority buckets. These are "taxes," "retirement," and "investing," — and, if I have to dip into my emergency fund, that bucket also gets prioritized until it's replenished. My surprise savings transfers go into my fun buckets: "travel," "tiny home/campervan," "treat myself," and "gifts and donations."

Saving money doesn't have to feel like a chore. With all the new ways to automate transfers into your savings account, it can be a "set it and forget it" habit. Plus, setting self-indulgent savings goals for myself in addition to the necessary ones has helped me find the fun in saving money.

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