Prism Review - A Free App to Help You Stay on Budget
See where your money is going and pay your bills with one free app. Here’s how Prism can help you stay on budget and even increase your credit score.
- Easy bill pay
- Free to use
- Can help improve credit score
There’s a secondary benefit, but one no less important. By better organizing your day-to-day finances, you’ll reduce the likelihood of missing a payment. That can hurt your credit, especially if the late or missing payment is for a credit card or loan payment. Prism helps you avoid that outcome, keeping your credit score nice and healthy.
Prism describes itself as a “free app that helps you get control of your money.” It works like a financial aggregator, similar to Mint and Personal Capital, except it aggregates income and expenses, rather than bank and investment accounts.
With all your expenses connected to the app, you’ll have a complete picture of your budget. There you can pay your bills and accurately match your expenses against your income.
Prism has processed more than $1 billion in bill payments in the past six years.
Prism works with your mobile phone or tablet. It can be downloaded from the App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Kindle Fire.
The specific mobile device requirements are as follows:
- An Apple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 7.0 or later
- An Android device running Android 4.0 or later
- An Amazon Kindle fire running Fire OS 2 or later
- A Windows PC or tablet running Windows 8 or later
- A Windows phone running Windows Phone 7 or later
After you download the app, you’ll add each of your bills. Prism will then sync your account balances and bills. There they’ll be assembled, giving you a complete picture of your budget. Going forward, you can pay your bills directly through the app.
You’ll need to provide your login credentials for each biller you add to the app, so Prism can access and display the information going forward.
The basic strength of this app is in its simplicity. It doesn’t promise to manage your entire financial universe, or to make you rich. Instead, it focuses on the most basic of all financial activities, managing your monthly finances.
That focus shouldn’t be underestimated. Until you can get control over your monthly budget, financial forward progress in any direction simply isn’t possible. This is proven by a 2018 survey by Bankrate indicating only 39% of Americans can come up with $1,000 for an unexpected expense. That means 61% likely turn to credit, borrowing from family or friends, or have to radically cut expenses.
Getting out of that trap all starts with getting control over your income and expenses on a monthly basis. Prism is designed to help you do just that.
Prism is based in Sunnyvale, California, and was founded in 2011. It was developed for the purpose of helping users stay on top of their finances by simplifying managing monthly bills. In 2016, Prism joined Handle Financial, a company that delivers next generation bill payment and presentment services. Prism is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Handle Financial, Inc.
Handle Financial is America’s largest real-time bill pay network. It doesn’t even require you to have a bank account. It allows you to accept cash payments and to manage and pay bills through the app.
The ability to accept cash works through PayNearMe, which enables you to accept cash round the clock. Designed to accept customer payments, it works through both mobile devices and through more than 27,000 retail locations nationwide, including CVS, 7-Eleven, and Family Dollar Stores.
Handle Financial’s bill paying capability is where Prism enters the picture. It acts as the outgoing channel for funds in the Handle Financial system.
Bill tracking. Prism tracks your bills continuously, and sends you reminders for due dates for each. You never have to miss a bill because you forgot about a due date.
All income and expenses are assembled on the app. That includes income, account balances and monthly expenses. It will no longer be necessary to assemble paper bills or email statements, you’ll have them all on Prism for a quick glance at any time. This also eliminates the need to log into individual websites to make your payments or check account status.
Prism pulls information into a calendar or list. This gives you the ability to know which bills are due and when. From there, you can pay each bill directly from the app.
Account syncing. Prism syncs accounts each morning. But if you need to do it sooner, you can manually refresh a biller.
Choose your bill payment source. You can choose to pay your bills from your bank account, or by debit or credit card. (PayPal is not an option at this time.)
Choose your bill payment date. You can choose to make an immediate payment, or you can choose a future date. They strongly recommend that you schedule payments within biller cutoff dates and times to avoid late fees and other penalties.
Payment cancellation. If you make a payment through Prism, you’ll have ten minutes to cancel that payment once its been sent. The service cannot be used to effect a refund, cancellation, correction or reversal of a completed payment.
Billers are listed in the system. The Prism app works with more than 11,000 billers from across the U.S. The app can automatically pull up balances and due dates.
That includes banks and credit unions, phone services, cable companies, electric utilities, insurance providers, mortgage lenders, water and waste utilities, student loan lenders, media subscriptions and other billers. They even work with state-specific billers, like health insurance companies.
Unlisted billers. If a particular biller is not among the 11,000+ already on the Prism app, you can add it manually.
Security is a major factor with any financial account aggregator, since it provides so much personal information on a single platform. Prism is aware of the importance of security, and takes the following steps to keep your information secure:
Your personal data is never sold. This is a Prism pledge.
Encrypted communications. All communications and data transmissions are encoded so that it can only be read by either you or by Prism.
Information firewalls. Account Numbers, credentials, and other sensitive information is encrypted, so it will be useless to a hacker. The data is stored in Microsoft’s highly secure cloud service–Windows Azure. It’s one of the most advanced cloud systems in the world, and it’s considered extremely secure, both technically and physically.
No information is stored on your tablet or mobile device. Login details and payment information is not stored on your device. Prism will only transmit that information to your services when you pay a bill. But it will never be transmitted back to your mobile phone or tablet.
In addition, if your device is lost or stolen you can sign into your Prism account from another device, then delete your last device. That will ensure it can no longer provide access to your account.
Unauthorized funds transfer protection. If a transfer of funds goes through Prism that was not authorized by you, you will have limited liability. If you notify Prism within four business days of the theft from your account, your loss will be limited to no more than $50. If you fail to notify Prism within four business days, your liability could be as high as $500. If you fail to inform Prism of the loss within 90 days, the unauthorized funds transferred will be fully lost to you.
Prism is a completely free app, as in no fees at all. They do disclose however that they may charge a returned item fee of $15 if your payment is returned unpaid.
So how does Prism make money? They earn small fees from some billers who prefer to work with bill paying systems, and pay a fee to Prism for the faster payments they receive.
They also disclose in the Terms and Conditions that the app will display ads from third party providers. We can assume this is one of the methods the company uses to earn revenue, thus enabling them to offer the service free to users.
To be eligible for Prism you must be at least 18 years old. You sign up by going to prismapp.com from your mobile device. You will need to create a password, account designation and personal ID number to activate your account.
Once you sign up, you’ll need to begin entering your payment accounts (bank account, credit card and/or debit card) as well as the billers you want to include in the payment app.
Prism has a support team available seven days per week. They aim to reply to a support inquiry within 24 hours. You can contact them through the app by tapping the Help & Support account tab. You can also contact them by email at [email protected] Unfortunately, they don’t offer phone support, which is not at all unusual for free apps.
Pros and Cons
- Easy bill pay: Prism focuses on a single financial function, and that’s paying your bills. It doesn’t clutter the platform with your entire financial life on one app.
- Can help improve credit score: Prism can improve your credit score by helping you to pay your credit cards and other loan account on time.
- Free to use: The app won't cost you, so it's really a no-risk proposition.
- Payment choices: You have a choice of payment options--your bank, debit card or credit cards.
- Secure personal data: Prism doesn’t sell your personal information.
- Easy to sync with accounts: The app automatically syncs your billers each morning, keeping you up to date with each account. But you also have the option to manually update any billing account you have.
- Limited unauthorized charges: Prism limits your liability for unauthorized charges, similar to that of a debit card.
- Potential service fees: The service is currently free, but in the Terms and Conditions, Prism makes it clear they have the right to impose service fees on 21 days notice. It doesn’t mean they will, only that you should be aware that it may be possible in the future.
- App displays ads: Prism will display ads, which is a typical practice by free apps.
- Only for use with U.S. billers: Prism can be used to pay U.S. based billers only. Foreign billers are not eligible for payment through the app.
- No paper statements: No paper statements are available. Your payment history must be viewed through the app.
- No phone support: The app doesn't offer any support for your phone - messaging through the app and email only.
- Limited use: Only billers that have a website with online bill paying capability can be used by the app. A private landlord probably won’t, and if not, you won’t be able to pay your rent using the app.
- No investing or retirement accounts: The app can’t be used to fund investment and retirement accounts.
- No autopay: For now the app doesn't include any autopay capability, but they promise they’re working on it.
Because of its simplicity, Prism is an excellent app to help you get control of your monthly budget. The app is free to use, and provides notifications of upcoming bills, and even notifies you if those bills contain significant variations. Should that happen, they’ll recommend that you contact that biller, to see if there’s an error.
The app can also help you to improve your credit. By organizing your bill paying activities, there’s far less likelihood you’ll miss a payment on a credit card or other loan. This will cut down on the number of late payments that may appear on your credit report.
Prism isn’t a super sophisticated financial app that’ll make you rich or even help you to become a better investor. But it will help you with most basic of all financial activities, and that’s staying on budget.
If you’re interested in using Prism but also want to begin investing, you can use Prism along with the Acorns app. Acorns rounds up your purchases and puts the change into an investment account for you. Acorns Core, is free for college students and only $1 per month for everyone else. Because Acorns is a robo-advisor, they make investing easy, especially for beginners. Read our full Acorns Review to learn more about features and benefits.
For more information on Prism, or if you’d like to sign up for the app, visit the Prism website.