Payment Apps and Processors

Sending and accepting payments can be tricky. There are a lot of options out there, so we'll help guide you. Things to consider when looking into accepting/sending payments are: 1) transaction costs 2) ease of functionality 3) app integrations on your phone. 

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What Is a Payment App?

A payment app is a tool to pay for goods and services and send money to vendors, friends, and family. People tend not to carry as much cash nowadays, so a payment app can be a quick way to reimburse a friend for a concert ticket, help a family member out with a bill, or even pay for something at a store without having your wallet with you. It’s like having a digital wallet with you on your phone.

How Does a Payment App Work?

A payment app works like a digital wallet. You link your bank account information and credit cards to the app, and it securely stores it so you can use it to send and receive money directly on the app. You don’t need to have your wallet physically with you, and some apps can even be used internationally. It’s a quick and convenient way to send and receive money and pay for things online and in stores.

How Much Does a Payment App Cost?

Some payment apps are completely free, while others have free aspects like receiving money or sending money between friends and family. Some payment apps may charge fees to receive money quicker than the standard time, currency exchange and processing fees, and credit card fees. These fees vary based on the type, amount, and location of the transaction.

You may be charged between 2.5–3% for credit card processing fees when using some payment apps. If you’re a small business, you can add these fees into the cost of your goods and services or charge an additional fee for customers to pay with a credit card. 

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Is a Payment App Worth the Cost?

Free payment apps are worth using because there’s no cost, and they’re convenient and easy to use. However, if you have to pay to use the payment app, it may or may not be worth the cost. If you’re a small business that accepts credit cards, it’s usually worth it because you’re increasing your number of customers by accepting additional payment forms.

If you need to send money internationally or need your funds available the same day, you would need to find out the fees, weigh your options, and then see if it’s worth it to pay a little more for the convenience.

PayPal

PayPal is the granddaddy of payment companies, with a history going back to 1998. It made its name as the preferred digital wallet and payment provider for eBay transactions but has since grown to be one of the most dominant names in online payments.

PayPal offers the ability to transfer money to and from any U.S.-based bank account and many foreign accounts. There is no fee to transfer funds to family or friends from a PayPal balance or bank account balance, but PayPal does charge fees to send from a credit card or convert currencies.

Venmo

Venmo is actually owned by PayPal, however, Venmo is a very different app than PayPal. Venmo is an app designed primarily to send money to friends, with an embedded social aspect. And, while you can sign in and access your account on the internet, it is a mobile first experience built primarily for use on the go with your smartphone.

Venmo has 60 million active users. That's a lot of restaurant checks split. Venmo can also be used to pay for transactions at many businesses as well. It is free to send money using your linked debit card bank account.

Cash App

Cash App is a mobile credit card processor–Square’s answer to the growing popularity of peer-to-peer payments. Cash App does pretty much the same thing as Venmo, but without the social features. You can send money to, or request from, anyone with a Cash account, and funds are drawn from a linked bank account via debit card at no cost.

Cash App has a wallet feature, like PayPal, or the ability to send from a linked account without holding funds in your digital wallet. In 2018, Square added the ability to buy and sell Bitcoin on the Cash App as well, which gives it a unique feature compared to other popular payment apps.

Zelle

Zelle offers a unique way to pay friends or family right from your bank. If you have an account at a participating bank, you can send cash with same-day transfers to anyone else with an account at a participating bank. The growing list of participating banks includes titans such as Chase, Bank of America, Citi, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and online banking leaders, Ally and Capital One.

You can send without installing the app on your phone, though you can download Zelle’s app and connect to your bank account, too. It is free to send and receive. You can only connect one bank account to your Zelle profile at this time, so if you sign up, make sure it is with your primary account.

Google Pay

Google offers a tool to do almost everything one can do online, and sending money is no exception. Google Pay is unique in its integrations with other Google products, including Gmail. Yes, you can send money to someone by e-mail using Google Pay and Gmail. If you have a Google account, you are essentially already signed up for Google Pay.

Like most Google products, it is well designed and easy to use. It works with the dedicated Google Pay app or through other integrated Google services. There are currently no fees to use Google Pay.


What is a payment processor?

A payment processor is a company that manages the credit card transaction process, acting as a kind of mediator between the bank and the merchant. Put simply, the payment processor communicates information from your customer’s card to your bank and the customer’s bank. Assuming there are enough funds, the transaction goes through.

There are a broad range of fees associated with payment processors, including start-up fees, transaction fees, chargeback fees, termination fees, and lease charges for credit card processing equipment (generally, the third-party payment processor provides the equipment you use to accept card payments, including the credit card machines). However, if you want to accept credit or debit card payments from your customers, there’s really no other option.

Bear in mind that “payment processor” isn’t a universal legal term, and in some cases, it’s used interchangeably with terms like “payment service provider” or “acquirer”.

Payment gateway vs. payment processor vs. merchant accounts

Of course, payment processors aren’t the only significant part of the payments process. You also need to understand the role of payment gateways and merchant accounts.

So, what’s a payment gateway? Essentially, payment gateways are like middlemen between the third-party payment processor/merchant account and the credit card companies. It’s a type of software that handles the technical side of transferring cardholder information. If you don’t have a payment gateway, then you won’t be able to receive payment from your customers, even if all the other elements are in place.

And as for merchant accounts? Put simply, a merchant account is a type of bank account that accepts credit and debit card payments. If you don’t have a merchant account, you won’t be able to accept these types of payment, so it’s incredibly important that set one up when starting your business and creating a business bank account.

As you can see, it’s not really a case of payment gateway vs. payment processor vs. merchant accounts. To successfully manage the payments process, all these elements need to be included. The payment gateway handles the transfer process, the payment processor authenticates and secures the transaction, and the merchant account is where the bank settles the funds, before they’re paid into your business account.

(sources: thebalance.com, consumerreports.org, gocardless.com)

Best Pet Insurance

Are you interested in purchasing insurance coverage that will help pay for veterinary expenses necessary for taking care of your pet? Below we will provide you with answers to your questions, and our two top choices.

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Questions to consider may include:

  • Does the coverage offered have exclusion for preexisting conditions? If so, the insurer will likely not pay for treatment for any condition for which the pet owner has received medical advice or the pet has received treatment prior to enrollment in a new pet insurance policy.
  • Is there a waiting or affiliation period, which means the period of time specified in a pet insurance policy which must pass before some or all of the coverage in the policy can begin? If so, any costs for treatment provided before the end of the waiting period will not be covered by the policy.
  • Does the coverage exclude costs for treatment of a hereditary disorder, which means an abnormality that is genetically transmitted from parent to offspring and may cause illness or disease? If your pet has a hereditary disorder, such as a hip dysplasia, the insurer will not pay for treatment related to that disorder.
  • Does the coverage exclude costs for a congenital anomaly or disorder, which means a condition that is present from birth, whether inherited or caused by the environment, and which may cause or otherwise contribute to illness or disease? If your pet has a health issued identified as a congenital anomaly or disorder the insurer will not pay for treatment related to that disorder.
  • Is there a deductible or coinsurance clause that causes any claim reimbursement to be reduced by a set amount? Your veterinarian will expect you to pay the amount of any deductible or coinsurance percentage.
  • Is there an annual or lifetime policy limit that will cap the amount that will be paid for veterinary services? If so you need to consider whether the coverage is a reasonable investment in terms of premium paid versus total benefit available.
  • Will the renewal premium be increased if a claim is made? If so, you might want to know what is the amount of increase that takes place.
  • Is there a basis for reimbursement or formula for payment for veterinary services other than the actual amount of the billed services? Examples include claims payments based upon a standardized schedule of costs or a schedule of “usual and customary” charges in the industry for the services provided. Your veterinarian will expect you to pay the balance of any billed amount not paid by the insurer.
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Here are our two top picks:

1. BEST OVERALL- Pet Assure

Why We Chose It

While Pet Assure doesn’t fall under the standard pet insurance umbrella, its low cost and flexibility make it our top pick for owners of all types of pets.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Low monthly fees
  • Covers all types of pets
  • No annual limits or deductibles
  • Not subject to waiting periods
  • Pays for pre-existing conditions

Cons

  • Limited to in-network veterinarians (which number about 5,600)
  • Covers only 25% of costs
  • Prescriptions not covered

Coverage

Pet Assure offers plans for a single cat, a single dog, a family plan for up to four animals of any size, and an unlimited plan for all pets in your household. Best of all, there’s no waiting period before you can use your coverage. All of Pet Assure’s plans come with discounted veterinary services, including treatments related to:

  • Accidents
  • Illnesses
  • Preventive care
  • Pre-existing conditions

Pricing

Pet Assure insurance is pretty affordable, plus there is no deductible. You can save some money on your policy if you choose the annual billing option. These are the rates for each insurance plan:

  • Single cat plan: $9.95 per month 
  • Single dog plan: $11.95 per month
  • Family plan: $16.95 per month
  • Unlimited plan: $21.95 per month

Usage

Instead of paying for veterinary costs in full and out-of-pocket, Pet Assure members simply need to visit a participating veterinarian and present their membership information to get discounted services. The Pet Assure network limits you to one of more than 5,600 participating vets spread throughout the country and will reimburse 25% of veterinary costs.

  • Deductibles: None
  • Annual limits: None
  • Copays: 75%
  • Waiting period: None
  • Network size: 5,600 providers

2. BEST FOR DISCOUNTS- GEICO

Why We Chose It

GEICO offers more pet insurance discounts than any other competitor, including lower rates for paying in advance, enrolling multiple pets, and spaying or neutering your dog or cat.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Generous discounts available
  • Low monthly premiums
  • Flexible policy terms
  • Offers wellness benefits

Cons

  • Policies administered by a third party
  • Wellness plans carry little value
  • Limited online resources
  • No option for unlimited benefits

Coverage

GEICO offers one pet insurance policy, and it’s underwritten by Embrace, another company on this list that strictly offers pet insurance. You can begin using your coverage 14 days after enrollment begins. GEICO’s pet insurance policies will reimburse up to $30,000 for the cost of treatments related to:

  • Accidents
  • Broken bones
  • Swallowed objects
  • Illnesses
  • Dental issues
  • Cancer treatment

Pricing

GEICO pet insurance starts at $68 per year, but you can get a quote online to see how much it will cost for your pet specifically. You can choose a deductible between $200 to $1,000, and choosing a higher deductible can help you lock in a lower monthly rate.

Additionally, GEICO offers a handful of discounts for pet owners. There are savings for pets that are spayed or neutered. You can also get a lower rate by paying your entire annual premium upfront, and enrolling more than one pet on your policy. 

Usage

GEICO doesn’t have any restrictions on where you can use your pet insurance coverage, which means you can take your dog or cat to any licensed veterinarian in the country. You can also file claims directly through Embrace’s website. However, you must wait 14 days before you can use the coverage at the vet’s office. Plus, your pet must have visited a vet within the last year in order to enroll. 

  • Deductibles: $200 to $1,000
  • Annual limits: Up to $30,000
  • Copays: 10% to 30%
  • Waiting period: 14 days for accidents and illnesses
  • Network size: Unlimited

(sources: insurance.ca.gov, investopedia.com )

Affordable Solar Panels

Upgrading to photovoltaic solar panels can be an expensive commitment, but there are plenty of cheap solar panels to choose from. Read on for more information about solar options.

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1. Solarland SLP020-24U Silver Poly 24 Volt Solar Panel

Solarland panels are the cheapest overall. 

  • $63.80 per panel
  • 20-watt panels
  • Unknown efficiency
  • 10-year warranty on power output

Their most popular cheap model is the Solarland SLP020-24U Silver Poly 24 Volt Solar Panel, which is typically used for powering traffic lights and other small off-grid uses. 

Certain features, like its efficiency rating, are either non-existent or challenging to find, which makes this cheap panel a potentially risky purchase.

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2. LONGi Model #LR6-60-HPB-310M

As for residential solar panels that can power an entire house, the LONGi brand is well-rated on SolarReviews and offers a few cheap model types, including LONGi Model #LR6-60-HPB-310M and LONGi Model #LR6-60-HPB-300M.

  • $165 per panel
  • 310-watt panels
  • 18.7% efficiency
  • Limited 25-year warranty

LONGi is a great panel that offers good efficiency and reliable wattage, it is a high-quality cheap panel option. 

3. LONGi Model #LR6-60-HPB-300M 

LONGi also offers a lower wattage model if you want to spend a little less per square foot and have roof space to spare for extra panels.

  • $196.11 per panel
  • 300-watt panels
  • 18.1% efficiency
  • Limited 25-year warranty

Although LONGi panels are not as efficient as their top-tier counterparts, they can provide enough power for your entire home for a guaranteed 25 years.

4. Canadian Solar Model #CS3K-315MS

Canadian Solar is another highly-rated, cost-effective solar panel manufacturer. The cheapest option is Model #CS3K-315MS.

  • $207.90 per panel
  • 315-watt panels
  • 18.96% efficiency
  • 25-year output warranty

Canadian Solar panels are slightly more expensive than LONGi but they offer better efficiency, so you can use less of them to power your home.

5. Panasonic Model #VBH330RA03K

Panasonic solar panels are regarded as some of the best-quality panels, but you can find a good deal with the VBH330RA03K model.

  • $291.18 per panel
  • 330-watt panels
  • 19.7% efficiency
  • 25-year warranty

Panasonic is definitely the most costly option on this list, but its brand recognition, higher efficiency, and wattage might make it worth the money in exchange for the peace of mind that comes with a known and well-liked brand. 

Why do solar panel costs vary?

Although individual solar panel prices are listed, normally when solar installers order materials for installation, they might be able to find a better deal because of relationships they have with manufacturers or through various incentives for solar in your state. 

Find what solar incentives you could be eligible for here.

When buying solar panels for a project, the cost per watt of the panel can end up being less than if you bought 20 individual panels. Working with a licensed installer can help you get the best quality panel for the best cost.

Additionally, while cheap solar panels offer the best price upfront, they might not be the best long-term option. Cheap solar panels have a shorter lifespan because usually what makes them cheap is that they have lower efficiency, or ability to absorb sunlight, and they deteriorate more quickly. 

However, if you are determined to get the best deal for solar panels, going the DIY route might be your best bet. 

Are buying cheap solar panels worth it?

Solar panels vary in price for a few reasons. High efficiency panels with more solar cells, or ones that have a higher wattage amount, are generally more expensive because they can produce more electricity per panel than less efficient options. 

While purchasing cheap solar panels might save you money upfront, the long-term benefit of installing more expensive solar panels might outweigh the initial savings. Higher-quality panels will produce more electricity and last longer so you will need less panels to cover the energy consumption of your home. 

Cost generally comes down to how a panel was built, both in terms of quality and the method used, i.e. monocrystalline versus polycrystalline, and its efficiency.

While cheap solar panels might be tempting, the best-priced solar panels are ones that will provide the highest payback over the long term. Despite the large initial price tag involved with a quality solar system, depending on where you live, you can save upwards of $60,000 over a 25-year period instead of spending that money on utility bills.

Solar power is one of the most profitable renewable energy home investments in the United States and is currently helping hundreds of thousands of homeowners save money on their electricity bills. Provided you install the right system size, you can wipe out all or most of your electric bill. Solar panel installation companies are more than happy to help you find the cheapest solar installation.

Solar Energy Terms

Renewable Energy

A renewal energy resource is an energy resource that is regenerative or virtually inexhaustible. Typical examples are solar, wind, geothermal, and water. A renewal energy resource is an energy resource that is regenerative or virtually inexhaustible. Typical examples are solar, wind, geothermal. 

Solar Energy

Solar energy-Solar energy is electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun. Solar energy is measured is kilowatt hours (kWh) or megawatt hours.

kWh and MWh

kWh and MWhkWh and MWh are measurements of energy production and usage. kWh stands for kilowatt hour. MWh stands for megawatt hour.

Alternating current (AC)

Alternating current is a type of electrical current, the direction of which is reversed at regular intervals or cycles. In the United States, the standard is 120 reversals or 60 cycles per second. Electricity transmission networks use AC because voltage can be controlled with relative ease. This is the type of current used by homes and buildings.

Direct current (DC)

Direct current is a type of electricity transmission and distribution by which electricity flows in one direction through the conductor, usually relatively low voltage and high current. This is the type of current created by your solar panels. To be used for homes, DC must be converted to alternating current (AC) using an inverter.

Photovoltaic (PV)

The process by which sunlight is converted into energy. The sun emits photons (light), which generates electricity when they strike a photovoltaic cell. A photovoltaic module is another term for a solar panel.

(sources: affordable-solar.com, solarreviews.com)

Best GPS Trackers

We cover GPS trackers for vehicles, handheld GPS tracking devices for hiking and camping, and GPS watches that cover a range of activities. Read on for what to look for before buying.

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1.  BEST VALUE FOR VEHICLES- Optimus 2.0 4g LTE GPS Tracker

This GPS tracker gives you tons of bang for your buck, with a host of attractive features and an equally attractive price point—under $50 at the time of this writing. It’s smaller than a deck of cards and comes with a water-resistant magnetic case that’s strong enough to place under your car, hidden out of sight. 

You can set up custom alerts through the app for things like your car going out of range or a low battery, plus access driving reports and change real-time tracking from 60 seconds to every 30 or 10 seconds. There’s also an SOS button and the battery is said to last up to two weeks on a single charge. The monthly service fee is a competitive $19.95 per month, with coverage in the U.S. and Canada. 

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2. BEST MIDPRICED UNIT FOR VEHICLES- Bouncie 4g LTE GPS Tracker

While this GPS tracker is pricier than the option above, its monthly service fee is an incredibly reasonable $8 per month. The Bouncie has 15-second real-time data reporting, plus it has attractive features, including impact detection to send alerts to roadside assistance if there's an accident. It also has an SOS button, detects diagnostic trouble codes from your vehicle, and keeps you apprised of speed limits in real time during a trip. 

You can set up a circular geofence to get pinged if your car leaves or enters (slightly limiting, as other devices don’t constrain the zone to a circle), and the Bouncie is Alexa-compatible, Not bad for a tracker that’s about a 2-inch square.

3. BEST PREMIUM FOR VEHICLES- Americaloc GL300 GPS tracker

This GPS tracker comes with exceptional features, sending more alerts than other models in its price category—plus it has a reasonable monthly service fee. Along with real-time tracking in 10-, 20-, 30-, and 60-second increments, geofencing, and an SOS button, the tracker also gives you a heads-up if there’s bad weather ahead and lets you know when the car is turned on or off. 

Americaloc GL300 has solid battery life and it can be hardwired for cars that don’t have an onboard II diagnostic port (OBD II). The monthly service fee is $24.95, but paying for the year up front knocks it down to $19.99 per month. Coverage includes U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and it can be used in other countries with a SIM card.

4. BEST VALUE FOR HIKING- Gramin etrex Touch 35

In addition to its competitive price point—$179 at the time of this writing—one of the best reasons to buy Garmin’s eTrex Touch is the display, which has a color-rich 2.6-inch touchscreen that works like a smartphone. You can set up profiles for multiple activities ranging from climbing to hiking and it features an altimeter, barometer, and three-axis electronic compass. 

Other highlights include a 4GB memory and GPS plus GLONASS satellites for better tracking in challenging conditions. The eTrex is also durable and water-resistant, with built-in mapping and more than 250,000 preloaded geocaches and coverage in the U.S. and Canada.

5. BEST PREMIUM FOR HIKING- Garmin inReach Explorer+GPS Tracker

This bright, attractive handheld GPS tracker is said to deliver 100 hours of battery life on a single charge—and that’s just one of its impressive features. It also has two-way messaging, with access to the global Iridium satellite network to communicate when there’s no cell service. Plus, it triggers an interactive SPS to a 24/7 search and rescue center.

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ has a IPX7 water rating (meaning: it’s essentially waterproof) and gives you access to downloadable maps along with U.S. NOAA charts. Other highlights include a barometric altimeter, built-in digital compass, and accelerometer.

6.  BEST SPLURGE FOR HIKING- Garmin GPSMAP 66sr

This splurgeworthy handheld tracker features a colorful, sunlight-readable, 3-inch bright backlit display, plus expanded GSSN and multiband technology for better coverage in deep valleys and other challenging conditions. 

There’s an altimeter, barometer, and 3-axis electronic compass, along with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that’s said to last up to 36 hours in standard mode. The Garmin 66sr is considered waterproof, with a IPX7 rating, and connects via Bluetooth and  ANT+, which allows all wireless devices to communicate to share vital information like tracking and routes.

7. BEST VALUE GPS WATCH- Garmin Instinct GPS Watch

If you’re looking for an affordable, high-quality GPS watch from market-leader Garmin, the Instinct is tough to beat—and it gets rave reviews, with an average 4.7 stars from more than 20,900 customers. 

The watch is extra-durable, crafted to meet military standards for shock and water resistance, has expanded GSSN for better coverage in challenging conditions, and has a built-in three-axis compass and barometric altimeter. There’s also a backtrack feature that allows you to retrace your steps on the trail and the battery is said to last up to 16 hours in GPS mode. 

On a side note, another type of GPS tracking may be used by Employers and fleet managers. GPS fleet tracking offers several advantages, including improved driver safety, and vehicle and fuel management. GPS fleet tracking software includes alerts and reporting features that can aid businesses' decision making. By tracking driver performance, route trends, and fuel consumption, businesses can optimize fleet performance and save money.

(sources: businessnewsdaily.com, toptenreviews.com, popularmechanics.comg.com, bestcolleges.com)

Background Checker

The best background check services allow you to simply and easily verify someone's identity and provide useful information on that person.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to run such a check, such as to search for family or friends you've lost contact with; or indeed you may even want to simply see what data has been made available on you.

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Top 4 Background Check Services

1. Intelius

Best background check service for beginners

REASONS TO BUY

-Includes education

-Useful visualizations

-Subscription and single-report options

-Social network viewer

REASONS TO AVOID

Relatively expensive

Intelius’s background checks are more exhaustive than many. In addition to the usual addresses, criminal history and financial information, it also includes educational history – useful data if you’re trying to use Intelius to get in touch with someone from your past.

Intelius specially recommends using its service to reconnect with old friends, check someone’s criminal record, and see what appears in your background check. It also allows you to find out who is calling you, review property data on the house you want. The service is quick at getting you the information you want, and all searches are private and confidential and will not show that you searched for that information.

Intelius offers seven unique background search products, ranging from phone directory lookups to full-scale background checks. No matter which of these you want to use, you’ll need to sign up for a long-term membership to access them. Each plan comes with a similar monthly subscription cost, but initial trial period prices vary.

Besides that extensive database, Intelius is notable for its intuitive interface. Despite some slightly confusing billing practices, we consider this to be one of the best background check services. We also like the way Intelius shows connections as a graph, making it easy to see how things are related. There’s also a monthly subscription option and with the quality on show from Intelius, it should be worth the expense.

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2. Instant Checkmate

Best background check service for data

REASONS TO BUY

Good value for money

Accurate and timely data

Great search tools

Unlimited reports with subscription

REASONS TO AVOID

– No single-report option

Instant Checkmate is a people search finder that aggregates data from public records. The service is simple to use and offers a wide range of information, including contact details and criminal records. Results aren’t instantaneous and the service prompts you with a lot of questions and warnings before delivering a report, which can be annoying.

Instant Checkmate enables you to search for someone based on just their name, city, and state. There’s also a reverse phone lookup feature, although this is somewhat hard to find on the Instant Checkmate website. When you run a search, you’re presented with a list of potential matches and you can pull a detailed report for any individual.

The service only checks public records, so there’s no information available through Instant Checkmate that you can’t get elsewhere. However, the platform does cast a wide net and includes details about properties, vehicles past address, family members, marriages, and bankruptcies in its reports. The tool will also tell you if the individual you’re searching is a registered sex offender, if they hold a gun license, or if they have any criminal, arrest, or traffic records.

One of the best things about this service is that you get a huge range of data compared to similar search tools. Running a search with Instant Checkmate can be frustrating since you have to click through more than a dozen pop-ups before you can see the final report. If you can overlook this flaw, though, Instant Checkmate is relatively easy to use.

3. TruthFinder

Best background check service for frequent checks

REASONS TO BUY

Unlimited background checks

Self-monitoring tools

Impressive people finding capabilities

REASONS TO AVOID

Not cheap

TruthFinder offers a range of different background check features covering both public and private databases, and the likes of self-monitoring tools – so you can see what other people might find out about you.

TruthFinder offers many of the same features that you’d expect to find with other background check services. These include searches that cover both public and private databases plus the ability to identify potential associates and relatives of your search subject. 

The TruthFinder platform also offers self-monitoring tools, meaning you can view your record to see what potential employers, or other people who search for you, will see on the platform. Through TruthFinder, you can even claim a particular record as your own. If you do this, you’ll be able to correct factual inaccuracies on it or hide it from other TruthFinder users.

Its skills as a people finder platform are impressive, and TruthFinder provides a wealth of information on the person you’re searching for. Another major strength here is the ability to complete unlimited background checks. The main downside is it isn’t a cheap service, but if you’re going to use TruthFinder a lot, it’ll certainly be worth the outlay.

4. US Search

Best budget background check service

REASONS TO BUY

Affordable reporting

Good search options

Up-to-date data

Search results are free

Reports include contact information

REASONS TO AVOID

No option to buy a single report

In addition to background checks, US Search enables you to travel back in time: the site looks and feels like Yahoo circa 1998. But the lack of web design budget appears to mean that US Search has been able to invest more in thorough search options and excellent price points.

You can search people by name, phone number, address, or email address, and US Search will turn up a large list of search results to help you find the exact person for whom you are looking. Unlike other people search tools, US Search doesn’t put up a paywall in front of the search results. You’ll be able to see the list so you can find the right person—you only pay to access the full report for an individual.

The reports contain basic information like the names of family members, past addresses, properties owned, and any criminal records. Helpfully, they also offer any known phone numbers, email addresses, and social media handles so that you can get in touch with the person you’re searching for. That makes US Search particularly useful for reconnecting with an old friend or long-lost relative.

There are various pricing options available, starting with a single report cost, or a monthly subscription available for unlimited searches, or a quarterly package for the same but with a discount.

It may not be pretty, but it’s certainly pretty good value for money, not to mention a robust background check solution.

Highly Rated Background Check Software

Checkr

What is Checkr?

Checkr is a cloud-based screening solution designed to help businesses of all sizes manage background verification for employees and job applicants. The platform enables users to streamline workflows, add new users, share candidate records with review team, and insert multiple checks at different stages of recruitment.

Checkr comes with a centralized dashboard, which displays a colour-coded status for every screening performed for each candidate. Features include in-house monitoring, information encryption, third-party testing, real-time audit logs, and data source tracking. Its screenings management feature facilitates checks for Social Security Number (SSN) trace, criminal records, credentials verification, drugs, and more. Besides, its artificial intelligence-based (AI) system automatically classifies records based on FCRA, EEOC and other state regulations.

Checkr enables hiring managers to pull consumer credit reports for verifying financial performance and get insights into credit accounts, liabilities, late payments, charge-offs, and public records. The platform integrates with various applicant tracking systems and third-party applications such as Oracle, Kenexa, Workday, and Greenhouse.

(sources: techradar.com, getapp.com)

Best Car Values for Donation

Here are four things to know before you donate a car. Read on to learn how to donate your car and how to take a tax deduction if you’re eligible.

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Do you have an old vehicle sitting around that you’re no longer using?

If so, one option to get it off your hands is to donate it to a charity. Depending on what the charity needs and the kind of vehicle you have, the charity itself may use the vehicle, sell it to a needy individual for a reduced price, auction it off for money or sell it to a salvage yard. In some cases, your vehicle doesn’t even need to be in running condition for you to be able to donate it. What kinds of vehicles can be donated? Almost all vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, boats, snowmobiles, farm equipment and construction equipment.

Many charities make it very easy for you to donate your car in just a few steps. Many charities will even pick up your car for free. But if you also want to claim a deduction on your taxes and get a little bit back yourself, the rules are a bit hazier.

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How to donate your car

The easiest way to donate your car is to simply contact a charity and arrange for it to come pick up your vehicle. Many of the larger charities like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill and the Salvation Army offer dedicated services for this, complete with phone hotlines and websites with donation forms. There are even dedicated car donation services like Charitable Adult Rides & Services, which handles all of the details and lets you choose the charity you’d like the proceeds to go to.

If you’re up for a bit more work, another option is to simply sell the car yourself and donate the money. In some cases this can be more beneficial to the charity, since you may be able to sell it yourself for more than the charity could get at auction for it. At the end of the day, it’s your choice.

Steps to stay safe when donating your car

Donating your car to a charity is generally safe. Still, you’ll want to take a few steps to help protect yourself and not be held liable for anything that happens with your car after you give it away.

  • Be wary of organizations that sound too good to be true — for example, if they promise that you can deduct however much you want from your taxes.
  • Get a receipt from the charity.
  • Remove your car’s license plates once you’re done driving it.
  • File a transfer form to sign over your title with your state’s transportation or motor vehicle agency.

Tax deductions: What to know before you donate your car 

One of the biggest benefits of donating your car is that you might be able to get a pretty sweet tax deduction. But just like anything else the IRS controls, it’s not as simple as handing the car over to a charity and then deducting its value from your taxable income. Instead, you’ll need to meet certain criteria in order to deduct the donation from your taxes. You can get more info from the IRS’ guide to vehicle donation.

You’ll need to itemize your deductions

You can claim a charitable deduction (including for cars) only if you itemize your taxes. And unfortunately, with the new tax law changes, most people are better off claiming the standard deduction, so your car donation might not benefit you at all come tax time.

You’ll need to donate to a charity that qualifies

In order for your donation to count as a tax deduction, you’ll need to hand your car over to a registered 501(c)(3) organization or tax-exempt religious institution. You can verify the charity’s eligibility by calling the IRS hotline at 1-877-829-5500 or by visiting the IRS website.

You’ll need to collect certain documents

After you hand off your car to the charity, you should get a written receipt right away. Depending on what the charity does with your car, you’ll also get either a written acknowledgement or a Form 1098-C (Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes) at some point. Keep a hold of this document, as you may need the information to file your taxes, and you may even need to send the document itself in if you’re deducting more than $500 from your taxes.

In addition, if you’re donating a car worth more than $5,000 and the charity doesn’t plan to sell it for cash, you’ll need to get an official written appraisal at least 60 days before you donate the car as well.

Filing the proper tax forms

Most charities sell the cars that are donated to them for money. In that case, you can deduct the car’s final selling price, which the charity will provide to you with written acknowledgement or Form 1098-C.

You’ll need to file the following documents with your tax return, depending on how much you can deduct:

  • $500 or less: Nothing in particular, but hang on to your records in case you’re audited.
  • $501 to $5,000: File Form 1098-C or the written acknowledgement, plus Section A of Form 8283.
  • More than $5,000: File Form 1098-C or the written acknowledgement, plus Section B of Form 8283 and the written appraisal of the vehicle if the charity isn’t selling it.

Bottom line

Whether you can qualify for a tax deduction from a car donation or not, you can rest assured that charities will be grateful for it. Even your old junker may qualify as a donation since charities can sell it to a scrap yard. So consider donating your car — it’s a great way to clear your yard while helping people out at the same time. It’s a win-win scenario — just make sure to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s if you do plan on taking a deduction.

(sources: creditkarma.com , habitat.org)

Medical Alert Alarms

Medical alert systems allow seniors to stay independent while making sure help is available when needed. The devices can help prevent further injury or death after a fall or other emergency. Here are our top 4 options.

Top pick: Medical Guardian

  • Free activation and free installation 
  • Free spouse monitoring with purchase of second pendant

Medical Guardian offers a top-quality service that is highly valued by its customers. With a monitoring center that is TMA Five Diamond Certified and a wide range of products to suit many different needs and lifestyles, Medical Guardian will provide the protection you need and the service you want.

At-home options include the Classic and Home models, for landlines and cell service connections, respectively. The Mobile Guardian offers help on the go with a wearable button and a mobile device that must be within 350 feet of the button for full functionality. 

The Active Guardian is an all-in-one wearable device that has both GPS and Wi-Fi capability along with a two-way speaker to speak with an operator. 

  • Price: $29.95-$49.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification, UL-listed 
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: 600 feet (Home model), 1,300 feet (Classic model)
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee: None (except the Mini Guardian which is a one-time fee of $124.95)
  • Battery life: Mobile pendant battery lasts up to five days. In-home station offers 32-hour backup battery in case of power outage
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $10 per month
  • Special features: Wearable wrist button, automatic fall detection, wall-mounted buttons, voice-activated wall-mounted buttons, mobile app for family members

Best customer service: MobileHelp

  • Risk-free trial for 30 days
  • Free quote

MobileHelp and One Call Alert are two companies under the same ownership, and both provide great products to meet your monitoring needs. The equipment and services offered are the same, but pricing may differ slightly. The monitoring center for both is managed by Rapid Response and while it does not carry the TMA Five Diamond designation, it sets high standards for excellence. You can read more about the monitoring center on MobileHelp's site.

The element that sets both MobileHelp and One Call Alert apart from the competition is customer satisfaction. Both companies receive some of the highest customer reviews in the industry, and their customer service is second to none.

  • Price: $19.95-$44.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: UL-listed, Security Industry Association Certification
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: 1,300 ft (Classic); 1,400 ft (Wired Home)
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee: None
  • Battery life: At-home base station has 24-hour battery life in case of power outage. Mobile battery lasts up to three days
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $10 per month
  • Special features: MobileHelp Connect app for notification and tracking for family members

Best mobile devices: Bay Alarm Medical

  • Risk-free trial for 30 days,
  • Free spouse coverage

Bay Alarm Medical is one of our top picks for its combination of high-quality service at an excellent price point with innovative features you won't find with the competition. The company offers an array of reliable in-home and on-the-go devices that can be used via landline or cell signal, and its emergency monitoring center is certified with the best quality ratings. Customer reviews indicate a high degree of satisfaction with the company and its service.

Bay Alarm Medical's mobile devices, the SOS Smartwatch, the On the Go Help Button, and the Splitsecnd® In-Car Alert­, are what set this company apart from the rest. The SOS Smartwatch offers a convenient, easy-to-wear solution for older adults who are still active. When you compare the real-life experience of wearing this watch versus other clunky mobile devices that often have to hang around your neck, there is no comparison. 

Some mobile monitoring services require a user not only to carry a mobile button but also to bring a mobile base wherever they go, and they must remain within a few hundred feet of the base for full functionality. Bay Alarm Medical's On the Go Help button is smaller and easier to use than its competitors and doesn't require any other hardware to go along with you.

The Splitsecnd® In-Car Alert­ is a feature that isn't offered by the other companies on our list. You can place this device in your car and forget about it, but you get 24/7 in-car monitoring with location tracking and automatic crash detection that will send help within seconds of an accident. Bay Alarm Medicals's state-of-the-art devices make it easier and more convenient to stay protected no matter where you are.

  • Price: $19.95-$39.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification, UL-listed
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: 1,000 feet
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee:  
    • At-home service: None
    • Mobile service: One-time charge of $79 for GPS Help button; one-time charge of $179 for SOS Smartwatch
  • Battery life: Pendants have five-year battery life with no recharging. In-home station offers 32-hour backup battery in case of power outage. Fall detection pendants have 12- to 24-month battery life
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $10 per month
  • Special features: automatic fall detection, location tracking, caregiver tracking, automatic crash detection, personalized fashion necklaces to cover pendants, savings for bundled services

Best warranty: Medical Alert

  • 30-day money-back guarantee,
  • Lifetime warranty on equipment

Medical Alert provides everything you need in an emergency alert system. With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and excellent customer reviews, you can be sure you're getting a quality product. The company earns the highest certifications for their 24/7 emergency monitoring center and offers Home and Mobile systems with long battery life and lifetime equipment warranties. A free mobile app for caregivers provides peace of mind for those wanting to ensure safety and security for their loved ones. Starting at $19.95 per month, Medical Alert offers excellent quality at a price point lower than many competitors. 

  • Price: $19.95-$42.95
  • Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification, UL-listed
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: up to 800 feet
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee: None
  • Battery life: 
    • At-home device: 36-hour backup battery in case of power outages 
    • Mobile devices: battery life up to five days 
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $10 per month
  • Special features: Mobile app for caregivers, automatic fall alert detection, wearable wrist button

(sources: health.com, caring.com)

Pet Insurance

Are you interested in purchasing insurance coverage that will help pay for veterinary expenses necessary for taking care of your pet?

Below we will provide you with answers to your questions, and our two top choices.

Questions to consider may include:

  • Does the coverage offered have exclusion for preexisting conditions? If so, the insurer will likely not pay for treatment for any condition for which the pet owner has received medical advice or the pet has received treatment prior to enrollment in a new pet insurance policy.
  • Is there a waiting or affiliation period, which means the period of time specified in a pet insurance policy which must pass before some or all of the coverage in the policy can begin? If so, any costs for treatment provided before the end of the waiting period will not be covered by the policy.
  • Does the coverage exclude costs for treatment of a hereditary disorder, which means an abnormality that is genetically transmitted from parent to offspring and may cause illness or disease? If your pet has a hereditary disorder, such as a hip dysplasia, the insurer will not pay for treatment related to that disorder.
  • Does the coverage exclude costs for a congenital anomaly or disorder, which means a condition that is present from birth, whether inherited or caused by the environment, and which may cause or otherwise contribute to illness or disease? If your pet has a health issued identified as a congenital anomaly or disorder the insurer will not pay for treatment related to that disorder.
  • Is there a deductible or coinsurance clause that causes any claim reimbursement to be reduced by a set amount? Your veterinarian will expect you to pay the amount of any deductible or coinsurance percentage.
  • Is there an annual or lifetime policy limit that will cap the amount that will be paid for veterinary services? If so you need to consider whether the coverage is a reasonable investment in terms of premium paid versus total benefit available.
  • Will the renewal premium be increased if a claim is made? If so, you might want to know what is the amount of increase that takes place.
  • Is there a basis for reimbursement or formula for payment for veterinary services other than the actual amount of the billed services? Examples include claims payments based upon a standardized schedule of costs or a schedule of “usual and customary” charges in the industry for the services provided. Your veterinarian will expect you to pay the balance of any billed amount not paid by the insurer.

Here are our two top picks:

1. BEST OVERALL- Pet Assure

Why We Chose It

While Pet Assure doesn’t fall under the standard pet insurance umbrella, its low cost and flexibility make it our top pick for owners of all types of pets.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Low monthly fees
  • Covers all types of pets
  • No annual limits or deductibles
  • Not subject to waiting periods
  • Pays for pre-existing conditions

Cons

  • Limited to in-network veterinarians (which number about 5,600)
  • Covers only 25% of costs
  • Prescriptions not covered

Coverage

Pet Assure offers plans for a single cat, a single dog, a family plan for up to four animals of any size, and an unlimited plan for all pets in your household. Best of all, there’s no waiting period before you can use your coverage. All of Pet Assure’s plans come with discounted veterinary services, including treatments related to:

  • Accidents
  • Illnesses
  • Preventive care
  • Pre-existing conditions

Pricing

Pet Assure insurance is pretty affordable, plus there is no deductible. You can save some money on your policy if you choose the annual billing option. These are the rates for each insurance plan:

  • Single cat plan: $9.95 per month 
  • Single dog plan: $11.95 per month
  • Family plan: $16.95 per month
  • Unlimited plan: $21.95 per month

Usage

Instead of paying for veterinary costs in full and out-of-pocket, Pet Assure members simply need to visit a participating veterinarian and present their membership information to get discounted services. The Pet Assure network limits you to one of more than 5,600 participating vets spread throughout the country and will reimburse 25% of veterinary costs.

  • Deductibles: None
  • Annual limits: None
  • Copays: 75%
  • Waiting period: None
  • Network size: 5,600 providers

2. BEST FOR DISCOUNTS- GEICO

Why We Chose It

GEICO offers more pet insurance discounts than any other competitor, including lower rates for paying in advance, enrolling multiple pets, and spaying or neutering your dog or cat.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Generous discounts available
  • Low monthly premiums
  • Flexible policy terms
  • Offers wellness benefits

Cons

  • Policies administered by a third party
  • Wellness plans carry little value
  • Limited online resources
  • No option for unlimited benefits

Coverage

GEICO offers one pet insurance policy, and it’s underwritten by Embrace, another company on this list that strictly offers pet insurance. You can begin using your coverage 14 days after enrollment begins. GEICO’s pet insurance policies will reimburse up to $30,000 for the cost of treatments related to:

  • Accidents
  • Broken bones
  • Swallowed objects
  • Illnesses
  • Dental issues
  • Cancer treatment

Pricing

GEICO pet insurance starts at $68 per year, but you can get a quote online to see how much it will cost for your pet specifically. You can choose a deductible between $200 to $1,000, and choosing a higher deductible can help you lock in a lower monthly rate.

Additionally, GEICO offers a handful of discounts for pet owners. There are savings for pets that are spayed or neutered. You can also get a lower rate by paying your entire annual premium upfront, and enrolling more than one pet on your policy. 

Usage

GEICO doesn’t have any restrictions on where you can use your pet insurance coverage, which means you can take your dog or cat to any licensed veterinarian in the country. You can also file claims directly through Embrace’s website. However, you must wait 14 days before you can use the coverage at the vet’s office. Plus, your pet must have visited a vet within the last year in order to enroll. 

  • Deductibles: $200 to $1,000
  • Annual limits: Up to $30,000
  • Copays: 10% to 30%
  • Waiting period: 14 days for accidents and illnesses
  • Network size: Unlimited

(sources: insurance.ca.gov, investopedia.com )

Tax Relief Programs

Tax relief companies typically offer to help taxpayers in distress. Some of them can be helpful if you’re confused about the process or need help filling out forms. Here are out top 3 Tax reliefs companies. 

BEST OVERALL: Precision Tax Relief

Precision Tax Relief comes out a clear winner across all categories, including the company’s generous money-back guarantee, transparent pricing, and convenient communications channels. We found this to be the most trustworthy tax relief company that we evaluated.

Pros

  • Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
  • All-inclusive flat-rate fee
  • Customer service available by phone, text, email, and live chat
  • In business since 2011

Cons

  • Doesn’t handle standalone state tax debt
  • No tax audit representation
  • Limited online resources

Reputable tax relief companies are hard to come by, but Precision Tax Relief rose to the top in nearly every aspect of our analysis. First and foremost is the company’s 30-day money-back guarantee, one of the longest in the industry. This guarantees a return of your funds if you’re not happy with the service provided during the first month.

The company bases its pricing on a flat-rate fee that is presented during a free consultation. The only way your fee will increase is if the scope of work changes from your initial quote due to new information that was not provided during your consultation. Payment options are flexible with a choice between one lump-sum payment or a zero-interest payment plan. Precision does not require that clients have a minimum debt amount. However, a call with their customer service department revealed that their base service fee may not be worth it for taxpayers who owe less than $10,000 with no other variables. However,  they only take on cases if the possible debt relief makes the service fees worthwhile for clients.

Precision Tax Relief has been in business since 2011 and offers convenient customer service options via phone, text message, email, and live chat. The company is certified by the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers (ASTPS), which is awarded to CPAs with a proven ability to solve a range of problems with the IRS.

The company does have a few limitations. For example, they don’t offer tax audit representation, a service available from many competitors. Precision Tax Relief also won’t handle state tax debt on its own; it works exclusively with federal taxes owed to the IRS.  

BEST GUARANTEE: Anthem Tax Services

Anthem Tax Services’ money-back guarantee is the only one of its kind in the tax relief industry. The guarantee has no time limit and promises to return your fees should the company fail to make any change to your IRS tax debt repayment schedule.

Pros

  • Offers a money-back guarantee with no time limit
  • Payment plans available
  • Accredited by NATP and NAEA

Cons

  • Money-back guarantee doesn’t ensure reduced total payment amount
  • Mixed customer reviews
  • No consumer education focus

Many tax relief companies don’t offer a money-back guarantee at all. Others offer a full refund for the first 14 or even 30 days. Anthem Tax Services, however, offers a unique, no-time-limit guarantee. If the IRS refuses to reduce either your total debt or your monthly payment amount, the company will refund any fees paid for its services.

One important note here: Anthem Tax Services’ money-back guarantee doesn’t constitute a promise to reduce your total tax liability to the IRS. It’s entirely possible that the company will only be able to reduce your current monthly payment, meaning you’ll still have the same amount of debt, it will just be paid back in smaller amounts over a longer period of time. This may reduce the immediate financial burden but won’t save you any money in the long term.

Anthem Tax Services charges a flat-rate fee that is determined on a case-by-case basis. This fee can be broken down into a payment plan for those who can’t afford to pay upfront. The company is accredited by both the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) and the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA).

We did notice a handful of customer reviews for Anthem Tax Services complaining about a lack of regular communication and updates. While reviews are still overall positive, with the company earning four out of five stars on most review sites, this is something to keep in mind. If you do decide to contact Anthem, it might be a good idea to ask upfront about what you can expect in terms of communications and updates from your case manager. You can contact Anthem by visiting the company's website or calling 844-377-6553.

BEST FOR LARGE TAX DEBT: Fortress Tax Relief

If you have a large tax debt, standard percentage-based fees will vastly overcharge you compared to the amount of work required for your case. Fortress Tax Relief’s hourly-based fee structure gives you the best opportunity for savings with a major IRS tax debt.

Pros

  • No percentage-based fee structure
  • Offers a monetary customer service guarantee
  • Handles state tax debt in all 50 states

Cons

  • Minimum tax debt of over $10,000
  • Not accredited by any industry organizations
  • Limited business services

It’s common for tax relief companies to calculate fees based on a percentage of the overall tax debt you currently owe to the IRS. With large tax debt, this can quickly add up to an exorbitant amount that doesn’t reflect the number of hours required to resolve a higher-debt case. For example, a $20,000 debt probably won’t take twice the amount of work to resolve compared to a $10,000 debt.

Fortress Tax Relief offers a unique approach by generating quotes based on the estimated time required. Hourly fees for an attorney vary, but typical EA hourly rates range from $100-$200 per hour. For consumers with large amounts of tax debt, this means you’ll probably pay significantly less than you would with percentage-based tax relief companies. (Still, it never hurts to get a few quotes from different companies just to make sure).

There are a few other perks to working with Fortress Tax Relief, including their comprehensive customer service guarantee. Clients with active cases are guaranteed to have their phone calls and emails returned within two business days. If the company fails to meet this promise more than once, the client will receive a $100 account credit for each subsequent occurrence.

While Fortress Tax Relief provides individual state tax debt services in all 50 states, its business services are relatively limited. The company is also not a member of any of the common industry accreditation organizations.

(sources: investopedia.com, nerdwallet.com)

Top Home Security Systems

Investing in a home security system can improve home safety and help protect your home from break-ins and theft. Keep reading to learn about the best home security systems and find a solution that’s right for you.

1. Vivint

If you want a beautifully designed security system that works even better than it looks, then Vivint is for you. That is with the caveat that you’re also a homeowner, and you don’t mind paying for professional installation. Renters, look away, this one’s not your best option.

Why we chose Vivint

Everything Vivint does, it does well. Where other alarm companies offer a hodgepodge of third-party equipment, Vivint designs its own stuff. Where some options, like ADT, have good equipment but so-so cameras, Vivint’s cameras have some of the best features on the market, including video analytics and 4K image sensors (as well as more standard fare like motion detectors, two-way audio, and night vision).

Vivint also has professional installation, so you don’t have to break a sweat setting up your system. And it has full smart home support, so you can automate everything from your door locks to your bedside lamp.

If you want a security system that will protect your home and also make your neighbors say, “Wow, where’d you get that?” then Vivint’s got what you need.

2. SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe changed the way home security companies do things. It lets you order online instead of getting on the phone, it doesn’t do contracts, and it’s super affordable. We love that SimpliSafe makes it easy to set up a basic security system yourself without draining your savings in the process.

Why we chose SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe is perfect if you want a well-known brand that will protect your house but for way less money than you’d pay for the ADT’s of the world. Most people know the name “SimpliSafe” by now (potential burglars included), and it makes it cheap and easy to set up an alarm system in your house.

Plus, SimpliSafe is no slouch on the equipment front. You can find everything from window sensors to leak detectors to carbon monoxide sensors.

3. ADT

Everyone knows ADT. It’s been in business for over a century, and it’s available all across the US (and a few other countries as well. For any Canadians out there, it’s one of the most popular alarm systems in Canada.)

If what you want is the system with the most clout, then ADT delivers. Potential burglars will see the yard sign and skip your house faster than you can say, “break-in.” Not to mention, ADT uses professional installation so you don’t have to do the work yourself.

Why we chose ADT

Aside from its famous name, ADT also has a wide range of security equipment to protect your home. And the system requires professional installation, so you don’t have to worry about sticking sensors on your doors backward or something.

ADT also works with Z-Wave and supports a bunch of different smart home devices as well as some indoor and outdoor cameras. But you have to subscribe to the right monitoring plan to get support for stuff like that.

4. Frontpoint

Frontpoint’s system works for just about everyone: big house or small house, renter or homeowner, technophile or aspiring Luddite. We like Frontpoint’s simple, secure equipment and its smart home features (especially the Yale smart door lock). Just expect to pay a bit more for the monitoring service.

Why we chose Frontpoint

Frontpoint is friendly. Its customers routinely leave glowing reviews,2,3 and our own experience with Frontpoint’s reps has always been that they’re helpful and easy to talk to.

If you’ve ever tried to call in to something like your internet service provider and had a horrible customer experience (*cough* Comcast *cough*), then you know how important it is to have good support when something goes awry. And Frontpoint is like the Tom Hanks of home security companies—just so nice, you know?

If you’re having trouble installing your doorbell camera or telling your door sensor from your flood sensor, Frontpoint has a bunch of support resources on its website. And you can even contact its reps through social media platforms like Twitter if that’s your jam.

5. Brinks Home

Brinks smart home security equipment comes with some pretty neat monitoring alerts.

Why we chose Brinks Home

False alarms can be a huge pain in the you-know-what. If you have enough false alarms that make their way to police dispatch, you might even have to pay a fine. That’s why most monitoring centers will try to call you before they get the cops involved when your alarm system goes off.

Brinks takes that a step farther, though, and can contact you through text message, phone, or email, depending on which one you prefer. If, like us, you avoid answering your phone as much as possible, then text messages might be a better way to reach you. Brinks can also notify other people on your contact list in case you don’t pick up.

6. Cove

Cove is like a slightly fancier version of SimpliSafe. Both systems cost exactly the same, but if you like the look of a touchscreen control panel, then Cove will give your style a bit of a boost.

We still recommend SimpliSafe overall because it has a wider range of equipment, and offers a doorbell camera. But Cove is a nice alternative for people who want something affordable yet sleek.

Why we chose Cove

Cove’s equipment doesn’t just look good, it’s also super easy to set up, and it’s backed by good customer support.

Cove has a full range of support articles and videos in case you get stuck while you’re setting things up, but we doubt you’ll need them.

(sources: reviews.org, usnews.com )