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PNC Virtual Wallet: Love of My Life

THIS is the tool that turned my financial life right side up! A banking app built for millennials that actually works well on your phone. This gives me instant access to my accounts to let me know how much money I have left, where it's going and if my pay is deposited yet. I highly, highly recommend that you check it out. It's what helped me get out of debt and I can't live without it.

PNC’s Virtual Wallet is one of the biggest contributors to my financial turnaround. I don’t work for PNC, and they don’t pay me to tell people about Virtual Wallet (though they should!), but I talk about it all the time. Gushing to follow.

When I decided I needed to get my money straightened out, I knew I needed a new bank. Since 2002, I used a tiny local bank that didn’t meet my needs and, frankly, pissed me off. Between my mistakes (overdraft fees, anyone?) and theirs (taking $500 out of my account instead of someone else’s, then waiting 3 months to reimburse me), I found myself frustrated every time I logged onto their useless website. Transactions wouldn’t show up for days, so I never really knew how much money I had available. (Confession: I don’t keep a checkbook ledger. My fault? Yes. But still.) I researched checking accounts for a long time and PNC was the clear winner for me, simply because of the miracle they call Virtual Wallet.

What is it? Virtual Wallet is a set of three linked accounts developed for Generation Y. The first account, Spend, is an everyday checking account. This is the one I use for paying bills, buying groceries, etc. It comes with a Visa Check Card and free starter checks. The second account, Reserve, is an interest-bearing checking account used for short-term savings. For example, if I’m saving for an Apple TV (my most recent purchase), I can make a category on my Wish List called Apple TV and set my goal at $100. The third account, Growth, is an interest-bearing checking account used for longer term savings. I can set up categories under Growth as well. Right now I have one called Emergency Fund and another for my son’s savings. Both the Reserve and Growth accounts serve as overdraft protection for the Spend account.

So what’s the big deal? The big deal with Virtual Wallet is the user interface. This is NOT your average boring bank site. I have never had more control over where my money goes or how much I save. There are a ton of features in Virtual Wallet that simply aren’t offered anywhere else. I’ll show you what I mean.

Calendar View: When I log in to my account, I see a monthly calendar with all my scheduled payments and transactions. This allows me to see the overall picture of what’s coming out, when I get paid again, and what I’ve spent this month. If I’m in danger of overdrawing on a particular day, that day will be red on the calendar, giving me a chance to deposit money or move a payment around to avoid the fee.

If I want to see what’s going on today (or any other day), I can click on that day and see a detail of what’s scheduled.

You’ll notice there is an uncashed check on the list – that’s one of the beautiful things about Virtual Wallet. When I write a check (a very rare thing for me), I can enter it online and it will remove that amount from my free balance until the check clears. No more forgetting I wrote a check and getting hit with an overdraft fee. I can also schedule my bills through the calendar, and PNC pays them for me when they’re due. They even mail a check for my water bill since I can’t pay it electronically.
Free vs. Available Balance: One of the biggest problems with failing to keep a checkbook ledger was never knowing for sure how much money I could spend. I would keep a running total in my head, but I always managed to forget some automatic payment, a check, or a debit that took awhile to post. Virtual Wallet’s Money Bar keeps me in check no matter how much I’ve forgotten by differentiating between my available balance (what’s in there right this minute) and my free balance (what I can spend without messing up the stuff scheduled out).
As you can see, I’m kind of broke at the moment. 🙂 But notice the difference between the $93.80 I have available and the $87.38 that is actually free. If my bank only showed me the available balance, I might think I can spend $90 without overdrawing. Since I have $6.42 scheduled out, though, spending $90 would overdraw my account and result in a hefty fee. Also, the Money Bar shows me what’s in my Reserve account in case I’m running low. I can drag the arrows to move money between the two accounts.
Reserve Detail: If I want to see what’s going on with my Reserve account, I can see my savings categories with nifty progress bars to remind me how close I am to my goals.
The tab for Reserve Items includes any expense you already have the money for but want to keep out of your free balance. For example, I saved back some Christmas money to pay taxes on my car. I made a category under Reserve Items called Car Taxes, put the money in it, and set a reminder on the Calendar to move it back when it was time to pay. Super easy! I can also view the Wish List in my Growth account:
Punch the Pig: One of the coolest feature of Virtual Wallet is the ability to Punch the Pig. Randomly (or all the time, if you choose), a cute pig icon will pop up on the screen. If you click it, you can transfer as little as $1 to your Growth account. When I was spending money like crazy, I used to justify things by saying, “It’s only a dollar. It’s only ten dollars.” Well, now I do the same thing with saving money! I see the pig and can’t help clicking. It even makes an oinking sound when you click.
Other Features: Lest I create the longest blog post in the history of the world, I’ll summarize the other important features of Virtual Wallet.
  • There is an awesome budget feature right on the site that allows me to track my spending. If I get close to the limit I set, I get a text message telling me I’m overspending.
  • There is a Virtual Wallet iPhone app so I can see my Money Bar even when I’m not near a computer. (Android app is expected this year.)
  • I get a text anytime my debit card is used online, so I know if someone is using my card without my knowledge.
  • No fees, no minimum balance, $25 to open. Let me repeat: NO FEES. This is becoming a rarity.

I love Virtual Wallet, and so do the friends I’ve coerced convinced to open accounts. This is the only way I have been able to truly gain control of my money. Since 2002, I paid at least three overdraft fees a month, and I have paid ZERO since opening my account at PNC. Part of that is because I stopped spending needlessly, and part of it is because PNC makes it so easy to avoid overdrafts. (Good thing, too, because they hit you for $37!)

If you’re in the market for a checking account, I would highly recommend PNC Virtual Wallet. I can’t say enough good things about my experience. If you arrived here through a search and have questions about Virtual Wallet, feel free to email me.


  1. Anonymous says

    I am so glad you wrote this post. This sounds like and excellent program and I'm definitely going to look into it. Don't worry about it being long (it wasn't THAT long)…it was VERY informative 🙂

  2. LaTisha D Styles says

    This looks like exactly the type of account I need. I do the same idea but I have to use 2 banks and 4 accounts to do it.

  3. You should definitely check it out! I have looked at demos for a TON of bank accounts, but no other bank is offering anything even close. It's an amazing financial tool.

  4. Mary Beth says

    I stumbled across this blog by pure chance but let me tell you…I feel as though I wrote it myself (except I don't have a child…yet) I was also paying at least 3-4 overdraft fees a month at TD. I switched to PNC about two weeks ago and I can ALREADY see the difference in how I manage my money. I have also been asked by many friends and family members if I am being paid by PNC b/c I will not stop talking about Virtual Wallet. I have gotten myself into a good amount of debt over the past year and I honestly feel as though Virtual Wallet may be the tool I need to help me get out. It turns out I may not need to see a therapist to get my spending under control…I just need to check my Virtual Wallet every day. It has helped me to finally see my finances in a realistic way.

    Good luck!

  5. In your "free vs. available balance" section you talk about how if you only depended on the $90 avaiable, which is not actually what you have to spend you would have a hefty fee.

    Are you saying you would have a hefty fee at another bank without this program or there is actually a fee with virtual wallet if you overdraft?

  6. Thank you sooo much for writing this! I really truly hope this will get me in the right direction. I always overdraft my account to the max ($400) every payday. Then get everything caught back up once a year (at tax time) just to fall back into the cycle about six months later. It's really sad and depressing. Wish me luck! And thanks again!

  7. I have had trouble with banking for years. My son got Virtual Wallet and likes it. Yesterday I called him to see if he thought I was too challenged to handle it. He said I could do it so I'm switching on payday!!! Thank you for this excellent information.

  8. I JUST got PNC Virtual Wallet, and I'm so excited to get my card and start banking with PNC VW. I'll post back in a couple of weeks to let everyone know how it's goign!!

    • Please do – I really want to know if you love it as much as I do! 🙂

      • Oh PNC Virtual Wallet is such a blessing!!!
        So many banks are doing nothing but raising/creating fees, and PNC charged me NOTHING to transfer money from another account into my PNC account!! And the card came in 3 days folks, so that was awesome!! And it has Visa Pay Wave! Which is an awesome feature at some restaurants/gas stations!
        And BEST OF ALL! When i pay for something that’s 5.99, it’s 5.99!! Not 5.99 + this fee + that fee, and so on!
        SUCH A BLESSING!! I feel bad for people getting swindled by certain banks! muwhaha <3

  9. Monique G. says

    This is exactly what I need!!! I already have a pnc account but will definitely be switching to a virtual wallet account, thanks to this blog.
    I told my husband I was going to see if pnc would let us open several savings accounts for different areas of our budget that only occur sporadically, i.e. car insurance, christmas, etc.and one for an emergency fund, but this virtual wallet will work so much better. Thank you for breaking this down four the rest of us. So excited!!! I will try to remember to come back in a couple if weeks to report back as to how it works for us.

  10. I’ve had Virtual Wallet for a while, and I’m actually looking to get rid of it. The interface is pretty and has lots of useful tools, but I really don’t need three accounts with a bank. I use Smartypig for my goal-specific savings, which I find easier to work with. The reserve account is just unecessary and it irritates me that direct deposit goes there so I need to move it to checking or growth.

    The growth account savings rate requires me to make 5 debit purchases a month, and I’ve forgotten and missed it before. Because the rewards program isn’t very good I usually use my credit card instead, and having to count debit card uses is a pain.

    I tried using the automatic money rules to move my money, but found that the amount I want in the spend/growth accounts is too variable for that to work for me. Their customer service is fine, but not great. And you get fined for using too many checks in a given month.
    The punch-the-pig is cute, but I’d rather set aside specific amounts as savings and be done with it.
    The money bar is useful but wouldn’t be necessary without the reserve account (which has such a small interest rate). The app (on Android) is also nice.

    To me it makes more sense to have linked checking and savings accounts, have money direct deposited into the checking account, and move what I can to the savings account (which would have a better rate than the reserve account).

    • If your direct deposits are going into Reserve, then you set it up that way. Don’t blame PNC for your error, just figure out where you made your mistake and fix it with that entity. Simple!

      Also, you don’t actually have 3 different accounts. You have three ways to divide your money up in one account. I find the Reserve section pretty useless for my current situation, so I don’t use it but I can see how someone would. And it’s there if I need it, but if I don’t, it’s definitely not in my way, it’s just an area of my account that I don’t place money into. PNC is banking done in an intuitive, flexible, and easy to manage way.

  11. I love Virtual Wallet for all the same reasons as Andrea. As far as the negative comments above, the employee decides which bank account their employer uses for direct deposit. If she’s irritated that direct deposit goes into the reserve account then she should have simply changed the account with her employer. The things that she wishes that she had in a bank account are all available in Virtual Wallet (and probably most online accounts), and have been for years.

    I don’t use much by way of money rules, but I have nearly all of my bills paid automatically through the bill pay feature. I know that’s not unique, but it is sure convenient. We have found that we still need our primary savings to be at a different institution so that it’s hard to access, but we simply set up PopMoney (available for free through VW) to handle the transfers to that account. I never had overdrafts until my local bank was taken over by another regional bank. Switching to PNC’s Virtual Wallet has been amazing and we’ll be staying with it for a long time to come.

  12. I just switched to Virtual Wallet about a month ago, because one of my children opened a student VW account (that is the bank on her campus) — and I was so impressed with the 3 linked accounts, I knew this was what I had been searching for all my life. I am most definitely NOT generation Y (I am a baby boomer). But I LOVE Virtual Wallet. It is so easy to use, and since I live paycheck to paycheck with many periodic bills (some monthly, some quarterly, some annually), this is really going to help me ensure I always have money in the reserve account to pay the bills that are due.

    I added up the average amounts of the individual bills, including my utility bills which fluctuate monthly, to get an annual amount, then I divided each bill by 52 to get a level per week amount (I am paid weekly). So each paycheck, I shift that amount MINUS any bills due THAT WEEK to reserve. Once a month when the mortgage is due (a really big bill), I shift money from reserve to checking. So far, this is working beautifully, and I no longer have to guess.

    Also, I no longer overspend, because with the money always being shifted immediately after I am paid, whatever is left in my checking account is ALL I have to spend on groceries, gasoline, and anything else I might be tempted to spend. I have learned, in one short month, that I actually have less disposable income than I’d thought. This is due to the weekly shift to reserve; it clearly illustrates to me how little is left after paying bills. That is helping me be more disciplined with impulse buys.

    So far, I have not been able to use the growth account because I am still just getting a handle on cash flow. That will come soon, I hope.

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