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Published 24 December 2020

Top 20 financial apps for budgeting, saving and smart spending

We take a look at the best apps currently available for budgeting, saving and smart spending.

Whether you’re saving for something big or simply want to get your budget under control, there’s a financial app that can help. This list includes AI-powered assistants that can move your money around for you to make sure you save, new bank accounts that analyse your spending and make budgeting simpler, and tools for getting more from the money you spend.

We have shortlisted apps in areas that we believe matter to app users, from budgeting to wealth management, every day banking to pension planning – we have it covered. To make our list the app should have a min 3* app review score, be available on both iOS and Android (so you can use it regardless of your choice of smartphone!) and provide the features we believe are valuable to our users.

We’ve identified the most interesting features of each app, along with their review score averages and where they’re available (as at June 2019). We’ve given you an overview but make sure you consider your personal circumstances and dig into the terms and conditions before you make any choices.


Described by one of its creators as “a fitness tracker for your finances”, Emma lets you monitor all your bank accounts and credit cards in one app. Emma separates regular payments — like subscriptions and bills — from your everyday outgoings, tracks bank and credit card fees, allows you to set budgets, and recommends how much you could afford to save each month. Unlike some other apps on this list, Emma doesn’t move money around for you.

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Using AI to analyse your spending and decide how much you can afford to save, Chip automatically transfers money from your current account to a dedicated savings pot, managed by Barclays. It makes a deposit every few days, with a daily limit of £100 and a monthly limit of £600. You can cancel Chip transfers before they occur and pause the assistant altogether at any time, as well as increasing or decreasing how much it saves for you.

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Monzo offers a current account and contactless debit card which you can manage in its app. Your spending is automatically broken down into 12 categories, including groceries, bills, entertainment and eating out, to make it easier to see where your money is going. You can make ATM withdrawals of up to £200 a month when you’re travelling without incurring fees (there’s a 3% charge if you go over that) and there are no charges for making online payments in a foreign currency. Monzo instantly notifies you about transactions and you can instantly freeze your card through the app if you lose it. Handily, you can also unfreeze it if it suddenly turns up.

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Yolt gives you all your current, savings and credit card data in a simple to view list, along with a smart balance showing you how much money you’ve got allocated for bills and what’s leftover. As well as allowing you to set and track specific budgets, Yolt also shows you where you’re spending the most money. Your data is presented in colourful graphs that make it easy to see how your budget is looking at a glance, and the app offers tips and advice on how to manage your money more effectively.

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Savings Goals

This literally-titled app delivers exactly what it promises: A place to organise and track your savings goals. The free version allows you to set up to three projects you want to put money aside for, along with a deadline. The app will recommend how much you need to save per month to hit you target. Your goals are displayed in an easy to read graphical display, showing you the proportion of your goal saved, how close you are to hitting the target date, and whether you’re ahead or behind schedule.

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Connect a card to Moneybox and it’ll automatically round your purchases up to the nearest pound and invest the difference for you. So if you spent £4.60 on lunch, Moneybox would round that up to £5.00 and put 40p into your investment pot. Then, every Wednesday at midday, the money you’ve accrued is taken by direct debit and invested in your ISA, General Investment Account, or your child’s junior ISA. You can choose your attitude to risk — cautious, balanced or adventurous — which determines the ratio at which your money is invested in Moneybox’s three tracker funds (cash, property and global shares).

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Money Dashboard

With support for 59 financial providers, including all the major high street banks, Money Dashboard allows you to view multiple current, savings and credit card account in one place. The app automatically tags and groups your recent transactions, showing you when and where you’ve been spending money. As well as tracking your spending and allowing you to set goals, the Planner feature gives you predictions for future income, expenditure and balances.

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It’s easy to collect a number of pensions as you make your way through your career. PensionBee can help you find those plans and consolidate them in one place. It offers seven different options, operated by BlackRock, State Street and Legal & General, with a range of risk/reward profiles. If there’s a fee of £10 or more to exit one of your old plans, PensionBee will let you know. There’s an annual management fee, which varies according to the plan you choose.

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The first thing Squirrel asks you is why you want to save. It then gets you to separate your monthly earnings into three categories — commitments, savings and spending. When you get paid, Squirrel automatically puts your savings and living expenses to one side, moving your spending money into your current account. When it’s time to pay bills, it releases those amounts for you. You can choose between receiving your spending money as a lump sum or as a weekly allowance.

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If your wallet or purse is bursting at the seams with cards, Curve could be the solution. It gives you one Mastercard to rule them all and an app where you can add your existing accounts. You can monitor your spending and balances across different cards and accounts, as well as access cash-back offers from companies that Curve partners with. You’ll get real-time alerts about your spending and can keep track of your money regardless of which account it’s currently resting in.

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Coconut is designed for freelancers and sole traders. It combines a Mastercard with app that shows your earnings and estimates how much tax you’ll need to pay at the end of the financial year. It also lets you keep a record of your paid and unpaid invoices, as well as allowing you to generate invoices from the app itself. The subscription account gives you the ability to create unlimited invoices – the free account limits you to three a month – as well as giving you free foreign currency exchange and replacement cards.

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The envelope budgeting system is reborn in virtual form with Goodbudget. The app allows you to keep track of how much money you have put aside in each of the ‘envelopes’ dedicated to an area of spending along with your overall account balances. Your envelopes can be synced across multiple devices and checked online, and you can also share your budgets. If you want to dive even deeper into your figures, you can download your transactions as an Excel spreadsheet.

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Revolut is a digital e-money app, with a current account and card. Where it stands out is in allowing you to make international payments and spend money abroad without fees. The currency conversion is done at the interbank lending rate and you can even hold balances in your account in 16 different currencies. Aside from the international-travel-friendly features, you can use the app’s split bill feature to divide group spending as well as accessing analytics to see where your money is going. You can also set monthly spending limits and automatically put aside for regular payments. There’s even support for buying cryptocurrency through the app if that’s an area you want to explore.

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All you need is your receipt – either the old-fashioned paper version or the digital version – to get cash-back from CheckoutSmart. The app shows you items which are on offer (up to 100% cash-back in some cases) and you upload your receipt to prove you’ve bought the product. When you’ve redeemed an offer it disappears from the app, so you only see items that you haven’t claimed cash-back for yet.

You have to wait until you’ve reach £5 in savings to make a withdrawal or £1 for new customers. There’s a 5% charge for payouts under £20, so it’s worth waiting until you hit that level.

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The concept of Stocard is really simple: Rather than carrying a thick stack of store loyalty cards around, you simply add them to this digital wallet. When you reach the checkout, you just present the correct barcode to the cashier. For cards that don’t use barcodes, you can also add membership numbers. The app automatically sorts your deck of loyalty cards by how frequently you use them, which avoids having to scroll through a long list when you get to the counter.

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Plum started out as a chatbot for Facebook Messenger, which is still one way to use it, but it’s also now available on iOS. By giving it read-only access to your bank accounts, it spots patterns in your income and spending to devise a suitable saving plan for you. Once it’s done that, it automatically transfers a weekly amount to your Plum account, holding it there until you withdraw it. It takes 24 hours to take money out of your Plum account and you use simple commands to get the app to do your bidding –– for instance typing “save more” if you want to increase your weekly amount.

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Oval is an online savings account that you connect to your existing current account. Each week, it transfers the amount you’ve saved by direct debit. So far, pretty standard. Where Oval differs from other options is how you trigger those savings amounts. You can choose to have the app set aside a percentage or fixed amount every time you spend on a specific category, say food or entertainment, but there are more unusual methods too. The app can save every time you post on Facebook or Twitter –– after you’ve hooked it up to those services –– or based on your physical activity by connecting to Google Fit or Apple Health. You can then save as a reward for hitting your exercise goals or an incentive to do better if you don’t.

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An AI-powered chatbot that lives in Facebook Messenger (and can also be contacted via text message), Cleo uses read-only access to your bank account to analyse your income and spending. You can then ask it questions like, “Can I afford to buy a pizza tonight?” or “How much can I spend today?” and it’ll reply with a simple answer based on your data. It also allows you to check you current balance, set and monitor daily, weekly or monthly budgets, check direct debits, find out your latest transactions, and view your spending habits broken up by category.

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While other apps on this list make sure you stick to your budget before you buy something, Idealo gives you a way to avoid overspending when you’ve decided to take the plunge. You simply scan the item’s barcode or search for it in the app to see how much it’s on sale for at over 30,000 retailers. You can also set price alerts for things you’re planning to buy in the future, so you can find out when the price drops and hopefully nab a bargain.

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Albert is a great tool to manage invoices and expenses. Albert is a good friend to have around for all professional freelancers or start-up businesses. It’s simple to use and helps you organise, manage and track your finances securely. With this app, you can send an unlimited amount of invoices and store as many expenses as you wish, 100% free of charge.

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These apps were selected on the basis of review scores and range of features. Some of those featured are FCA regulated services, such as bank accounts, pensions, savings & investments. Make sure you have fully understood the product you are signing up to before you proceed. Most apps are free to download but there may be continuing fees for usage and further charges for services. Check the terms and conditions of each app before you download.

About the Author

Mic Wright

Mic Wright is a freelance writer with a focus on technology, politics and popular culture. His work has appeared in publications including Times Money, GQ, and the New Statesman.

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