The best budgeting and money management apps

Keep an eye on your spending, set budgets and see all your accounts in one place.

If you’ve got one current account then keeping track via your bank’s app is easy. It’s not that hard either if you have one or two more.

But when you start adding even more or have credit cards on top then it makes sense to move over to an aggregator app that will show all your different accounts in one place.

However, not only are there more and more of these to choose from, but they won’t work with every type of account. So I’ve taken a look at the leading options to help you pick the best app for you.

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Why use a money management and budgeting app

The key idea is to give you more control over your finances. These apps will help you track your spending, set budgets and even nudge you of changes you could make. The result is you’ll understand more where your money goes and when.

From there you can identify where you might be able to cut back or find better accounts that’ll put you and your money in a better position.

How money management apps work

These apps use a system called Open Banking to connect third-party apps like these money management ones to your different bank and credit card accounts.

By granting permission, you allow the apps to access your data but it doesn’t store any of the login details. It’s all encrypted too, so your money and data are safe.

The link between the app and your bank is generally done quickly via a few clicks. You select the bank you want to add and the app will open up your banking app for approval.

This connection currently needs to be reauthenticated every 90 days, though this rule is set to change in 2022. When this happens you’ll just need to reconfirm permission which will be much quicker.

Key features

See most of your accounts in one place

For anyone who has more than one current account or credit card (and in some cases investments and savings), you can see all the balances and transactions in a single app.

This, in theory, means you don’t have to keep checking the bank balance for each one, and you can search the aggregator app for transactions if you’re not sure when you paid for it.

You can also see an overall balance. This is really handy if you’re using a cashback credit card to ensure you’ve got enough in your current account to clear the bill each time you get a statement.

Some apps allow you to add mortgages, investments and pensions too.

Track spending & categories

This is a really useful tool and something these apps do much better than most banks (except maybe Monzo).

Every transaction will be put into a category, from transport to food to bills. Sometimes these are preset, other times you can add or adapt them to your own choices. The more you break these down the better.

You’ll then be able to see at a glance where your money goes. Adding together all the different purchases can be more powerful than seeing them separately, and can be a shock when you realise just how much goes on things like taxis or takeaways.

Some apps also aggregate spending by retailers, so you’ll be able to spot if your real spend at Deliveroo tallies up with what you think you spend.

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Set a budget

The next level from this is to set a budget for each of those categories. This can be based on your actual spending in previous months, but it’s better to work out in advance what you want to spend in those sections.

You’ll then be able to see with a few clicks how you’re going each month. Say you’ve set a budget of £200 for eating out, you’ll see when you get close to this (or go over it). That’s the nudge you might need to readjust spending for the rest of the month.

Most apps will let you sync your budgeting month to either the first of the month or a set date (ideally your payday).

View upcoming spending

Another feature I really like is bringing together regular and committed spending. This will largely be bills and subscriptions, but can also include any standing orders you have set up – eg to savings or investments.

Having a single figure for this is another weapon in your budgeting arsenal as anything that’s not already committed is what you have available to spend elsewhere.

Some of the apps might also show you forthcoming debits and how they impact your bank balance to give a true reflection of what you can spend right now.

Nudges of what to do

This final key feature worth noting is that many of the apps will also nudge you to take action. For example, it could highlight where you are overspending, tell you when your balance is low or remind you that a subscription is going to renew.

Key Issues

Not all providers can be added

This is the biggest problem for me. Not including bills, I do the bulk of my spending on three cards. My American Express credit card, my John Lewis Partnership card and my Chase Debit card.

Most of the apps do connect to Amex, though I’ve struggled to get this to work on some apps. John Lewis is only listed (that I can see) on Moneyhub, but that won’t connect. And Chase Bank isn’t on any at all. This could change, but it makes the apps largely useless.

You might also struggle to connect Premium Bonds, or savings and investments held with online savings accounts (eg Tandem or Zopa) or rival fintech apps (eg Chip or Plum).

PayPal is also a notable absence, though that’s only really an issue if you keep money there rather than use it as a way to pay via your debit or credit card.

Some apps allow you to add a manual account, though that does then require you to add individual transactions and / or balances. Which again defeats the purpose.

You might still need to log into individual apps

I love the idea of only ever using one app, but it’s worth checking if a bank switching or monthly reward offer from your current account requires you to log in to your app or online banking on a monthly basis.

You’ll need to put the time in when you first sign up

Though you’ll see adverts saying “sign up in two minutes”, you’ll likely need to spend a good 30 to 60 minutes going through all the different settings. That starts with adding accounts, but also includes categorising transactions, building budgets and

You often need to manually change categories

If you want the most accurate snapshots of your spending then you want each transaction to be in the right place. So a spend at the pub might go under “Going Out”, while your Spotify subscription under “Bills”.

The theory is this is automated and the apps will learn about transactions and what they are the more you use them. But in practice you’ll always have to go into the categories and change some. If you’re lucky it’s just one or two, but I think it’s more likely you’ll be changing at least half.

Some of the worst are for those retailers which could have more than one function. Eg if you get petrol at Tesco it’ll come under groceries rather than travel, or if you pay off a John Lewis credit card it might appear under shopping rather than bills or transfers.

It can also be a nightmare if you regularly shuffle money around accounts in order to meet certain account criteria. Some apps will treat it as income or spending, so you’ll need to change or potentially exclude those transactions.

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You might be limited on the categories you can choose

Some apps will let you set your own categories, to help you make them relevant to your own spending. But others will have preset options which you can’t change.

Some are overcomplicated

Some of the apps are very simple and get the job done. Others allow greater personalisation and analysis. Which is great in some ways but I think most people will be put off by this and in turn stop using the apps.

Most will push you to switch

The main way these apps make money (other than perhaps selling your data) is to get you to change your credit card or utility provider via them. They’ll get paid a commission for this – in exactly the same way a comparison site will.

However some of the apps will really push this feature at you, often in the guise of it being for your benefit. But other than a reminder that you should be shopping around for the best deal, I think these should be avoided.

They don’t have access to your actual bill usage, just the amount you pay. So they can’t possibly know if you’re on a good deal or not.

Some charge you for full features

Though most of these all have a free option (MoneyHub will charge after a 180-day free trial), others will want you to sign up to a paid tier to get extra features.

Be careful before you commit to these. I don’t think most are worth paying for unless you really need those additional features. And in some instances you’ll be able to get them for free elsewhere.

Though of course if you really like the app you’re using and want to try it you can always cancel if you don’t like it.

There are too many!

The other issue I have with these apps is there are now so many of them! That’s a very crowded marketplace, and one that’s hard to generate income. This means many won’t make it, or they’ll offer all sorts of random functions and services which detract from what people actually want.

In fact one of the biggest and best of this type of app – Yolt – closed down in 2021. I’ve also found a few apps (eg iSpent19) that no longer seem to work despite only launching recently.

The top budgeting apps

If you want to try a budgeting app then the following are worth downloading and trying. I’ve listed the compatible banks and other accounts at the bottom of the article. Here are my top ones, and then a little more detail about each one

  • Money Dashboard – £4 for signing up and full desktop version too
  • Snoop – Free £5 for trying
  • Emma – Easy to use but some features are paid for only
  • MoneyHub – Huge number of accounts to add but no free option

Money Dashboard

Pros

  • Very easy to use
  • Full desktop version, including multi-edit option and adding accounts
  • The total balance is on the home screen and you can toggle which accounts are included
  • Scheduled payments are shown on the home screen
  • You can create custom categories
  • There are reminders of regular payments due

Cons

  • I couldn’t get Amex to connect
  • You can’t search transactions on the app (you can on desktop)

Snoop

Pros

  • Not overly complicated
  • The total balance is on the home screen
  • You can create custom categories
  • There are reminders of regular payments due
  • Desktop option (can’t add accounts or change categories)
  • £5 Amazon voucher joining bonus

Cons

  • Existing categories aren’t great
  • You can’t search transactions
  • Too many nudges to switch bills
  • I couldn’t get Amex to connect

Emma

Pros

  • Really easy and fast to get started
  • The total current balance is on the home screen
  • You can see spend vs budget on each category for the current month
  • There are reminders of regular payments due
  • You can add offline accounts
  • I got Amex to connect

Cons

  • You have to pay for Emma Pro to add or customise categories
  • No joining bonus
  • Pushes switching deals and (usually) average cashback deals
  • Emma Plus (£4.99 a month) and Emma Pro (£9.99 a month) don’t offer enough extra in my opinion
  • It’s not clear that some features (eg splitting a transaction across categories) are paid
  • Though you can pay contacts from Emma if you have their mobile number, it just opens up your bank app to approve, so you may as well just do it there
  • No desktop option

MoneyHub

Pros

  • The largest selection of banks and other accounts, including NS&I
  • The total balance is on the home screen
  • You can create custom categories
  • There are reminders of regular payments due
  • Desktop version
  • I could add Amex
  • You can really get into detail
  • It’s not that expensive over a year

Cons

  • You have to pay to use it after a 180 day trial though it’s not much compared to others. On the app it says the cost is £1.49 a month, but the desktop account said it was 99p! There’s a two month discount if you pay for the year upfront
  • It’s possibly too complicated
  • No multi edit feature on app or desktop
  • It said there were no regular payments found, yet I connected by current account that has most of my bills
  • I couldn’t get John Lewis to connect (though to be fair no other app even offers the chance)

Other budgeting apps

The following apps also have budgeting features, but from my research they don’t offer as much as the ones mentioned above. I’ve included them below in case you want to check them out, along with anything notable about them:

APPPROSCONS
Claro– 2% AER Interest on up to £3,000 (details),
– connected to Amex
– Free right now but will be £10 a year,
– budgeting and money management not the key focus of the app so it’s harder to find total balance etc,
– can’t customise categories,
– auto-categorisation not great
CleoAI assistant to keep you motivated– AI assistant to keep you motivated (it’s not for me!),
– US first when connecting accounts,
– Amex didn’t connect,
– pushes a paid credit building credit card
Nova– Amex connected,
– doesn’t push switching or cashback offers
– Only 2 months of spending history,
– no automated categories,
– you can’t customise categories (though there are lots set up already),
– £2.99 a month for things like unlimited history and subscription monitoring
Plum– Autosavings options – Very limited budgeting tools

Banks with budgeting features

If you just want to keep things simple and just use a single bank account then you could also look at one of the following banks. They all allow you to track, categorise and analyse your spending and most let you set up budgets to measure your spending against.

BANKPROSCONS
Chase (read my review)– 1% cashback and 5% interest on “roundups” for a year,
– can treat as a prepaid spending card,
– can pay from different sub-accounts,
– spending can be grouped by categories or merchants,
– you can see scheduled and recurring payments
– No direct debits,
– limited categories,
– no customised categories,
– no budget feature
Monzo (read my review)– Can set a monthly budget,
– bills can be paid direct from a Pot,
– spending can be grouped by categories or merchants,
– you can see scheduled and recurring payments
– Some features, such as customised categories, are only on paid accounts
Revolut– Set a budget and add committed spending,
– spending can be grouped by categories or merchants,
– you can see scheduled and recurring payments,
– accounts from other banks can be added
– Not FSCS protected,
– charges for physical debit card
Starling (read my review)– Bills Manager allows you to pay bills from separate Spaces in your account,
– spending can be grouped by categories or merchants,
– you can see scheduled and recurring payments
– No budgeting feature
– No customised categories

How to choose the best budgeting and money management app

Andy’s Analysis

Overall the main apps all do the same thing. I prefer Money Dashboard as it has a full desktop option, and I like Emma for the simplicity. But I don’t use either, and that’s because I can’t connect the accounts I actually use!

Without Chase, John Lewis and Amex (though that last one could just be a bug for me), it’s all a bt pointless.

You might not have this issue, but I think the first thing you need to do is check the list below of which banks can connect ot which app. If you’ve got a choice of more than one for your accounts, then perhaps the easiest thing is to download a couple and see which you like best.

Which banks can you connect?

Here’s a list of the banks and other accounts you can connect to the core budgeting and money management apps. These are the official lists and could obvioulsy change at any time.

CleoClaroEmmaMoney DashboardMoneyhubSnoop
AmazonAmerican ExpressAmerican ExpressAIB (NI)AJ BellAmerican Express
American ExpressBank of IrelandBank of ScotlandAdam & CompanyAccordB
Bank of ScotlandBank of ScotlandBarclaycardAlphaWalletAdam & CompanyBarclaycard
barclaycardBarclaycardBarclays BankAmazonAegon Pensions & InvestmentsBarclays
BarclaysBarclaysChipAmerican ExpressAldermoreCahoot
Capital OneCaptial OneDanske BankAqua CardAllied IrishCapital One
First DirectChelsea BSFirst DirectBank of ScotlandAmazonClydesdale
HalifaxDanskeFreetradeBarclaycardAmerican ExpressCoutts
HSBCFirst DirectHalifaxBarclaysAquaDanske
Lloyds BankHalifaxHargreaves LansdownBinanceAvivaFirst Direct
Metro BankHSBCHSBC BankBinance USBank of IrelandHalifax
MonzoLloydsLloyds BankBitGoBarclaycardHSBC
NationwideM&SMarks & SpencerBitcoinBarclaysLloyds
NatwestMBNAMBNABitfinexBest InvestM&S Bank
RevolutMonzoMoneyBoxBitmexBirmingham MidshiresNatWest One
Royal Bank of ScotlandNationwideMonzoBitstampBrewer DolphinBank of Scotland
Sainsbury’s BankNatwestNationwide Building SocietyBittrexBrits MoneyBank of Ireland
SantanderRBSNatwestBurton CardBurton cardCreation Cards
StarlingRevolutNutmegByBitCahootNationwide
TandemSantanderPaypalCapital OneCapital OneNatWest
TSB BankStarlingPension BeeChelsea Building SocietyCashPlusMBNA
Virgin MoneyTescoRevolutCipherCarter AllenMonzo
TideRoyal Bank of ScotlandClydesdaleCharles SchwabRBS
TSBSantanderCoinSquareCharles StanleyRevolut
UlsterStarling BankCoinbaseChoice by Octopus InvestmentsSainsbury’s
Virgin MoneyTesco BankCoinbase ProCitibankSantander
WiseTSB BankCoinbase WalletClydesdale BankStarling
Yorkshire BSUlster BankCouttsComputershareTesco
VanguardCumberland Building SocietyCouttsTSB
Virgin Money Credit CardsDanskeCreation CardsUlster
Virgin Money InvestmentsDapperCrowdcubeVanquis
Virgin Money SavingsDebenhams CardCumerland Building SocietyYorkshire Bank
WealthifyDorothy PerkinsDasnkeThe One Account
EqualDe GiroVirgin Money
EthereumDebenhamsVirgin One Account
Evans CardDorethy PerkinsAmazon
First DirectDrgain]Equiniti ShareviewAqua
Fluid CardEvans cardArgos
FrostFergusonBurton
GO! WALLETFidelityDebenhams
Gate.ioFirst DirectDorothy Perkins
GeminiFluid CardEvans
HSBCFriends LifeFluid
HalifaxFundsmith Equity FundTopShop
Hargreaves LansdownGhana International BankHouse Of Fraser
House of FraserGlobal Reach GroupLaura Ashley
HuobiHSBCMarbles
KrakenHalifaxMiss Selfridge
KuCoinHandlesbankenOpus
Laura Ashley CardHargreaves LandsownOutfit
LedgerHouse of FraserTopman
LiquidIdealing.comTUI
Lloyds BankIG BankWallis
MBNAING
MarblesIWEB
Marks and spencerIntelligent Finance
MetamaskInteractive Investor
Miss Selfridge CardJohn Lewis
MonzoKent Reliance
MyEtherWalletLGT Vestra
NationwideLaura Ashley
Natwest BankLeeds BS
Nifty WalletLegal & General
NutmegLifesight
OpusLloyds
Outfit CardMBNA
PensionBeeMarbles
RevolutMarcus
Royal Bank of ScotlandMarks and Spencer
SainsburysMetro Bank
SantanderMettle
Starling BankMiss Selfridge
StatusMoney Mona
TSBMoneyFarm
TUIMonzo
Tesco BankMorses Club
Topman CardNS&I
Topshop CardNational Grid
TrezorNationwide
Trust WalletNatwest
Virgin MoneyNest Pensions
Wallis CardNewbury Building Socirty
WealthifyNow Pensions
Wise (Transferwise)Nutmeg
WiseAlphaOld Mutual
XPub KeyOpus
Yorkshire BankOutfit Card
Yorkshire Building SocietyPensionBee
Post Office
Principality BS
Prudential
Punjab National Bank
Quilter Cheviot
RCI
Rate Setter
Rathbones
Revolut
Royal Bank of Scotland
Royal London
Saffrom BD
Sainsbury’s Bank
Sallie Mae
Salvus Master Trust
Santander
Scottish Widows
Selftrade
Share PLC
Skansa
Smart Pension
Smile
St James Place
Standard Life
Starling
Stocktrade
Student Loands Company
TPT Pensions
TSB
Tui
TalkRemit
Tesco Bank
The Big Exchange
Co-op
The One account
The Peoples Pension
Think Money
Tide
Topman Card
Topshop card
Trading 212
Transact
Triodos
Turkish Bank
Ulster Bank
Unity Trust Bank
Vanguard
Vanquis
Virgin Money
Wallis Card
Yorkshire Bank
Yorkshire BS
Zoopla
Zopa Loans
GoHenry

2 thoughts on “The best budgeting and money management apps

  1. Hi Andy, I can connect my Amex but not my Chase account which is unfortunate. Have you any tips for new Uni students on trains etc

  2. Thanks Andy for raising the profile of these great aggregator apps (or that is what I use them for). Just a small correction that I have successfully connected Snoop to my standard Amex without issue so hopefully others will not have issues doing this on Snoop at least. Also on Snoop (yes it is the one I have used the most), it allows you to enter the renewal dates of your various utilities so at least it has the potential to remind you at the right time. I find their content really good and well written. It has been actually written and edited which is so rare these days and picks up on useful tips that I don’t often see elsewhere so almost forms a free magazine!
    Thanks again for all of the great content you put out to help us all.

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