IT’S very easy to use your smartphone to spend money, from tap-and-go payments using your digital wallet to in-app purchases. But the gadget in your pocket can also be a force for financial good.
There are lots of powerful money apps that can help you budget and save, many of which are free. Here the Sun Money team share some of their favourites…
BEST FOR: Fuss-free saving and long-term goals
TESTED BY: Lucy Alderson, senior consumer reporter
Lucy said: “Like Chip, Plum also calculates how much you can afford to save.
It then automatically moves this money from your bank account into a separate savings pot each week. Previously I’ve set up direct debits to do this on payday.
But sometimes I wouldn’t save enough or I’d leave myself short, meaning I have to dip into my savings.
I liked the idea that Plum works out the perfect amount for you. With holidays coming up, I was keen to save some extra money as painlessly as possible.
It’s exciting to see my pot grow. It also prompted me to think about saving extra towards retirement too.
This is so important as it’s easy to neglect long-term savings plans when you’ve got a holiday planned next month.
The cash you save is protected by the FSCS, like Chip. It pays 1.01 per cent AER interest – but it’s important to note that you could get more elsewhere.
I think I’ll continue using Plum way beyond my summer holiday.
BEST FOR: Finding hidden savings
TESTED BY: Lynsey Barber, assistant head of consumer
Lynsey said: “Snoop’s robot helps you budget better – and pinpoints where you might be able to save money.
You connect it to your bank account and credit cards. I found it really easy to set up.
A little red flag appears if you’re overspending and a green one if you’re able to make savings.
It told me that I might be able to save money on my mobile bills because I’ve been with my provider for more than two years.
Sadly, I was already on a discounted deal – but I reckon others could easily save a lot of cash using it.
I like how it automatically told you how to make savings. I’m lazy and probably wouldn’t check half the things it does as regularly as I should.
I set an alert for drinks on nights out of £30 to make sure I didn’t overspend. When it popped up in the pub it made me feel guilty about spending any more.
Even though I missed out on a final beer, I know it’s good it made me think about what I was spending.
The free version limits your spending, saving and refund alerts.
The premium version costs £3.99 – I don’t think you need it.
BEST FOR: Setting a budget and keeping track
TESTED BY: Chloe Stratton, Editorial assistant
Chloe said: Budgeting app Emma stopped me from running out of cash last month. I spotted that my mobile bills and Spotify subscription were due to come out on the same day so I cut back on spending and wasn’t left short.
I really loved seeing all my cards and accounts in one place and found it really useful for giving an oversight of my finances.
When I’ve used other banking apps to manage my spending before, I’ve ‘cheated’ on them by using a card that isn’t tracking my purchases.
With Emma there’s nowhere to hide as it splits up your spending into 16 categories including transport, eating out, holidays and personal care.
I did find that quite a few of my bills and purchases went into the wrong category initially, but it was easy enough to put that right.
The neat bar chart showing my income against my outgoings helps me to quickly check that I’m living within my means. I also like the way it offers cashback and discounts for different shops within the app.
But I’ll definitely be sticking with the free version rather than paying £10 a month for extra features which would blow a hole in my budget straight away.
BEST FOR: Saving money automatically
TESTED BY: Tara Evans, Sun Money editor
Tara said: “Chip helps me to save without really noticing.
It links up with your bank account and uses clever technology to calculate how much you can afford to save, according to its algorithm.
Every few days it takes the money from your bank account and puts it into a savings account on the app.
Over the last year, I’ve used it to save up for Christmas and holidays.
I keep mine in Chip’s 90-day notice account to earn up to 1.55 per cent interest with no fee.
Its easy access pays 1.05 per cent. The current top easy access account is the 1.56 per cent from Virgin Money’s current account.
Your savings (up to £85,000) are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme so they are safe should the app or the bank they are stored with go bust.
On average Chip users saved £3,000 in 2021.
Keep in mind that it can take up to five working days to withdraw cash.
I find this is a good deterrent and helps me keep on saving.
BEST FOR: Long-term planning and pocket money
TESTED BY: Olivia Marshall, consumer reporter
Olivia said: “I’m saving up for my wedding next September, so I was keen to try out HyperJar.
It’s quite different to the other apps as you save towards your goals by moving money onto a pre-paid card.
It can be digital or you can order a physical one if you prefer. You then allocate money to different ‘jars’ which you can label according to your goals, eg: ‘wedding’ or ‘holiday fund’.
You earn interest at an annual rate of 4.8 per cent and it’s easy enough to move it back to your current account if you need to.
You can sometimes get a boosted rate of up to 10 per cent if you save in jars designated for particular shops, like holiday firm Tui – almost like a gift card.
But it’s harder to move your money back if you change your mind or find your intended purchases are cheaper elsewhere.
Unlike gift cards, the money allocated to a shop doesn’t have an expiry date and you wouldn’t lose it if the store went bust.
Money you load onto the card is managed by a regulated ‘e-money’ provider and stored at the Bank of England.
Hyperjar is popular with parents because you can create a jar for your children’s pocket money and give them their own card.
You can monitor their spending and help them learn about money.