Friday 14 December 2018

Five top mobile apps to help take control of your finances

A booming market in online tools can help you divvy up bills between friends or family - or save up for a wedding or big event, writes Louise McBride

Stock image
Stock image

More and more of us use mobile phone apps to manage our money. Although the traditional pen-and-paper approach still has its advantages, apps help cut down on paper clutter - and can be a much handier way of getting a quick snapshot of your finances. Apps can also take the hassle out of managing your money and make you quickly realise where you're making mistakes with your finances.

"Money management apps is an area which I believe it is about to explode," said Dermot Daly, one of Ireland's most successful app developers and chief executive of Tapadoo, a Dublin-based app development company. "There's a number of new 'challenger banks' which are not focused on bricks-and-mortar - but rather an online, and increasingly app-based, presence. These banks are focusing on user experience and are offering new services such as money management."

Here are five of some of the best money management apps out there.

Splitwise

Splitwise helps you keep track of shared expenses and bills. It's particularly handy for housemates and friends who need to divvy up expenses between them. Those expenses could be anything from rent to energy or grocery bills - to the tab run up by a group of friends in a restaurant. The app keeps a record of who has paid their share of a bill - and who has not.

Robyn Hamilton, content marketing specialist with the personal finance website, Bonkers.ie, uses Splitwise. "I'm in a house share, so this app is great for myself and my three housemates," said Hamilton. "We're able to keep track of all our bills - and there have been very little arguments over bills since I started using this app. You can also set up separate groups within the app. This is handy for me because I'm also living with my boyfriend - and by setting up a separate group for me and my boyfriend, I can track bills just between the two of us - as opposed to between the whole house."

Splitwise is a free app, though there is a subscription-based version called Splitwise Pro, which has some additional features, such as receipt scanning and increased cloud storage.

Bullet

The Bullet app is a good way to store and keep track of your receipts - without having to keep those receipts in your wallet or in shoeboxes around your home. This app, which is suitable for freelancers and small businesses, is available through Bullet HQ's free online accounting software product (also known as Bullet). This app is recommended by Damien Mulley, communications consultant with Mulley Communications and a well-known computer expert. "The app is very handy because it allows me to scan and log receipts directly into the system," said Mulley.

Bullet allows you to photograph receipts and keep them electronically in one place. As well as cutting down on the clutter of paper receipts, Bullet is an easy way to record the expenses which you can claim off your tax bill. "It is one of the few apps which has the Irish taxation and accounting rules built into simple workflows - automating Irish tax returns," said Peter Connor, co-founder of Bullet. Bullet is free - though there is a charge for optional add-on apps.

Revolut

Revolut is an app-based banking alternative which you can open a current account and get a debit card through, and send money transfers to bank accounts in over 130 countries. You can also hold and exchange up to 24 currencies and set up recurring payments through the app so that bills are paid on time.

Revolut says it saves its customers on bank and currency conversion charges. The standard Revolut current account is free; the more advanced accounts (Premium and Metal) have monthly fees.

"Premium and Metal users can also get free disposable virtual cards to increase their card security," said a spokesman for Revolut. "Each time they make an online payment with a disposable virtual card, our systems will instantly detect the transaction and automatically destroy those card details, generating new ones which will appear directly in the app. This adds an extra layer of security and protects customers against online card fraud, especially if they are making multiple online payments on a regular basis."

You can make ATM withdrawals of up to €200 a month from the standard current account without incurring any ATM fees - anything over that amount attracts a fee equivalent to 2pc of the amount withdrawn. Although the physical debit card is free, you must pay a delivery charge of €6 to get it - or more if you want the card to be delivered earlier than nine working days.

The Revolut app works on most Apple Watches, iPhones, iPads and Android phones (depending on how old your device is).

Be aware that Revolut is not a bank and does not yet have a banking licence. Any money you hold in a Revolut account is therefore not covered by the Irish deposit guarantee scheme - which protects depositors and current account holders in the event that a bank, building society or credit union (which is authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland) becomes insolvent and is unable to repay deposits. Similar deposit guarantee schemes are available with authorised banks across the EU.

Revolut, however, is regulated by the British regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and as a result, must follow all of the rules set down by the FCA. Revolut client funds are held in a segregated account in Lloyds or Barclays.

The Revolut website states that "in the event of the insolvency of Revolut, you will be able to claim your funds from this segregated account and your claim will be paid above all other creditors".

Revolut is applying for a European banking licence in Lithuania, which it aims to passport elsewhere in Europe, according to a spokesman, who added: "This will allow us to offer direct debits, overdrafts, interest on deposits and personal loans to our customers. We'll be applying for a UK licence too in the event of passporting issues - and London will always remain our headquarters."

You Need a Budget

The You Need a Budget app is good for those who need to budget better, get on top of their debt, or to save up for a big-ticket item or major event. It should also help you become more aware of what you're spending your money on - and more disciplined with your spending as a result. The app allows you to even out the expenses which crop up over the year - including monthly bills and irregular bills (such as children's birthday parties, annual car insurance premiums and so on). The You Need a Budget (YNAB) app is free for the first 34 days - but there is an annual subscription after that. "I've heard great things about YNAB," said Daly.

Home Budget

The Home Budget with Sync app is similar to Splitwise - but aimed at families, rather than housemates sharing a home. It helps families to track their expenses, income and bills due. It also allows a family to calculate its disposable income - and to set budgets for various items of family expenditure, such as electricity, groceries and so on. Its Family Sync feature allows a group of devices within a family to exchange expense and income information, and work together within a single budget. This app is not free.

 

5 other good apps

Marketwatch

This is a handy app for investors who want to stay on top of the latest stock market news — and to get real-time data on stocks, commodities, and currencies. It allows you to track your stock picks and see stories related to those stocks — so that you can stay up-to-date on your investments. It also has detailed stock quote pages with key trading information.

Pricespy

Shopping around can save you hundreds, even thousands — but many of us simply don’t have the time to do so. The Pricespy app does your shopping around for you — allowing you to find out the best price for particular goods in nearby shops. It covers items such as white goods, mobile phones, TVs, toys, cookers, and cameras.

It includes items sold in various main street shops such as Smyths and Powercity — and online-only shops such as Amazon. The price of products featured on this site is regularly updated. “The information (about price, pictures, product properties, availability and delivery times) comes from the shops themselves,” states the Pricespy website. “Therefore, even if we do our very best, errors may occur.” For this reason, when using Pricespy it is always best to check a shop’s own price and description of the product before deciding to buy something.

Expensify

This app, which is suitable for small businesses and the self-employed, is a handy way to keep track of your expenses. It allows you to record, report and submit expenses and to track mileage.

Transferwise

This app allows you to transfer money abroad. Transferwise says that it is up to eight times cheaper to transfer money through its app than it is through the banks. Transferwise is authorised by the British regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority.

AIB Mobile Banking

AIB recently updated its mobile banking app, which allows new customers to open a current account with the bank from the comfort of their home. A passport is needed to verify a customer’s identity when opening an account — and this will be done through a live video call with an AIB agent. You can easily check your account balance with this app — and set up alerts to notify you when your balance falls to a certain level. The app also has a MySpending feature — to allow you to analyse spending and income across various categories. You can use Apple Pay with this app. Most of the other banks have mobile apps too. With KBC’s banking app, you take a selfie to prove your identity when opening a current account with the bank — and you must also take a photo of either your driving licence or passport.

TIPS BEFORE DOWNLOADING APPS

Avoid downloading too many apps onto your mobile phone, as they can use a lot of space  and slow it down. Remember, many apps have desktop versions, so if you run out of space on your phone, use the app on your desktop or iPad instead. Only download apps which are easy to set up — and to use. Avoid using apps which are too complicated — or which target you with a lot of ads.

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