This article may contain affiliate links – when you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission*
If you want to manage your finances better, there are a growing number of smartphone apps that promise to help you do just this.
The cost of living crisis coupled with high mortgage costs and rental prices mean many of us could do with a helping hand to cut our spending and boost our savings.
Despite inflation slowing to 3.9%, its lowest level in more than two years, interest rates still remain at a 15-year high. But this is good news for savers, as you can now rake in more than 5% on the best savings accounts.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
You can take your finances one step further by using a savings app. These use Open Banking to help pinpoint ways to save money. This involves permitting it to view information from your current account. There are safeguards in place, for example, most apps are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, you will never be asked to share your bank log-in details, and you can remove access at any time.
We pick three of our favourite apps that can help you save money and build your financial resilience.
Chip* calls itself a “wealth app”, offering “one place for savings and investments”. It was founded in 2017, and has more than 500,000 users.
You may have heard of Chip because it’s often at the top of the easy-access savings accounts tables. It currently offers 4.84% on balances up to £250,000 in instant access savings. If you use our special link*, you can earn between £10 and £50 in cashback depending on your deposit amount.
Chip uses AI to help you “automatically build your savings without thinking about it”. Once you've connected the app to your current account, it gathers information on your spending habits and uses that data to work out how much you can afford to save. Every four days, it transfers an amount it believes you can afford into your Chip account.
You have the option to cancel the “autosave” before 3pm. And if you’d like more control, you can change your autosave amount and withdrawal dates within the app.
But we think it’s a clever way to save small amounts of money effortlessly. And as long as Chip continues to offer competitive interest rates, those autosave amounts have the potential to snowball into a decent savings pot. Bear in mind that if you have credit cards or personal loans it will probably make sense to pay those off first before saving; Chip only looks at your spending habits and doesn’t take account of debts, so you’ll need to factor that in before you allow it to autosave your cash.
You can also use the same auto-save technology to transfer money from your bank account to your investment portfolio every few days.
The app is free if you want a savings account or GIA, but each autosave costs 45p (a recurring save costs 25p). You also only get a limited fund range.
Alternatively, you can pay £5.99 a month (or £65.05 a year) for ChipX. This gives you access to a stocks and shares ISA (on top of the GIA and savings accounts), free autosaves and recurring saves and the full investment fund range.
The app scores well on the App Store (4.6 stars out of 5), although not quite as well on Google Play (3.5 stars).
Plum* is similar to Chip - it offers savings accounts, investments and some AI to help you build your wealth. In addition, it offers a self-invested personal pension (Sipp). It says it is helping over 1 million people to invest, save and manage their spending.
There are four pricing plans (ranging from a free one, where you can open a savings account and trade 1,200 stocks, all the way up to a £9.99 a month premium one).
Plus, new to the Plum app is their easy-access base rate tracker. This tracks the Bank of England’s interest rate (currently 5.25%). The site says savers can earn up to 5.15% on savings for premium plan holders, and 5% for Basic, Pro and Ultra customers.
The savings facility is provided by Investec Bank. If you think you will make good use of the app, it could be worth taking out a paid-for plan to get a higher interest rate.
Plum £20 cashback
If you’re a new customer and use our special link to open a Plum account* you can get £20 cashback. To qualify for cashback, you must:
- Be a new Plum customer and create your account by 11.59pm on 29 February.
- Sign up via the MoneyWeek Plum link*.
- Deposit a minimum of £500 into a Primary Pocket, Easy Access Interest Pocket, Plum Interest, Plum Card Pocket or Investments (Funds, Stocks and Pensions), within one month of creating your Plum profile. Remember, if you choose to invest, your capital is at risk.
- Have a minimum of £500 in the above accounts after 90 days of creating your profile.
After you have held an account for 90 days, the £20 cashback will be paid into your Primary Plum Pocket account within 10 working days.
There are also lots of features to try and make saving fun and/or completely effortless. For example, you can get Plum to round up your weekly transactions to the nearest £1 and transfer the spare change to your savings; build an actual rainy-day savings fund where Plum makes a deposit for each day it rains where you live; or use the Naughty Rule where the app automatically sets money aside for you every time you shop at your chosen "naughty" retailers.
Those who pay for Plum can get cashback, where you earn rewards from your favourite retailers when you shop with the app. Those on the ultra (£4.99 a month) or premium plan can get a Plum Visa card that lets you load spending money onto it, which could be helpful for budgeting.
In terms of investing, you can buy funds as well as stocks - though you need a monthly subscription to access funds. It’s possible to start investing with just £1 if you take out a paid-for plan. However, like with any investment plan, your investments can go down as well as up and you could lose some or all of your money.
Plum seems to offer more bells and whistles than Chip - it offers a pension, and the ability to trade shares. You may also like the different ways to grow your savings pot and meet your financial goals.
If you’re wondering which app is best out of Chip and Plum, compare the features and fees carefully. Plum scores well on the App Store (4.7 stars) and Google Play (4.6 stars).
Little Birdie allows you to see all your subscriptions in one place, making it easier to cancel any unwanted ones or switch to cheaper deals. It also alerts users if a regular payment is about to go up, and when a free trial is coming to an end.
Hundreds of millions of pounds a year are spent on unused subscriptions, according to Citizens Advice. Many of us fall prey to the “subscription trap” - signing up to a free trial and then forgetting to cancel it leading to ongoing payments for services we don't use.
The government is looking into forcing certain companies to send "reminder notices" to customers to make sure they are aware they remain subscribed.
This may help reduce the number of unwanted subscriptions in future, but in the meantime a free app like Little Birdie can help you manage them now, potentially spotting forgotten and expensive ones.
Little Birdie has had more than 15,000 downloads since launching in 2022, and recently completed a successful fundraising on Crowdcube.
It claims to be able to save a household more than £500 a year by cancelling unwanted subscriptions and switching bills like car insurance and broadband to cheaper contracts.
As a fairly new app, it frequently releases new updates so it becomes smarter at identifying subscriptions and recurring payments, while adding more brands that you can cancel directly from within the app. This is particularly useful given how difficult it can be trying to work out how to actually cancel a subscription.
The app currently allows you to cancel subscriptions from about 400 providers including Spotify and Disney+.
It scores 3.8 stars on the App store and 3.2 on Google Play. Some users have reported issues connecting the app to their bank account. A recent user gave it five stars, saying Little Birdie had identified a subscription where they could switch to a cheaper option, and they had also been warned when a monthly payment was about to increase.
Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times.
A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service.
Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.
Three fund ideas for your stocks and shares ISA
If you have yet to maximise this year’s £20,000 ISA allowance, here are some funds worth considering.
By Katie Williams Published
Holiday scams warning: £12.3m stolen by fraudsters
Action Fraud has revealed thousands of people were hit by holiday scams in 2023. Here's how to protect yourself from fraud.
By Henry Sandercock Published