Digital money

We’re all now long used to banking, paying bills and shopping online, but the last few years have seen an explosion of apps for managing, consolidating and synchronising our financial information on our iPads, iPhones and desktops. My MacBook Pro is perfectly capable of flying me to the moon, but recently I’ve been using it to budget and manage my finances way more effectively than I’ve been able to before. I’ve switched over to a bank that has no front door (or any doors, for that matter), and it works really well for me. No supercilious bank manager to patronise me, either. A major plus.

Many of the MacOS finance apps available or more than capable of revolutionising your financial life – as well as being able to gather all your various bank accounts, bills, investments, credit cards etc. into one place for review. No more juggling three or four tabs to stop sites from timing out on you. Most importantly of all, every app below has a very thoroughly thought-out security strategy – the top critical consideration when dealing with your money online.

 

Are you connected?

The apps below very often share some common characteristics. Most of them support connections to your banks or financial institutions. This means that you can download statements and reports that can be collated in the app in a logical format. You (obviously) have to log in and clear security to link your accounts within an app, as security is always paramount.

Under the dashboard

As with many other app types these days, the landing point is the dashboard. I’ve noticed that many personal financial apps favour the very simplistic dashboard look – maybe even just an account balance, so you’ll need to spend a little time familiarising yourself with the app navigation and particular nomenclature before you're ready to dive under the hood.

You pays your money….

…or not! As with all apps, decide exactly what you want any of these apps to do for you in advance (and before you part with any money). You may only need a virtual bank, or a place to view all of your account balances simultaneously. In other words, you may not need every whistle and bell.

Personally, I have an accounts package on my MacBook Pro for VAT and tax tracking and reporting duties, and a budgeting app on my iPad. I also have two virtual bank accounts on both machines (and these are, of course, free). I find it easier to split tasks between four apps, as each has its own virtues. The following, therefore, aren’t listed in any particular order of merit.

 


1. Quicken

https://www.quicken.com

Pricing – three versions - $35.99/yr - $46.79/yr - $70.19/yr

A comprehensive package with an excellent suite of finance management tools. It features a desktop/ios version that syncs perfectly with its web-based sibling, so you can work on or refer to your data anywhere. This is a feature heavy and time proved piece of software, so will necessitate more of a learning curve than some others here. It’s also comparatively pricey – but as I said earlier, you pays your money…

This would be my choice for your ‘tax and vat’ package – the reporting is excellent and translates into other platforms, so your bookkeeper (and accountant) will love you for it.

There are three versions available for Mac, and as you’d expect, each price increase enhances the feature set.

Pros –

  • Mobile and web companion apps
  • Useful and informative reports and graphs
  • Excellent support
  • A robust and effective suite of personal finance, investment and planning tools
  • Well thought out transaction tracking

Cons –

  • Relatively expensive
  • It can sometimes lag in features behind the Windows version
  • Electronic bill pay not built in

2. Emma

https://emma-app.com/

Pricing – free or premium version £59.99

This app has some great features to help you track and budget your spending. The advent of ‘Open Banking’ has allowed apps like this to access all of your accounts and group them in one place. Useful. Do check, however, that if you want an aggregating app such as this that it supports your bank(s).

Tracking your spending and helping you set budgets is Emma’s key feature set – including keeping tabs on all of those pesky subscriptions that litter our lives these days. Who hasn’t realised a year later that they’re still paying for that service they only used once?  

As with many other apps, Emma reels you in with the free version in order to persuade you to subscribe to the premium version once you’re comfortable. There is a free lunch, but it’s a starter and a small portion main. Your choice if you want pudding, coffee and petit fours.

 

Pros –

  • Puts access to all your accounts in one central place
  • Highlights all your subscriptions and helps ‘remind’ you of possible wasteful ones
  • Allows you to set your own budget goals
  • Helps you to pay off overdrafts and credit cards and avoid debt
  • Monthly savings is a good for incentivising and keeping to your spending limits
  • Offers savings advice in-app

Cons –

  • Balance notifications can sometimes lag a day behind your bank
  • Some ‘advice’ can simply be links to external (presumably paid for) content
  • Not sure the premium version is worth the relatively expensive price tag

3. Money Dashboard

https://www.moneydashboard.com/

Pricing – free

Money Dashboard is similar to Emma, aggregating your accounts into one place for review and tracking, and has been voted Best Personal Finance App three years running.

Money Dashboard links your accounts to see where you actually are overall, and there’s an excellent budget tracker that analyses what you’ve spent each month and in what categories. You can set budgets on a monthly basis, and the app will alert you if you’re overspending.

The dashboard is excellent – clear and intuitive.

Pros –

  • A very clear dashboard that displays categories of spending in various graphs
  • Allows you to set multiple budgets, and notifies overspending
  • Allows you to set future budget and financial planning goals
  • Displays all your accounts in one place
  • Automatically categorises your transactions
  • It’s free

Cons –

  • None that I can find

4. Starling Bank

https://www.starlingbank.com/

Pricing – free

Starling is the epitome of a modern bank account. No branches, no aforesaid supercilious bank managers and super flexible. Voted Best British Bank 2021, it’s FSCS protected – and after 2008, we all need that.

Everything within Starling works like a dream. It features instant notifications of every transaction within your account, and sports every feature that you’d want from a bank account (except free money, of course).

Starling offers some budgeting, savings and tracking tools too. My old supercilious bank manager never did that.

Pros –

  • Instant transaction notification
  • Physical and digital debit card
  • No cash withdrawal and spending fees when abroad
  • Good incentivising savings tools
  • Good spending insights tracking

Cons –

  • No free money
  • No supercilious bank manager

5. Revolut

https://www.revolut.com

Pricing – free - £2.99/mo - £6.99/mo - £12.99/mo

Like Starling, Revolut is thoroughly modern banking, and also free in its basic form. The optional paid tiers unlock progressive increased savings interest rates and a host of other benefits that may or may not be useful to you (see https://www.revolut.com/our-pricing-plans for more).

Revolut has built in budgeting tools and instant transaction notifications, fee free cash withdrawals abroad (up to a monthly limit) and incentivised savings features. It also supports a host of cryptocurrencies, making currency dealing whilst on the train a breeze (if you want to go down that particular rabbit hole).

Pros –

  • Instant transaction notification
  • Physical and digital debit card (depending on tier level)
  • No cash withdrawal and spending fees when abroad (monthly limit)
  • Many cryptocurrencies supported
  • Good incentivising savings tools
  • Built in budgeting

Cons –

  • Highly regarded but currently notnot supported by the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme)
  • Customer support could be better

6. Credit Karma

https://www.creditkarma.co.uk

Pricing – free

Credit Karma aptly calls itself a ’personal finance service’, and is very definitely different to all the other offerings here.

It’s all about your personal credit rating – the score that financial lenders (e.g. a mortgage provider) will look at to decide how credit worthy you are. It’s a very handy number for us all to know.

What affects your credit rating? The most obvious is bad debt – CCJs, bankruptcies, late loan payments. Less obvious is frequently opening and closing accounts (who hasn’t done the Credit Card Shuffle?), and settling credit card payments in full monthly. None of us have perfect financial records, and Credit Karma can help with this. Besides providing you with your current credit score, it can inform of potential credit breaches and provides in-app advice on the best credit, loan and insurance deals around. As it pays for itself via its recommendations, however, in-app ads can get a little taxing (sic).

Pros –

  • It’s free
  • Clear and concise GUI
  • Suggests solutions for problem areas
  • Explains credit ratings well

Cons –

  • Intrusive ads can become annoying
  • Only displays two credit ratings

7. Plum

https://withplum.com/

Pricing – free - £1/mo - £2.99/mo

Plum is a savings app. It links to your current account and will give you a daily summary of what you have in there. That’s about as far as it goes in terms of analysis and budgeting, but that isn’t the point of Plum.

Plum’s AI engine analyses your account and works out how much you can afford to save, based on the levels that you set. It then transfers those saved amounts into a Plum account, so you can sit back you can watch your money grow.

Pros –

  • It’s a great, simple, clear app for saving money

Cons –

  • Some users have frequent dropped connectivity issues with their banks

Money Money Money

Yes, it is a ‘rich man’s world’, but that needn’t stop all of us becoming more proficient at managing our own resources.

Do not be afraid!


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