This week I’m interviewing Andy Webb about the best money apps to save money. Andy is a leading, multi award winning, money blogger. You may have seen him on TV with his show Shop Smart: Save Money. He’s been blogging now for six years and has a website called Be Clever with Your Cash. Originally I connected with Andy through his Facebook group UK money bloggers, and I can honestly say that the group of people in that community were a huge inspiration for me when I first started my business.
Andy and I are going to be discussing our best money apps to save money, and we have also included in our list some top recommended money apps from the UK Money Bloggers community.
Our Best Money Apps to Save Money – Jump to Section
- Banking apps
- Aggregator apps
- Automatic Saving apps
- Cleo – UK Money Blogger Collette recommends!
- Shopping apps
- Cashback apps
- TopCashback – UK Money Blogger Dan recommends!
- Airtime Rewards
- Receipt Hog
- Vitality (member app)
- Supermarket apps
- Investing apps
- Other apps
First of all could you tell us a little bit about how did you start in your journey as a financial journalist writing about money?
Yes. So my background was I worked at the BBC straight out of Uni, I was really lucky to do that with one of their graduate schemes. I always wanted to work in TV. I thought it would be great, but it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t quite the right thing.
So I was at the Beeb for about 11 years and luckily at the time I was able to get voluntary redundancy. So a nice bit of cash to keep me going. I went travelling for 6 months and then when I came back I said, “Well, what do I want to do?” And because I had that bit of money, and I think that’s so lucky that I had that situation, it meant I could really, really think about what I wanted to do next and I knew I wanted to do something creative, something I was passionate about, and something that helped people, but I couldn’t really nail down what it was going to be.
And then my wife pointed out what about something to do with money? Because you’re really good at helping me and friends and family. And I hadn’t even really thought about it as a thing that could be a job. It was my hobby, money saving. I describe myself now as a bit of a money nerd, a money geek, because I really enjoy talking about finding ways to get the best value for money. So that’s what I did.
I actually went on an internship at Money Saving Expert. I was just 30 something years old, and normally an intern there was straight out of uni, 21 years old. So it was an interesting experience for them and for me, I think because there was so much I knew I could do, but you know, you’re in a certain position. I learned a huge amount, and it made me really open up to that idea of how digital formats can actually be something: you’ve got that control. You can do what you want to do a lot of the time, but at the same time help people be creative in that sphere of money. So I set up a blog, and never thought it was going to be something could become a real job, and it took a long time for it to become my full time job. But it has. Now this is what I do – Be Clever With Your Cash the blog, I’ve got my Cash Chats podcast, I do some TV, freelance journalism, things like that. But yeah, I spend all day every day talking about money.
So you said that you were always interested in this is, what was your early relationship with money growing up? What was your parents’ relationship with money and did that pass through to you?
Sometimes when you see people in our money blogging and podcasting world, a lot of the time people have come from a situation where they’ve had a real struggle and they’ve learned the hard way about the importance of money and how you use it and how you approach it and manage it. I don’t have that. I’ve just always been quite good with it. And I think that does come from my parents.
I do a monthly column in the Reader’s Digest every single month, and for a while I had a little section called my mum’s money, just talking about what my mum was up to with cash, because she’s always been very good at it. She’s always been very savvy. Growing up she would have Which magazine, and I remember we always used to Watchdog. They’re the kind of things growing up, just understanding of money and your consumer rights and things like that. It’s always been there and a lot that does come from my mum, and I wasn’t really aware of it. I was someone who would spend far too long looking for the best price TV or something like that. I would just do the minute detail trying to work out; ‘Do I want this one? Which one’s the best value for money?’ So it’s always been there, but it was that kind of translation of something which I didn’t realise was my hobby into a career. And I appreciate I’m very lucky. Not everyone can have that.
Amazing. So let’s get straight stuck into your top money apps. I know you’ve written a blog around this but let’s start with what’s your absolute favourite? What would be your go to money app that you would never ever give away or hope that it would never close down?
Well, I think the most important app for everyone, and it’s a bit of an obvious one, is your banking app. You absolutely need to have this. People who listen to my podcast will know that I’ve got a lot of current accounts. I think I’m on 14 or 15 right now which is another story for another time! So I have a lot of them, but even if you’ve only got one or two, and the same with credit cards, having that app and having access to that on your phone is one of the most important things you can do.
Right now during Covid-19, the people who are really struggling in managing their finances, in terms of technically managing not income and expenditure, are those people who are essentially digitally excluded. So the elderly, people who have relied on going to the bank or phone banking. I know lots of us have online banking just on our computers, but having it on your phone within a few clicks, you can see all your expenditure coming in and out is just the most important thing.
And they’re getting smarter and smarter. Partly I think because you’ve got banks like Starling and Monzo, which you can only have these accounts if you’ve got the app, but they’re driving all these innovations. So when you spend money, it will pop up as a little notification on your phone. So you see how much you’ve spent. In normal times that’s fantastic. You’ve gone to a bar, and how often you would just tap your card, contactless, you wouldn’t even check it. You wouldn’t even necessarily know quite what you’ve spent and you wouldn’t get a receipt because it’s so much more hassle. And half the time they’ve walked off to serve somebody else. But if you’ve got one of these, and not every banking app will have this feature, but it pops up. You’ve just spent this much. It helps you realise a bit more exactly where your money’s going, that thing that you do lose when you don’t use cash.
Yeah, definitely. It’s almost like out of sight out of mind, and where we live such in a digital world now that we don’t handle physical cash. I mean, I never handle physical cash ever. And out of sight out of mind can make it difficult for people then to manage money.
Yeah, and there’s so many more things that the banking apps are doing that really bring that forward. And they have extra features as well, such as helping you identify the types of spending that you’ve got. So I think fundamentally have your banking app on your phone and use it daily. If you can, just check things what’s going on.
The next step from that would be to look at some of these banks which have extra features. But the other thing from that, and if you do have multiple accounts, other apps that I really like are these aggregators, and I don’t know if you’ve had any of these, but essentially what they let you do is you see all your accounts. It could be current accounts, sometimes savings accounts, sometimes credit cards as well. All brought together on a single dashboard and you can see everything, which is a really, really useful tool as well.
Yeah. I’ve used Money Dashboard and Emma. They’re my two favourite aggregator apps. Have you got any particular preferences to which one you’ve used?
Well, I tend to use Yolt which is a decent one. That’s actually FinTech, but is owned by ING who are a big Dutch bank. So they’ve got a lot of backing behind them, which is probably why they’re doing relatively well in that sphere.
There’s new ones all the time. There’s a new one called Snoop, which looks quite good as well. If I’m honest, I would maybe try them all at once. Take two or three and download them or connect them to your accounts and see which one you like best. They analyse your spending, which is fantastic. They can send you notifications about when you’re at certain spending levels. They all have nice little features.
I guess the question is, how sticky are they? Do you download them and then it disappears like so many apps in general, not just money apps, so many apps just disappear. I’ve got hundreds of apps on my phone I won’t use half the time. One of the things I’m actually going to start doing on some of these aggregators is I’m turning on notifications. I hate notifications on my phone, and if you had to have every single app, it would be too much, but I’m going to be quite selective and turn on notifications because I think it could be really useful insight to where my money’s going.
But I think that those two are the most important things you can think about. If you only have one thing, it’s got to be your banking app. If you have multiple banks, have their apps and have an aggregator.
Great. And just a word on these platforms, often people are quite fearful of sharing data. Could we just talk very briefly about how these apps actually work? How do they read your data? What are they not allowed to do?
Yeah. So this is something basically that’s developing over the last sort of 18 months, maybe a bit longer than that – something called open banking. So before open banking came into play, you would basically put your password details into these apps, and you are basically giving them the access to read your account. There’s no right to information there. So they aren’t going to take any money and spend it, but they would read your data.
With open banking, this is a big industry wide thing it’s been sent down from government, and they have to do this. All the banks have to allow you access to your data, to do with, as you wish. And then you can use that to allow the banks to connect to these other apps. You have to give permission, but again, it should be so much more secure than the previous things that were there. And actually what you have to do, and it’s a little bit frustrating but it’s good for safety, you often have to give permission again and again, after I think it might be three months. Do you still want this app to have access to essentially your bank statements?
So it’s up to you. I would definitely read more about open banking if you’re a little bit unsure about this. I mean your data and your information, it’s one of those things it’s already a bit too late now in a lot of ways to shut the barn door and all that, but it’s definitely one to think about and be careful of. But hopefully with open banking there should be security allowances within that.
Great. Thank you. And moving on from aggregator apps, what would be your next go to money app?
There’s some really interesting ones in the world of savings. So we know that a lot of the time why people don’t save is because they don’t have any money. But there are people who have money and they just don’t prioritise their savings.
So there’s things you can do yourself, like pay yourself first, standing orders to make sure your money goes to a savings account. And that’s all great. And I think people should be doing that. But as a second option, or instead of, if you feel you don’t have the money to save is to look at things like Chip and Plum and Cleo. What these do is through open banking you’ll connect them to your account and they will analyse that information that they see. They look at your regular outgoings, your irregular outgoings, look at your income and they will go, using an algorithm of some kind, we think you can afford to save £22 this week, this month, whatever it might be.
And they all work slightly differently. Chip is the one that I’ve used most in the past, but it will then give you the option. We’ve checked and we’re going to save this amount of money to a separate savings account, do you not want it to happen? So you have to take the action to make yourself not save. If you let it go, it moves across. And this kind of background saving is the kind of thing that if the money was in your account, you would spend it somewhere.
What’s quite nice about it is slowly they build up a lovely little savings pot in the background for you. You can take that money out if you need it, so it’s not locked away. But then you don’t get any interest with any of these. So that is something to consider. So you might want to think about actually, maybe I’ll move that money when it gets to a certain amount to an account to get some cash. But fundamentally, if you struggle to these can help you.
So I’m a user of Plum. Actually in my Money Circle membership, somebody messaged me recently saying they’ve saved £1200 via Plum since the start of the year and that’s now their emergency fund. What I love about Plum is it works with Facebook messenger, and I believe they have an app now actually as well.
I think they’re moving away from it because Facebook has changed certain things. I used to find that so annoying on Facebook it could pop it up to me like “Hey, let’s chat about your money.” That didn’t work for me, but it can work for some people.
Oh, I love it. Every morning when I wake up “Based on your spending, we’re going to put 84p into your savings pot” or something like that. Every few months I do exactly what you just said there and I then just shimmy money into my Starling pot. And then as that pot builds up I then move that into my cash ISA. And then if that is getting too full, I then move that into my investment plan.
So it is kind of juggling and moving things around. And I do it once a month, I have a money date with my husband on a Sunday, and we just check out all our pots and we make sure that we make any adjustments. So they’re great little apps.
And there’s new ones coming in all the time. Do your research with these things. There’s loads of reviews online from people like ourselves and so many other bloggers who have used them, they’ve given them a go and they can give their real feelings on whether it’s good or not. But it’s definitely something to add to that arsenal.
Fabulous. So we’ve talked about some background saving. We’ve talked about your banking apps. What else have you got for us?
So there’s a couple of ones which are more suited to shopping. One which I really like is called Stocard: essentially you scan your loyalty cards onto your phone, so you’re never going to be out shopping and not have that loyalty card to swipe when you’re out, because there’s so many aren’t there? You could have a loyalty card everywhere and you end up just not having the one you need in a shop that you occasionally go to. So it is fantastic.
I really like something called Idealo and there’s also one called PriceSpy. Generally I will use those as desktop sites rather than apps, and a lot of the time when people talk about their favourite money apps, they’re talking about the app version of a desktop site. But the reason I think these ones are actually quite good as apps for when you are out and about these are price comparison sites for your general shopping. So you can be in a shop looking at something and thinking can I get it cheaper anywhere else. Open up the app, sometimes they’ll let you scan a barcode, most times type it in, but it’ll very quickly tell you where else you can buy it for different prices. So I think that’s why we choose those ones as apps, as useful apps.
Some newer ones which have been introduced to me this year: Airtime Rewards is a really interesting one. It’s basically cash back, but money back when you spend in certain shops. The app will tell you which shops and it will give you cash back between like 1% and maybe 5-6%, but that money will then go towards your mobile phone bill. You have to save up a certain amount, so I think it’s around a £10 minimum before you can cash it off your bill, and that might take some time, but that’s really good. There are plenty of shops and retailers on there, and you can use this on top of other kinds of cashback purchases as well, whether that’s through a cash back card, like American Express or whatever it is, your Quidco and TopCashback. So it’s stacking these things on top.
Similarly, ZipZero: this is where you take a photo of your receipt and it will give you cash back towards other household bills. So a similar kind of premise. They had stopped taking new customers, but it’s been back on this week. So they’re both, I think, interesting things to think about. They can be small little pennies that add up into pounds that will bring a little bit of cash off your bill for not too much effort. I mean, particularly something like Airtime Rewards, you add your card and don’t have to do anything else. The money just adds on.
I think one thing with a lot of these apps is sometimes they’ll they’ll update their criteria and things will change. One of the receipt apps I used to use was Receipt Hog, and I must have scanned receipts in for about six months and got the equivalent of about a £15 Amazon voucher. So it probably wasn’t the most valuable use of my time, but it was quite good fun.
And actually the best thing about the receipt apps wasn’t just the rewards, it was those odd times when you want to return something and you’ve lost the receipt, then I just go straight into my Receipt Hog app and I’ve scanned it in. So actually I quite like it for that purpose.
That’s fantastic. Do you ever use any of the supermarket cash back apps?
I have my business life insurance through Vitality and they have a connection with Ocado and Waitrose for reward points that reduce the cost of your life cover. So we use that, but I haven’t used any specific food based apps.
They’re worth having. The big ones are Shopmium and CheckoutSmart. There’s also one called GreenJinn. The idea of it is there are certain products that are listed on these apps, generally new products which the brands want you to try. So to get you to try them they give you 50p off, £1 off, sometimes they’re freebies. So it’s worth looking at and they’re worth having. And when you go to the supermarket, maybe flip up the app and just see what’s available where you are.
The problem I have with them is that they’re encouraging you to buy things you wouldn’t necessarily buy. So if it’s a decent price with that discount and you want to give it a go, perfect. And there are often some good products on there, not just brand new things but some high street staples. They’re not going to be huge, huge money savers, but definitely I think having them on your phone when you go to the shops.
Awesome. And I’ve got to ask you, Andy, why do you have 14 bank accounts?
They all have different reasons. So some of them is around the savings rate that you’ll get from that account. Some of them might give me a freebie. So I get a free magazine every single month from Lloyds. Some of them might give you fee free spending overseas – that’s why Starling bank and Monzo and banks like that. So there’s all different reasons that I’ve got each one.
And any final top money saving tip, or anything else that you haven’t already mentioned that you wanted to share?
Cashback sites are something that I’ve been using for a long time. They are easy. It takes a couple of extra clicks to do this. You’re not always guaranteed the money each time, so I wouldn’t shop because of that. But you will be able to earn some money, particularly on some of those bigger purchases, like switching your broadband and things like that. You can get a decent amount of cash. So if you haven’t used them, do check them out. It’s probably not the top tip, but it’s a good one.
Starling bank I’m a huge lover of, as my audience know. I talk about them all the time. But TopCashback for me is the best one. Because once you get into the habit of using it, every time I buy anything online: renew any of my insurances, my Sky account, my mobile phone contracts, everything is done through TopCashback.
Cashback sites are great because you would shop with that website anyway, you’re just opening up that website via TopCashback. So it’s a great habit to get into.
I’m going to be interested to see what happens generally with these kinds of money saving things as we progress now into this recession that is going to happen. Marketing budgets, which fund a lot of these; switching incentives, high interest, or fund cash back, and things like that, that all comes from marketing budgets. Often these are the things that get slashed early on. So we might find our returns are reduced, but when you need more money, I think anything you can do to make those pennies and those pounds come back to you so you can use them where you really need them. I think they’re important to keep with, even if their returns aren’t as good, which I think potentially we might be seeing a lot more of soon.
Yeah. That’s a really good point. If anybody wants to follow you, where can they find you?
The blog is Be Clever With Your Cash, the podcast is called Cash Chats. So just search for that. You’ll find that. And on social media, @AndyCleverCash. So you can find me there and ask me any questions if you want.
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Andy’s website Be Clever With Your Cash
Andy’s podcast Cash Chats
Vitality (member app)