Best automatic savings apps 2020
Can a chatbot really help you manage your cash? These virtual personal accountants are thought to be the future of banking – here's how they work.
There are a whole host of interesting new automatic savings apps emerging from the FinTech scene at the moment.
These apps use AI software to understand your spending habits, in the hope of helping you improve your money management, and even start saving some cash in the process.
But how much will these bots really improve your finances? There's only one way to find out! We've downloaded, used and reviewed the best apps below.
5 things to know about automatic savings apps
They're AI robots that monitor your spending
We all know the key to being better with your money is to keep an eye on your spending, but sometimes logging into your online banking is too painful. The creators of automatic savings apps reckon the solution to this is to let robots – sorry, 'digital personal savings assistants' – do it for you.
These bots will use a clever algorithm to assess your spending, see how much cash you can afford to spare, and squirrel it away for you in a virtual savings pot. They'll keep you up to date on savings they make through live chat – either via Facebook or their own app.
They're safer than they sound
Although you give these apps access to your bank account (which might ring alarm bells for some of you), it'll be in read-only mode. These bots can only view what's going on in your account and report back to you, and any cash that they siphon to your savings pot is done by a direct debit that you sign up to when you open your account.
You'll be notified when any amount is about to be saved and have the chance to cancel it, and can withdraw cash/return savings back to your current account at any time.
These bots also have no access to your Facebook data (other than the bare basics like your name and email, but they'll already have those from your sign-up), and likewise Facebook has no access to your banking data (outside of what you discuss with your bot in Messenger).
If the app goes bust, you won't be at risk
It's worth knowing that these apps aren't FSCS protected (if a bank goes bust, you're insured for up to £85,000 thanks to FSCS). But this doesn't mean if the worst were to happen you'd lose your cash – there are barriers put in place to make sure you're still protected.
Any money saved in a virtual savings pot will be stored as digital cash by an external e-money provider which is then held in an account in your name at Barclays Bank (every app we've looked at works with Barclays).
Your cash is ring-fenced, meaning no one can get their hands on it apart from you. If one of these apps were to go bust, Barclays would simply return your cash to you.
They have plans to use your spending data
These apps will never sell your data, but it's worth being aware that they all have future plans to begin using info they gather about your spending habits in order to start offering you financial products that will (according to their software) suit your circumstances.
This can mean anything from credit cards and savings accounts to things like utility bills! Taking a commission when you accept a recommendation is how these companies plan to start making money while keeping their services free.
Despite this we've had confirmation that these apps will always be free to use.
You can't game the system!
If you’re a savvy saver you're probably already thinking about how to game these apps to milk them for all their worth, but you should know that the software they've created is pretty game-proofed. Sadface.
If, for example, it crossed your mind to try attaching a savings account to one of these apps in the hope of earning double interest, they’d be able to sniff this out sharpish and close your account.
Best automatic savings apps
Bonus: Get £5 into your account 30 days after signing up when you use our exclusive link.
Best for: Saving when you're in your overdraft
Access with: Facebook Messenger or Plum's own app here
Banks: NatWest, RBS, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, Metro Bank, M&S, First Direct, Halifax, Citibank, Nationwide, TSB, Bank of Scotland, the Co-Operative Bank, Metro Bank, Clysdale Bank (not B banks), Yorkshire Bank (not B banks), Tesco Bank, Ulster Bank, Smile Bank, First Trust Bank, Post Office Bank, Bank of Ireland and Monzo
Can I use Plum if I’m in my overdraft?: Yes
Plum works through Facebook Messenger and via its app, monitoring your balance and spending throughout the month. Every few days, it’ll deposit small amounts (or large amounts, depending on your balance) into a virtual savings pot.
When using Plum you can save when you're in your overdraft, and even set a barrier to avoid being hit with any unarranged overdraft fees.
To withdraw cash from your savings, just ask Plum ‘withdraw £x’ on Messenger, and it’ll be with you in less than 24 hours.
Any drawbacks?: Plum aren't offering any interest on savings yet. However they do allow you to invest your money into a peer-to-peer lending platform from RateSetter. The average interest is mentioned as 3–4%, but as with all investments, capital is at risk and can go down as well as up. We don't recommend it.
Best for: Improving money management and getting out of debt
Access through: Facebook Messenger here
Banks: NatWest, RBS, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, Metro Bank, First Direct, Halifax, Nationwide, TSB, American Express, Capital One, Bank of Scotland
Can I use Cleo if I’m in my overdraft?: Yes
Cleo focuses on providing (some pretty impressive!) analysis of your spending – such as weekly overviews, approaching bill payments and pie charts to indicate where your cash is going. It can help you to set savings goals too.
Therefore, this one is a good option for anyone looking to have better control of their finances. If the thought of checking your bank statements gives you the shivers but you know you could do with keeping tabs on your cash a bit better, this could be the one for you.
Cleo is a Facebook chatbot (so there’s no additional app to download), and of all the bots in this list, it's the most sophisticated. For example, you can ask Cleo questions like "How much did I spend on bills last month?" and you'll get a surprisingly accurate answer.
Plus, if you refer a friend you both get £5.
Any drawbacks?: No interest on savings.
Bonus: Get £10 in your account 30 days after making your first two auto saves when you use our exclusive code SAVESTUDENT10 via this link.
Best for: Compatibility with app-based bank accounts
Access through: Chip's own app (but they now have a Facebook messenger bot too if you prefer)
Banks: Barclays, HSBC, Santander, Lloyds, NatWest, Nationwide, RBS, TSB, Halifax, First Direct, Co-operative Bank, Metro Bank, Monzo, Starling, Revolut and N26
Can I use Chip if I’m in my overdraft?: Yes
Chip works by monitoring your incomings and outgoings, and every few days it'll work out an affordable amount to save on your behalf (you'll get the option to cancel if you can't spare the cash this time around). If you want to save more or less you can let the bot know or even manually transfer up to £100 a day (limited to six a month).
Your post of cash is instant access and any withdrawal will happen the same day if before 2pm, and the following day if after 2pm (or at weekends).
It's worth knowing it takes around seven days after signing up before you can start putting money aside with Chip, as your bank needs to first verify the direct debit (which is how the bot saves on your behalf).
Chip is also the only app which is compatible with four of the most popular app-based banks: Monzo, Starling, Revolut and N26.
Any drawbacks?: It no longers allows you to accumulate interest on your savings. 🙁
Still unsure which of these apps will work out best for you? Why not try signing up to them all?
Using a few of these apps simultaneously won't affect how they work, and you'll be able to tell within a few weeks which best suits your needs. And they're free, so why not?
Save over £650 in a year with the 1p savings challenge – it's the next easiest way to save after automatic bots!