Find out how clever apps that use open banking including Plum, Chip and Emma can help you manage your money and save.

What is open banking?

Open banking is an initiative first launched in January 2018 to encourage innovation in financial services.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ordered the nine biggest current account providers (Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Barclays, Danske, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, RBS Group, Santander) to unlock customer data.

These banks can now share your data with third parties safely, by plugging into feeds called Application Programming Interfaces or APIs – but, crucially, only with your permission.

Find out more: open banking explained

How can open banking help you budget?

Third parties that access your data can use it in a wide range of ways to help you manage your money more effectively. From getting an overview of all your accounts in one place to developing algorithms to squirrel away extra savings without impacting your normal spending habits.

While more than three million people already use open banking,  just one in 10 Which? members use a finance app that’s not provided by their bank, according to a survey we carried out in February 2021.

However, when we asked those who were interested in using finance apps, more than half of the respondents said they’d like to have an overview of all of their accounts, and around four in 10 said they’d like help with budgeting.

Find out more: how to plan an effective budget

Where to find safe open banking apps

There are some 296 third-party providers currently listed by the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE), which is the body set up by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to set standards and guidelines for open banking.

We’ve listed just a few that can help with your budgeting and savings goals.

The apps listed here are all regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and either appear on the list of approved providers on openbanking.org.uk, or access open banking via a listed firm.

To get started, you’ll need a smartphone that has access to either the iOS App Store or the Google Play store. You can search for the name of the app you want to try, and then download it to your phone. Make sure it looks like the images and videos we’ve featured below.

You’ll have to provide some personal information to get the app started – this can vary, but you’ll usually be asked for your name, mobile number and email address, before being asked to set security details such as a password and a Pin. After that, you’ll need to select which accounts you want to link to, and you’ll also need your login information for these.

Chip

Cost: Free for Chip; £3 every 28 days for ChipX

Key features: Chip is all about helping you to save more. By linking your bank account, it analyses your spending to calculate how much you can afford to save without affecting what you need to buy.

It automatically moves the cash it thinks you can spare into a separate savings account provided by Allica Bank, where your money can build up over time – though it’s possible to amend or cancel the proposed savings whenever you like.

You can also set savings goals, assign a certain amount to be saved on payday and track your ‘save streaks’ to keep you motivated.

What’s more, Chip also offers investment options – but some are exclusive to ChipX members.

Drawbacks: Anyone with more than £0 in an old Chip e-wallet is now being charged £10 every 28 days until they move the remaining balance to the Allica Bank account or their nominated bank account.

Emma

 

 

Cost: Free for standard Emma; £41.99 per year for Emma Plus; £83.99 per year for Emma Pro

Key features: In a bid to cut your spending and make the most of the money you have, Emma is another app that links to bank accounts and other financial products, analysing the information to make suggestions on wasteful subscriptions you could cut.

When you spend, you can take advantage of the in-app cashback offers and partner retail offers with the likes of Beer52, Fiit and Pact Coffee.

Emma Plus and Pro offer extra features. With Emma Plus you get a fraud detection feature that alerts you if your details have been accessed as part of a data breach, along with bill reminders and a ‘true balance’ feature that shows you how much you really have left to spend each month.

Emma Pro offers features such as double cashback rewards, the ability to track your net worth and the ability to update balances for unlinked accounts, such as a savings account you make regular transactions to.

Drawbacks: If you go for either of the paid-for Emma options, make sure you’ll use enough of the features to justify the price.

Money Dashboard

Cost: Free

Key features: If you’d prefer to assess your budget on your computer, the good news is Money Dashboard is also available as a web app – along with the usual smartphone app offerings.

It links to more than 90 UK banks and financial providers to give you an overall view of your finances, which can help inform you to make budgets for different spending categories.

It can also account for all of your scheduled bills and regular payments, so you know what you’ll have left to spend. And when you make purchases, they’ll be split into spending categories with the merchant information, so you can see exactly where your money’s going.

Drawbacks: It does require a certain amount of effort from you to decide how you want your budgeting to work, which is fine if you’re fairly interested in your finances and like to keep control over them.

Plum

 

Cost: Standard version of Plum is free; Plum Plus costs £1 per month; Plum Pro costs £2.99 per month; Plum Ultra costs £4.99 per month.

Key features: Plum’s app features an AI assistant that analyses spending going on in your linked account, and calculates how much you can save every few days. This cash is sent to a savings account. Your spending is split into categories and tracked so you can see how much you have left until your next payday.

Your transactional data is also used to flag what Plum calls ‘lost money’, which is where it thinks you’ve been overcharged on bills that could be cheaper if you switch elsewhere.

Drawbacks: To get a savings rate of 0.4% AER you need to pay for Plum Plus, Pro or Ultra; the savings account that comes with the free version of Plum pays 0.25% AER.

Snoop

 

Cost: Free, but you’re asked to give Snoop a ‘tip’ if it makes you a big saving

Key features: By gathering all of your accounts together in one place, Snoop tracks your regular bills and flags up when they’re higher than usual – sometimes offering up cheaper providers you can switch to.

It also has features such as an annual insurance checker to check up on policy prices, and a mobile monitor that looks out for cheaper phone deals.

Your transactional data is used to tell Snoop where you shop, meaning it can then suggest voucher codes and cashback offers for your favourite shops or brands to make the most of your spending.

Drawbacks: You might not get as much out of it if you’re already a savvy shopper who looks out for things like cashback offers and discount codes.

What to check before allowing access to your data

There are hundreds of apps out there claiming to revolutionise your finances, but it can be hard to tell which ones are safe to try.

Opening up your data to third parties does come with a certain amount of risk – for instance, if the worst should happen and the third party firm is hacked. There are measures in place to ensure your information is as secure as possible, but you should also perform a few checks before allowing your data to be shared with a third party.

1. Check the FCA register

A company’s regulatory information should be listed on its website, detailing its trading name and FCA reference number (also called an FRN) – you can usually find this information by scrolling to the bottom of the company’s website.

Compare this information to what’s listed on the FCA register. The authorisation a company needs can vary depending on the services its app provides, but most commonly it will be ‘account information service providers’ and/or ‘payment initiation service providers’.

2. Check openbanking.org.uk

You can look through a list of approved providers at openbanking.org.uk if you want to double-check an app or service.

Note that not all regulated apps will appear on this list, as some access open banking via another approved company. If this is the case, the details should also appear with other regulatory information on the company’s website.

3. Check your data permissions

The information you share through open banking is protected by General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws, which state that your personal data can only be used for the specific purposes you’ve approved, it cannot be shared or stored indefinitely, and you should be able to revoke your permission to use it at any time.

If an app or service doesn’t appear when conducting these searches or doesn’t seem to be following these rules, it’s best not to grant it permission to access your data.