Expense tracking apps are a powerful tool to take control of spending. Below, we look at eight top-rated expense tracking apps, including GoodBudget, Credit Karma, Mint.com, iSpending, XpenseTracker, You Need a Budget, VisualBudget, and Spending Tracker. We’ll dig into user ratings, features, price, security and more.
Expense Tracking Apps and Security
Let’s start with a caveat: There are a lot of apps out there to help consumers track expenses. Never give your bank or credit card account numbers to any of them.
First, if you haven’t seen this video on how apps deliver malware, it’s worth a look:
In the video, cybersecurity firm chief Gary Intiliefsky details his examination of the top 10 flashlight apps. These are the apps that turn a smartphone into a flashlight. He says every single one contains malware, requires permissions they don’t really need and were created by companies in Russia or China. If this is happening with flashlight apps, what might lurk in apps for finances?
Further, many expense tracking apps require users to divulge private info like account numbers and passwords. While sharing info like this may be okay as long as the companies themselves are honest, what if they get hacked? In that case, the thieves walk away with whatever has been shared.
So, those thinking about a good way to track their spending should start off with security.
In our list of eight top-rated expense tracking apps below, we cover features and price, but we also comment on the relative security of each app. Note that while each app has a free version, most require upgrades to single-payment or subscription versions to access all their features.
Online App, Free — All Platforms
Credit Karma is best known for their short commercials advertising free credit scores. A feature of the site that many people don’t know about is their online spending tracking app. This service shows a breakdown of a user’s cash flow over time, money spent by category and a transaction history.
The downside to Credit Karma’s expense tracker is security. To track expenses with Credit Karma, the site requires users to input credit card and bank account usernames and passwords. The site claims it doesn’t have access to functions like transferring money and can only look at a user’s transaction history.
While Credit Karma is a trustworthy site, sharing sensitive information with any business might be too much of a stretch for most consumers. In today’s climate of a new corporate hack seemingly every week, people really shouldn’t give information to anyone if they wouldn’t feel safe handing it directly to a thief. Credit card account passwords certainly fall into this category.
By Intuit, 4 stars, Free — iOS/Android
Mint displays a user’s spending habits at a glance over various categories in both charts and numbers. It also lets users create and track budgets. As an added bonus, Mint displays each user’s current credit score, updated continually.
The downside with Mint is the same as Credit Karma’s weak point. Namely, Mint tracks spending by linking bank and credit card accounts. Like Credit Karma, Mint claims to be secure. They don’t make any changes to users’ financial accounts. Instead, they only download transaction histories called OFX files. They use these files for tracking user spending. The problem is, Mint does ask for user account passwords. Again, what happens if they’re hacked?
By Dayspring Technologies, 4.5 stars, $4.99/month — iOS/Android
The GoodBudget app asks users to download transaction history reports each month from their banks and credit card companies, then upload them to the app. This is nice because account usernames and passwords aren’t shared with the app. GoodBudget then sifts and sorts the transactions into categories, so users know exactly how much they spent on pizza last month, for example, or Starbucks coffee last week or at the movies all year, at a glance.
Beyond expense tracking, the app also contains some pretty savvy budgeting software. With a digital-only envelope system for planning monthly spending, and account tracking by category (with graphs and charts) this app can really help its users get a handle on their spending.
As far as security goes, GoodBudget comes from Dayspring Technologies in San Francisco. They have a real website, contact info — you can even get driving directions to their offices and see pictures of their twenty or so employees if you like. Beyond that, GoodBudget doesn’t ask for account numbers. That means users don’t have to worry that their private information will be used for nefarious purposes, either by the company or in the event that they get hacked.
The app is a bit pricey compared to other offerings, at $4.99 monthly, but its high user rating may justify the cost.
You Need a Budget
4.5 stars, $59, iOS/Android/Desktop
You Need a Budget is a rich budgeting and expense tracking app packed full of features. It lets users load transaction histories from multiple accounts, build in spending and saving goals by category and delivers summaries in easy-to-read reports. It also lets multiple family members access the budget through the cloud.
There’s a bit of a learning curve on this one, but users who stick with it can really fine-tune their budgeting. Their online help forums provide pretty good support.
You Need a Budget’s expense tracking is good, but visually it’s not quite as easy to understand as the other apps we reviewed. This app’s focus is on budgeting first, expense tracking second. It’s still a powerful app.
The security side of You Need a Budget is solid. Users download transaction history files from their banks and credit card companies, then upload them into the app. The app never asks for account numbers, and private information is kept on the home device.
by Hana Mobile, 4.5 stars, $4.99 — iOS only
iSpending is one of the most popular expense tracking apps for iOS. Like the other apps, it breaks spending down into categories and creates automatic spending charts. Spending summaries are visible from the home page. It also has a search feature that makes finding a single transaction in a haystack of them easy. One downside of the app is it claims to be free, then after users have spent a fair amount of time using the app it forces them to upgrade to a paid version.
As for security, iSpending lets users input transactions manually. A bit tedious, but secure.
by Silverware Software, 5 stars, $4.99 plus related apps — iOS only
XpenseTracker is a spending tracker optimized for business travel. It lets users log expenses manually, keep track of mileage, and store photos of receipts. It even links into current exchange rates for traveling abroad. Best yet, it breaks spending down into categories and delivers concise reports for printing.
In addition to the $4.99 purchase fee, there are some other recommended app purchases (like Dropbox Support and Device Syncing) that help users maximize their usage of this app.
But beware: There are at least two exact-name knockoffs out there — one in the Google Play store and another at XpenseTracker.com. Neither of these decoys has anything to do with the legit XpenseTracker app from Silverware Software. Again, this app is currently available only for iOS, so if you find it on Google Play, or at a website, you’ve found the knockoff.
by Kiwi Objects, 4.5 stars, $4.99 — iOS/Android
Visual Budget breaks spending down by category, visible at a glance in bar graphs and/or pie charts. There’s also a great line graph that shows spending changes in any category over time. Finally, as with GoodBudget, Visual Budget comes with budgeting software to help its users move from simply tracking your expenses to planning them.
The interface is a bit rudimentary, and importing transactions can be a challenge, delivering a message that says, “this transaction file is incorrectly formatted,” but not suggesting what to do about it.
As for security, the company that makes this app is located in France and has a rudimentary website full of grammar mistakes and no contact info except a standard [email protected] email address. However, like GoodBudget, Visual Budget imports bank and credit card statements without account numbers, so no matter who’s on the other end, private information stays reasonably secure.
by MH Riley, 4.5 stars, $2.99 — iOS/Android
This app shows spending by category (groceries/coffee/gas/phone bill) and by graphs and charts. Users can view spending in different time periods, like last week, last month or on a given date. The downside is that each transaction must be entered manually. The ability to create repeating transactions streamlines this somewhat. For instance, you could set up a repeating transaction for $1.99 for coffee every day. The danger of repeating transactions is that they risk losing touch with reality. What if you skip coffee one day, or opt for a $5 latte?
Security isn’t bad for this app, since it doesn’t require syncing bank accounts but instead lets users enter transactions manually. A slow way to do things, but it works.
The Bottom Line on Expense Tracking Apps
There are a lot of great apps out there to help track spending, and the beauty of them is, whatever gets measured generally gets improved, and that includes spending habits. Just beware that even a highly-rated app is something to worry about if it requires users to enter account numbers. To take the next step from expense tracking to budgeting, see our article on how to create a budget.