Autosaving Apps

What they are, how they work & our top picks

Smartphone saving app image

Autosaving apps use clever tech to work out what you can afford to save and then do it for you automatically, moving money from your bank account to a virtual savings account. Some even let you invest. The idea is that you start building up savings without really noticing the cash is going. We've everything you need to know and all the top picks below.

What are autosaving apps?

These 'autosaving' apps try to squirrel away some of your cash without you noticing – useful if you find it difficult to put money aside or don't know how to start saving.

Some calculate how much you can afford to save each week and automatically move money into a separate savings (or investment) account, while others 'round up' your purchases to the nearest pound and save the change for you. In theory, these features should help you save without having to think about it, leading to higher savings building up.

If you're feeling the pinch, you can always tell the app to save less, or withdraw the money back into your current account if you need it.

Yet while these apps can help you save more, they generally don't pay much (or any) interest – to max returns on existing savings, see our Top Savings Accounts guide.

Quick question

  • The apps in this guide all work with Android and iOS phones, so you should be able to download them if you've one of those, provided it's relatively up to date. Alternatively, several of the apps let you download them to an iPad or other tablet if it runs on Android or iOS (see Cheap Mobile Tips if you want a new phone).

The five autosaving app need-to-knows

To help you decide if an autosaving app is right for you, it's worth getting your head around the following need-to-knows...

  • apps to access current accounts

    The apps below require you to give them access to your existing online banking, so they can see your current account (and sometimes your credit card) info. This allows them to calculate how much you can afford to save.

    Depending on the app, and which bank you use, you may sometimes need to give the app your login details so it can access your data. And because of a regulation snappily called 'the second Payment Services Directive' (PSD2) and reforms to the banking industry called Open Banking...

    ...banks must now share your banking data with authorised third parties if you've given permission.

    By 'authorised' we mean those third parties, such as apps, which have special licences from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or other European regulators – see our Open Banking explained guide for more. Banks may still share your info with unauthorised firms if they choose to. However, if you choose to do this with an unauthorised firm or app, you may be liable for any fraud affecting your bank account.

    We note in the details for each app below if it is authorised to provide these 'account information services'. If you find one that isn't, you need to decide whether or not you're happy to take on the extra risk.

    Quick question

    • If you use a third-party provider that's not authorised, you won't get the same levels of protection against fraud. So if you lose money through it, your bank may not pay out.

      You should always check a provider before you give it access to your accounts – you can do so on the FCA Register or the Open Banking register. If it's not authorised, ask what security measures it has in place.

      However, if you're happy with a provider, you can choose to give it access even if it's not authorised, but you need to be aware of extra risks.

      We asked the FCA what you should do if you have doubts about a provider. It said: "If you're unsure about whether a company is legitimate, you should ask them for more information, for example, who they are regulated by.

      "If you don't know who you are talking to, or there is reason to suspect that the provider is not who they claim to be, don't disclose your banking security credentials or other personal or financial information."

      Bear in mind too that using a firm that's yet to be authorised doesn't automatically mean you're not protected – some apps already adhere to other regulations, such as the e-money regulations, which means your money is safeguarded.

  • When it comes to your finances, you want to be sure your money's safe – so it's important to understand how your money's protected. UK-regulated banks such as Barclays and NatWest have the full £85,000 Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection (see more on this in our Savings Safety guide).

    Some of the apps below also have FSCS coverage, but others don't. Instead, many autosaving apps have an 'electronic money' licence. This means they have to hold your cash in a bank account ring-fenced from their operating cash – this is normally with a big bank such as Barclays or NatWest.

    Should the digital bank go bust, assuming it's done things by the book, your money would be protected as it'd be in a different account to the firm's own money.

    But there's an important caveat. If the bank or building society in which your money was ring-fenced went bust, your money may NOT be protected. This is because it's not counted as a deposit, in the way that cash in a savings account would be, and so it's not as clear-cut – the FSCS has told us that it would have to decide on a case-by-base basis whether or not it would cover your cash.

    For providers in this guide, we tell you how your money's protected – it's up to you whether you want to take the risk of a big bank that's holding your money going under.

    your money is protected
  • Some of the apps below allow you to invest the cash they put away. This can be tempting if you want to possibility of growing your money faster, but it's important to understand that investing is risky – you'll be subject to market fluctuations, and if your investments do badly you could lose money.

    This is why, as a rule of thumb, you should be looking to invest in funds or shares for at least five years – enough time to ride out any bumps in the stock market that might see you make a loss. If you can't invest for this long, it may be best to avoid it altogether. 

    For more, including the five golden rules of investing, read our Investing for beginners guide.

  • Autosaving apps are an easy way to get into the savings habit, but they generally offer little or no interest. Plus money left sitting in an autosave wallet may not have the strongest protection (see point 2 above).

    So unless you've chosen to invest, we'd suggest that every few months you move the money out into a normal top savings account to get the best possible returns.

    And once you've gotten a feel for how much you can put away each month, it's also worth considering a regular savings account – these pay the highest interest on smaller sums.

  • The apps featured in this guide have a single purpose – to help you build up a savings pot without having to think about it. But if you're looking for more comprehensive help with managing your money, there's a different category of apps which could suit you better.

    App-only banks have a whole host of features meant to help keep your finances in check. For example, they give you real-time notifications when you spend or save, offer insights into your spending habits and let you sort your money into virtual piggybanks. They even offer some automatic saving features (eg, they can round up purchases to the nearest pound and put the change away for savings).

    By giving you more visibility and control over your cash, these features could prove more effective in helping you save in the long run. See our Digital Banking guide for full info.

Top autosaving & autoinvesting apps

If you want to try an app to help you get saving (or investing), our top picks are below. Remember: if you choose to invest, you could lose money as well as make money. So make sure you fully understand the risks before diving in – if you're not sure where to start, take a look at our top 10 investment tips for beginners.

Choose from four different ways to save, plus get 0.5% interest

Apply on your device: Apple* or Android*

With Tandem (download on your device through the App Store* or Google Play*) you can save in a few different ways. Once you've connected your main bank account, you can set up one or more of its three saving rules:
 
- Round-ups, where you save up to the next whole pound (eg, if you buy a 30p banana, it'll save 70p for you)
- Regular deposit, where you choose how much you want to save each week
- Safe to save, where its algorithm works out how much you can afford to save each week from the account(s) that you have linked

Or, for occasional deposits, you can also manually pay up to £500 a week into your Tandem savings from a linked current account.

Tandem pays interest of 0.5% on whatever you save. This is easily beaten by normal easy access accounts, but with those, you need to actively save in to them. With Tandem, it's done for you, so it'd suit those who find it hard to save on their own.

Important: Tandem has its own banking licence, so up to £85,000 of savings is protected under the FSCS.

Interest rate: 0.5% AER variable
Max savings: £250,000
How to get the app: Download for iOS* (rated 4.4/5) or Android* (rated 4/5)
Protection: FSCS-protected up to £85,000

  • Tandem has two ways you can save through it where you're not in direct control of the total:

    1. Round-ups. Here, it just rounds up any debit card purchases you make to the nearest £1. You can link a credit card for the round-ups feature, but it will only ever take your round-up savings amount from your debit card, not your credit card.

    2. 'Safe to save'. When you turn this on, you're asked what level you'd like to set it at. Tandem has five levels from 'minimum', where it looks to save around 5% of your regular income, to 'maximum', which is 15%.

    To turn either of these ways on, you will need to give Tandem read-only access to your current account so it can see the transactions going out and work out how much is 'safe to save' for you. 

    Your savings from this will be set aside once a week (you'll get an app notification telling you how much), and you'll have two days to adjust the amount – for example, if you have an upcoming big expense and you need to keep more cash in your current account. The amounts are taken by Tandem as a charge on your main linked debit card.

  • The app works with most of the big banks, including Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Danske Bank, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, M&S Bank, Monzo, Nationwide, NatWest, Revolut, RBS, Santander, Starling, TSB and Ulster Bank.

  • Tandem is a bank in its own right, which means that your cash is protected up to £85,000 under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. If you have other savings accounts with Tandem, then the protection is shared across all of them.

    For more information on how your savings are protected, read the Safe Savings guide.

Automatic saving and free £5 when you first save. There's no interest, but you can choose to invest what it saves for you

Plum* is a savings tool which works in Facebook Messenger or via its own app. It uses an algorithm to work out how much you can afford to save, moving the sum automatically into a 'savings' account. Apply via our link and keep your account active (don't pause savings) and you'll get a £5 bonus added to your account within 30 days of Plum making your first automatic save.

Plum doesn't pay interest on money saved on its free plan, but you can choose to invest through it with a choice of funds managed by the likes of Vanguard and Legal & General – though there are fees for this, and you need to be aware that you could end up getting less back than you put in, depending on the performance of the stock markets. See our Investment for beginners guide for more information if you're new to investing.

Important: On its free plan, it stores your money in an 'e-wallet' and DOESN'T have the usual £85,000 per person protection via the FSCS (see FAQs for more).

Interest rate: None on free plan (see FAQs)
Max savings: £5,000 per save (no max per day)
How to get it: Sign up through Facebook Messenger* or download for iOS* (rated 4.7/5) or Android* (rated 4.5/5)
Protection: Not FSCS-protected, money is ring-fenced (see FAQs)

  • To sign up to Plum, you need to download the app or connect it to your Facebook Messenger. Then you link it to your current account, giving it read-only access so it can see your transactions.

    It uses its algorithm to analyse your spending and build a 'unique saver profile' for you, and then – through a direct debit – it siphons off a few pounds every four to five working days into your Plum savings account. You can tell it to save more or less, or to pause automatic saving.

    You can keep money saved in your Plum account or you can invest it in a choice of funds managed by the likes of Legal & General and Vanguard – this comes with a £1 monthly fee, a 0.15% annual management fee plus underlying fund fees (0.08%-0.90%).

  • Plum doesn't offer any interest on its free plan, though you can choose to invest (as set out above).

    If you sign up to one of Plum's premium plans, which cost either £1 or £2.99 a month, you get access to a savings account paying 0.6% AER interest. However, this is quite a bit less than you can get from a top easy-access account elsewhere, so it's probably not worth paying for on its own, unless you really value the app's other features.

  • Plum works with most major banks including Barclays, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest, RBS, Santander, TSB, as well as Starling and Monzo.

  • By default, any money you save with Plum is put into a 'wallet' operated by Payrnet, an FCA-authorised e-money institution. Plum says money in this 'wallet' is held in a ring-fenced account at the Bank of England so it'd be safe if Plum were to go bust.

    If you pay for one of Plum's premium plans, you get access to a savings account paying 0.6% AER interest. This interest-paying account is powered by Investec, and money in this account has up to £85,000 UK savings safety protection.

    It's also important to note the risks involved if you decide to go down the investing route with Plum: returns aren't guaranteed and you could lose your cash. For more on this, see our Investment for beginners guide. 

Invest (or save) with every card purchase

Moneybox offers 'round-ups', where you connect your debit or credit card to it and it rounds up your purchases to the nearest pound, letting you save or invest the difference (eg, buy a £2.20 coffee and it puts away 80p). We're focusing on the investment option here.

In addition to round-ups, you can make weekly or one-off deposits into one of three investment options – cautious, balanced or adventurous (see our Investment for beginners guide for help choosing). Any investments you make are taken once a week via direct debit and invested a few days later, and you can choose to hold a general account or a stocks & shares ISA.

It's one option if you want to dip your toe into the world of investing but aren't sure where to start. However, be aware that the charges are relatively high – no surprise as all those payments will mean a lot of management. The app costs £1/mth after the first three months, plus 0.45% a year of whatever you invest (and there are also associated fund charges of 0.12% to 0.30% a year, though you'd pay this anywhere). It can be cheaper to use an investment platform if you're happy to pick your own funds.

  • At sign-up you choose one of three options – cautious, balanced or adventurous. The option determines how your savings are split between cash, bonds, global shares and property shares, and Moneybox invests through what are known as 'tracker' funds. The splits are as follows:

    • Cautious – 40% cash, 20% government bonds, 20% corporate bonds, 15% global shares, 5% property shares.
    • Balanced – 65% global shares, 25% corporate bonds, 10% property shares.
    • Adventurous – 80% global shares, 15% property shares, 5% corporate bonds.

    The funds that Moneybox invests in are from well-established names: the Legal & General cash fund, the Fidelity index world fund, iShares corporate/government bond index funds and global property equity fund, and the BlackRock global property securities fund.

Investment fees: £1/mth per account (free for 3mths) + 0.45% a year + fund manager charges (estimated at 0.12%-0.30% a year)
Min investment: £1 | Max investment: £20,000/week (but £20,000/year if in an ISA)
Transfer-out fee: None, but charges £25 per fund for 'in specie' transfers (where you transfer a fund/holding directly to a new provider without cashing it in first – these are rare)
How to get the app: Download for iOS (rated 4.7/5) or Android (rated 3.8/5)

  • If you save in Moneybox's notice account or cash Lifetime ISA, it has up to £85,000 FSCS protection, shared with its partner banks.

    Moneybox also has FSCS protection if you invest, but it's important to know that FSCS investment protection only applies if you lose money due to Moneybox going bust, not if the underlying investment goes bust.

    In other words, if the funds Moneybox invests in for you perform poorly, you've no protection as that's the nature of investing.

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