Automatic Savings Apps
What they are, how they work & our top picks
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.
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...
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.
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.
Some of the apps below allow you to invest the cash they put away. This can be tempting if you want the 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.
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 ensure 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.
New. 1.25% savings bonus on manual saves up to £2,000, or on up to £5,000 if you pay autosaving fees of £1.50 every 28 days
Chip is a savings app that uses an algorithm to work out how much you can afford to save, and puts that amount away automatically every few days. Normally it doesn't pay any interest, or very little, but its new Chip+1 account* (you need the code MSE21) pays 1.25% annually if you're new to Chip. Though there's a lot you need to know before you sign up:
- You can save up to £2,000 for free or £5,000 for a fee. The default plan is ChipAI which pays 1.25% variable on up to £5,000 and charges a £1.50 fee every four weeks – giving you access to its autosaving features.
Alternatively, you can opt for the fee-free ChipLite plan which pays 1.25% variable on up to £2,000 but here there's no autosaving – you just choose to put your cash in.
As long as you're saving more than £3,575/yr you're better off paying the fee, as it's covered by the extra interest.
- Use code MSE21 to access it. You normally need to be referred by an existing Chip customer, but we've managed to get it to give us the code MSE21, which cuts out all that faff if you're new to Chip – put it in the VIP code box once you've downloaded the app and registered via Chip+1*.
- The bonus is paid every 12 weeks but DOES NOT compound. It's calculated weekly and paid every 12 weeks, though if you close an account before it's payable you get nothing. The bonus is also held in a separate account so you don't get interest on the interest.
- It works with most bank accounts but not all. See FAQs for the full list.
Important: Only money in Chip+1 (not the bonus you receive) has the usual £85,000 per person protection via the FSCS (see FAQs for full info).
Interest rate: None by default; 1.25% variable cash bonus on Chip+1 account (see FAQs)
Fees: None for manual saving; £1.50 every 28 days for autosaving (starting when you first hit £100 in autosavings)
How to get it: Download for iOS (rated 4.5/5) or Android (rated 4.5/5)
Protection: Savings in Chip+1 are FSCS-protected (but bonus is not)
Once you've downloaded the app, you link Chip to your current account, giving it 'read-only' access so it can see your transactions. It then moves money across to a separate 'savings' account in the app – it calls this an automatic save.
Automatic saves normally happen every four days, with the amounts based on what Chip's algorithm thinks you can afford to save. The average amount is £20 (though Chip says it really varies depending on the user).
You can also move money to your Chip account manually, tell it to save more or less, and pause or stop automatic saving.
Chip is free to download, but once it's autosaved £100 for you, there's a £1.50 fee every 28 days to continue using the autosaving features.
Chip doesn't offer any interest by default. However, you can open a Chip+1 account inside the app (Chip newbies can use our code MSE21 or existing Chip customers can access it by referring someone else to Chip). This pays a 1.25% variable cash bonus on up to £5,000 saved.
The bonus is not FSCS-protected, does not compound and is paid every 12 weeks (if you close the account within the first 12 weeks, you won't get anything).
Chip says it'll give 30 days' notice before changing or withdrawing the bonus.
Chip works with Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Danske, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Marks & Spencer, Monzo, Nationwide, NatWest, RBS, Revolut, Santander, Starling, TSB and Ulster Bank.
If your bank isn't on this list (eg, Co-op Bank, Metro Bank, Tesco Bank) you won't be able to use Chip.
By default, any money you save with Chip is stored in an 'e-wallet' provided by 'e-money provider' Prepaid Financial Services (PFS), which is FCA-regulated. Your money is held in a ring-fenced Barclays account. Under e-money regs, if Chip or PFS went bust your money remains in Barclays, so should be safe.
The Chip+1 account has stronger protection as the partner bank that runs it – ClearBank – has a full UK banking licence. So money held in Chip+1 gets the normal UK savings safety protection like other savings.
However, the interest is technically a bonus and isn't savings-safety protected. Chip is technically giving you a marketing bonus for saving. This money doesn't go into your Chip+1 account – instead it's held in the ring-fenced account we explain above.
Though you could always withdraw the full balance and then redeposit it into your Chip+1 account to get the protection.
Automatic saving with no fees, free £5 when you first save and 0.35% interest. You can also choose to invest what it saves for you
Plum* is a savings tool which 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.
By default, Plum doesn't pay interest on money saved. But you can open an 'interest pocket' in the app which pays 0.35%. Alternatively, 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: Only money in 'interest pockets' has the usual £85,000 per person protection via the FSCS (see FAQs for full info).
To sign up to Plum, you first need to download the app. 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, move it to an 'interest pocket' or 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 by default. However, you can open a special 'interest pocket' inside the app. This pays 0.35% interest on the free plan, or 0.55% if you sign up to one of Plum's premium plans (which cost either £1 or £2.99 a month).
It's worth noting you can beat these rates with a top easy-access account elsewhere, so it's probably not worth paying for access to the 0.55% rate 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 and 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.
Plum's 'interest pockets' have much stronger protection. These are powered by Investec, and money stored in them has the usual £85,000 UK savings safety protection (shared with Investec).
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.
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 4.8/5)
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.
Clever ways to calculate your finances