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. 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 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 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.
The apps below also allow you to invest the cash they put away in collective investments called funds. 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.
There are much cheaper alternatives
If your primary aim is to use these apps for investing, you should look elsewhere as the range of funds offered is limited and the fees are relatively costly.
See our Fund need-to-knows guide for full help, including our top-pick trading platforms which are much cheaper than these apps.
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 apps
If you want to try an app to help you get saving, our top picks are below. Do note all these apps also offer investments as well as saving, so make sure you're signing up to a savings plan – if that's what you want. If you do want to invest, these apps aren't usually the cheapest way (see Investing for beginners for more).
Automatic savings apps – our review
If you're looking to save little and often, most would be better off with a straightforward regular savings account, which pay more interest. However, if you've tried that and it doesn't work for you, or you don't know how much you can afford to save, it's worth trying one of these apps.
Plum's Basic plan is our top fee-free pick. You give it read-only access to your current account via Open Banking (most major banks are supported) and it uses its algorithm to analyse your spending and work out how much you can afford to save. It does this every few days on its default setting, automatically transferring the money into your savings account (or another account of your choosing). You can ramp up or down how much it saves each time, or pause autosaves entirely.
It also gives the option to round up your purchases to the nearest pound and save the difference (eg, 80p on a £2.20 spend), which it collects weekly. Your savings are initially held in your Plum account paying no interest, but you can move it to its one-day notice 'interest pocket' at 0.25% or out of the app into a top savings account for higher rates.
Alternatively, Moneybox is also free but only offers 'round-ups', which work in the same way as Plum. However, Moneybox offers a choice of savings accounts where it deposits the cash. Its 'Simple Saver' gives instant access at 0.47%, but if you're a first-time buyer (or want to be one day) it's worth looking at its Lifetime ISA which is a top pick in its own right.
Clever ways to calculate your finances