If you’re looking to utilise your mobile phone to help with your budgeting, there are absolutely loads of apps that you can choose from now.
Indeed, the array of options has increased markedly since the introduction of Open Banking, which has made it much easier for app developers to connect with your bank accounts.
So what makes Emma different?
Taking on bank charges
I’ve played around with a fair few budgeting apps at this point, and if I’m honest most of them do much the same thing.
They bring together your various account balances to a single place so you can get a more accurate idea of your overall financial position, and often allow you to set savings goals to help you focus your money management.
All very worthy services, undoubtedly.
Emma does all of the usual stuff - you get a weekly report which covers how much you’ve spent, which was the most expensive day and where your money is going, as well as how much money has come in, while there’s the option to set budgets for specific spending activity.
But what makes Emma different is that it has also implemented a ‘fee tracker’ which will allow users to see precisely when and why their banks have charged them, whether it’s for overdraft use, making withdrawals overseas, late payments or refused direct debits.
The firm reckons the tracker helps users “hunt down senseless bank fees” and compare banks to see which ones are ripping them off the most.
According to a blog from co-founder Edoardo Moreni: “This is one of the many efforts we are making to tackle down an industry that has been unclear, shady and dodgy for more than 800 years.”
My own experience with Emma
When you first set up with the app, you’re invited to enter your payday to help with the budgeting process.
That’s great if you are a regular employee who has a single payday to focus on, but when you’re self-employed and the money comes in at various stages throughout the month, that’s not a lot of use.
It also has to be pointed out that there are a LOT of emojis in use with the Emma app – every single transaction in your account is accompanied by some sort of picture, and while some are related to the transaction itself (the Cancer Research logo for our direct debit for example) other spending is accompanied by a piggy bank, which seems a bit off if I’m honest.
Another thing worth noting is that there are limits on precisely which banks you can link with – the big names like Barclays, Lloyds Bank, HSBC and Halifax are all on there, as are some of the upstart challengers like Monzo and Starling, but it’s by no means comprehensive.
Annoyingly as a Smile customer I couldn’t link my own personal account, so had to stick with our joint account.
Given Emma makes such a big play of the fact that it can help you easily work out how much you’ve paid in bank charges, it could do a better job of flagging this up within the app itself. There are four main pages within the app – Emma, Analytics, Accounts and Settings.
Yet the bank fees information is found in the settings area, which seems a little counterintuitive to me. Thankfully, it doesn’t reckon I’ve been hit with any unfair fees either, which is something of a relief.
I still like it
For all that, the fee tracker is an excellent idea and should hopefully prove the motivating factor some people need to finally throw off the shackles of their old bank accounts.
Despite the introduction of seven-day switching, we are still rather reticent as a nation to actually switch banks, preferring to stick with what we know.
It’s a daft approach that ultimately costs many of us money and any innovation that makes it more likely for us to get switching gets a thumbs up from me.