Want to save time, save money and take control of your finances? Try the new app from Money Dashboard, the free spending tracker.
I put the Money Dashboard Neon app, launched in April, to the test. Here’s my review, including what’s great – and what could be better.
It’s an exciting time, as Money Dashboard are developing the app based on feedback from users and rolling out new features and improvements. I talked to Hayley Notman, product owner at Money Dashboard, to understand how to make the most of Neon right now – and what’s coming soon.
Spoiler alert: Money Dashboard Neon is super easy to set up and a great tool to manage not just your spending but also your saving. Yes, this is a collaborative post with Money Dashboard, but I wouldn’t have written this review if I didn’t recommend it.
Using this app can save you cold, hard cash. New Money Dashboard users typically saved 14% of their discretionary spend in their first month, according to research by Money Dashboard with the University of Edinburgh and Harvard Business School.
Read on to discover the highlights of Money Dashboard Neon, and then more info on how it can help you to manage your money!
Highlights of Money Dashboard Neon
- New free phone app which can also be accessed from a website
- Brings together all your accounts and transactions in one place
- Easy to check what income has come in, which payments have gone out and which bills are about to be paid
- Tots up your balance after bills, so you know what’s left to spend
- Pops your spending into handy categories
- Lets you create new categories
- Helps set budgets to keep your spending (or saving!) on track
- Sets up transfers between accounts, to avoid breaching any overdraft or card limits
- Doesn’t try to sell you insurance or pester you to switch utility suppliers
- Uses bank level security
- Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
- Nabbed ‘best personal finance app’ at the 2020 British Bank Awards
- Available for Apple and Android
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What is Money Dashboard?
Money Dashboard lets you connect up assorted accounts, so you can see all your balances and transactions in one place – current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and even a few investment accounts.
Think about that for a moment. No need to remember eleventy billion passwords and log in details. Just one single password to see all your transactions and different account balances.
Plus, did I mention that it’s free?
I’ve been a big fan of this kind of ‘aggregator’ service, that cuts the time and faff of logging into loads of different apps and websites, since I first signed up for Egg Money Manager (RIP) back in 2005.
I moved on to First Direct Internet Banking Plus for many years, until it was pulled last summer due to changing regulations. Nowadays, Open Banking makes it much easier and safer for banks to share data securely with services like Money Dashboard.
One advantage of Money Dashboard is that it’s been running for more than 10 years, rather than being a wet-behind-the-ears start up. The Neon app may be new, but it’s building on more than a decade of experience in helping users manage their money, while keeping their data secure.
What’s good about the Money Dashboard Neon app?
Easy to set up
If you’ve got your internet banking details handy, it only takes a few minutes to download the app and connect your first few accounts.
Loads of accounts to connect
Currently you can connect up to 31 companies (count ‘em), with more planned when connections are more reliable.
That includes all the big high street banks and most major credit card providers, plus new kid on the block banks (Monzo, Starling, Revolut) and even a few fintech investment companies (Nutmeg, PensionBee, Wealthify, WiseAlpha). Capital One and Metro are meant to be coming soon.
I’d love to see some of the big investment platforms take part in Open Banking, but the likes of Hargreaves Lansdown and Interactive Investor haven’t yet forked out for the techie stuff needed to connect.
Add offline accounts
Even if you can’t find your particular bank or card listed, you can create an offline account.
This means you can add balances for accounts that aren’t supported by the app, for a fuller financial picture, though you’ll need to keep them updated yourself.
For me, it meant I could add the balance for my emergency savings in a Marcus account.
Previous post: Where to stash your emergency cash
Avoid going overdrawn
When it’s super easy to check your balances, you’re more likely to spot if any account is dangerously close to going overdrawn – and can then avoid charges and overdraft interest by moving money around.
I spent what where?
Seeing loads of line items for, say, Amazon could be the wake up call to slash some of that spending.
Previous post: 12 reasons why a spending diary could change your life
Ditch unwanted direct debits
Plus, you might also spot unwanted direct debits – that trial subscription you forgot about, the mobile insurance for the handset before last – that need cancelling. It all adds up to more money in your pocket every month.
Seeing all your balances and transactions in one place is just the start. The magic really happens when Money Dashboard crunches the numbers and analyses your data, to help you make better decisions.
Balance after bills
Money Dashboard adds up your balances, and then takes off the bills due before you get paid at the end of the month. This helps massively in showing what you can actually afford to spend, rather than thinking you’ve got a healthy balance and then blowing the mortgage money.
Judge if there’s too much month for your money
Money Dashboard also predicts if you’re still going to be in credit come the end of the month, based on past bills and savings, with a countdown till payday.
Hopefully, you’ll see a cheerful statement like ‘on track with six days left’. Click on that, and you’ll see how much Money Dashboard reckons you’ll spend, what’s expected to go out in bills, and what balance should be left.
Change when your month starts
Maybe you get paid mid-month, rather than at the end. No problem.
You can change the date when your ‘balance after bills’ resets. Just click the pile of lines top right on the home screen and scroll down to ‘paycycle’.
Choose which payments come off your ‘balance after bills’
Money Dashboard takes a stab at working out what needs to be paid month after month, such as utility bills. But you can also add other scheduled payments and specify which day of the month they normally leave your account.
Choose which accounts go into your total balance
When opening the app, you’ll see a big figure for your total balance across all accounts.
But you can also deselect any accounts you don’t want to include (hit the filter icon top right on the home screen).
Counts up your spending by category
Money Dashboard pops each of your transactions into a handy dandy category, such as ‘Groceries’, ‘Bills’ or the intriguing ‘Experiences’. If something is in the wrong category, it only takes a few clicks to change.
Hit ‘Overview’ at the bottom of your screen, and you can see both total incoming and total spending each month, plus, if you scroll down, the total in each category. Click on any category to see the individual transactions.
When confronted with how much each £5 Uber adds up over a month in ‘Transport’, you might decide to spend a tad less, and save more towards a dream holiday.
Create your own categories
Love this recent innovation. Money Dashboard sorts your transactions into a tight list of 14 categories. Great.
But you can also create your own categories (and even choose the colour and icon attached).
So you could create a category for ‘Wedding’ if you want to keep an eye on the costs, or in my case categories for my ‘Pension’ payments, all the ‘Education’ costs for the kids and the guilt free ‘Fun Money’ my husband and I spend.
You can also create different ‘Income’ categories, if you want to keep track of say income from a side hustle compared to your main job. If you’re saving for a particular goal, you could set up a specific category for that too.
This is one of the functions that puts you in control of your money.
Under ‘Overview’, you can create budgets for any of your categories, then Money Dashboard will show what’s left to spend as you go through the month.
When setting a budget, Money Dashboard shows your average monthly spend for each category, but you could choose a different amount, if say you want to squeeze down your food spending or beef up your savings.
The top five budget categories for Money Dashboard users are apparently:
- Food & drink
Set up transfers
If you’re scrolling down the balances in your accounts, and suddenly realise you need to move some money around, you can set up the transfer in Money Dashboard, although you’ll be transferred to the specific banking app or website to complete the transaction.
Doesn’t try to sell you stuff
Money Dashboard won’t pester you to buy insurance or switch utility suppliers, so it can take a cut. Nor is it owned by a bank with products to push.
Instead, it makes money by selling the spending data, as aggregated, anonymised market research info.
The Neon app is pretty pared back, with a bit of colour from the spending categories. You won’t find the cheeky gifs, cartoon animals or emojis plastered over some other fintech apps. Nor will you be pestered by notifications about payments out, money in, or breaching your budgets. It’s up to you to check the app.
What’s not so great about Money Dashboard Neon
Double check the categories for your transactions
Decent spending analysis and budgeting depends on the data – so it’s a problem if a bunch of transactions end up in dodgy categories.
Money Dashboard uses machine learning to sling transactions into categories, but it’s still got a lot to learn. I was certainly surprised at some of the results.
For example, my spending at supermarkets Morrisons and East of England Co-op got shoved in the catch all ‘General’ rather than ‘Groceries’, along with Bulb Energy, which I would have expected to be picked up as ‘Bills’. Randomly a donation via JustGiving went into ‘Transport’, not ‘Giving’.
So if you want to use the category and budgeting functions, I really recommend going through your transactions, and changing the categories where needed.
Time well spent if it helps towards your financial goals.
Need to categorise each transaction each time
Right now, if you want to change the category for a transaction, you have to do it Every Single Time for repeated transactions.
Hayley swears blind that Money Dashboard is soon to introduce the option to apply the changes to all or some of your previous transactions, and later to make it possible to apply different categories to future transactions.
Can’t split transactions
You also can’t split an amount between two different categories – so if you go wild in Aldi’s aisle of doom, that chainsaw will show up under ‘Grocery’ spending, potentially blowing your ‘Grocery’ budget.
Avoid double counting credit card payments
I put as much as possible on credit cards, to earn a little extra from cashback, then clear it all at the end of my month.
Trouble is, MoneyDashboard categorised each individual transaction, but then also put the monthly direct debits paying off the credit cards into ‘Bills’.
My work around is to change the category for the direct debit payment to ‘Transfers’, so it isn’t included in my spending total.
Still need security details
Sadly, even after connecting my assorted accounts to Money Dashboard, I can’t just ditch all my usernames and passwords.
You’ll need them to re-authorise sharing info with Money Dashboard every 90 days (applies to any app using Open Banking).
Plus, although you can set up transfers between accounts in Money Dashboard, you can’t complete the transactions with the Neon app. You’ll be transferred to the relevant banking app or website, which means jumping through whatever security hurdles that bank demands.
Also, currently you can only set up transfers between connected accounts, not to other people or companies.
Works best for users with regular income
The whole ‘balance after bills’ calculation, and count down till pay day, works best if you actually have a pay day. If you’re self-employed, as I am, your income is erratic and doesn’t show up on a set day it’s month. Sadly, Money Dashboard can’t chase invoices for me, but I did want to flag it works best for employees.
Better for brand new users than long-standing customers
Money Dashboard Neon is a brand new app, not an update of the existing MoneyDashboard ‘Classic’ app.
This means it doesn’t transfer across data from long standing loyal Money Dashboard users. Nor does Neon have all the functionality of the original web version, such as subcategories and forward planning, yet.
Not an issue if you’re new to Money Dashboard, but I can see it could be a pain for long term users, and it’s certainly caused some disgruntled reviews.
What’s coming soon
There are some pretty funky features due to be introduced by Money Dashboard in the next few weeks.
- Scheduled payments: Allowing you to set scheduled payments that don’t happen each month, so your ‘balance after bills’ will take account of pesky payments that show up at different intervals (every week, fortnight, four weeks, quarter or every year).
- Analytics: Adding more analytics to the web version of the app, chucking in pie charts and other more colourful comparisons
- Splitting out savings: Currently, the Neon app just compares total for spending vs incoming money, lumping any savings into your spending. In future, saving will be split out separately. This could really help if for example you’re aiming to save specific amounts towards financial independence.
If you do spot any features you’d like to see, or experience any glitches – tell Money Dashboard. The whole point of the new Neon app was to create something more responsive and easier to adapt, and you can contact support direct from the app.
Yes, but is it safe?
You may have gathered that I have a laissez faire attitude to internet banking passwords. I’ve been using similar services for 15 years, without security issues.
You make my life easier? Have my log in details! Take them!
But I get that many readers have safety concerns about banking apps, no matter how useful. Luckily, Money Dashboard takes security much more seriously.
Since 2018, Open Banking provides a secure way for banks to share our financial data, such as payments made, with authorised services such as Money Dashboard. The banks don’t share your data willy nilly – you have to give permission. The crucial thing to remember is that if you use an Open Banking service, you don’t share your banking log in or password with anyone but your bank.
You can check out full details here, but Money Dashboard basically uses bank level security, and its services are routinely inspected, tested and audited by qualified security and data specialists.
(Here’s the science bit: all your information is protected using an Extended Validation security certificate with 256-bit encryption.)
Plus Money Dashboard is authorised and regulated by the city regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority.
The Money Dashboard Neon app already has a bunch of features that make it well worth downloading, with more improvements planned.
Showing all your transactions and accounts in one place is incredibly useful for spotting savings and checking you’re not about to go overdrawn.
But Money Dashboard Neon takes it further – and all for free.
If you run out of money towards the end of every month, the ‘balance after bills’ shows what you can actually afford to spend. I’m impressed that Money Dashboard takes account of both bills and budgets when assessing how much is left over.
Investing the time to create my own categories, and set my own budgets, really helped take control of both my spending and saving. I’ve found I use it like a banking app, checking every day or so to see what payments have gone out, and whether elusive invoices have been paid.
Plus, although Money Dashboard is often pitched as a spending tracker, it’s also a powerful tool for setting savings goals and monitoring your progress.
Yes, some elements haven’t been fine-tuned yet. The mobile display wasn’t optimised for the shorter screen on my mobile, making it tricky typing in my password or choosing icons for new categories. Features such as allowing users to recategorize multiple transactions, and apply those changes in future, can’t come soon enough for me.
But I genuinely think it’s worth making space on your phone for the Money Dashboard Neon app.
Give it a whirl and let me know what you think:
Now – over to you. How do you think Money Dashboard Neon could help you?
This is a collaborative post with Money Dashboard, but all views are my own and I am genuinely a Neon user