Numerous companies want to look after your savings, lend you money, provide credit cards, ISAs, cheque accounts and more. You might have an account at one bank, savings at another, a credit card with a third and so on. It is hard to get an overall picture of your financial health but online personal finance software can provide this by aggregating all your accounts into one. See also: How to use Money Dashboard
Most money managers let you link multiple bank accounts and can show the amount you spend on your car, what your groceries cost each month, your utility bills, and so on. This useful if you are trying to cut spending, pay off a loan or save up for a new house or car.
Banks and credit card companies are beginning to offer money managers themselves and if you haven’t already done so, explore the options and menus in your online accounts to see if there are money management facilities.
You obviously trust your bank to look after your money, but what about third-party companies? In order to use most online services, you have to enter your bank account details. Would you trust an internet startup that has only been around a few years with access to your bank, savings and credit card accounts? This is a major drawback for many people, and it can be an uncomfortable feeling tapping in your details. However, one limitation - and advantage - is that they only show and categorise transactions. You cannot put money in, take it out or transfer it, so if a hacker gained access to your money manager account, they could view your balances, but not spend or move your money.
Best online personal finance software: Money Dashboard
Money Dashboard is free and quick to set up. It requires one or more bank or credit card accounts to work with, including HSBC, NatWest, Barclays, Lloyds and Halifax and others. Enter your login details and it reads your account details and transaction history. The dashboard provides an overview and on the left are your accounts. There are four panels that show outgoings by group, balance trends, outgoings by tag and recent transactions. This is all useful information and it can be configured to show only what you need.
The Past menu has options to show Transactions, Income:Spend, In:Out, and Balance History. When transactions are listed, they can be assigned to groups and have tags associated with them. Many transactions were automatically grouped and tagged, such as spending at a garden centre, gas and electric bills, cash machine withdrawals and so on. There will still be some that aren’t and these must be set manually. However, it did a good job of automatically categorising transactions.
Money Dashboard predicts what will happen to your finances in the future. After confirming regular transactions like income and bills, it predicts your balance and charts it for the months to come. It also builds a calendar that shows upcoming bills for the month ahead. You can see when they must be paid, who they are paid to and the amount. Apps are available for Android and iOS.
Best online personal finance software: OnTrees
OnTrees is part of Money Supermarket and is a free service. A total of 11 financial institutions are supported and this includes many high street favourites. Provide your log-in details and it fetches the transactions from your accounts. The Accounts screen shows your accounts and balances. You can see recent transactions for the last week, 30 or 90 days. Many transactions are automatically categorised, such as cash withdrawals, credit card payments, and utilities like gas and electric. However, it was not quite as good as Money Dashboard at automatically categorising transactions and you must go through slightly more, manually categorising them than with Money Dashboard.
Once you have everything labelled, transaction filters can be used to show only certain types and this is where OnTrees comes in useful. There are 11 transaction categories and selecting one displays a summary. You could, for example, show all ATM withdrawals, see how much you have spent on groceries or utility bills and so on. It shows the total amount spent, the percentage of total spending, each of the transactions, and even which day of the week you spend most in the selected category.
OnTrees is basically a service that analyses and categorises transactions and then lets you view each category. You can view both incoming and outgoing money. It does not predict future balances based on income and spending and you cannot set budgets for categories to help you to take control of future spending. It is still a reasonably good service though and its simplicity is its strongest feature. It is one to consider.
Best online personal finance software: Your Wealth
Your Wealth is different to the other money managers and it is free if you want to manually set it up, but it is £9.99 a year to integrate bank accounts and so on. The site is bright, colourful and uses large text and buttons. Unlike the other money managers, there is a lot of information to be added with the free service and you start with sources of income. All of your regular payments like a mortgage, gas, electric and so on, must be manually added. Spending limits for various activities like entertainment, groceries, home, travel and other categories can then be set. Finally, a savings goal can be added, such as for a new car, house deposit, or a holiday.
After adding a few transactions, you can begin to explore features like your spending. This shows the total spend so far, the budget limit, and the amount left to spend. You can see whether spending categories are on target, how much money you will have in the coming months and so on.
The Tools and Calculators section of Your Wealth is excellent and it is worth getting a free account just for this. There are four tax, six mortgage, and three pensions calculators. A loan calculator shows how you’ll repay, and a life insurance cover calculator. These are all excellent and are available without payment. The iOS and Android apps are excellent.
Best online personal finance software: Toshl
Toshl does not have access to your bank, credit card and other financial accounts, which puts it at a disadvantage compared to the others, but its modern design and support for Android and iOS apps makes it fun to use. It can be accessed on the web, phone or tablet and it basically just records whatever you put into it. For example, you can enter sources of income, add regular payments such as for TV, gas, electric, insurance, mortgage, loans and so on. You can also add cash withdrawals, payments like petrol for the car, groceries at the supermarket and so on, and because Toshl is on your phone, you can do it there and then, so you don’t forget or have to power up your computer when you get home.
Transactions can be viewed on a timeline and the account balance is shown at the top. A tags view shows categories of expense as bubbles. The larger the bubble, the larger the proportion of your spending. There are some limitations and one is that only one account is supported. It is therefore not much use for people with multiple accounts across several companies. Most features can be accessed for free, but to use all the features costs $19.99 a year.
Best online personal finance software: LoveMoney
LoveMoney.com offers a free service that tracks multiple accounts at different companies. The usual suspects are supported and many high street banks and credit cards are among the list of accounts you can add. After entering your login details, Lovemoney fetches all the transactions and automatically categorises them. It did a good job and it managed to work out where most of the money went, and with a bit of effort, you can manually correct or add categories to missing or wrong ones. Transactions can be viewed and filters applied, such as a category, account or date, so you could list all transactions for groceries for example, and see how much you have spent.
The website has a very clean and easy-to-read design and this helps to make the information easily readable. There is a dashboard that shows an overview of account balances and spending. It’s nice how it compares this month to last month as coloured bars, and there is a pie chart and a speedometer style display too. Budgets can be created so that you can keep to a certain amount spent on groceries, entertainment, cash withdrawals and so on. You can analyse spending by category and you can dig down and view individual transactions. Income vs spending is another of the views available and this is a simple chart showing the state of your finances.
Best online personal finance software: Banks, building societies, credit card companies
Banks, credit cards and building societies are adding money management features to their internet services and it is interesting to compare them with the independent companies. Lloyds Bank, for example, offers a good money manager. A Spending Analysis report shows where your money is going, such as household bills, cash withdrawals, motoring expenses, home and garden and so on. It shows monthly money in and out totals and compares them to the average.
Transactions are listed and most are automatically categorised. Any that are not, or are wrongly categorised, can be manually changed. A budget can be set for each category and you can see whether you are currently under or over budget on the dashboard display. Savings Goals enables you to set a target amount to save and a date, and a Calendar automatically identifies and shows recurring payments.
Barclaycard has useful analysis tools and you can choose any time period and see your spending as a pie chart organised by category. Transactions are automatically categorised, but can be edited where wrong or missing. There is a breakdown of spending by retailer as a bar chart and this enables you to see how much you have spent at Amazon, the local petrol station or supermarket.
A drawback is that they do not allow you to add accounts from elsewhere and so you have an incomplete financial picture. Some, such as Yorkshire Building Society, let you add other accounts though.
Best online personal finance software: Verdict
A money manager that pulls in all your accounts wherever they may be is better than one that is tied to one specific financial institution. Your Wealth is good and the tools and mobile apps are excellent, but it’s only useful if you pay. There isn’t a lot of difference between OnTrees, Money Dashboard and Lovemoney.com, but Money Dashboard is preferred.