Continuing on from our brand and FinTech focus on products and services that I use on a regular basis I’ve decided to feature two very reliable and useful personal finance services that can help you save and track your spending in 2 very different ways.
Both Money Dashboard and Cleo are free to use personal financial trackers for those who like to keep an eye on spending habits, on a more regular basis. Money Dashboard as the name implies is a central dashboard for your bank accounts that is web and mobile app based, you can link multiple bank accounts and credit cards and view monthly charts and transactions. Cleo allows you to connect bank accounts and credit cards through its website and view transactions and upcoming bills also but what makes the service unique is the way in which you interact and use Cleo, this is done through a Facebook Messenger Chatbot.
Money Dashboard: A central location to keep an eye on spending habits and transactions. Money Dashboard offers serious tools for tagging transactions and categorising expenditure. You can set budgets which let you filter and track certain types of transactions which help towards giving you insights on how much your spending on things like groceries, which ultimately can help you see how you can save towards that holiday getaway or new gadget that you’ve had your eye on. Tools like cashflow calendar and in out graph predict salary and bills coming in and out of accounts which are great for getting a heads up on the month ahead and visually make spends more obvious.
Money Dashboard Pros:
- The web platform of Money Dashboard is where the service really shines and gives you a lot to play with, for those that want to tinker, the web client gives you all the tools to do this. MD do offer an iOS app that is solid but displays a very general overview of what’s going on within the accounts, my suggestion is stick to in-depth insights through the web.
- Although a very small and simple aspect of MD, the overview section in the top left once you log in is a constant reminder of your positive and negative account balance. It calculates a total amount for every financial account connected which when you have debt and savings in different accounts, it helps paint a better picture of what your actual positive balance is.
- Every transaction recorded from connected accounts can be tagged with generic labels for things like water bills, electric bills etc and MD even auto-generates some of these for you which is time-saving. MD also recently introduced custom tagging which was long overdue for those not so obvious transactions.
Money Dashboard Cons:
- Connecting multiple accounts from different banks and financial providers is easy enough with MD but sometimes syncing isn’t automatic depending on how the bank account or service was originally connected. Every bank handles its authorization services differently to 3rd party services like MD and this can cause problems and means you have to re-connect accounts and manually sync them which is a pain.
- The MD UI (User Interface) hasn’t changed much in the 3+ years I’ve been using it and although simple refreshes and tweaks have been made it looks slightly outdated. There is nothing necessarily wrong with the way MD looks and more importantly, the service works, however, a modern refresh wouldn’t go a miss in an aim at attracting new users.
Cleo: Unlike MD which is predominantly a web-based service, Cleo is a personalised financial assistant that lives within the ever growing list of Facebook Messenger bot services. For those that haven’t heard of Messenger bots, they are AI chat bots that you can communicate with as you would your friend through Messenger. There are set commands you type and the bot will reply back with the relevant information for that command. Cleo has a website not too dissimilar to MD where you connect your bank accounts and the majority of information displayed is the same, however, interacting with the service through Facebook Messenger is where the service really excels as it’s fun and simple to use and ultimately takes away the chore and worry of keeping an eye on your finances.
- Using Messenger as the platform to primarily interact with the service is novel but ultimately simple, checking in on your finances is as simple as typing ‘balance’ and Cleo will return your account situation. It makes using Cleo accessible and fast as replies are instant. There’s no need to log on to any new website or downloads a new app, as it’s all done from Facebook Messenger.
- Cleo is smart and automated, not only can you interact with it on an on-demand basis, as an AI bot Cleo will send you weekly updates and alerts on how much you’ve spent, for example, I get a weekend spending report which gets sent to me every Monday without having to request it. Similar to MD transactions are automatically tagged with appropriate merchant or category information which makes spends easier to recognise.
- Cleo has similarities to MD which allow you to set up budgets but on a simpler scale with neat breakdowns that feature text and a quirky use of emoji for good measure. You can check on regular bills too and if you want more in-depth charts and graphs Cleo can do this, but it handles things slightly differently and re-directs you to its website.
- When using your smartphone to interact with Cleo via Messenger everything is neatly displayed through the app and graphs and charts are passed on to Cleo’s website but displayed still within Messenger, however, if you start using Cleo through the desktop version of Messenger things get a bit messy. Certain requests when clicked redirect you to Cleo’s website. This works fine but can get confusing going between different screens, for me the Messenger bot aspect of the service should be built into the website for desktop so usage of the service remains all in one place.
- Monthly budgets can be set with Cleo but it’s very basic, it tracks all your spending for that month and warns you against a limit you’ve set. Currently, there is no way to track spending for specific categories of transactions to make sure you don’t overspend in those categories which can be frustrating as your budget will need to be set high to avoid warning messages.
- The website only version of Cleo is very pleasing on the eye and a complete contrast to MD in terms of UI, however, functionality wise it’s only half way there with a lot of information being displayed but not many tools to let you manipulate and do more with the data within the website.
- There is no dedicated smartphone app at this time and yes you could argue Cleo doesn’t need one, it works fine through Messenger, however, it would be nice to have a dedicated app with more functionality available.
- There can be a delay of 24/48 hours with some bank accounts displaying an up to date balance, for example. My HSBC account tends to not show me an accurate balance on the day my wages are paid in, unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to manually refresh the accounts either.
In Conclusion, Money Dashboard and Cleo offer very similar functionality with their services which broken down is a personal money assistant. Money Dashboard offers more in terms of visual data and tools for those that want to tinker with their financial insights and after winning the 2017 British Banking Award for the best personal finance app its hard to argue with why you would choose it over Cleo, but it can get confusing as the UI isn’t always the most intuitive and when accounts don’t sync on a regular basis, manually refreshing accounts and inputting transaction tags can be a chore. Cleo, on the other hand, is more intuitive, clever and automated in its approach, it’s also more accessible to a younger audience who potentially interact with Messenger on a daily basis which makes it a friendly way to deal with money. This means finding more about your money is as simple as talking to your friend, it sounds crazy but it works and although a long time user of Money Dashboard, Cleo is refreshing, new and intelligent. If Cleo can add more functionality over time to its web app and make the interactions with the bot more seamless between the web app and Messenger on a desktop environment then it has a strong future.
If you have any questions about either service please feel free to ask I will try my best to answer and as always, you can contact us through any of our social media channels.