UK AI-assisted savings apps experiences
May 22, 2020 5:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in the functionality offered by apps like Chip and Plum, but they've both received some negative reviews (that I'm not sure are relevant to my situation). I'm also at least somewhat leery of connecting stuff into my bank account, even though both give a pretty sound explanation of how they work and why they're secure. Has anyone used these apps? What's your experience been like?

I have a Monzo account and I love the coin jar feature that rounds up purchases to the next whole £ and puts the difference into a savings account, but my Monzo account is my just-for-fun account; I make the majority of my purchases through my current account (HSBC), which doesn't currently offer a round-up feature, and I don't spend enough regular money on the Monzo account (particularly right now as it's usually eating-out money) to be seeing a huge benefit from the roundups.

I've discounted Cleo because the last time I looked the interface was via Facebook, which I'm not into.

My main use cases would be AI savings (where the algorithm thinks I can afford to put x or y away based on recent transactions) and the coin jar roundup. Most of the negative reviews of Chip and Plum on Trustpilot are from customers who are unhappy with the speed at which they were able to receive their saved money back, which I suspect is going to be less of an issue for me as I want to save this money for the sake of saving a bit of extra money, and I'm not expecting to need to access it at short notice at any point. I already have automated savings each month, split between a liquid/instantly-accessible account (which has enough in it that I'm comfortable my liquid savings needs are covered) and a stocks & shares ISA with a small portfolio of ethical investments. I don't think I care enough about the bonus features (like investments) that these apps offer if you pay to subscribe to them as I already have as much investment-based savings set up as I want, so I'd be looking at the free/vanilla versions.

Has anyone used these apps? What's your experience been like? Do you have a recommendation for Chip over Plum or vice versa?
posted by terretu to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would personally not use an app where you sent money to a third party. Remember the debacle over the Christmas hamper savings scheme that went bankrupt a few years ago?

Neither Chip nor Plum store your money in an account (for instance) which is protected under the FSCS (financial services compensation scheme) which instantly raises questions. Serious questions frankly.

I would also regard the AI claims these companies make as something to be sceptical of - AI is the current buzzword which is being sprinkled over all sorts of services in order to make them seem "new" and "hip to the zeitgeist". It’s very rarely true.

What’s your actual goal here?
posted by pharm at 7:23 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I used Chip for a while and never had any issues around the speed I got money back from them (IIRC it took maybe a day to come back into my current account, which was fine). But I've not used it for a year or more, YMMV now. In the end it didn't turn out to be a good savings model for me - I get paid monthly and am better off just taking one chunk of that and putting it in savings once a month. I feel like it's really designed for people earning money in the gig economy, whose income stream (and therefore balance) is irregular.

It used to have a feature I really liked and used a lot, which was an automatic summary of how much you'd spent so far this month vs. the same day the previous month, and how far ahead/behind you were compared to last month - that really helped me stay on top of my spending. But they withdrew it with an update and were extremely handwavey about why and if/when they'd ever bring it back. They very much gave the impression they were a small team who didn't have enough people to stay on top of all the dev they needed to do, and hoped that by just being super cheery on the occasions you could actually get hold of someone from support, you'd shut up and go away. Questions about current features would get waved away and you'd get loads of updates about how there was something really huge coming down the track and they were putting all their efforts into working on that and you'd be blown away by it (when in fact, typically, when it arrived I wasn't even interested in it, much less blown away).

And yeah, I'd never want to keep significant sums of money with them, I don't think I ever reached even £100 stashed there. Used it to put away money for occasional spends like a hair cut or a pair of shoes or something.
posted by penguin pie at 8:00 AM on May 22


Remember the debacle over the Christmas hamper savings scheme that went bankrupt a few years ago?

No, because I don't follow UK news/media reporting in any meaningful sense, because I morally object to the extent to which a select group of bad actors use for-profit media in this country to prop up a government that's also packed with bad actors.

I would also regard the AI claims these companies make as something to be sceptical of.

Thanks, but I work in tech and have a reasonable understanding of what companies promise vs deliver. I have plenty of my own skepticism to bring to this question; I'm specifically looking for experiences from people who've used this kind of app rather than generic scaremongering about AI.

What’s your actual goal here?

I thought I was reasonably clear on this in the question - to take advantage of coin jar roundup-style features on the account I spend most of my money from, and to sock away a small amount of savings out of money that I otherwise wouldn't be interrogating hard enough to save from. I'm not particularly details-oriented when it comes to my personal finances (things are going fine at the macro level, and I don't really care at the micro level), so I'm never going to want to do this analysis myself, but I am potentially interested in using a tool that could do that for me and squeezing a small amount of bonus savings out of that process.
posted by terretu at 8:31 AM on May 22


I have a bog-standard current account with Nationwide (FlexAccount) and the app has this feature. If I wanted (I don't) I could designate an Impulse Saver account and put loose change from recent transactions into it with one click. You don't say if you're particularly wedded to HSBC but changing your current account could get you what you want, and possibly more besides.
posted by altolinguistic at 11:02 AM on May 22


No, because I don't follow UK news/media reporting in any meaningful sense, because I morally object to the extent to which a select group of bad actors use for-profit media in this country to prop up a government that's also packed with bad actors.

I’ll give you the short version: lots of not very well-off people saved for Christmas by paying into a "Christmas Hamper" scheme run by a private company. It went bankrupt & took all their money with it, ruining a lot of people’s Christmas.

Not being under the FSCS is a red flag as far as I’m concerned.
posted by pharm at 11:06 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


I use Chip, and am happy enough with it, and have bought things/paid off card balances I wouldn't have without it. I'm not fully sure of the regulatory environment, but this is their customer money account supplier, so it's not wild west.

But: The AI is pretty weak, and I think their original Open Banking API may have been a screen scraper, and seemed pretty dumb and very conservative. It stopped doing auto saves for a while, then came back to me to do a proper authentication/authorisation through my bank's app.

I've cancelled saves a couple of times - you get told they're coming about 10am, and you have until 4 to cancel them. In my opinion, it was moderately predictable that I'd run out of money soon if it did the withdrawal.

I'm surprisingly happy with them, that notwithstanding. I'm just extremely grateful that my money works better with it.
posted by ambrosen at 2:14 PM on May 22


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