13 min Read
03 Dec 2019

Written by Marc

Marc Shoffman is a leading finance journalist who specialises in personal finance, property and small business.

More about Marc

Cleo Review – The AI chatbot that manages your money for you

Cleo Review – The AI chatbot that manages your money for you

What is Cleo?

Cleo or as it is sometimes known, meetcleo, is a chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to try to make managing your finances fun.

Launched in 2016, it was founded by former Wonga data scientist Barnaby Hussey-Yeo and has received financial backing from well-known venture capitalists including Index Ventures, Balderton Capital, Octopus Investments, and Y Combinator.

The chatbot or digital assistant links with your bank account to track your spending, manage your budget and recommend how much you can afford to save. It will even play games and get involved in friendly and sometimes not so friendly banter with you. She, as the chatbot is referred to, has 2.6m users worldwide. So is it time you made friends with Cleo?

Cleo features

  • Track your spending
  • Set a budget
  • Save money
  • Cleo+
  • Chat

Track your spending

Once you have linked your account, Cleo will show your balance, categorise what you have spent your money on and list the largest outgoings or “big spenders.”

Set a budget

You can tell Cleo how much you want to spend each week or use its insights on your income and expenditure to set a budget.  It can then monitor your purchases and alert you when you are getting close to your limit. You can set a budget over any period of time so for example, you could set a budget for while you are abroad or if you go away for a weekend. She will make recommendations on how much you can and should spend on something like dinner or drinks, show you how to improve and you can even set a 'watch' category to keep an eye on certain areas of spending such, as on takeaways or taxis.

Save Money

Every week, Cleo’s algorithm will detect how much you can afford to save based on your spending and can automatically transfer this to your Cleo wallet so it is set aside. This is referred to as 'smart save'. She will tell you before she sends the money so you can reject any transfers and can also move amounts manually.

The money put into the wallet doesn’t earn any interest and can be withdrawn at any time. It is held in an e-money account through MangoPay that is managed by Barclays. These funds are ringfenced rather than being protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Cleo+

You can get extras such as cashback or a salary advance of up to £100 as part of Cleo’s subscription service. Cleo+ costs £5.99 a month and there are also plans to offer a savings account paying 2% interest.

There are extra features such as rounding up your spending to the nearest pound and saving the change.

Chat

Aside from monitoring and managing your money, you can also just talk about it with Cleo. You can choose to be ‘roasted’ or ‘hyped’ and she will either criticise or compliment you based on your saving and spending with a range of memes and gifs. For example, one roast told me I have spent more than last month so am basically losing a race where I am the only person competing. You can also play games and quizzes to build financial awareness and enter prize draws to win cash.

How does Cleo work?

You can get chatting with Cleo by either downloading its smartphone app or through Facebook Messenger. The process takes two minutes to setup once you have entered your details and selected and linked your bank account. Not all banks are available but you can request to add providers if yours isn’t available.

The app displays your chosen accounts transactions and categorises your spending and you can then set your budget or start saving within the app by simply using phrases in the chatbox such as “budget” or “save.”

The more it gets to know your spending patterns, the better Cleo’s algorithm and recommendation will be.

Cleo chatbot feature                                

How much does Cleo cost?

Cleo is free to use and setup. The tracking, budgeting and spending analysis is all free as is the saving facility.

You only have to pay if you want to use the Cleo+ service, which includes the salary advance and cashback offers. This costs £5.99 a month.

Is Cleo safe to use?

Cleo describes its systems as 'ridiculously safe'. It uses bank-level encryption and never saves any of your information. Your account is connected in read-only mode so it can only see the numbers and can’t access or move it without your permission.

It is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for the payment services it provides such as moving money around but there is no Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection. Cleo does, however, promise to protect up to £85,000 of losses if money is lost as a result of signing up or the use of its platform.

Cleo reviews

Cleo only launched in 2016 but already has a strong following and plenty of reviews. More than 1,500 users have left reviews in the UK on Trustpilot, with an average score of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars. The majority, 86 per cent, rank it as excellent and said it has helped them budget and manage their spending. There is some negative feedback though, with 5 per cent of reviews rating it as bad and citing issues with withdrawing their money.

Alternatives to Cleo   

Cleo has a few digital assistant rivals that help start a savings habit.

Cleo vs Plum

Both Cleo and Plum launched in 2016 and offer similar services through a smartphone app or Facebook Messenger. Plum was started by former TransferWise employee Victor Trokoudes, and Alex Michael, in 2016 and has also received venture capital funding. Similar to Cleo, Plum will analyse your income and expenses and generate an automatic amount that you can save. This is put aside in an e-money account. Plum is also free to use but does go slightly further with a paid-for ISA option that lets you put your savings into one of three investment portfolios.

Read our Plum review to find out more.

Cleo vs Yolt

Cleo may have come to market with venture capital backing but Yolt is Dutch bank ING’s attempt to enter this exciting sector. Yolt is part of the ING Group and opened first in Amsterdam but is now available worldwide although just as an app rather than through a desktop. This means, unlike with Cleo, you can’t chat with Yolt over Facebook Messenger on your computer; all spending analysis, budgeting and tracking is done through the app. Yolt has one extra feature that will offer you deals on credit based on the financial data it has on you and you can earn a commission if you take one of these products.

Read our Yolt review to find out more.

Cleo vs Chip

Chip works similarly to Cleo but only operates via a smartphone app. It has an extra feature that lets you set savings goals so you can put money aside for a particular purpose. Chip is planning on offering savings rates and currently has a £10,000 account limit.

Read our Chip review to find out more.

Cleo vs Moneybox

Moneybox has a slightly different focus to Cleo as it won’t necessarily help you to budget but it will help you to save your so-called spare change. It rounds up your purchases to the nearest pound and you can put the money into savings products or ISAs.

Read our Moneybox review to find out more.

Cleo vs banking apps

A number of the new challenger banking apps will also let you set up budgets, save and monitor your spending from your own account. Starling and Monzo both offer these types of services and operate under full FCA regulations so have FSCS protection, which the others won’t.

Conclusion

Pros of Cleo

  • Accessible
  • Useful spending insights
  • Encouragement to start saving

Accessible

Cleo is a 24-hour digital assistant that can be accessed in a variety of ways. You can chat through Facebook or via the dedicated app and do so on your smartphone or desktop. You can also have fun interactions with the chatbot which makes managing your money more appealing

Useful spending insights

Your spending is broken down into simple categories so you can see what your biggest expenses are and where you need to cut back. Its budgeting tools can also ensure you keep track of your spending over a set period and it can provide tips on how to cut back.

Encouragement to start saving

Any incentive to start a savings habit must be a good thing and Cleo’s algorithms can get you on the right road by calculating how much you can afford to save each month. This can be good for those that are at the start of their savings journey or those that find it hard to get motivated.

Cons of Cleo

  • Mainly for beginners
  • No interest offered on products
  • Basic functionality

Mainly for beginners

As important as it is to start saving, only putting a few pounds away each week will not be enough to build a big fund for a rainy day, holiday or your retirement. Cleo should be used as a stepping stone to saving more and even investing elsewhere one day, rather than the solution to the savings gap.

No interest offered on products

The money that is put aside doesn’t earn any interest so you are not getting the same benefits as a regular savings account. Similarly, there is no ISA option or ability to invest.

Basic functionality

There is little point in saving if you don’t have a plan. Cleo could boost its service by letting users set savings goals so they have an idea what they are putting the money away for and may even choose to set aside more.

Looking for a financial adviser near you?

Do you need financial advice? An independent financial adviser can show you how to make the most of your money.

Simply find your nearest qualified and regulated adviser using the UK’s largest adviser search.