Emma app Review – Is it the best budgeting app?

11 min Read Published: 13 Jan 2022

What is Emma?emma review

Emma is a money management app that uses open banking to combine information from all of your bank accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and investments. Emma was launched in 2018 by co-founders Edoardo Moreni and Antonio Marino and in June 2018 it raised around £500,000 in the first round of funding. The co-founders came up with the initial concept while studying at Manchester University together, striking up a close friendship thanks in part to being the only two Italians on the course

They moved to Berlin following their studies to start work on 'Kiria' a predecessor to 'Emma', but it struggled to make an impact and was hit with issues surrounding German banking law. With the laws relaxing in England, they ditched 'Kiria' and moved to England to develop what we know now as Emma (The name is made up from the co-founders' initials).

On the 11th June 2019 Emma became the first UK based money management app to launch in the US and Canada.

Emma app key features

  • Connect all of your accounts - connect your bank accounts, credit cards and investment accounts to analyse your spending in one place
  • Set up your payday - set up a payday to track your spending from paycheck to paycheck. Emma allows you to set up a weekly, fortnightly and monthly paycheck. Alternatively, you can manage your money by calendar month
  • Set total monthly budget - Emma suggests a total budget based on your monthly spending and then notifies you if you are above or below your budget
  • Track subscriptions - Emma collates all of your regular payments which allows you to identify if you have any duplicate or wasteful subscriptions
  • Categorise transactions - organise your spending into Emma's handy default categories
  • Spending analytics - get a detailed breakdown of your spending
  • Cashback - earn rewards and cashback at certain retailers with Emma Plus/Pro
  • Save on your bills - Emma suggests where you can save money on your bills such as insurance, credit cards and broadband
  • Savings goals - an Emma Pro feature that enables you to track your savings progress and compare it against your savings goals
  • Invite a friend - invite a friend to Emma Pro and receive £15 for each friend that joins
  • Scramble mode - show your friends how Emma works without sharing your personal account information
  • Smart rules - an Emma Pro feature for linking your offline accounts with regular transactions
  • Bank fees - Emma highlights any fees you have paid out to each of your banks over time
  • In-app support - get support for any problems with the chat feature
  • FCA regulation - Emma is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority

How does the Emma budgeting app work?

Co-founder Edoardo Moreni describes Emma as a 'fitness tracker for money' and it is designed to sync your budgets to your payday and track all of your payments throughout the month, whilst at the same time making you aware of your future commitments. By syncing all of your current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and investments you can get real-time information as well as easy access to historical data.

Setting up the app is fairly straightforward, you search for your bank/credit card/investment provider within the app and link them up, logging on as you normally would, providing the relevant security details. If you are not used to signing in online, you may find it frustrating as you'll need access to all of your bank /credit card/ investment online login and security details to sync up the app.

Emma supports most major banks within the app including American Express, Barclays, First Direct, Lloyds, Nationwide, NatWest and TSB. It also supports app-only banks such as Revolut, Starling Bank and Monzo. If you want to connect your investment accounts to Emma you can do so under the Accounts tab within the Emma app. You can connect various investment and crypto accounts including Nutmeg, PensionBee and Binance. For a complete list of the banks and investment accounts supported by Emma click here. If your bank or investment account is not listed you are encouraged to contact Emma so that it can be added to an integration wishlist thread.

How much does the Emma app cost?

The Emma budgeting app is free to download and use but there is the option to upgrade to Emma Plus or Emma Pro for an annual subscription fee. There is a 7 day free trial with the Emma subscription accounts. In the below comparison table we compare the Emma accounts and features but more information on the features each account offers can be found in the Emma app.

Emma Basic Emma Plus Emma Pro
Cost Free £4.99 per month (7 days free) £9.99 per month (7 days free)
Combine all of your accounts tick tick tick
Payday tracking tick tick tick
Monthly budgets tick tick tick
Subscription tracker tick tick tick
Make payments within the app tick tick tick
Cashback cross tick tick
Priority support cross tick tick
Bill reminders cross tick tick
Fraud detection cross tick tick
Custom Icons cross tick tick
Bank transfers & pay bills cross tick tick
Savings goals cross cross tick
Split transactions cross cross tick
Custom categories cross cross tick
Data exportation cross cross tick
Accurate Net worth cross cross tick
Rename and split transactions cross cross tick
Offline accounts cross cross tick

Is the Emma budgeting app safe to use?

Emma has bank-grade encryption so you should feel assured that your data is kept securely. It is FCA and ICO registered and the app has read-only access, meaning no-one can touch the money. Emma also points out that they have people in their team that have built security systems for companies such as Google, so it seems they have taken security very seriously. Emma also doesn't store any banking credentials. This means that your account cannot be breached at any point in time, even if their servers get compromised. Emma uses open banking which was introduced in 2018 and allows users to connect to banking apps like Emma without sharing their personal account details.

Emma app Security

  • Bank-grade encryption
  • FCA registered
  • ICO registered
  • Read-only access
  • Data is not shared with 3rd parties

Emma app customer reviews

Emma is rated as 'Great' on Trustpilot with a rating of 3.8 out of 5.0 stars from over 70 reviews. 69% of customers rate it as 'Excellent' citing it has helped to improve their personal finance knowledge and regain control of their finances. 14% have rated it as 'bad' citing problems with bank account connection and some users think that Emma Pro is quite expensive for the additional features.

Alternatives to the Emma app

There are a variety of budgeting apps on the market and we compare Emma to some of the other budgeting apps available below. For more information on the different types of budgeting apps, read our article 'The best budgeting apps in the UK'.

Emma vs Money Dashboard

Money Dashboard was founded in 2010 and in 2020, it launched Money Dashboard Neon, a brand new 'mobile-first' app. Interestingly, Money Dashboard Neon offers advanced features such as custom categories and split transactions for free, something that Emma charges a fee for. Money Dashboard Neon benefits from a simplified menu and uncomplicated design. Interestingly, when I questioned Edoardo Moreni about his competitors, while Money Dashboard inevitably came up in conversation, it was 'Cleo', the AI chatbot that he is most fearful of.

Emma vs Cleo

Cleo was launched in 2016 and is slightly different to Emma as it uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to track users' spending and suggest amounts to save. Like Emma you can track your spending and set budgets but the Cleo algorithm helps you to reach your savings goals by automatically saving your money for you. Cleo also supports a variety of UK banks but unlike Emma it does not yet support some of the app-only banks such as Monzo and Starling.

For more information on Cleo and Money Dashboard read our full reviews:

Emma app pros and cons

Emma app Pros

  • Easy sign-up process
  • Easy to navigate
  • Comprehensive analysis and budgeting
  • Highlights wasteful subscriptions
  • Daily balances

Emma app Cons

  • No savings category
  • Rewards paid via PayPal rather than directly into your account
  • Child-like feel to the overall theme
  • Not all banks are supported

Summary

Emma offers a quick set up process, smooth user experience and an impressive set of features. While I'm not a huge fan of the design theme, it is not enough to put me off, especially when you consider what you get for a free app. It is a powerful tool that has helped me to understand my finances and make immediate savings. Personally, I don't feel that the paid version of Emma offers enough for me to part with my hard-earned cash, especially as Money Dashboard offers many of the advanced features for free.