Money Dashboard review – Is it the UK’s best personal finance app?

26 min Read Published: 21 Aug 2020

10 tips to save money on staycationsMoney Dashboard* is a personal finance and budgeting tool, available on desktop and smartphone. Founded in Edinburgh in 2010, it now boasts over 600,000 registered users.

In this independent review, we look at how to set up an account with Money Dashboard, the features it offers, the banks that it supports and how safe it is.

Money Dashboard: A brief history

In the world of personal finance management, Money Dashboard could be considered as something of a pioneer. Launched in 2010, a time when open banking didn't exist, Money Dashboard helped its users to understand their finances, adding more and more features and eventually a mobile app.

The introduction of open banking in 2018 and advances in the mobile app industry saw a surge of rivals enter the personal finance management space which had two main advantages over Money Dashboard. Firstly, they were built 'mobile-first', a huge advantage in a world that is dominated by the use of smartphones. Secondly, they used secure API's in order to connect to the banks (via open banking), rather than using a process known as 'screen-scraping', which required users to hand over their online login details to a third-party provider. Money Dashboard has since made the switch to API integration and in fact, championed its introduction from the start. Money Dashboard also took the opportunity to make a technology overhaul. The result is Money Dashboard Neon, a new 'mobile-first' app, built from the ground up and able to handle the fast-paced environment of personal finance.

The original Money Dashboard app has since been renamed Money Dashboard 'classic' and remains a legacy product reserved for existing customers only. One of the stand out features from the original Money Dashboard app when we reviewed it back in 2019 was the dashboard itself. It provided a customisable set of tools that allowed users to dissect their finances in granular detail, some of which are missing from the stripped-down Money Dashboard Neon app. That said, Money Dashboard Neon benefits from a simplified menu system and uncomplicated design. It has none of the gimmicks or distractions associated with some of its rivals (in particular Emma app) and with a host of new features set to arrive in the coming weeks/months, it is no surprise that it has been voted the best personal finance app at the British Bank awards.

Setting up a Money Dashboard account

First things first, you'll need to download the Money Dashboard Neon app*, either via the Google store if you have an Android device or via the Apple store if you have an iPhone or iPad. Once downloaded you'll need to register by entering your first name, last name, email address and password. You' are then required to enter your mobile number and confirm the 6 digit verification code, sent by text message. Once you have clicked 'Verify', you'll need to enter your Gender, Date of Birth and Postcode. This completes the process and secure's your Money Dashboard Neon account.

Before you can start linking your bank accounts, you'll be asked the primary reason for joining Money Dashboard along with a number of options including buying a house, reducing spending, getting out of debt or saving for a holiday. Money Dashboard earns its money by anonymising your data and selling it to 3rd parties and so I wasn't surprised to see this line of questioning so early on in the signup process. It is worth noting that you can click the button 'Skip for now' which will bypass this step.

 

                   

 

5 steps to getting the most out of Money Dashboard Neon

One of the minor criticisms I have with Money Dashboard Neon app is that there isn't enough help or guidance available within the app. Once your account is set up, you are pretty much left to try and work it out for yourself and some of the best features can be difficult to spot. So, in this part of the review, I will walk you through the set-up process so that you can get the most out of your Money Dashboard Neon account. If you follow these steps you'll soon realise the app's potential to transform your finances and why it outshines its competitors.

Step 1 - Connecting your bank accounts

Once your account is set up it is time to connect your accounts. Money Dashboard allows you to connect many different types of account, including bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, pension accounts and even store card accounts. Open banking has made connecting an account easier than ever and the process is totally secure, meaning Money Dashboard will never get to see your login details. The connection process will be slightly different depending who you bank with, however, those who bank using their smartphone should find that the connection process only requires a couple of clicks. One slight frustration (although not unique to Money Dashboard) is that you will need to re-authenticate your connected accounts every 90 days, otherwise, you will lose connection. This is another added layer of security and is the same for every budgeting app and so should be seen as a positive rather than a negative.

Step 2 - Categorising your spending

Once your accounts are connected your data will automatically begin importing and the Money Dashboard app will do its best to correctly categorise your spending. When we originally reviewed the Money Dashboard 'classic' app, we found that there was quite a lot of manual manipulation needed in order to categorise the spending, however, the automated categorisation with Money Dashboard Neon seems far more intuitive, with around 95% of the transactions being correctly categorised. If you need to re-categorise your spending, for example, if Money Dashboard Neon categorised a purchase as 'Shopping', whereas in fact, it was a gift and so should be showing in 'Giving', you can simply click on the transaction, click on the edit icon and select the correct category. Once you select the new category, you will be asked if you want to change the category for all previous purchases at this retailer or just the one transaction. This is especially handy when you want to change the category for all transactions as it saves you having to change each one manually. Once the categorisation process is complete, clicking on the 'Overview' option at the bottom of the screen will enable you to see exactly what you have spent in each category, as well as your total income received. To compare the current month against previous months, simply swipe the bar charts at the top to cycle through each month.

Step 3 - Setting up your pay cycle

In order to budget correctly and get the most out of the Money Dashboard Neon app, you should consider editing your pay cycle so that it syncs correctly with how and when you get paid. The app's default setting is based on a calendar month so will run from the 1st to the 31st of each month, however, you can set it so that the first day is set to your payday, making budgeting far easier. To change the pay cycle simply click on the three horizontal lines in the top right-hand corner and click on the edit icon on the word 'Paycycle'. Select the day you get paid and the app will automatically make the changes.

Step 4 - Setting up Scheduled payments

Next, you should set up your 'scheduled' payments. These are payments that are set up to come out of your account on a regular basis and include your mortgage or rent, your council tax, utility bills, insurances, memberships and so on. By setting up a list of scheduled payments you can see at a glance exactly how much money is due to leave your account each month, as well as when the payments are usually taken. More importantly, this allows you to see how much money you have left until next payday after your bills have been taken into account. To set up your scheduled payments go to 'Overview' and select budgets at the top of the screen and then select 'Scheduled payments'. Next, click on 'Add scheduled payment', and you will see that the Money Dashboard app opens up a list of transactions. Scroll down the list and click on the first payment that you want to mark as a scheduled payment. Next, select how often the payment repeats (Monthly, weekly etc) and then click on 'Create scheduled payment'. Repeat this process for all of your scheduled payments and you will be presented with a total. You can edit your scheduled payments at any time by adding or removing them as you wish.

Step 5 - Setting up a budget

Once you have set up your scheduled payments you should consider setting up some budgets. Setting budgets allows you to monitor your transactions in various categories and can help to control your spending.

Overall Budget

An easy way to set up an overall budget is to go to 'Overview', click on 'Budgets' at the top of the screen and then select 'Create Budget'. From here you can click on 'Select all' and then 'Continue' and the Money Dashboard app will calculate your average spend in each category and provide you with an overall budget total. You are free to edit the budget total if you wish, which is what I did. Setting up an overall budget in this way allows you to monitor your spending and is a good way to ensure you do not slip into bad habits and overspend. If, however, you wish to try and cut back and want to make savings in particular areas of your finances, I would suggest you set up individual budgets for each category. We explain how to do this below.

Individual budget categories

By setting an individual budget for each spending category you can keep a closer eye on your spending, making it easier to see where you may be wasting money or where you can make cutbacks. To set up individual budget categories click on 'Overview', then 'Budgets' and then 'Create Budget'. Now, instead of clicking on 'Select all', click on a category, such as 'Groceries' and select 'Continue'. The Money Dashboard app will automatically provide you with a suggested amount based on your average spend, however, you can edit this amount to whatever you wish. Once you have set your budget amount, click 'Continue'. Finally, you can edit the budget name and once you are happy select 'Create budget'. Repeat this process for each budget category until you are happy. This process does take a little longer but it allows you to see at a glance exactly how much you have spent and how much you have left in each category.

3 hidden features we like about Money Dashboard Neon

Create your own custom category

This feature allows you to create your own custom category. One of the criticisms we have of the Emma app is that the 'custom category' feature is only available if you upgrade to Emma Pro, which costs between £59.99 and £119.88 per year. With Money Dashboard Neon you can create as many custom categories as you like, perfect for those who want to truly understand where their money is going. I have created a custom category titled 'Pets' which allows me to see exactly how much I spend on my pets each month including food, accessories and insurance.

Adding a manual account

This is another feature that is only available as a 'paid' feature on the Emma budgeting app and is useful for being able to see the bigger picture. Unfortunately, not every account is supported on Money Dashboard, however, it does allow you to create your own 'offline' account which you can update manually. Simply go to 'Accounts', click on 'Add account' and then select 'Create offline account' and complete the details.

Transferring money directly from the app

Money Dashboard Neon allows you to transfer money between your accounts via the app, saving you from having to close the app and log in to your online bank accounts separately to complete the transfers. You can't truly transfer money directly from the app itself, the app effectively allows you to create the transfer request and then provides a shortcut to your own online bank account where you will need to provide secure login details. We had mixed success when testing this feature, however, it should get better as technology improves.

Money Dashboard Neon Menu Explained

Home

This is the screen you see when you open the Money Dashboard app and provides quick access to your current balance, your scheduled payments and your latest transactions. From here you can edit the category of your transactions and also see and edit your scheduled payments. However, unlike most of its competitors, Money Dashboard allows you to tailor which accounts should be included when working out your available balance and also which transactions are shown on your home screen. For example, you may only want to see the available balance and transaction on your main current account and not those from your credit card or other current accounts or savings accounts. The app allows you to do this using the filters setting, which is a fantastic feature. You access the filters by clicking on the three horizontal lines in the top right-hand side of the home screen. This is also where you can amend your pay cycle.

Overview

From here you can see your spending broken down into categories as well as see a summary of your total income and total spending. You can also edit transaction data if required and you can swipe the bar charts at the top to see the data from previous months. If you click on 'Budgets' you can create and edit scheduled payments as well as your budgets.

Accounts

This is where you can link your accounts and see your account balances at a glance. Additionally, you can create a quick transfer between your accounts by using the 'Transfer' function. If one of your accounts is not supported, you can create an 'offline' account and update the balances manually.

Profile

This is where you can amend your data including your personal details and security settings.

 

How much does Money Dashboard cost?

Money Dashboard* is free to download and use. It makes money by offering products and services that it may receive a fee for if you take out the product based on its suggestion.

Money Dashboard also makes money by anonymously selling your spending data to third parties. It says, 'Money Dashboard also provides insight and market research services to help companies better understand trends in consumer behaviour. We identify shifts in consumer preferences using anonymised spending information from groups of Money Dashboard users.'

Money Dashboard Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Completely free. Access to all features
  • Ability to create custom categories
  • Transfer money between accounts
  • Available on desktop
  • Simple black and white design
  • Much more customisable than competitors

Cons

  • Not enough help/guidance available within the app
  • Requires manual manipulation to get the most out of the app, particularly at the start

Which banks are supported by Money Dashboard?

Many of the major UK banks and credit card providers are supported on Money Dashboard Neon via open banking (a total of 44 currently) and new providers are being added each week. These include American Express, Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC, Halifax, Lloyds, MBNA, Nationwide, Natwest, RBS, Starling and Monzo. To see the full list of supported banks, click here.

Is Money Dashboard safe?

Money Dashboard is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It uses the same security practices as many of the leading banks and uses a secure access environment that uses an extended validation security certificate with 256-bit encryption, and also services that are ISO 27001 accredited. Money Dashboard has integrated with Token, a registered Payment Initiation Services Provider meaning users can safely make transactions within the Neon app.

Money Dashboard uses open banking in order to access your financial details, a government-backed initiative that puts you in control of your financial data. By using open banking, you have ultimate control of who sees your data and for how long.

Money Dashboard Neon vs Emma vs Yolt

Money Dashboard Neon has been built from the ground up to be 'mobile-first' meaning it can finally rival the likes of competitors Emma and Yolt. In fact, it could be argued that Money Dashboard Neon surpasses both Emma and Yolt thanks to two distinct advantages:

  1. The app remains completely free meaning you can access advanced features without having to pay a fee
  2. It can be accessed on both smartphone and desktop

One of the criticisms we had of Emma, in particular, is the childlike feel of the app and the desire to promote deals that earn it money. Money Dashboard is far more subtle and benefits from a clean and simple black and white design, meaning you can get the information you need with little distraction. The absence of a 'refer a friend' feature does come as a surprise, especially as Emma goes one stage further by providing a handy 'Scramble' feature which enables users to demonstrate the app to friends and family without having to show account balances.

Who is Money Dashboard good for?

Money Dashboard* is good for anyone wanting to take control of their finances, those that are keen to see the bigger picture and who are willing to take the time to make the tweaks in order to make it work for them. More importantly, it is for those who want a FREE service that they can tailor to their needs. Those looking for something that is quick and easy to set up and that provides a basic overview of their finances may be best looking at the likes of Emma. However, you will have to pay to unlock Emma's advanced features. Features which are free on Money Dashboard.

Money Dashboard customer reviews

Money Dashboard Neon is rated 3.8 out of 5.0 from almost 200 reviews on Google Play and is rated 3.8 out of 5.0. It also has over 100 reviews on Trustpilot and is rated 3.2 out of 5.0, however many of the reviews are based on Money Dashboard classic, not Money Dashboard Neon.

Summary

Money Dashboard Neon is a shining example of how Fintech is helping to reshape the world of personal finance. Built for smartphones from the ground up, Money Dashboard Neon stands alone in offering fee-free access to its advanced features. With its simple, clutter-free design and the promise of additional features on the horizon, Money Dashboard Neon has quickly become a 'go to' personal finance app. Those who stick with it through its initial setup phase will be rewarded. To see how Money Dashboard Neon compares against the likes of Emma and Yolt, check out our article 'The best budgeting apps in the UK - how to budget without trying'.

 

 

*If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. But as you can clearly see this has in no way influenced this independent and balanced review of the product. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses - Money Dashboard

 

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