Looking for an app to help you budget and save? Take a look at this Cleo app review to see how it could help you manage your finances. Plus, you can earn a free £5 just for joining!
Updated June 2020.
I have been a little slow recently in reviewing budgeting apps. It’s not because I don’t like them, but because I already have so many on my phone, it’s difficult to keep track.
Cleo is a personal finance app that I have heard plenty of people talking about. Actually, the term “app” isn’t strictly correct. You have the choice of running Cleo either through the app or by using Facebook messenger. Although using messenger may seem like a pain when it comes to budgeting, it is actually very simple to use.
But not only will Cleo help you budget, but it can also help you save money too.
What is Cleo?
Cleo is owned by Cleo Finance Ltd. a British company based in London, incorporated back in 2016.
Taken from their website:
Cleo securely analyses your transaction data in read-only mode. That means it can only view your encrypted transactions. Cleo does this by using a world-leading financial software called SaltEdge. Cleo then uses her smart AI brain to scan your transaction history, calculating and spotting interesting spending trends, habits and lets you keep track of budgets. Cleo also allows you to view your balance, check direct debits, latest transactions, and see your spending per category.
And if you choose to, you can enable a feature called autosaving. This allows Cleo to calculate how much you can afford to save each week and withdraws this money into something called a ‘Cleo wallet’.
Benefits to Cleo
- Set your own budgets
- Track your spending
- Automatic savings
- Set yourself saving goals
Is the Cleo Money app safe?
Cleo only has read-only access to your accounts. That means it can’t move money in and out of your bank account. Your login details to your bank are never kept on Cleo’s servers.
Cleo offers an £85k security pledge, so if anything should go wrong, your money (well, anything under £85k) will be returned to you. This is the same amount of cover that mainstream banks offer under the FCSC scheme. However, the FCSC scheme is backed by the UK government, which is very unlikely to become insolvent. And if it does… panic!
The Cleo pledge only seems to cover losses if they don’t keep your account secure. So, if they mess up (and admit to it) you will get your money back. On the other hand, if Cleo should go out of business, you probably wouldn’t see your money again.
Does Cleo charge?
No, using the basic features of the Cleo app is free.
So, how does Cleo make money?
You will find that with most finance apps, although they’re extremely useful, they don’t make companies much money. That’s why many will offer a premium version with added benefits. In the case of Cleo, it’s known as Cleo Plus. Below, I’ll cover the extra features included.
What banks does the app work with?
In the UK, Cleo currently supports:
- American Express
- Capital One
- First Direct
- Lloyds Bank
- Metro Bank
- Royal Bank of Scotland
- TSB Bank
- Bank of Scotland
The good bits
Signing up is very quick and painless to do and it won’t cost you a bean. Once you’ve linked your account, you will start getting notifications about your spending. And if notifications become too much, you can reduce them or turn them off altogether.
Cleo will tell you when large sums come in and out of your account. This can be incredibly useful if you don’t check your current account regularly and you worry about fraud.
Cleo also breaks down your spending so you are able to see where you are spending your money. And if you think you’re spending too much, you can create your own budget. With just a few clicks (well pushes) of a button, you can let Cleo know how much you’re willing to spend over a set period. This can be set between paydays, monthly, fortnightly or weekly and is great for anybody on a strict budget or looking to reduce their spending.
There is also a fairly generous referral fee on offer. Convince your friends to join and if they use your Cleo referral code (or link) you receive £5.
Problems with Cleo
Cleo isn’t really groundbreaking. There are plenty of similar apps out there that do the same and in fact, more. Plus, I’m not keen on navigating the app. I always prefer having a set list of menus to choose from, rather than having a chat option and trying to remember commands.
The Dashboard, which shows you transactions and where you have been spending your money, just feels a little clunky. It isn’t laid out particularly well and involves you having to click through several menus to get a real breakdown.
You don’t receive interest on money kept in your Cleo wallet, which is a little disappointing when you consider Chip offers 1%.
What is Cleo Plus?
There are a couple of added benefits with Cleo Plus compared to your usual Cleo account. First of all, there is a £100 salary advance also known as Cleo Cover. If you find yourself running short of money, Cleo will lend you £100 until payday without charging you any interest or fees.
Cleo Plus also allows you to earn cashback every time you shop at selected stores and complete certain tasks.
For example, speak to Cleo each day for a week and you earn 10 pence. Do it every day for a month and you’ll earn 25 pence.
But where you’ll really start earning money from Cleo+ is through cashback.
At the time of writing (July 2019) you can earn 1.3% from any of these shops:
Asda, British Airways, Costa Coffee, Easy Jet, Sainsbury’s, Starbucks, TFL, The Co-op, Trainline, WHSmith, Microsoft Xbox, ASOS, Tesco, Boots, iTunes, H&M, Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Uber Eats, Spotify and Greggs.
You can also earn cashback from Amazon, but this only earns you 0.1%. One major downside is that Cleo only allows you to choose any 5 of the above list to earn points from. It appears you can chop and change, but when you do, the cashback reduces to 0.3%.
To earn your £5.99 fee back, you need to spend at least £461 per month on any of your selected stores (excluding Amazon). But that doesn’t include the bonus points you can earn from chatting with Cleo too.
Is Cleo Plus worth it?
The £100 cover is certainly nice to have, but I would be worried about my budgeting if I needed it often.
If you spend more than £400 per month on any of the stores listed above, I would certainly consider joining Plus as the cashback will cover the cost. Although, I think using a cashback credit card will give you better value compared to Cleo Plus. For example, there are cards that will pay 0.5% on purchases. Not as good as 1.3%, but these purchases include every store and there is no fee attached.
But… I do have an issue with a budgeting app that encourages you to spend. Surely, the whole point is to save you money?
What other people say
Cleo has some of the best ratings of all the personal finance apps. On Trustpilot, it scores 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 1700 users and is rated as ‘excellent’. Positive reviewers state:
Cleo is a convenient budget app with attitude
Cleo is a fun, personalized spin on banking
Fun and understandable money management app
Whilst some of the negative reviews state:
What does this company even do?
These reviews are all fake
Radio Silence – no one is there
My Cleo app review conclusion
I like Cleo and the budgeting tool is extremely useful. But, the app still could do with some improvement. It doesn’t look as slick as some of its rivals and is certainly not as easy to use.
Also, the lack of protection for any money in your Cleo wallet slightly concerns me. Because of this, and the fact you don’t receive interest, it’s only a budgeting app that I would be happy to keep small amounts of money with. Any large sums and I would feel quite nervous.
It’s certainly a budgeting tool worth trying though. And if you use the link below, we both earn £5 when you join.
But if my Cleo review hasn’t convinced you then why not take a look at my review of the best budgeting and personal finance apps.
*Please note that this post contains affiliate links.