Yolt: A good idea but limited

Since open banking started in the UK in early 2018, the marketplace has been flooded with apps that claim to take all of the data generated when you use your debit or credit cards (referred to as API) or transfer money between your bank accounts and put it to good use.

Yolt is one of the more high profile of these recent launches in an already crowded marketplace. There is a ton of marketing behind it, and it is backed by one of the world’s biggest banks ING.

The app aims (as all of these do) to take the hassle out of managing your money by having all of your cards and accounts accessible in one place. From there you can assign details such as categorisation or tags to your transactions, the app learns about your spending from your purchases, and guides you to create budgets or set yourself targets to reduce spending or save more.

I have been trialling Yolt now for best part of 3 months.

I want to love Yolt, I really do. And that isn’t to say I don’t like it. It’s actually quite good, as evidenced by its very respectable 4.6 rating on the App Store (correct at the time of writing).

I actually got REALLY into this app for a short time, assigning all of my transactions categories and tags, and tracking what I was spending. I did experience the app getting “smarter” as I used it more, learning what various transactions meant. A good example is a Co-op near my work that I sometimes pop to and grab some lunch if I haven’t been able to prepare food or miss the work canteen. This came up on the app as “general” or “groceries” to begin with, but if the transaction was around midday and in this specific branch of Co-op, the app seemed to learn after telling it a couple of times that this was actually “lunch”. Better yet, if I went to the same Co-op on my way home, say for milk, it reverted back to groceries.

The app has a very decent user interface, and a ton of cool functionality. It can send you push notifications if you are approaching a goal or spending limit for a month or week, to remind you to act a certain way. It can even help you find a cheaper deal on your energy bills (which we did).

The app really is very user friendly, and was a pleasure to interact with

However, as I used it more and more, I started to find areas where it didn’t serve me quite as I needed, and the app lacked the flexibility to even attempt a fix of these. One such example is the categories that the Yolt team has added, which total 21 at the time of writing, ranging from bills to travel. However, there are obvious omissions, such as fuel or anything beyond just “leisure”. There are tags which allow you to put in more detail, but the functionality associated with these tags is really limited. It doesn’t seem like a stretch that you should be able to add your own custom categories.

Perhaps more damning is that as my time with the app went on, I found it lacked the flexibility to work out more complex situations, such as joint finances shared between two people, and seemed to create anomalies for itself when we transferred money between us.

The final thing that stopped me using the app often was that as I moved between card issuers, as every good money saver should, I discovered that the app only really supports the big names. I currently have a Tandem Cashback credit card for my personal spending, and this isn’t supported at the time of writing. You soon realise that if you miss one vital link such as this, the whole experience falls apart.

The app really is very nice to use, and I can see how for someone starting out on their frugality or budgeting journey, it might be very engaging and useful. But if you want to do anything bordering on the complex with it, it starts to fall down. This one is more of a case by case for me, and you may have to ask yourself, will it do what I want it to do, before you try this one.

I will of course be reviewing some alternatives as time goes on, so watch this space.

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