Expense Tracking Services Review
Why Use an Expense Tracking Service?
The top performers in our review are Expensify, the Gold Award winner; Xpenditure, the Silver Award winner; and BizXpense Tracker, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing an app to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 applications.
Expense tracking apps monitor your business expenses, miles traveled and time spent on specific projects to make filing taxes and claiming deductions easier and more accurate, whether you use a tax service or prepare year-ends on your own. All of the expense trackers in this review are mobile apps that give you the flexibility to track your work on the go without having to keep track of receipts or mileage.
Several expense trackers come standard with accounting software and tax software. We have tested and reviewed those and can vouch for their accuracy. However, we wanted applications that don't require you to purchase expensive programs or pay a monthly fee. These expense tracking apps are independent from other programs we've evaluated.
For this review, we sought out apps that capture and save information in a variety of formats so you can send it to your tax preparer, transfer it to your payroll service provider or refer to it if you do your own taxes. Most of the expense tracking apps we reviewed allow you to export expenses to major accounting software such as QuickBooks and FreshBooks. Some, such as Expensify and Xpenditure, directly integrate with those programs, so your expenses can be uploaded as they occur.
Several expense tracking software options monitor real-time credit card transactions. Programs like Expense Manager automatically input charges to your expense calculator so you have a permanent report. This beats the alternative of reconciling past expenses against your bank account, trying to remember whether each purchase was a business or personal expense.
Other solutions, such as Taxbot, connect to your bank account so you can share expense information between all of your devices and programs. This ensures an entry in one program isn't missed in another, so your records remain accurate.
In addition to tracking your expenses, the best expense tracking software provide you with tools to create and stick with a budget or to monitor your accounts payable and receivable. Some track your time, including billable hours, so you can invoice your clients.
Which Solution Do You Need?
The apps we've reviewed are designed as small business expense trackers, but several are better utilized for personal finances. To learn more about personal finance apps, Tom's Guide has an excellent article on the 10 Best Budgeting and Personal Finance Apps that help you track tax-deductible expenses as well as monitor your monthly money movements to help you create a better personal budget.
All of the apps we tested have free options well suited to personal expense tracking. These free options limit you to only a few entries per month, usually less than 10. Plus, they don't have additional features, such as OCR intelligent scan, that make the app more useful for tracking business expenses.
While a mobile app is very convenient, expense recording software services come standard with many business software solutions, so you don't have to double purchase an app if you already have one of these business suites. Several of these programs have mobile apps so you can track expenses, mileage and time while on the go, just like the independent apps we've listed on our lineup.
Here is a quick list of some of these business solutions, the services they provide and a link to the top ten products we reviewed:
Time Tracking-Tracks hours worked, billable hours and expenses accrued per project
Project Management-Manages every aspect of your work project, including mileage and expenses
GPS System-Tracks mileage and converts to files that you can share with tax and accounting programs
CRM-Contact management is an all-encompassing business solution that includes sales, time management, accounting and employee tracking features
Each of these business programs requires a monthly fee, which may be outside your current budget. However, business expense trackers are a one-time purchase (usually under $10) and are designed to ensure accurate expense records for tax-declaration purposes.
Choosing whether to purchase a single app or a full business suite is a hard decision. We have included several articles on expense tracking to help you. Additionally, our sister site, Business News Daily, has a few buying guides with helpful hints.
What We Tested, What We Found
For our evaluation, we downloaded and tested each expense tracker using a Samsung Galaxy Tab4, an iPad Air and an iPad mini. Those solutions compatible with both platforms worked the same way on both devices with a little variance in the graphics. Each prompted us to create a login profile, along with a password.
Ease of Use
For our Ease of Use score, we assessed how easy it is to navigate through the app. Those apps that earned a higher score had tools and functions, which were clearly marked, and included features like calculators and autofill to simplifying and speed up the entry process. We also examined how well the app responded when we tapped on links and other navigations. While most worked as we expected, a few apps didn't recognize our navigation commands.
We checked each app against its advertised features to ensure each app does what it claims. These include the ability to export data; connect with other apps, such as accounting and CRM programs; and to use currency exchange features. We also tested the photo receipt and OCR intelligent scan features (more on that below).
ORC Intelligent Scan
Optical character recognition, or OCR, technology scans a document photo, such as business cards and receipt images, and automatically fills in the required text fields in the program. This can save you the time it would otherwise take manually inputting data. OCR technology isn't always 100 percent accurate, so double check to make sure that the correct info and amounts have been entered in the right places before submitting expenses.
Another feature we scrutinized was whether the app came with an online web expense-reporting software account through the manufacturer. Xpenditure, Expensify, Concur and Taxbot all provide you with an online, cloud-based program that automatically syncs with your app and saves your information to the web in addition to the app on your device. Pricing varies as some programs include this feature in the app's purchase price; others require you to pay a monthly subscription fee.
Expense tracking apps all perform similar functions, but a major difference we noted between each app was with the dashboard: Each has a different layout along with different ways of performing those functions. Some apps, for example, have split view screens, sidebar navigations and multiple-step prompts to record expenses while others have a more pared down look with simple-to-execute functions.
Most used clean, white backgrounds, but the darker color scheme of Daily Expenses helped it stand out more and made it more engaging. It was one of the easiest apps to navigate through and find exactly what we needed.
Shoeboxed was the most difficult app for us to use. Links were poorly located, and it wasn't very clear how to enter in expense information other than clicking the camera icon. This allowed us to snap a photo of our receipts, but there wasn't a way for us to manually enter in purchases. Additionally, when testing Shoeboxed on the Android tablet, it was more difficult to use than other products. We found that we had to tap links and navigation icons multiple times before we were brought to the next step or screen. While this wasn't as problematic on the iPad, there still were times when we had to be extra patient.
All of the tested apps on our top 10 list let you create your own categories to classify each transaction (though the process varies between each app). Additionally, some apps, such as Receipts Pro, have predesignated categories for both business and personal expenses, so you can use this app both on and off the clock.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
Expensify is the best expense tracking app. It has the most features, is one of the easiest programs to figure out and use, and it includes a website application so your information is saved in more than one place. Xpenditure and BizXpense Tracker are also good solutions that are easy to use, though they don't have as many features and the OCR is lower quality than our top-ranked money-tracking application.
If you need an expense tracker that integrates well with QuickBooks or other business accounting software, consider Shoeboxed. Though most of the solutions we tested create CSV files that are compatible with any accounting software or payroll service, Shoeboxed directly integrates with QuickBooks. These files also transfer to tax solutions if you prepare your own tax return.
No matter which expense tracking app you choose from our list, each one can help you keep a record of your expenses so your final tax deductions are as accurate as possible, helping you to avoid costly mistakes of over, or under, reporting.