There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence is only going to become more intertwined with daily life. I mean, 37% of organizations have already implemented a form of AI in their business. By 2021, it’s estimated that 80% of new technology with have AI foundations.
Financial services are no exception to this trend. In fact, AI is making itself quite apparent in both existing and rising FinTech platforms, services, and apps.
One particularly interesting app that has caught my attention is Cleo, the intelligent assistant that helps manage your finances right from your smartphone.
If you want to learn how this AI-powered chat bot can help you manage your finances, set budget goals, and improve your finances, be sure to read out Cleo review until the end.
What Is Cleo?
Cleo is a London-based FinTech startup that was founded in 2016. The Cleo app, sometimes called Meet Cleo, is available on both the Android and IOS app store.
Currently, Cleo has more than 3.1 million users, and this app is pretty much the fastest growing app the FinTech world has ever seen.
Cleo has been incredibly popular for younger crowds/millennials, and this is by design. The Cleo app has a sleek interface, does all the work for the user, and mixes in witty bits of sarcasm to make managing your finances feel more engaging or humorous.
That’s all fun in games, of course. But, what how does Cleo work and what does the app actually do?
How Does Cleo Work?
Users have to connect their banking details to Cleo to allow the AI-powered chat bot to analyze spending patterns and actually get to work.
You can use the platform through the mobile app version or Facebook Messenger. Most major banks are supported, and setup only takes 2-3 minutes. If your bank isn’t supported, you can request support with setup as well.
You can connect multiple accounts to the app, and actually using certain features is easy. For example, typing or saying ‘budget’ will prompt the app to start working with you to create a budget.
Cleo Features – The Free Version
Cleo operates on a freemium model like many other finance based apps. However, users still get some nifty features with the free version of Cleo, which makes it easy to test out the platform before trying out Cleo Plus (more on why this feature isn’t worth the price later on).
Here are some of the main Cleo features to know about.
Track Your SPENDING
The most basic feature Cleo offers is the ability to track your spending. Once you connect your bank account to the app, you’ll be able to view your balance, spending categories, and get an easy overview of your bank account.
This isn’t much different than most banking apps or apps like Mint. However, you can also ask the Cleo app several questions, such as:
- How much do I spend on a certain category? (Such as food, rent, etc.)
- What’s my largest expense?
- How much have I spent on alcohol this month?
- Show upcoming bills.
- How am I doing on my budget?
You get the idea. The Cleo makes it pretty simple to get a general sense of how you’re doing for the month in terms of spending.
Easily Create Budgets
Cleo is more of a financial assistant and less of a pure budgeting app. However, the app still makes it very easy to set budgets for different spending categories and to track your budget throughout the month.
Users can set their own budgets on Cleo or rely on AI-powered recommendations to set spending limits. This feature is great for anyone who struggles with budgeting or wants a bit of a helping hand to make sure their spending isn’t off the rails.
Cleo monitors your purchases and alerts you if you are approaching a budget limit. As shown above, you can also ask Cleo if spending on a certain category, like dinner or drinks, is a good financial decision or not.
Additionally, you can set budgets for different time periods, which is useful if you want to monitor your spending during a vacation or a weekend retreat somewhere.
Save Money Automatically
Since Cleo tracks your spending and budgets, the free version of the app can actually tell if there’s room for you to easily save money.
If you’re having a frugal week or two of spending, Cleo might prompt you to move a portion of your money into whatever savings account you have linked to the app.
Now, whatever savings account you choose to link is up to you, not Cleo. This means that if you have a lackluster savings account, moving money there might not be a great idea versus investing the money or finding a better high-interest savings account.
Cleo Plus – Extra Features & Pricing
The free version of Cleo is great for anyone who struggles with basic budgeting or specific spending categories. However, the premium version of Cleo, known as Cleo Plus, offers additional features that the app is best known for.
But first…let’s talk pricing.
Cleo Plus costs $5.99 per month, or about $72 per year, so keep this in mind when considering if the following features are worth it.
Cleo Cover, or Cleo Salary Advance, is an overdraft service that is only available for Plus members. Basically, this feature lets you borrow up to $100 from Cleo for overdrafts. Cleo doesn’t charge interest on this loan, and users have between 3 and 28 days to pay back the money.
Cleo states that this won’t impact your credit score. Once you pay off your loan, you are free to request another one immediately.
Cleo Daily Cash
Daily Cash works by giving you instant cash back on your spending. Users choose ‘Money Makers’ based on the stores they shop at most, and earn cash back whenever they spend money at their Money Makers.
Users can only choose up to 5 Money Makers at any point, and cash back is deposited into your Cleo Wallet. This is basically a carbon copy of the popular cash back app Drop, but hey, free money is never a bad thing!
With the Bigger Buys feature, users also earn up to 7% cash back for shopping directly through sponsored links on the Daily Cash page. Again, pretty much Drop.
Finally, users also earn cash back by completing Cleo Rewards.
Basically, Cleo bribes users to use more of the app. If you talk to the app for a week/month straight or complete simple tasks like setting your first budget, you’ll earn small rewards in the $0.10 to $0.25 range or so.
Again, this money is deposited in your Cleo Wallet, and you can request a transaction to your linked bank account. Withdrawals take 4 business days in the U.S. and 2 business days in the U.K.
Since you can double-dip on cash back rewards with a variety of other apps or a cash back credit card, this is certainly my favorite aspect of Cleo Plus. However, other cash back apps like Drop are free, so keep that in mind.
Earn INterest On Savings
Cleo Plus now offers U.S. users the chance to earn 1.5% interest for u[grading their Cleo Wallet to a savings account.
Cleo partners with SynapseFI to provide this service, and there are 3 steps to upgrading your wallet:
- Submit basic details, like date of birth, address.
- Submit your SSN and a form of government ID to verify your identity.
- Accept T&Cs.
Cleo Plus users can also use opt in for Round Ups, which work the same way as other apps like Acorns. Basically, whenever you spend, Cleo can round up spare change and automatically move it into your savings. Not my cup of tea, but some people may enjoy this additional way to save money.
Is Cleo Plus Worth It? – Current App & Future Plans
Currently, I don’t believe Cleo Plus is worth the money.
- Overdraft Protection – Most banks already offer this for free.
- Cash Back & Big Buys – Again, apps like Drop, Dosh, PEI, and cash back credit cards already nail this.
- Savings Account Interest – 1.5% isn’t anything to write home about if we’re being totally honest.
Now, Cleo does have 2 additional projects in the work, including a educational credit score platform that is designed to help boost credit plus an investment platform of some sort:
If I had to wager, I’d bet that Cleo is going to copy the Acorns style of investing spare change since they already copied the round up feature, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Bottom line is that Cleo is not currently worth the $5.99 a month. I’d keep an eye on this app to see what’s next, but stick with the free version for now.
It wouldn’t be a worthwhile Cleo review if I didn’t tackle some of the most commonly asked questions about this financial assistant.
Is Cleo Safe?
Like pretty much any major FinTech product, Cleo uses bank-level encryption and doesn’t save your personal information.
Cleo also can’t make changes to your account when viewing your banking information, and accounts are backed by a $250K garauntee. Confusingly, their support page states it’s more of a £85,000 pledge, so I have no idea what’s actually covered here.
How Does Cleo Make Money?
Cleo states they don’t sell user data and make their money from Cleo Plus. I’m sure they also get a kickback from their cash back platform, which makes sense.
Can Facebook See Your Cleo Data?
Facebook Messenger is used to chat with Cleo if you don’t want to always use the app. However, no information is shared with Facebook or stored on their servers according to Cleo.
Other Cleo Reviews
Cleo currently has a 4 and 4.6 star review average on the Google Play store and IOS store respectively, and the app certainly generates a lot of great press and feedback.
From the other Cleo reviews I’ve read, it seems like people love free Cleo and absolutely hate Cleo Plus.
This sort of makes sense.
As a concept, Cleo is great for helping beginners understand a broad picture of their financial well-being and where they spend most of their money. I think this is extremely valuable, especially if you lack basic financial literacy.
However, it seems like most people who sign up for Cleo Plus are doing so for the Salary Advance feature. And, based on what I’m reading, the process of securing a $100 loan is not as simple as advertised:
Again, the bottom line here is that Cleo Plus is not worth the money.
This app is awesome for gaining a better understanding of your finances. However, the premium features are usually offered by most banks or various cash back platforms.
Final Thoughts & Other Apps Like Cleo
I think it is important to try a variety of budgeting strategies to find what works best for you.
Personally, I track everything in an Excel spreadsheet. Previously, I used Mint, but I prefer to get really granular with my money and track everything myself.
However, there are plenty of other options out there, free or paid, that cater to different budgeting styles. Some popular options include:
- Peak Money – A great budgeting app for visual people. Read my Peak Money review to learn more.
- Mint – One of the more popular free budgeting apps around.
- Plum – A main competitor of Cleo, but with investing and a different fee structure.
There really isn’t a cookie-cutter solution for managing your finances. Ultimately, it is our personal responsibility to learn financial literacy. If anything, these apps are just tools that help make the job easier, not a crutch to rely upon.
I still love what Cleo is doing, and I think the concept of AI or FinTech in general is awesome. If you have zero idea what is going on with your money, try the free version of Cleo to gain a better understanding of your financial health.
But please, for the love of God, don’t buy Cleo Plus…especially if you need it for salary advancement. If money is tight, there’s no point in paying $5.99 per month to maybe get a $100 loan.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this app to see what changes are around the corner. If there’s any massive improvement, I will update this Cleo review to reflect the new features.
Are you currently using a budgeting or spend-tracking app? If so, which one are you using and why?
Catch you guys in the next one!
Tom is a 23 year old recent college graduate from Canada with a passion for side hustling, passive income, and marketing. This Online World is all about providing people with honest ways to make and save more money by using technology. To learn more about Tom, read his About Page!
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