Review: 7 Android apps that track your expenses

If you do any business travel, you know how important -- and annoying -- it is to track your spending. These apps can help.

Expense Manager

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Expense Manager by Bishinews lets you enter a wide variety of categories, subcategories and other data (left); the rather crowded but informative main screen give access to recent expenses, the various app features and different accounts (right).

Expense Manager from Bishinews is another personal expense app that can also be used -- and quite efficiently -- for business expenses.

Data entry

It opens on a comprehensive (and somewhat crowded) page that contains three rows of buttons that lead to a variety of functions, together with a listing of your balance, income and expenses for the week, month and year to date.

A button labeled Expense leads to an entry page that offers a variety of fields, including date, amount, payee, category and payment method. You can also enter a reference or check number (and record that the check cleared), add a freeform description (with a photo of the receipt attached, if you wish) and/or a tag (to, say, separate out a specific project) -- and even calculate the tax.

Like AndroMoney, Expense Manager offers a wide variety of pre-entered categories and subcategories -- for example, when I tapped on the Travel category, I was offered subcategories such as Airplane, Car Rental, Hotel, Food, etc. A plus sign on the category page lets you easily add a new main category. However, editing a category or adding a new subcategory is a little complicated: You have to first select Edit from the three-dot menu on the top of the screen and choose a category from there; you can then edit both that category and its subcategories.

One nice feature is the ability to create more than one account -- for example, you could have one labeled "Personal Expenses" and one labeled "Business Expenses. " The different accounts then become easily accessible from tabs across the top of your main screen.

Another is autofill -- you can create a list of pre-entered expenses and then choose the one you want to use when needed; you can even have an entry automatically filled when you select a specific payee or payer.

When you're finished with your entry, you can either tap on a button labeled OK&New to save your entry and leave the screen up (together with most of the information), or just hit OK to go back to the main page.

Reports and other features

Expense Manager lets you create reports in Excel, PDF or HTML, organized by the week or the month. You can filter them by a number of aspects (such as category), email them or save them to another app such as Evernote -- in other words, you've got a nice range of report options.

There are other features to explore in Expense Manager, including tools such as a basic calculator, currency converter, tip calculator (always handy) and a credit card payoff calculator. You can set up a PIN for security, back up your data as a CSV file, sync with Dropbox or save to Google Drive, set a daily reminder and tweak the look of the main page.

Bottom line

Expense Manager by Bishinews is a flexible, feature-filled app that is suitable for both personal and business expenses. It has an excellent range of reporting abilities (although its spreadsheet reports aren't quite as polished as those provided by Abukai). There is a Pro edition for $4.99 that is ad-free; according to the company, that is the only difference between the two.

Expense Manager

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Expense Manager offers a very simple entry method (left); its History screen lets you see past expenses, with the categories color-coded (right).

Expense Manager by Markus Hintersteiner is a fairly simple budget app that offers some good features, but doesn't have the range of apps like AndroMoney or Expense Manager by Bishinews.

Data entry

It opens on an Overview screen that offers a line chart illustrating your weekly, monthly or yearly expenses; you can set it up for one of the three. A plus icon on the top of the screen lets you record an entry.

The entry screen starts with a pop-up number keypad; once you've recorded the amount, the pop-up disappears and you can then choose a category for your entry, change the date (the default is "Today") and type in a freeform note. Each time you save the expense, the app goes back to the Overview page, and you have to hit the plus sign again to enter the next one.

Expense Manager doesn't offer as many options for categorization as some of the other apps reviewed here. You can add more categories if you want, but because there are no subcategories or tags, you have two choices -- either use the Notes field (to, say, differentiate plane fare from gasoline expenses under Transportation) or to create a large number of categories (for example, make Plane Fare and Gas their own categories), which could get unwieldy.

Reports and other features

Expense Manager lets you export an Excel report from the setup manager; any other reports -- such as statistics and income distribution -- are unlocked with a one-time $2.59 payment.

Besides the Overview screen, there is a nicely formatted History screen that lets you see all your past expenses (also by the week, month or year). You can filter the screen by category.

In the Settings screen, there are a number of other tweaks you can make: You can choose a currency, opt for a daily reminder to enter your expenses, back up your data to a wide range of services (such as Evernote, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Gmail, among others) and set a lock pattern for extra security. You can also create overhead expenses so you set a limit on how much you have to spend.

Bottom line

Expense Manager is simple to use and could be a good app for personal budgeting; however, it's a bit too limited to be used for any but the most basic expense reporting.

Expensify

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Expensify is a cloud-based app that lets you add your receipts either via photos or manually, as in this screen (left); the summary screen includes any photographed images you included (right).

Expensify is a cloud-based expense tracker and reporters that offers both personal and business versions with a variety of feature sets.

The Free version (the one I reviewed) offers 10 SmartScans (scans of receipts) per month, the ability to import expenses from your bank and credit card accounts, expense reports, receipt uploads and the ability to categorize and tag entries. A $5/mo./user "Team" version adds unlimited SmartScans and invoicing features; a $9/mo./user "Corporate" version adds more functionality, such as custom reports. There is also a custom Enterprise version.

Data entry

Expensify is a cloud-based application, so you have to sign up to use it. According to the site, the company uses "bank level security" to protect user data, including HTTPS+TLS data and password encryption.

The opening screen shows you a list of already-entered expenses (assuming there are any, of course). At the bottom of the screen, a large plus sign lets you add a new entry; tap on it and you get four choices: Distance (which lets you track how many miles you've traveled, either using GPS, your odometer or manually); Time (which lets you set an hourly rate); Expense or SmartScan.

Expense is the screen where you can manually add your expenses. It has fields for a merchant's name, the expense amount, the date, a comment, a category and a tag. You can also add a photo of the receipt and log the expense as billable and/or reimbursable.

Perhaps because Expensify is more a cloud application than simply a mobile app, there are a number of things you can do through its website that you can't do via the mobile app. For example, unlike most of the other apps reviewed here, you can't add a new tag or category on the fly -- or at all -- using the mobile app. In fact, the only place you can add a category or tag is via the website, which is less than convenient if you're on the go.

(If you've registered your credit card this may not be as much of an issue, since according to the site, Expensify can pick up merchant categories from your credit card reports.)

SmartScan lets you photograph a receipt or choose one from your photo gallery; Expensify then uploads the photo to its servers, extracts the necessary information and downloads it to your account as an expense entry.

It's a nice idea; however, when I tried it using a gas receipt at 3:30 pm on a Friday afternoon, it hadn't returned the data three hours later. When I signed back on the next Monday, the data had been uploaded; it included the merchant name, total price and the date. While this might be useful for employees who have long lists of receipts to enter, the lag could be an issue for some.

Reports and other features

But wait, there's more! At the bottom of each screen, along with the Plus icon, there are four other choices: Expenses, Reports, Trips and Settings.

Expenses leads you back to your list of current expense entries. Settings offers a few tweaks to the app, such as the type of currency being used, whether you have access too offline mode and whether you want to upgrade.

Trips is an interesting-sounding feature: You can, according to the instructions, email a hotel, flight, rental car or train reservation to receipts@expensify.com and you'll get back an itinerary overview, flight status alerts and "automatic expense reports." Because I didn't have any current reservations pending, I wasn't able to test this particular feature.

There are a couple of ways to create a report. You can go to Reports, create a new report and then choose which you want to include from your current list of expenses. Or you can create a new report and then, as you enter each expense, identify which report it should be included on.

Once you've finished adding expenses, you can email the report to yourself (or to anyone else); the report arrives as an attached PDF file (which can be previewed before you send it) that includes any scanned receipts you may have added.

Bottom line

Expensify is a professional expensing app that has a great deal of potential, especially for companies whose employees have to account for a lot of expenses. The amount of time it took for the SmartScan function to work gives one pause, but if that can be smoothed out, this is certainly an application worth investigating.

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