Walnut app – a powerful expense tracker
I love trying out new apps and in the past 2-3 years, I’ve probably tried over 1,000 apps across Blackberry, Android and iOS. At any given time, my phone / tablet easily has close to 250-300 apps on it, Walnut being the latest addition to that list. Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to writing about those apps, so rectifying that now.
With the mobile phone becoming the preferred computing device of choice, there’s an app for practically everything one does nowadays, and personal finance is no exception. Personally, as far as the finance domain (banking/personal finance/stocks) is concerned, I’m not really a big fan of mobile apps; prefer to use desktop apps like MS-Money to track bank/card/loan details and MProfit for investments.
The Walnut app helps you manage your spending as well as track upcoming bills and payments. Nothing new or unique about the first bit; there are thousands of apps in that category, ranging from all-round personal finance managers to the specific budget/spend tracking types. At a basic level, these apps tell you how much money you;
- have now/earn
- spend & on what
- will have at a future date
- spend on bill payments
Then again, among all these apps;
– Some are free, some are paid (or with in-app purchases)
– Some are convoluted to set up and manage, some are too basic
– Some need minimal personal information, some expect too many sensitive details
– Some pick up information automatically, some expect you to input it manually
With regard to the last bit, some apps scan receipts and bills and generate reports from that data, others scan the SMSes you get from various sources like banks/credit cards/other merchants.
Aha, did that last bit cause the privacy-freak in you to get jumpy? 😉
Well, permission to read SMS isn’t anything new and knowingly or unknowingly, you use such apps all the time. The Walnut app doesn’t read personal messages or OTPs, only business transactions (bank/card/bill alerts etc) and all the processing based on those messages is done locally. Read their FAQ on this.
Walnut is very easy to begin using with barely any setup. It shows up as a moderate privacy risk, probably more on account of the SMS scan feature.
Fairly straightforward Settings here. You can choose to turn notifications on and also set a monthly spending limit.
There’s an Overview with Summary, Spends and Offers, Views with account details – somewhat intriguing to see my Axis Bank account shown twice under the card icon, once as “AXIS DEBIT”, whereas both HDFC Bank accounts and the credit card are shown with the bank icon.
The Summary lists out month-wise details for cards, banks and bills. Tapping on them gives you an itemised list for spends as well as bills. Again, my Axis Bank account was shown under Cards. I don’t hold a credit card from that bank. Both my HDFC Bank accounts were listed correctly, but a recent transaction at ICICI Bank was missing. I also noticed that while my American Express credit card was detected, the American Express charge card wasn’t. (Update: The American Express charge card is detected now – it has a different messaging format compared to the credit card.)
The Bills tab was mostly accurate, showing payments due on my American Express card, HDFC Bank credit card, Vodafone bill, and Citibank card. However, for my ICICI Bank credit card, multiple spends and a card payment were shown under this tab, which I thought was odd. (Update: This issue has been resolved.)
The Stats tab shows your top spends category-wise as well as merchant-wise and month-wise (1mth, 3mths) and the the Map tab shows the location of the merchant establishment where you last swiped your card.
Spends and Bills are shown correctly, with the latter showing no. of days remaining for payment. The Spends tab allows you to dive into each item where you can then categorise spends.
It smartly pulls up a list of matching places so all you have to do is select the correct one. However, for spends at the same store in two different months, it located the place for one transaction, but couldn’t for the other, in spite of several attempts, which was odd. For online spends, one needs to select the category manually.
The Walnut app works only in India as of now. I like the fact that it handles everything automatically and is unobtrusive. Other apps which scan SMSes are quite annoying as they pop up each time you get one, asking for your inputs on that transaction.
Periodically, I keep deleting my SMSes in which case the reporting accuracy may be slightly hampered for me. Apparently, it’s not a problem if messages are deleted – once recorded in the app, the spends data stays as is.
So if you use mobile apps to track and manage your finances, and are based in India, give this one a shot. Walnut is free, has a small footprint and is a powerful app in terms of the spends insights provided with almost zero manual input needed.
The Walnut app is presently available only on Android and you can get it from the Play Store.
* Some of the images which seemed to have too much personal financial information have been blurred, so apologies for the lousy screenshots 🙂