PocketGuard Review: A Budgeting App for Overspenders

Quick Answer

PocketGuard offers basic budgeting tools for free, with the opportunity to upgrade to get the full features. You can easily track your income and expenses, and you'll always have an idea of how much money you have left to spend each month. If you're serious about budgeting, though, you'll need the premium version.

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Picking the right budgeting app can be difficult, so it's important to focus on what differentiates each option from the competition. With PocketGuard, you can easily see exactly how much money you have left to spend each month, which can help you make better spending decisions when you're out and about.

While you can get a lot of basic budgeting tools for free with PocketGuard, serious budgeters will likely want to upgrade to the premium version to get a more effective budget in place. If you're thinking about using PocketGuard to help manage your money, here's what you should know.

How PocketGuard Works

PocketGuard offers a standard approach to budgeting. When you first sign up, you'll connect your bank accounts, credit cards and loans, which PocketGuard will use to estimate your income and recurring expenses.

If you don't feel safe connecting your financial accounts, you can also use the app without doing so, but you'll miss out on a lot of the app's features if you decide to do everything manually.

You can then set monthly goals, and PocketGuard will update your transactions regularly, allowing you to track your spending and compare it to your goals.

You can also set savings goals, get a report to give you a better look at your spending and more.

There are, however, some limitations if you're using the free version of the app. For example, if you want custom spending categories, you'll need to upgrade. The same goes if you want unlimited savings goals, the ability to split transactions across multiple categories and many other features, you're out of luck if you stick to the free tier.

Free Tools

PocketGuard provides several tools to help you manage your money and make better financial decisions. Here are some of the features you'll get with the free version of the app:

  • In My Pocket: Called the jewel of PocketGuard by its creator, this algorithm uses your income, bills, savings goals and ongoing expenses to calculate how much you have to spend each month. This tool can be particularly useful if you struggle with overspending.
  • Direct import: If you connect your accounts, the app will automatically import transactions as they post.
  • Hashtags: If you want more detailed categorization—for example, you want to note that your grocery purchase is for a particular event—you can add hashtags to transactions and view a report for that particular hashtag.
  • Spending pie chart: You'll be able to analyze your spending using the spending pie chart.
  • Goal: You can create one savings goal, such as a rainy day fund, a vacation fund or other savings objectives, and link it to one of your accounts (excluding cash accounts).
  • Find savings: PocketGuard partners with other services to help you cancel unwanted subscriptions, improve your credit, lower your bills, pay off debt, get shopping rebates and more. You can find these partners in your app.
  • Cash account: You can create one cash account and use it to track your cash transactions.

Premium Tools

While there are some limitations with PocketGuard's free version, you can get access to much more by upgrading to PocketGuard Plus. Here's what you'll get:

  • Debt payoff plan: If you're working to pay down a loan or credit card, you'll be able to create a plan to achieve your goal by a certain date.
  • Customized categories: With the free version of the app, you're stuck with the pre-set categories PocketGuard provides. With this tier, though, you can add unlimited custom categories to fit your particular spending habits. You can create as many categories as you want.
  • Change transaction dates: If a transaction you made at the end of last month gets cleared this month, you can update the date so it goes into last month's budget.
  • Transaction exporting: If you want to create more detailed reports of your spending on your own, you can export your transactions to an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets.
  • Unlimited goals: You can create as many savings goals as you want, though you can still only link one goal to one account. You can also link goals to cash accounts.
  • Split transactions: Sometimes, a shopping trip may fall into multiple spending categories. This tool allows you to split a transaction for a more accurate accounting of how you spent your money.
  • Multiple cash accounts: You can create up to 20 cash accounts and transfer money between cash accounts. You'll also be able to attach receipts to cash transactions.

Pricing

The basic version of PocketGuard is available for free. If you want to upgrade to PocketGuard Plus, there are three options:

  • Monthly: $7.99 per month
  • Annually: $34.99 per year
  • Lifetime: $79.99 one time

If you're sold on PocketGuard's approach to budgeting, it's likely worth it to pay the one-time lifetime fee. But if you just want to try it out for a year, do the annual option, which comes out to about $2.90 per month.

Security

PocketGuard uses 256-bit SSL encryption to safeguard your personal data, which is the same level of security that major banks use. Additionally, the app requires a code or biometric authentication to log in.

The company partners with Finicity, a data aggregation firm, to create a secure connection to your financial accounts. Login credentials are encrypted, and PocketGuard gets read-only access, which means it can't access any of the money in your accounts.

Pros and Cons

There are both benefits and drawbacks to using PocketGuard for your budget needs, and it's important to consider both before you sign up. Here's our assessment of what the budgeting app has to offer:

ProsCons
There's a free version for basic budgeting.Free features are very limited.
Offers direct import to save you some time.If you need help, the website is difficult to navigate.
Provides some tools to help you work toward savings and debt payoff goals.
Tells you how much you have left to spend each month.

Availability and Ratings

PocketGuard is available on your web browser, as well as on iOS and Android devices. The mobile app has a 4.7-star rating across roughly 6,500 reviews in the Apple App Store and 3.6 stars over more than 1,700 reviews in the Google Play Store.

Is PocketGuard Right for You?

PocketGuard's free tier offers a barebones approach to budgeting and isn't really worth it for even beginners. The lack of customization with categories, the inability to split transactions or even adjust the transaction date, and limited options for savings goals and debt payoff plans make it less appealing than other top budgeting apps.

If you want to try out how PocketGuard works with the intent to upgrade if you like it, the free version can give you a taste of what the app has to offer. And if you tend to overspend and all you really want is to know how much you can spend at any given time, the free version is enough for that too.

But if you want an effective budgeting tool, you'll need to upgrade to the Plus version. The good news is that it's more affordable than other paid budgeting apps, and the lifetime option makes it so you don't have to worry about a recurring charge.

Ultimately, you'll need to decide for yourself whether PocketGuard is right for you. Take some time to compare other budgeting options to determine the best fit.

The Bottom Line

PocketGuard can help you manage your spending, understand how much money is available to use, work toward savings and debt payoff goals and more. Being mindful about your spending and establishing and working toward big-picture financial goals can help you create a strong foundation for your financial plan.

But budgeting is just one aspect of a financial plan. While you're thinking about your spending habits, it's also important to keep track of your credit history.

With Experian's credit monitoring service, you'll get free access to your credit score and Experian credit report, along with real-time alerts when changes are made to your report. With this information, you'll be able to build and maintain a good credit history, which can help you save on interest when you borrow money, cut your insurance costs and more.

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