Tracking Receipt Clutter with OneReceipt

I’m someone who tries to be paperfree. I strive for the paperless office, I manage my finances online, and I always choose to receive my statements by email. But I always seem to end up surrounded by little slips of paper, especially receipts. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get around keeping receipts, especially if you think you may need to return a purchase, itemize deductions on your taxes at the end of the year, or keep track of your cash spent.

The folks over at OneReceipt stepped in to help us out with all that paper. OneReceipt aims to make it simple to document and track online and offline purchases and keep them close at hand. By allowing you to photograph your receipts and manage them right from your phone, this app is looking to replace your pocketful of paper.

A Complement to the Webapp

OneReceipt’s webapp came out of private beta in November, but it really found its legs with the iOS release back in April. Until then, the webapp would manage any receipts for online purchases that were emailed to you, such as a Groupon for a body massage or gummy bears on Amazon, automatically. To manage paper receipts, you had to email a scan or a picture of the receipt.

With the release of the iOS app, you can now manage all of your receipts, right from your phone. Taking a picture of your receipt, uploading, tagging, and managing are an all-in-one function. They appear right along your online purchases and are even itemized for you.

OneReceipt's title and account creation screens.

OneReceipt's title and account creation screens.

You’ll need to create a username and password linked to your email address to use the app. This opens all the features of the webapp to you and allows for syncing with your Gmail or Yahoo! Mail account. If you don’t have a compatible email address, you can forward your email receipts to OneReceipt or use a OneReceipt email address to make online purchases.

Receipt Keeper

The real reason I found the app useful is that it allows you to capture paper receipts right in the app. You’re then given the option to add a note to your receipts, such as information you’ll want for taxes or to organize receipts for a project. OneReceipt allows you to choose a category for your receipt and tag it as business or personal.

Your receipt will go into the “processing” stage, and after about twenty-four hours, it will be available as more than just a picture on your phone. All of your purchases will be itemized, and OneReceipt will have now included bonus info, such as the store’s customer service number.

A list of my online and in person purchases and the manual entry screen.

A list of my online and in person purchases and the manual entry screen.

But if you don’t have a paper receipt, and it wasn’t an online purchase, you can still record whatever you’re buying right in the app. By manually entering the receipt, you record the amount and the merchant, and you can add a description of the purchase. There’s not really an option to list each item you bought, but the service is being updated to meet users’ needs, so it may be added in a future release.

At this time, OneReceipt only allows for automatic syncing of online purchases with Gmail and Yahoo! Mail, which can be a huge issue for users of other email services. They’ve just added Yahoo! in the last few weeks though, which means they’re likely still working to include more features. The iOS app was only released last month, so users can look forward to improvements as popularity grows.

Are Your Purchases Private?

My biggest reservation with OneReceipt is one of privacy. OneReceipt’s terms of service, available on their website, state that they analyze your purchase patterns to offer you targeted promotions and advertisements. Their privacy policy states that they’ll periodically send you marketing emails, but you can opt-out if you choose. The ability to opt-out is great, and it’s up to you if the convenience of receipt management is worth having all of your purchase information stored by a third party.

I reached out to OneReceipt, because I was curious just how my receipt went from being a crumpled wad in my pocket to a legible, itemized list of purchases that I can download from their webapp as a CSV. Co-founder Michael Altman refused to comment when I asked if people or computers were sifting through my purchases, but when the overly stylized logo for a local grocer was correctly identified by OneReceipt, I began to suspect there’s some human oversight.

A scanned paper receipt and the itemized receipt after it's been processed.

A scanned paper receipt and the itemized receipt after it's been processed.

I don’t know if humans potentially rifling through my purchases is any more or less creepy than a computer parsing my purchases, but it’s certainly something to think about. OneReceipt asks for real names and an email address at signup, so at the risk of pulling out my tinfoil hat, there could be a guy in a cubicle in OneReceipt HQ who knows what brand of underwear John Smith likes to buy at the MegaMart in Quincy. I want to stress that this is speculation of course, as OneReceipt chose not to comment on how paper receipts are processed, but their ability to translate grainy receipt images from an iPhone photo into text was really almost too good to believe.

Conclusion

OneReceipt does what it says on the tin. It’s a free app that allows you to track your online and offline purchases while helping to rid you of paper receipts. If you want some bonus features, you can use the webapp to download CSV files of your purchases and more finely tune your account, but the iOS app really stands on its own. However, anyone concerned with online privacy should check into the terms of service and privacy policy to make sure they’re comfortable with OneReceipt before handing over too much information.


Summary

Nice receipt managing app, but would be nicer with a few more features. And look out for your personal info.

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