Of all the great things that the iPhone lets me do, I’d put tracking my finances near the top of list. While, it may seem boring, it’s something I always struggled with in the past; so much so that I constantly overdrafted my account and had to pay hundreds of dollars in fees. Since I purchased my first iPhone I’ve used Checkbook to balance my accounts, and have become a lot better at keeping track of my financials.
While Checkbook has been good to me over the years, I’ve always kept a lookout for similar apps. To me, Checkbook had a lot of great functionality, but wasn’t a great looking app (it’s not poorly designed, but is a bit plain). Being someone that’s very into design, I always hoped to find an alternative that offered the functionality of Checkbook, while providing a design that made that app a joy to use. With the release of Bankr Personal Finance (referred to as “Bankr” from this point forward), I’m happy to say that I believe my search may finally be over. Find out why after the jump.
Checkbook vs. Budget Apps
Before I get into the review I’d like to answer a question some of you may already be posing, “What about apps like Mint or MoneyBook?” There are some really great finance apps available on the App Store such as the two previously mentioned; the problem with those apps is that they’re focused on maintaining a budget. While I see myself needing a budgeting app in the not too distant future, my current method of tracking finances is simply to balance my checkbook and note any transactions when they occur (baby steps, if you will). Luckily, Bankr includes a budget tracking feature — but more on that in a bit.
When Bankr is opened for the first time, a brief tutorial is presented detailing how to navigate the app. Once past that, the first step is to add your accounts. This is done by tapping the plus icon in the bottom right corner and selecting either the Account (e.g. savings, checking, credit card) or Stock option. When you choose the Account option, you’ll need to enter the name of the account, starting balance, and budget amount and interval. When you’re finished, tap the Add Account button.
If you wish to track your stocks using Bankr, you’ll need to enter your stock’s symbol (e.g. “AAPL” for Apple), purchase price (tapping the clock icon will enter the most current purchase price) and how many stocks you own. When all the info has been entered in, tap the Add Stock button.
Once you’ve added your accounts and stocks, the home page will display a summary of each account and the statuses of your stocks. If you’ve set a budget on an account, the budget status bar will decrease with each expense you’ve recorded; however, if you don’t set a budget there’s currently no method of turning the budget bar off (a member of the developing team stated it was for design aesthetics, but they may revisit the option of turning if off). At the bottom of the page, you’ll see your net worth, which takes all your accounts into consideration when making its calculations.
Accounts & Stock Info
To view information about or record a transaction in an account, simply tap on it. The first thing you’ll see is your current account balance in a nice big font (a small but important design choice that sets Bankr apart from other checkbook apps). Below the balance is a list of recent transactions (if you wish to edit a transaction, simply tap on it). You’ll notice direction buttons on either end of the Recent header, which you can tap to switch to different list views, which include:
- Category: You can add a category (e.g. food, gas, entertainment) to each transaction, which allows you to view how your money is being spent.
- Amount: Sorts your transactions from largest to smallest.
If you swipe to the left on the recent transaction pane, a budget menu will transition on screen that displays a list of information about your budget, including the amount left to spend, percentage of your remaining budget, how many days are left in your budget cycle, and the budget amount/interval set-up.
The Stock Info page displays a slew of information about your stock, including the amount it opened at for the day, the lowest/highest the stock reached, and the market capitalization. Again, you can swipe to the left to find additional information about your stocks, including the number of stocks you’ve purchased purchased and at what amount, your profit since your purchase, profit percentage, and market value.
Recording a Transaction
One of the true characteristics of a great checkbook app is the ease in which you can record your transaction; if the process requires too many steps, then you’re less apt to use it for tracking purchases. When compared to Checkbook, I’d say Bankr isn’t quite on par just yet, but the developer has stated they are adding some features to make the process a lot better in future updates.
To record a transaction, tap the New Transaction button at the bottom of an account’s page. Next, enter the amount of the transaction and choose the Income or Expense option. Unless you’re Mister or Miss Moneybags, you’ll probably add way more expense transactions than income transactions. At the moment, the Income option is selected by default, so you’ll have to tap the Expense button each time, but a member of the development team stated they’ll add an option to set the default transaction type in a future update. When you’re done, tap the Next button.
Your next step is to enter a name for the transaction (e.g. Target, Amazon). If you’re familiar with Checkbook, you know that it auto-fills previously used transaction names, so you only need to type a few letters and tap your desired option (an extremely useful time saving feature). Unfortunately, Bankr doesn’t include this feature and stated no plan on add it in the future. After entering the name, you can tap on the Date option and select a previous or future date.
If you visit a store frequently, you can set up a keyboard shortcut for the store’s name (e.g. “az” for Amazon) by going to Settings > General > Keyboard > Add New Shortcut. Doing so will make adding transactions much faster.
Finally, tap on the Category option and choose an appropriate category; if you don’t find one to your liking, you can add a custom one by tapping the Add New Category option at the top and typing in the category name. In addition to selecting a category, you can also snap a photo of your receipt by tapping the camera icon and using the camera to capture the photo (or uploading a photo from your camera roll). When all desired entries are completed, tap done and you’ll hear an awesome little “ka-ching” sound effect (my favorite thing about Bankr) that indicates you’re finished.
There’s a lot of great things to be said about Bankr. It’s got a sleek design and some great sound effects, you can easily track multiple accounts, navigating the app is smooth and fluid, you can analyze your spending habits (if you add a category to your transaction), you can easily manage a budget (if that’s your kind of thing), and you can add a passcode to protect your information.
A current issue with Bankr though, is that it’s missing some really key finance app features, including the ability to export your transactions and transfer funds between accounts. The biggest missing feature, by far, is recurring transactions. Luckily, a member of the development team stated that all of these features will be added in a future update, and that they’re planning to release version 2.0 alongside the release of iOS 6.
Perhaps I’m just a big finance tracking nerd, but now that I’ve found an app that makes such a boring chore fun and entertaining, it really makes it much less burdensome. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can give Bankr a try for just two dollars.