Searching for the Best Free Travel Expense App

Since Chris and I are about to embark on our three month tour of Europe, involving multiple cities and a few different currencies, I decided I needed an easy way to keep track of our expenses. We’re travelling together for four days out of each week, then I’ll be doing independent travel for three days when he heads back to London.

Although we’re great fans of the excel spreadsheet, I figured a spreadsheet might fall by the wayside as the receipts start mounting up. A free travel expense app that is simple and intuitive is called for!

After some discussion, we devised a win-win situation for paying for items as a couple (out of my comfort zone totally as I’ve been a solo traveller up until now), i.e he pays by credit card to get the points and I transfer my portion to his NZ bank account. I thereby avoid the ATM fees for taking out cash withdrawals and the 2.5% offshore margin fee using my Master Debit card.

Paying by his credit card also solves the problem of shared dinners whereby it’s easier to pay one bill rather than try and divvy up who had what at the restaurant. I envisioned we’d do that back at the hotel and enter the amount, plus what I owed into the app. Capturing the receipt into the app would also be a handy feature to have a record for each expense, as well as being able to categorise each expense into food, activities, accommodation etc.

Before I started my search I listed a few requirements that I wanted the app to be able to do, from recording the expense as the most basic requirement, to being able to export data, a good feature if you want to manipulate it afterwards into reports. If it could export a pretty graph report without us having to do anything even better!

There are lots of free travel expense apps out there but the following are the 5 apps I trialled to see what boxes they ticked in terms of our requirements and the pros and cons of each.

Free Apps
Requirements Trail Wallet iTravel Budget Trip Wallet Trip Splitter Lite Tripcoin
Record expense
Say who paid expense
Ability to enter a specific amount owed
Support multiple foreign currencies
Capture receipt
Breakdowns of daily/weekly/monthly expenses
Graphs/Graphics at a glance
Set daily/weekly/total budgets for trip/cities
Ability to share with users
Export the data

Trail Wallet

Pros
  • Can add multiple trips with custom start & end dates
  • Can organise spending by category
  • Customisable icons and themes
Cons
  • Free for first 25 items, In App Purchase to unlock unlimited amounts

iTravel Budget

Pros
  • Simple interface
  • Can send email with a breakdown of expenses for trip
  • Create detailed budget, i.e what things will cost
Cons
  • More for budgeting rather than keeping track of expenses

Trip Wallet

Pros
  • Can tag expenses to categorise them and see breakdown of totals
  • Easy to use interface
  • Refresh button for latest currency rates
  • Add expense in overseas currency and it calculates it into home currency
Cons
  • Can’t add other users or split costs

Trip Splitter Lite

Pros
  • Personalise accounts with photos
  • Attach photos of receipts
  • Geo-locate spendings on a map
Cons
  • Two people are free, must upgrade to add more
  • Only creates even or uneven splits

Tripcoin

Pros
  • Works offline
  • Stores historical currency exchange rates
  • Breakdown of total per category
  • Currency converter
  • Stores historical currency exchange rates
  • Exports reports as csv file
  • Exports receipts in a zip file
  • Can back up on drop box
Cons
  • Can’t add multiple users

Summary

So in conclusion, the app that ticked the most boxes for our purposes is Tripcoin. It offers the most in terms of recording expenses, supporting multiple currencies, at a glance graphs, exporting data, backing up data and capturing receipts. The interface is also easy to use, after a few hours of creating trips, adding expenses and exporting data, I feel I have it sorted.

Although it doesn’t let me itemise the portion of the expense that I owe, I got around that by adding the amount to the comments section of the expense, which appears in a separate column when you export the data, and is easily totalled. The proof will be in the pudding as we see how Tripcoin performs on the trip! I’m also trialling Trip Wallet to keep track of my personal expenses for my independent travel for the three days out of each week.