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Splitting the bill: the best apps for sharing the cost
‘Will you be paying together or separately?’ This is a question that you probably do not hear as often as you might wish in restaurants when a group of individuals ask for the bill. It’s a very helpful question and if you are lucky, you will be able to have the waiter or waitress collect the money individually from each patron, with each payee adding his or her own tip. However, what is often more likely is that the group will have to pay the bill, including tips, all in one go.
As a result, this can lead to the need for some surprisingly time-consuming calculations. At the end of the day, sharing costs in a way that is fair has the potential to become very strenuous, even if a notepad or app is at hand. It becomes so much easier if the group uses a bill splitting app (also known as the cost sharing app or expense manager app) to share costs, settle bills faster, or even include already existing debt. The above restaurant setting is just one of many examples where bill splitting apps can prove to be extremely useful for groups.
Another example of when this comes in useful is among flatmates, who can use these apps to split their expenses. This enables them to have a financially fair and transparent living situation. Whenever someone has to buy the next batch of detergent or replace something in the spice cupboard, they can immediately inform you via the app, and simultaneously send the partial bill for the purchase of the new washing machine.
Groups of friends who often go out together can use bill splitting apps to keep an overview of who borrowed money from whom during their night out and whose turn it is now to buy a round or a meal. Split apps like these have also made it so much easier to share the costs on holiday. Below we outline the best bill splitting apps.
Splitwise (Android and iOS)
This free app (Android and iOS) catches the eye with its easy operation and wide range of features. Splitwise allows you to share any outstanding expenses as well as label and save them. With the split app, you can also offset debts against others and send personal reminders to your friends regarding any debts they might have. You can also set it so that the app sends you regular updates if it is the case that you still have debts to pay.
Splitwise brings all these features together in groups. You can add members by simply entering their phone number or e-mail address to give your friends direct access. Only if each person manages their own expenses and transactions, though, does the network have the potential work in the long run.
It’s also possible to add fake users, by using firstname.lastname@example.org as an e-mail. This is handy if you wish to be the sole administrator of the group.
However, there are some downsides to the bill splitting app. Not only does it require registration, but some features are also still missing. For example, a currency converter – a very practical feature during a holiday abroad – is only included in the fee-based pro version (prices start at $1). Furthermore, you will not be able to withdraw money from the household budget. A function to pay debts directly via PayPal or other services is also missing. It's not possible to alter the ratios between members of a group, and all members must share the costs equally.
Conclusion: Thanks to its simple interface, Splitwise is a pretty decent bill splitting app for groups. However, it is quite annoying that the currency converter is not available as part of the free version. On the other hand, there are free apps that have integrated it without any extra charge.
Tricount (Android and iOS)
When you have a Tricount (Android and iOS) account set up, you can manage it both from your mobile phone and web browser, and friends can be invited to join via SMS or e-mail. Another advantage is that the mobile app distinguishes between expenditures and balances within a group. While the expenses page lists all costs and expenses (including the person paying the bill), the 'Balances' page provides detailed information on debt. The 'Who owes to whom?' section is particularly eye-catching. This is where all necessary payment procedures are listed to settle any debts. This list can be easily processed using PayPal to pay directly, or by simply marking the debts as paid.
Tricount backs up your transactions and balances online. On the downside, it is not just a currency converter that is missing, but also the option to categorise expenses for more overview. Unfortunately, the bill splitting app also does not display statistics.
The free version of Tricount contains ads, but for a charge of $1.99 these can be deactivated. The 'Friends Package' ($4.99) also includes standard features for sharing costs, which is very convenient for roommates. Both models include annual subscriptions. Overall, you could say that Tricount is a rather expensive app compared to other bill splitting apps.
Conclusion: Tricount is fast, straightforward, and easy to use. However, the lack of a currency converter along with the relatively high price for the ad-free version of the split expenses app are big shortcomings. At the same time, the PayPal integration is a big plus. The app allows you to share costs directly and pay debts all in one go.
Settle Up (Android and iOS)
Settle Up (Android and iOS) really stands out from the crowd, with their fun bubble design that summarises each individual person with their own “account balance”. This includes the timeline for each individual settlement, as well as the necessary steps to settle debts.
The app is great because it supports a variety of currencies and exchange rates. Settle Up also offers a wide range of add-ons. You can use the bill splitting app to share and weigh costs, as well as complete payment transactions with friends. If you are the only person you know using it, you don’t have to invite your friends to Settle Up, you can just share a link to your group. Exporting an e-mail or CSV format may make it unnecessary for your friends to create an account to access the app, however, Settle Up works best if all persons are actively involved.
Aside from the design, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, full-screen advertising in the free version can be annoying. You can deactivate this advertising by upgrading to the premium version for 80 cents per month, or $8 per year. In addition to being able to attach receipt images, the only other thing this version has to offer is a broader color scheme – a lean “upgrade” for the price.
Conclusion: Settle Up takes a risk with their design – you’ll either love it or hate it! Functionally, the split expenses app has a lot of strengths, but the free version’s full-screen advertising is an unnecessary and annoying.
Splittr, designed by the German developer Raphael Wichmann, is a strong contender when it comes to the best bill splitting apps. It takes up approx. 100MB of storage, but also comes with a plethora of extra features. Groups can be created for different occasions and different groups of friends. The split app calculates debts between group members, as well as debts of the whole group to an individual person. You can use the Splittr app to share costs as quickly as you can manage expenses and create invoices.
The abundance of statistics and analyses that the app offers is really impressive. As well as CSV support, their option to export to PDF format is extremely useful. The compensation algorithm ensures that the number of required steps is noticeably reduced. The output calculator also works very well.
The bill splitting app does not require any registration and works offline, but can also synchronise data with all users who share a group when connected to the Internet. Splittr supports all currencies, and you have an option to use currency converters, which makes it especially handy for holiday groups. The app also subdivides expenditure into categories which is very practical, and makes the accounting process even clearer.
Aside from the considerable file size, the only other drawback is the lack of an integrated payment function, like PayPal. Splittr is basically free of charge, and there is also a paid premium version which costs $4.50. Although Splittr has been exclusive to iOS for years, an Android version is currently under development.
Conclusion: If the size of the app isn’t a deal breaker for you, Splittr could be the best cost sharing app available for iPhones. Android users can look forward to using Splittr, as long as it’s well implemented and users have the necessary storage space to spare.
Splid (Android and iOS)
Splid (Android and iOS) is a limited tool compared to the others listed here, however it does warrant a mention for its elegance. Settlements, costs, and debts are presented quickly and clearly. The biggest advantage of this app is the practical, visually appealing conversion of the export file. This provides a printable overview, which can also be sent.
In practice, Splid has proven to be the fastest bill splitting app when it comes to creating smaller bills quickly. The group can be edited offline individually, or released online. Your friends will then be able to manage the group.
However, Splid lacks an extensive range of features and has a very simple user interface. Splid is just as suitable for smaller groups and shared flats as it is for holidays. The split app is basically free of charge and free of advertising, but you can only create one group with this version. A pro version is available with either two ($1) or an unlimited number of groups ($2).
Conclusion: Splid is simple and easy to use. The export files are great for a complete overview and handy to download. Unfortunately, the free version can only accommodate one group, and further groups require a surcharge.
Overview – the best bill splitting apps
|Splitwise||Android, iOS||Simple interface, fast functionality, good documentation||Requires registration, no currency converter, no income, group members cannot be weighted||English, German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese||Free, premium version approx. $1|
|Tricount||Android, iOS||Cross platform app, clearly arranged and fast, PayPal support, online backups||No currency converter, No revenue categories, No statistics or overviews||English, German, French, Hindi, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish||Free, premium version approx. $1,50 or $4,50|
|Settle Up||Android, iOS||Creative design, quick functionality, supports many currencies and exchange rates, export to email and CSV functions||Creative design is also a matter of taste, Full-screen advertising (free version), Premium version does not offer much extra||English, German, Danish, French, Greek, Italian, Catalan, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Slovakian, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Vietnamese||Free, premium version approx. 80 cent/month or 8 dollars/year|
|Splittr||iOS, (Android)||Very extensive, export in PDF and CSV, Output categorisation, Extensive statistics and overviews, Free version includes all features||Very large (100 MB)||English, German||Free, premium version approx. $4,50|
|Splid||Android, iOS||Simple, but efficient, quick and comfortable to use, pleasantly tidy design, excellent export of the total settlement||Not very extensive function range, free version only supports one group||English, German, French, Italian, Spanish||free, premium version approx. $1–2|