RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS: New apps take the tension out of splitting the bill

15 October 2019

New apps make group spending simpler and squabble-free


“Ed spent 10 euros on churros – you owe 2.50 euros.”

I was on holiday with three friends and we were trying out one of the apps now available to make group spending simpler.

Group holidays can be some of the most fun, but they’re especially susceptible to spats and squabbles.

There’s the classic battle between the eager sightseers ready to go hours before the rest of the group and the faffing slowcoaches who don’t see the point of rushing anywhere on holiday.

Then there’s the infuriating directionless meander of a group of hungry people looking for a lunch spot with no one taking charge.

But one of the most common group holiday tussles may have been consigned to the history books by new technology.

Instead of having to work out who owes what to whom throughout the holiday, the app we used kept a running tally. If you paid for something for the whole group, you typed in the amount, what it was for and who was there. So when one person bowed out of the third churros session of the day, we split that payment among the remaining three.

At the end of the trip, the app tots up to reveal how much everyone is owed. It also simplifies the settling up so that it may take just two transactions for the whole group. For example, if I owe 10 euros to Ed but Ed owes 10 euros to Jason, it could just tell me to transfer 10 euros to Jason, cutting down the number of transactions. We used the Splitwise app, but there are lots of others available.

Apps are just one solution.

I know several couples who share a Monzo card for their holiday spending. Monzo is one of the new online banks – and it offers a hot-coral debit card. Both people load the same amount of cash on to the card and then use it for shared spending. Using a shared account for holidays is also a good way of keeping an eye on your budget – if you only load it with holiday cash, it’s impossible to spend more than you’d planned.

One couple I know found it so successful on holiday they’ve continued to use it now they’re home.

Having a joint account as a couple can be really useful when you have a lot of shared spending.

However, sometimes opening a joint account can feel like a big deal – signalling to each other a level of commitment only a step down from moving in together or getting a dog – something you might not feel comfortable with early on in a relationship even if it would be practical.

But a holiday-turned-everyday-spending card inadvertently offered a solution to my friend.

“We’ve ended up with a joint bank account by the back door,” she confides. 

“We’ve got the practical elements of joint spending but managed to bypass the big conversations about what it means.”

Contactless cards have also helped shared spending enormously.

What a faff it was when you went out for dinner and everyone was messing around trying to find the right change and make sure they’d paid their fair share.

Now contactless is so fast, it’s perfectly acceptable to put down four debit cards and ask the waiter to split the bill equally among each. Tap, tap, tap, tap and you’re done.

Despite all these options, I think my favourite solution where possible is one that requires no technology at all.

With some friends, we take turns to pay. That way, you alternate between the joy of being paid for and the pleasure of treating someone else.

Of course, some payments will be greater or smaller, so it really only works with someone whom you see often enough that you know things will balance out on average.

And you need to be good enough friends that if either of you feel hard done by at any point you feel happy piping up without it causing tension.

How do you manage your shared spending? I’d love to hear your tips and experiences. 

Email editor@moneywise.co.uk

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Post The editor, Moneywise, 8 Devonshire Square, Office 03W112, London EC2M 4PL