Aussie app to stop millennials spending


Following WeChat’s success in linking its messaging app to shopping and other services, U.S. tech companies such as Facebook are investing in adding new features to their chat apps. Photo: Getty.

The Aussie-made app Acorns is launching a robo-budget feature. Picture: ThinkStock

ARTIFICIAL intelligence will predict what you spend before it even leaves your wallet and will advise how much cash you’ll have at the end of the month in new Australian-made technology launched today (Tuesday).

The ‘robo-budget’ technology, to feature in controversial financial app Acorns, will also identify whether you’re splashing too much cash on entertainment, eating out, and shopping, and is designed for a millennial audience who often skimp on meals and cut back at the end of each pay cycle.

But its creators admit negative messages about excessive spending have not been welcomed by everyone testing the app.

Acorns chief executive George Lucas said the artificially intelligent budgeting feature was created to help users manage their personal finances with as little effort as possible, and was the first of its kind.

“A lot of expense-tracking apps in the past have asked you to create a budget but machine learning means you don’t need to do that,” he said.

“It can start giving tips to customers about ways they can adjust their spending automatically and make them aware of how they are spending money.”

The new My Finances feature scans and categorises all transactions in users’ bank and credit card accounts, breaking down spending into fields such as entertainment, transport, and accommodation, and using them to create monthly spending reports.

The Acorns AU app lets users invest their spare change, rounded up from transactions, in stock portfolios.

The Acorns AU app lets users invest their spare change, rounded up from transactions, in stock portfolios.Source:Supplied

Mr Lucas said the feature had an 85 per cent success rate in recognising the types of transactions in testing, though users would need to categorise some payments that had been wrongly tagged or weren’t immediately obvious, like regular direct debits.

“It will get better with time,” he said. “If you spend a bit of time categorising transactions, you’ll only have to do that once and the machine will start to learn.

“If everyone starts categorising the Royal Hotel as a bar rather than accommodation, for example, it will learn that it’s really a bar.”

Acorns revealed the new feature alongside a new study of 1000 Australian showing three out of four millennials cut back on spending while waiting for their next pay cycle, and more than half skimped on meals to eke out savings.

The new feature also comes just over a year after the Acorns app launched in Australia, and seven months after it accused the Commonwealth Bank of blocking its customers from accessing its services.

Despite the hurdle, the app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times.

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