How to choose the best receipt scanner and expense tracker

6 min read
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Financial literacy isn’t a buzzword. Yeah, it’s two words, actually. But that’s not the point. In the world where one wants to be successful, managing finances is inevitable. It doesn’t really matter who you are — a business owner, office worker, or creator — a reliable tool for managing expenses and bills should be in your pocket. Or, better, on your Mac.

In this article, we’ll talk about a paperless way of managing personal finances. First, everything paperless is trendy. Second, it simplifies your life and minimizes the chance you make a mistake in your accounting. Lastly, you’ll hardly ever lose a receipt if it’s digital. 

How to choose the best receipt scanner and tracker app

Paper receipts are like school copybooks. You understand you hate them. You hate they are everywhere — in your drawers, pockets, and bags. But you can’t get rid of them, because they might prove valuable at some point in the future. Still, paper accounting is unreliable. A receipt can be drowned, burned, or lost. A scanning app and expense tracker can do a much better job — it’s like instead of carrying copybooks around, you only need a phone or a computer. 

So how about getting you the best receipt saver? While receipt scanner software comes in many flavors, let’s first decide on the type of functionality we’re looking for. Here are the most common features: 

  • OCR functionality. Optical Character Recognition is the technology that allows converting images or handwritten text into machine-encoded text. Basically, it’s how you extract data from a scanned receipt. 

  • Duplicate detection. If you store multiple receipts in one spot, you want to be sure you don’t accidentally add the same bill twice. 

  • Simple import. You might store bills and receipts in different formats, so it’s important that your receipt app can process the import of each format equally fast. 

  • Search and filtering. Search receipts by date, amount, title, etc. If you use an expense tracker for business and have lots of docs stored on your device, it might be useful to put them into separate categories. 

  • Save to cloud. Clearly, bills and receipts are the type of sensitive information you want to keep protected. This is why we recommend to look into receipt scanners that support iCloud sync or enable you to save docs to any cloud-based account. 

  • Reminders. For sure, this is a nice-to-have. But since many receipt tracking apps have this functionality, it might be useful for you to know. You can set up notifications in your software for reminding when the next payment is due. Especially if you’re not using task managers — like Reminders, 2Do, or Taskheat — this feature can be quite useful. 

To help you choose what you need, we’ve reviewed some of the top-rated receipt organizers and trackers below. Under the descriptions, you’ll find the info about whether the tools support the aforementioned features. 

If you want the best scanner app for Mac

Receipts: Best OCR-based scanner

A winner in terms of quick and efficient receipt recognition. Receipts reads your docs — and, we must agree, it’s a pretty good reader. The app can extract key data like amount, date, and bank information instantly. And it doesn’t end there. Receipts enables you to add tax information, converts currency, and even supports the direct payment of invoices from the app. 

Import receipts

Another incredible fact about Receipts is that it learns the logic and quickly adapts to your workflow. Once it understands the types of docs you manage, the app will automatically assign receipts to categories and contacts. 

Price: $54.95 or $9.99 per month with the Setapp subscription. 

Chronicle: Best expense tracker and payment reminder 

If you’re more interested in expense tracking and paying bills in time, you should try Chronicle. This is a full-fledged finance management assistant. You can create bills in the app, set reminders, and always have a beautiful visualization of where your money goes. The app is available on iOS, too. Plus, it supports iCloud syncing, which eliminates the need to separately log data on every device. 

Expense tracking and paying bills reminder

Price: $19.99 or $9.99 per month with the Setapp subscription. 

Best mobile receipt scanners to track expenses  

Expensify for collaborative expense tracking

Expensify is a popular iOS and Android receipt scanner app that you can use to snap, save, and track bills. It’s majorly recognized for tracking an organization’s expenses. For instance, Expensify has an easy flow for sending receipts for approval and reimbursement. It’s especially useful for accountants and business owners who need a visibility over a company’s finances. 

It works for individual use as well — for instance, if you need to quickly snap a picture of a receipt and save it on your phone. 

Create expense in the app

Price: From $4.99 to $9 per month, depending on the functionality. 

Shoeboxed for accounting reports 

You can be your own accountant. Seriously. Shoeboxed is the best receipt app if the scope of your work is too small for hiring an actual accountant but too large for managing it all manually. It doesn’t have fancy features like self-learning and its UI is far from perfect. So the app is hardly a good choice if you need a solid receipt tracker for personal needs. However, it works perfectly well for preparing audit-ready reports on your organization’s expenses. 

Price: From $29 per month. 

Let’s briefly summarize all the features the mentioned tools have: 

Receipts(Mac) Chronicle(Mac and iOS)Expensify (iOS and Android) Shoeboxed(iOS and Android) 
OCR YesNoYesYes
Duplicate detection Yes NoYesNo
Self-learningYesNoNoNo
Simple import YesYesYesYes
Search and filtering YesYesYesYes
Saving to cloud NoYes NoNo
Set up reminders NoYesNoNo

How long to keep financial docs

If the question you’re interested in is not “where” to store financial docs but “for how long,” there’s no easy answer. Most resources will tell you to keep the receipts and accounting reports for 3 years. But there are many nuances involved. 

Prepare a secure spot for saving files

The first thing is to make sure the budget tracker you use has reliable local storage, or allows you to sync data to a cloud account. This way, your files will be safe throughout any period of time. For an extra layer of security, we recommend creating a backup of your drive — in case you store financial docs locally. Apple’s native Time Machine will work for the job. But it’s a better idea to create a bootable clone of your drive with Get Backup Pro — this will help you recover the files in case there’s an unexpected crash. 

If you accidentally delete financial documents, don’t panic. There’s a way to revive them with Disk Drill, a powerful data recovery app for Mac. We hope you don’t have to use it, but owning Disk Drill can be a life-saver, seriously. 

data recovery app

Documents you should keep forever 

Not under your bed. There are specific financial docs that you should always keep in a secure place. Just like your birth or marriage certificate. While most people keep physical copies of important files, digital storage can be a very useful backup plan. Here’s a list of everything you shouldn’t get rid of once you capture it with a tracker software: 

  • Mortgage payment records. Basically, anything that certifies you’ve paid off your mortgage on property or land shouldn’t go missing. Any of these documents can have a crucial impact once you need to transfer the ownership to someone else, in the matters of property sharing, etc. 
  • IRA contribution information. This one is not so obvious but should also be noted. Ensure you keep IRA contribution statements for any nondeductible contributions. This will help you certify you’ve paid your taxes. 
  • A will. If it’s a handwritten document, make sure you scan it with the best receipt scanner app that uses OCR. 

Depending on your job and activities, the other docs that you might want to keep indefinitely include equity and stock records, brokerage statements, insurance documents, debt payments, etc. 

Expense and receipt tracking deadlines 

Too much clutter is no good, though. A good spending tracker will handle it, but you’ll need extensive storage and great filtering features to keep all documents in. This is why it’s useful to know what documents can be removed and when. 

Documents that should be kept for 7 years 

  • Employment tax records (from 4 to 7 years, depending on the country)
  • Loss claims 
  • Unreported income > than 25% of your gross income
  • Tax refunds and credits. 

Documents that should be kept for 3 years 

  • Medical bills
  • Insurance policies that have been canceled 
  • Property sales records
  • IRS records on tax returns 
  • Credit card statements (if you need them for tax deductions). 

Documents that should be kept for 1 year

  • Any documents that you might need to use to dispute a transaction
  • Canceled checks and paycheck records
  • Bank statements. 

One year or three, the first step to financial security is getting a reliable receipt tracker. This will help you see a complete picture of where the money goes. So that you don’t have to feel a Lebowski ever again. 

Hopefully, this guide helped you pick the best solution for individual or business needs. Our personal favorites are Receipts for scanning on Mac and Chronicle for expenses tracking — both available on Setapp. If you need an easy-to-use receipt scanner app for iOS or Android, Expensify is clearly the winner. Among all the features you can get in a receipt scanning app, we can’t emphasize secure storage more. Because safety is the only side you should be on!

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