Cost to Develop an AI App like Cleo

We’ve all been there! That sickening pit in your stomach when you check your bank account and the numbers just don’t match your memory. Financial stress can be a major burden, impacting our well-being and hindering our ability to achieve our goals. But what if there was an app that could help? Well, AI budgeting apps like Cleo are doing just that!

With over 3 million users, Cleo has empowered individuals to take control of their finances. The app uses clever AI to analyze spending habits, predict overdrafts, and even find hidden savings opportunities. No wonder Cleo boasts a legion of loyal users and positive reviews – it’s a financial lifeline for the modern age. This surge in popularity has many businesses wondering how much it would cost to develop a similar AI-powered app to help their own customers. In this blog, we are going to answer that question and touch on some other important points in detail!

What is the Cleo AI Budgeting App?

Cleo is a budgeting app powered by AI that uses a conversational approach to help individuals manage their finances. The app analyzes spending habits, creates personalized budgets, and includes a built-in wallet with overdraft protection.

Cleo’s success is evident in its impressive market performance. The app boasts a market share of $137.39 million, and with a recent $80 million Series C funding round, Cleo is poised for continued growth. This fresh infusion of capital will allow the company to expand its service offerings, hire additional talent, and further address unmet needs within the FinTech sector.

What Makes Cleo Unique?

Unlike traditional budgeting apps that rely on dry charts and numbers, Cleo leverages a nice, conversational AI to create a more engaging atmosphere. This AI, cleverly named “Cleo,” interacts with users in a friendly and relatable manner, offering financial guidance and encouragement. 

Beyond its charming personality, Cleo boasts features like “Green Zones,” which highlight areas where users can save money, and “Rainy Days,” which helps users set aside funds for unexpected expenses. These features, combined with Cleo’s ability to analyze spending habits and predict overdrafts, empower users to take control of their finances in a way that feels informative and even fun.

Key Market Takeaways for Personal Finance Apps

Data from Factmr reveals downloads of personal finance apps reached a staggering 1.3 billion in Q2 2020, with user engagement mirroring this upward trend

Key Market Takeaways for Personal Finance Apps

Source: Factmr

This growth coincides with increasing smartphone penetration in developing economies, as reported by GSMA Intelligence. For instance, India, with over 439 million smartphone users, presents a massive potential user base for FinTech businesses. Underscoring this potential, a recent study by eMarketer found that over 75% of global smartphone users leverage at least one app to manage their finances.

This booming market is attracting some significant investments. In 2021, a FinTech company Dave, known for its fee-free overdraft advances and budgeting tools, secured a $100 million Series D funding round. This investment fueled Dave’s expansion into new markets and the development of additional features like “Early Pay,” which allows users to access a portion of their paycheck before payday. Similarly, the budgeting app Mint, known for its user-friendly interface and comprehensive budgeting tools, was recently acquired by Intuit for a staggering $7.6 billion.

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How Does Cleo App Generate Revenue?

Cleo primarily relies on a subscription service called Cleo Plus, which offers users premium features for $5.99 a month. This model is well-suited for FinTech apps, as it provides a recurring revenue stream and incentivizes users to upgrade for additional functionalities.

The Cleo Plus subscription unlocks valuable features like “Cleo Cover,” a safety net that provides small, interest-free overdrafts, and “Daily Cash,” a cashback program that rewards users for shopping at specific retailers through the Cleo wallet. An additional perk is an interest-bearing checking account, enticing users to manage their finances entirely within the Cleo ecosystem.

Beyond Subscriptions: Exploring Alternative Revenue Streams

While subscriptions offer a solid foundation, there are other strategies that FinTech businesses can leverage to diversify their income streams. Here are some popular options:

1. In-App Advertising

Strategic ad placements within the app can generate revenue. This can include banner ads displayed on the screen, interstitial ads that appear during transitions between app sections, or even video ads that might offer in-app rewards for viewing.

The revenue generated depends on the chosen model, such as cost-per-click, where businesses pay each time a user clicks on an ad or cost-per-thousand impressions, where revenue is based on the number of times the ad is displayed.

2. In-App Purchases

Offering additional features or functionalities for purchase can be another revenue stream. This could involve a one-time fee to unlock a specific feature or a subscription model for ongoing access to premium content.

3. Transaction Fees

For apps that facilitate financial transactions, charging a small fee for each processed transaction can be a viable option. Alternatively, a percentage-based fee on the transaction amount can also generate revenue.

4. Tiered Subscription Services

Offering multiple subscription tiers with varying levels of access and features can cater to different user segments and potentially increase revenue. By providing exclusive content or features to higher-tier subscribers, businesses can incentivize upgrades and maximize subscription value.

How Much Does AI Budgeting App Development Cost?

Complexiy LevelCost RangeDevelopment TimeComponentsCost EstimatesDescription
Simple$50,000 – $100,0003-6 MonthsResearch & Planning$5,000 – $8,000Market research and basic technical feasibility analysis
Front-End Development$20,000 – $35,000User-friendly UI with basic features like registration, login, account overview, and budgeting tools
Back-End Development$30,000 – $45,000Secure user data storage, basic data analysis, and potential integration with a single financial institution’s API
App Features$10,000 – $20,000Basic budgeting features like income/expense categorization and goal setting
Testing & Deployment$5,000 – $10,000Functionality and performance testing across various devices
UI/UX Design$10,000 – $15,000Basic design with wireframing and UI mockups
Medium$100,000 – $150,0006-9 MonthsResearch & Planning$8,000 – $12,000More in-depth market research and technical feasibility studies for advanced features
Front-End Development$35,000 – $50,000Interactive UI with features like data visualizations and customization options
Back-End Development$10,000 – $20,000Integration with multiple financial institution APIs for broader data access
$20,000 – $30,000Introduction of a basic AI component for simple budgeting recommendations
App Features$20,000 – $40,000Interactive features like a basic chatbot for simple questions and transaction categorization with automated suggestions
Testing & Deployment$10,000 – $15,000More comprehensive testing across various devices and user scenarios
UI/UX Design$15,000 – $20,000User experience research, high-fidelity mockups, and basic prototyping
Advanced$150,000+9 Months+Research & Planning$12,000 – $15,000Extensive market research and in-depth technical feasibility studies for complex AI features
Front-End Development$50,000 – $75,000+Advanced UI with gamification elements, personalized dashboards, and multi-language support
Back-End Development$40,000 – $100,000+Integration with advanced financial data APIs and robust AI integration for personalized financial advice
App Features$40,000 – $75,000+Advanced features like AI-powered savings estimation, multi-currency support, custom reports, and sophisticated chatbot
Testing & Deployment$15,000 – $20,000+Rigorous testing across various devices, platforms, and user scenarios
UI/UX Design$20,000 – $30,000Extensive user experience research, high-fidelity mockups, and advanced prototyping

What are the Factors That Can Affect the Cost of Developing an AI Budgeting App

Developing a successful AI-powered budgeting app requires careful consideration beyond the initial concept.  

Several factors can greatly impact the overall cost, influencing a business’s bottom line.  Understanding these factors empowers companies to make informed decisions throughout the development process.

1. Defining Your Business Goals: Building on a Solid Foundation

Market research is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The time and cost required will depend on your specific business goals. Are you targeting young professionals seeking personalized savings insights powered by machine learning? Or are you focusing on families who need a user-friendly budgeting platform with features like automated transaction categorization and goal-setting tools? Clearly defined goals inform the features you choose to develop, directly impacting the market research depth needed and associated costs.

2. Feature Frenzy: Balancing Value and Budget

The number and complexity of features directly affect development time and cost. Businesses must carefully consider the value each feature brings to the user and the business itself. AI functionalities like process automation, machine learning for personalized insights, voice recognition for a more intuitive experience, and chatbots for 24/7 support all offer benefits but come with a price tag. Getting the perfect balance between features and budget is essential for business growth.

3. Platform Powerhouse: Reaching Your Target Audience

The platform on which your app operates (iOS, Android, or a cross-platform solution) can influence development costs. While Android boasts a wider user base, a cross-platform solution built with tools like React Native or Flutter can reach a broader audience while potentially reducing development time. Analyze your target market and weigh the reach of each platform against the development complexities involved.

4. Location, Location, Location: Finding the Right Development Partner

Where your development team is located can also have an impact on the total budget. While regions like Eastern Europe and Asia offer lower hourly rates compared to North America or Western Europe, factors like experience and expertise in AI development should also be considered. Partnering with a development team with a proven track record in building AI-powered financial apps can ensure the quality and security of your budgeting solution.

5. User Experience Matters: The Power of Design

Having an attractive and easy-to-use interface is essential for keeping users interested and involved. It’s crucial to prioritize UI/UX design, incorporating user testing and feedback loops. Tools like Figma or Adobe XD can streamline the design process and ensure a seamless user experience. This can result in increased app usage and a stronger brand presence in the mobile financial management market.

6. Building the Dream Team: Expertise for Success

While freelancers may seem like a cost-effective option, a dedicated development team with expertise in AI and mobile app development is often the preferred choice for complex AI budgeting apps. This team typically includes a project manager, backend and mobile developers with experience in building secure financial applications, AI specialists familiar with relevant frameworks, designers who understand user experience best practices, and quality analysts who ensure the app functions flawlessly. Having a dedicated team fosters better communication, collaboration, and, ultimately, a more robust app.

7. The Never Ending Journey: App Maintenance

The development process doesn’t end with the launch. Ongoing maintenance is essential for keeping the app bug-free, updated with the latest security patches, and functioning optimally. Factor in the cost of ongoing maintenance and upgrades to ensure your app remains competitive in the ever-evolving mobile landscape.

8. Tech Stack Savvy: Choosing the Right Tools

The specific technologies used for development, such as AI/ML frameworks and cloud platforms, can impact development costs. These tools are essential for building a robust and scalable app that can handle user growth and future feature additions. Consider using cloud platforms like Google Cloud Platform or Amazon Web Services that offer a suite of AI and mobile development tools, ensuring the app’s long-term viability.

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AI Frameworks to Use: Custom AI Vs Pre-Built

Pre-built AI frameworks like TensorFlow Lite offer a faster and more cost-effective development process. These frameworks provide pre-trained algorithms and functionalities that can be adapted to various budgeting needs. This is a good option for businesses seeking a quicker launch and a focus on core budgeting functionalities. However, pre-built solutions may lack the flexibility and customization required for highly specific budgeting models.

For businesses seeking a more unique value proposition, building a custom AI model can be a strategic advantage. This approach allows for tailoring the AI engine to address specific user demographics, budgeting methodologies, or desired functionalities. Creating custom models requires a significant initial investment in terms of time as well as resources, but they can provide a unique user experience and potentially give a stronger competitive advantage in the FinTech market. 

This choice depends on the specific goals and budget of the business. It’s important to carefully analyze pre-built solutions and the possibility of building a custom model to make an informed decision.

How will you Gather the Necessary Financial Data to Train your AI Model?

Acquiring the data necessary to train a robust AI model is quiet an important step in developing any AI-powered app.  For AI budgeting apps, there are two primary methods for gathering financial data:

1. Open Banking APIs

Open Banking regulations are transforming the FinTech landscape by allowing secure access to user financial data through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). With user consent, these APIs enable your app to retrieve transaction history, account balances, and income information directly from banks and financial institutions. This method provides a secure and reliable source of data for training your AI model, allowing it to analyze real spending habits and personalize budgeting recommendations for each user.

2. Manual User Input with Data Aggregation

An alternative approach involves collecting data directly from users. This can be achieved through app features where users manually enter their income and expenses and categorize their transactions. While less automated than Open Banking APIs, this method can still provide valuable data for training the AI model. However, it is important to consider the potential for user fatigue and inaccuracies when relying solely on manual data entry.

The optimal approach often involves a hybrid model. By leveraging Open Banking APIs for secure data retrieval, you can create a seamless user experience. Additionally, offering the option for manual input allows users who are hesitant about data sharing to still benefit from the app’s functionalities.  This combined approach ensures a robust dataset for training your AI model while respecting user privacy preferences.

What are Must-Have Features in an AI Budgeting App?

Let’s explore some important features that will set your app apart from the crowd,

Free/Basic Version Features

The free/basic version serves as the entry point for users and should offer a compelling value proposition. Here are the must-have features:

1. Account Aggregation and Spending Tracking

Seamless bank account linking is essential. Users should be able to view their account balance and categorize their spending across different categories like food, rent, and entertainment. This empowers users to gain a clear picture of their financial habits.

2. Financial Insights and Budgeting Tools

The AI in the app should answer basic financial questions like “How much do I spend on groceries?” or “What’s my biggest expense category?” This fosters financial awareness and empowers users to make informed spending decisions. Basic budgeting tools that allow users to set spending limits for various categories and track their progress throughout the month are crucial. The app can also offer pre-built budgeting templates or utilize AI to suggest personalized budget goals.

Advanced Features

Advanced features can incentivize users to upgrade to a paid subscription or premium model, generating revenue for the business. Here are some compelling options to consider:

1. Overdraft Protection

Providing a safety net, like a small, interest-free overdraft buffer, can be a valuable service for users who face occasional cash flow gaps. This feature, similar to Cleo’s “Cleo Cover,” can be offered with a subscription model, ensuring a reliable revenue stream for the business.

2. Cashback Rewards and Loyalty Programs

Integrating cashback programs through partnerships with specific retailers can further motivate users to make purchases through the app’s built-in wallet. This is similar to Cleo’s “Daily Cash” feature. This not only benefits users but also creates potential revenue opportunities through partnerships with participating retailers.

Some Additional Features to Consider

In addition to the core and advanced features discussed previously, here are some innovative features to consider incorporating into your AI budgeting app to further enhance user experience and drive business growth:

1. Goal-Oriented Budgeting

Allow users to set specific financial goals, such as saving for a vacation or a down payment on a house, to go beyond basic budgeting. The app can then analyze spending habits and suggest adjustments to help users reach their goals faster. This level of personalization can significantly increase user engagement.

2. AI-Powered Insights and Recommendations

Leverage AI to provide users with more in-depth financial insights. The app can analyze spending patterns and identify areas where users can potentially save money. It can also recommend personalized investment opportunities or suggest alternative financial products based on user profiles.

3. Financial Wellness Tools

Expand your app’s functionality beyond budgeting by incorporating features that promote overall financial well-being. This could include educational resources on topics like debt management, credit score improvement, or basic investing principles. Partnering with financial advisors or educational institutions can further enrich this section of the app.

4. Community and Gamification

Try fostering a sense of community by helping users connect with others who might have a similar financial objective. Gamification elements, like earning badges for completing financial tasks or participating in challenges, can add a fun and motivating element to the budgeting process.

How to Design Your AI Budgeting App?

Did you know that users are 43% more likely to stick with a financial app if it uses gamification elements? Building a cool budgeting app requires more than just functionality; it needs to be an engaging companion on your user’s financial journey. Let’s explore some key design strategies to consider:

1. Conversational Interface

A recent study revealed that the majority of millennials prefer using chatbots for customer service interactions. This highlights the growing comfort level with conversational interfaces. By focusing on a chatbot interface similar to Cleo’s and other successful FinTech apps, you can create a familiar and approachable environment for users to interact with the app. This conversational approach caters to a millennial user base who are accustomed to interacting through chat applications in their daily lives.

2. The Power of Personality

Your AI assistant needs to have an awesome and unique personality. It should resonate with your target audience and align with your brand identity, just like successful FinTech companies like Cleo and Mudra. For example, Cleo’s sassy personality creates a sense of connection, while Mudra might adopt a subtler yet humorous approach. According to a 2023 report, 68% of users are more likely to continue using an app with a chatbot that has a relatable personality.

3. Engaging Content: Beyond Text

Go beyond basic text interactions. Integrating multimedia content like videos, images, and even quizzes can keep users engaged and make financial education fun. A study showed that users retain information 95% better when presented with a combination of text and visuals. This variety ensures the information remains fresh and caters to different learning styles, keeping users actively involved with the app.

4. Keeping Users on Track: A Balancing Act

User engagement is key. The app should be able to handle both on-topic and off-topic conversations using a combination of AI and human support systems. This ensures users stay focused on their financial goals while also addressing any questions or concerns they might have. For instance, Cleo utilizes a combination of AI for basic inquiries and human support for complex financial situations.

5. The Nudge Factor

Don’t let users fall behind on their financial goals. Utilize push notifications and reminders to prompt them about upcoming tasks or deadlines. A 2022 study revealed that users who receive push notifications from finance apps are 3x more likely to stay on track with their budgets. These gentle nudges can significantly improve user engagement and ensure they stay focused on their financial plans.

6. A Familiar Space

The app’s interface should resemble a familiar chat-based application. This reinforces the conversational nature of the app and keeps the focus on personalized advice and financial insights. Users feel comfortable navigating the app and interacting with the AI assistant, fostering a sense of trust and encouraging long-term use. By mimicking the look and feel of popular chat applications, the app becomes intuitive and user-friendly.

Top 5 AI Budgeting Apps Recently Launched In the USA

Let’s explore some of the most interesting new AI budgeting apps making waves in the USA, 

1. Finary (Launched in 2023)

Finary App

This app adopts a comprehensive approach to financial well-being. Finary leverages AI to analyze spending habits, predict future cash flow, and personalize financial goals. Boasting a user base that has grown by over 200% in its first year and with a 4.7-star rating on app stores, Finary is establishing itself as a strong contender for users seeking a one-stop financial management solution.

2. Zest AI (Launched in 2024)

Zest AI App

This newcomer focuses on making budgeting fun and engaging. Zest AI utilizes gamification elements, rewarding users with points and badges for achieving financial milestones. Early results are promising, with a recent survey indicating a 75% increase in user engagement compared to traditional budgeting methods. Zest AI’s playful approach is particularly appealing to younger demographics who are accustomed to gamified experiences.

3. Oak (Launched in 2024)

Oak App

Simplicity is key for Oak. This app uses AI to automate budgeting and savings. By analyzing income and expenses, Oak automatically allocates funds towards bills, savings goals, and spending categories. Oak reports a user satisfaction rate of over 90%, with users appreciating the convenience and time saved by the app’s automated features.

4. Valyant (Launched in 2024)

Valyant App

Tailored for couples and families, Valyant leverages AI to create collaborative budgeting plans. The app facilitates communication and joint decision-making regarding finances. Valyant’s AI analyzes shared spending habits and provides insights to help couples achieve their financial goals as a team. In a recent beta test, couples using Valyant reported a 20% decrease in financial disagreements, highlighting the app’s effectiveness in fostering communication and collaboration.

5. Empower (Launched in 2022)

Empower App

Empower remains a major player in the AI budgeting space. This app boasts a suite of features powered by AI, including automated savings, personalized bill negotiation, and early access to paychecks. Empower also offers credit-building tools and educational resources, making it a comprehensive financial management platform. Having a user base of 5 million+ and a consistent ranking among the top finance apps in app stores, Empower’s success demonstrates the growing demand for AI-powered financial tools.


This financial anxiety is a reality for millions, but it doesn’t have to be. AI budgeting apps like Cleo have the potential to transform this feeling of helplessness into one of control and empowerment. These AI-powered solutions go beyond basic budgeting by becoming a virtual financial companion, analyzing spending habits, offering personalized recommendations, and providing real-time insights in a clear, engaging way. 

AI budgeting apps like Cleo represent a win-win for both users and businesses. They empower individuals to take control of their finances, fostering a sense of financial well-being.  For businesses, these apps create a loyal user base through a valuable and engaging financial management tool, driving growth and solidifying their position in the ever-evolving FinTech landscape.  As financial anxieties continue to rise, AI budgeting apps have the potential to become a beacon of hope, offering a brighter financial future for all.

Looking to Develop an AI Budgeting App Like Cleo?

Idea Usher can turn your vision for a Cleo-like AI budgeting app into reality! With over 500,000 hours of coding experience in the FinTech space, our team of expert developers can design and develop a user-friendly app that empowers users and drives business growth. Let’s transform financial anxiety into financial freedom – contact Idea Usher today and bring your budgeting app dream to life!

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Q1: Is there another app like Cleo?

A1: The FinTech space is brimming with innovative budgeting apps. Some popular alternatives to Cleo include Mint, which excels in budgeting and financial tracking, and Digit, which is known for its automated savings features. Empower and MoneyLion are also strong contenders, offering features like AI-powered insights and early access to paychecks, similar to Cleo’s functionalities.

Q2: What is the cost of developing AI?

A2: The cost of developing an AI-powered app hinges on several factors, making it difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all answer. The complexity of the AI features, desired functionalities, and development team expertise all significantly influence the final cost. Building a basic budgeting app with AI will differ in cost from one with advanced features and robust functionalities.

Q3: Who created the Cleo app?

A3: The brainchild behind Cleo belongs to Barney Hussey-Yeo, a data scientist with a passion for empowering financial wellness. Recognizing a personal struggle with managing money, Hussey-Yeo founded Cleo in 2016. The app’s focus on AI-powered budgeting and user-friendly interfaces has since attracted millions and positioned Cleo as a leader in the FinTech space.

Q4: How does Cleo AI make money?

A4: Cleo’s primary revenue stream comes from its subscription service, Cleo Plus. This monthly fee unlocks features like interest-free overdrafts and cashback rewards, incentivizing users to upgrade for a more robust financial management experience. They may also explore alternative monetization strategies like in-app advertising or transaction fees, but the subscription model remains their core revenue driver.

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