Keeping track of your finances is hard enough in everyday life, never mind when you’re jumping between countries and currencies around the world. Travelers have a long list of expenses to keep track of and budgets to maintain while grappling with unfamiliar banknotes and complex exchange rates.
Enter Trail Wallet, the iOS budget and expense tracker designed specifically with travelers in mind. The app was built by two long-term travelers based on years of experience managing their own finances on the road. The app is only available for iOS and can be downloaded from the App Store.
The app is intuitive and easy to use, supports over 200 different currencies, and has been praised by users, news outlets, and bloggers for being well-suited to the needs of travelers.
So, how does Trail Wallet stack up, how does it work, and is it worth the small price of admission? We reviewed the first version many years ago, but there have been so many changes since then that it was time for another look. Here’s our review of the most recent update, its features, and how to use it.
If there’s any catch to Trail Wallet, it’s that it isn’t free. That said, if you’re the type of person who avoids paid apps, don’t be scared away just yet. Trail Wallet is available for a one-time cost of $4.99, for a beautiful, ad-free app with a long list of useful features.
If you’d like to take it out for a spin before putting your money down, you can download a trial version for free. All of the features are available, but the free version only gives you access to up to 25 entries.
That’s not nearly enough for a lengthy trip or long-term traveler, especially if you spread expenses like accommodation across each day of your trip. While testing out the free features of Trail Wallet, I was only able to add two budget entries before I hit the 25-item limit.
Once this appeared, I had no way of accessing the area to add or delete items without the popup reappearing. I’d added accommodation spread across a 4-week trip, so I believe it counted that one item as 30 entries—one for each day it was divided by.
This, of course, only reinforces that you’ll need to actually purchase the app to get the most out of it. On a trip, you don’t want to worry about trying to stay within those tight limits when it only costs a few bucks to remove them entirely.
How to Setup Trail Wallet
Setting up your trip only takes a few seconds. If it’s your first time using Trail Wallet, the app begins with a few friendly prompts to help familiarize you with the product.
Set Up a New Trip
Setting up a new trip is very straightforward, with just four steps:
- Enter the trip name.
- Set a start date and end date.
- Set your desired daily trip budget.
- Add each of the currencies you expect to use
And that’s it. If you need to edit any of your trip information later, you can do so by choosing Trips, Month View, and Edit This Trip.
Trail Wallet is super flexible here, letting you plan multiple different trips at once and set up a separate budget and trip duration for each one.
Trail Wallet Features
Trail Wallet can convert between over 200 currencies. You can search by the country name or the three-letter currency abbreviation: United States or USD, Canada or CAD, Germany or EUR, Albania or ALL.
When you set a currency, you’ll automatically see the exchange rate and inverse rate from your home currency, which is set when you first start using the app but can be changed at any time. Tap Get Latest Rate to update to the most recent exchange rate for the selected currency.
To add an expense, click the giant plus (+) button on your trip summary page. You can name the expense, choose which currency it was in, set a payment method and date, and choose a category. Default categories include accommodation, food, transportation, entertainment, and bribes, but these can be customized as needed.
In this section, you can also add your own personal tags and add a photo to help you remember each expense. This could be of the item itself, a receipt, or the smiling face of the street food vendor who just served you one of the best things you’ve ever eaten even though you have absolutely no idea what it was. Say for example.
Spread Expenses Across Multiple Days
When you add an expense, you can spread it across multiple days. This is useful for tracking large purchases like accommodation or passes that extend across several days. In the date section where you add an expense, simply choose the plus or minus buttons to add or remove additional days.
It’s a useful feature, but it can also get confusing if you want to go back and make changes to your expenses. Once you choose to spread an expense across multiple days, Trail Wallet breaks it up into that many separate expenses.
If you forgot to label an expense as “Accommodation” before you spread it across seven days of your trip, for instance, you would need to edit the category of all seven items individually. There’s no going back to the original expense before it was split unless you delete all of the entries and start again.
I recommend not splitting expenses across many days if you are just getting used to the app. Mistakes are easy enough to change, but it can get tedious if you need to do so for an expense split across a long period of time.
Trip Overview With Multiple Currencies
From the main page of your trip, you’ll see a summary of your trip expenses that includes:
- the name and date of your trip
- total spent so far
- total trip budget
- total budget remaining
- daily budget
- average spend per day
- number of days on trip
- % of budget spent
Your totals will be shown in your home currency, but you can quickly jump to one of your other currencies by tapping the page to cycle through each one you have set for this trip.
You have three options at the bottom of your summary page: charts, add new expenses, and view all expenses. Choosing charts, in the left corner, will show you an interactive pie chart of your trip spend.
This includes how much of your total budget each category is taking up. Think you’re eating too much pizza or overspending on fancy cocktails? This is where you’ll find out.
Work Without Wi-Fi
You can add and edit expenses freely without an internet connection, which is the perfect task for those long flights or train rides. You’ll need a Wi-Fi connection to update exchange rates or backup to iCloud, but most features work just fine offline.
Final Thoughts on Trail Wallet
Being designed for and by travelers sets Trail Wallet apart from other finance apps—it costs less than a snack at the airport, it’s easy to use, and you’ll have it set up in minutes.
The ability to smoothly enter expenses and convert currencies makes this a helpful companion for both long-term travelers and occasional vacationers, and the free trial lets you test out all of the features before committing to a purchase.
For the price, it certainly beats tracking costs on paper, using a spreadsheet, or calculating various exchange rates on your own. If you’re new to expense tracking or looking for an easy and effective way to digitize receipts and stick to your travel budget, Trail Wallet is definitely worth the download.
Main image via Christine Roy, other images from the Trail Wallet app.