Gone are the days of getting stuck with the check at restaurants — at least for those who use a bill-splitting app.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of these apps, which make divvying up expenses easy and can be used for more than just dining out. They can help friends split vacation costs or group gifts, or assist roommates in divvying up the grocery bill, for example. Most apps work for any phone and are free or cheap to download.
“They’ve been a huge benefit to the restaurant industry. It can get tense when customers start arguing over the check, debating who paid for what. So anything that helps make the servers’ lives a little easier at the register or table, I’m all for,” says Buddy Foy, Jr., owner of The Chateau On The Lake, in Bolton Landing, New York, and The Chateau Anna Maria, in Anna Maria Island, Florida.
Foy says that in recent years, bill-splitting apps have become pretty popular. Most people don’t use them, but Foy estimates that about 20% of his customers do.
So with that in mind, here are six of the most popular bill-splitting apps:
— Settle Up.
— Plates by Splitwise.
— Snap & Split Bill.
This app is free (although there’s a pro version for $2.99 a month or $29.99 a year), and it allows for splitting the cost of a bill among multiple people.
This app allows you to pay the establishment via PayPal or Venmo — and if someone pays with cash, no worries. You can record that cash payment so people know that part of the bill was paid.
Best feature: What if a friend doesn’t have the money for the restaurant bill right now? The app will track that person’s balance, so while one or several people may actually pay for the meal on the spot, the person who still owes money can view their balance and chip away at it or pay it all at once.
This app is pretty similar to Splitwise in ease of use. Settle Up can work well for groups of friends (no limit on how many friends) who are traveling together or an apartment full of roommates. The entire group can see their expenses and who has paid what — and who hasn’t paid their share of, say, the electric bill.
It’s free, although there is a premium version that costs $1.49 a month or $10.99 a year.
Best feature: If you’re eating at a restaurant, you have a pretty good idea of who ate what. But what if you’re splitting a cost where you have no idea what was spent? Maybe you and a group of people are splitting the cost of throwing a party, for instance, and your friend just went to the store and bought a bunch of supplies. With this app, you can share photos of receipts with the people you’re settling up with. If there’s a trust factor that you’re dealing with, it may help that the person who bought everything can show you a receipt and prove that they weren’t exaggerating how much something cost.
Plates by Splitwise
This is an app solely designed for eating at restaurants in a group — and it’s associated with the Splitwise app. You can use it to split the meal for up to 10 people.
Best feature: The nice thing about this app (which so far is only for iPhones) is that you can fix it for the people who want to split a restaurant bill evenly, but you can also manage it if some people in the group are ordering cocktails or appetizers and others aren’t chipping in for those.
The app Tab is especially good for splitting a bill at restaurants — especially among large groups.
Best feature: Generally, a bill-splitting app will help you tally up how much you owe for a meal, but you still have to deal with the hassle of paying for your meal.
Tab allows everyone to pay separately for their meal without making the server produce separate checks. You take a picture of the receipt, and the app reads the items (so nobody has to input the numbers of the order into the app). You then look at your phone and tap the items you ordered. You actually make your payment by using Venmo — which works in tandem with the app — and you can record any cash payments if someone wants to pay with cash.
Weird name, helpful app. Plus, you’ve got to love the tag line on the Splid website: “Split bills not friendships.”
This is a good bill-splitting app for groups of friends or family members who are traveling together. You can add all of the expenses that are piling up, and then split them among your fellow companions. What’s more, you can do this in more than 150 currencies. The app is free.
Best feature: You can pay more than one person. Let’s say that two people purchased different kinds of camping gear, but you’ve got six people on the trip. Well, the four remaining campers can then pay the two campers through the Splid app.
[Read: Best Budget Apps.]
Snap & Split Bill
This app is also free. You simply snap a photo of the receipt — from a restaurant or a grocery store, for example — and you can quickly divvy up the expenses and then share the bill.
Maybe there’s an item on the bill that you didn’t partake in — appetizers at a restaurant, for instance — the people who did partake can select that, and the people who didn’t won’t be charged.
Best feature: It may not be the best feature — that would simply be how the app works in general — but a unique feature is its receipt organizer, which can help if you use the app a lot and want to look back at your history of sharing expenses.
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Update 07/11/22: This article was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.