Online personal finance tools can show all your bank, investment, and loan accounts on one webpage and – soon – may provide Quicken-like budgeting power you can access anywhere. So where are they?
While existing online personal finance tools are mostly limited to bill paying, August 2006 research from Online Banking Report states “Banks and credit unions looking to bolster customer retention…are expected to adopt…key features in Microsoft Money and Intuit’s Quicken.”
Expect these suckers to start popping up like dandelions.
Until then, current online personal finance tools can’t compete with personal finance software (or even a good budget spreadsheet). But again, in five years we’ll wonder how we balanced our virtual checkbooks without them.
What Is Already Here?
Yodlee is my vote for top current provider of online personal finance tools. Yodlee serves several major-league clients including Fidelity, Wachovia, and Bank of America.
This weekend I was fiddling with my 401k and took a look at Fidelity Full View, powered by Yodlee. After about ten minutes of setup, Full View put all of my bank, investment, and loan accounts on one page and automatically tallied my net worth. Full View also let me view recent transactions in each account and summarized periodic account inflows and outflows. Full View can also provide previews of multiple e-mail accounts and electronic bill paying.
Setting up Full View was easy; I choose most of my accounts from Yodlee’s database of over 8,000 financial institutions (including my local credit union) and simply entered each username and password. Gaining access to my ING Direct account was the only tricky part. ING asked a barrage of security questions and locked me out until I omitted the comma from my birth city and state.
Full View is a convenient tool, and I will definitely return to get an instant net worth snapshot, but Full View lacks the Yodlee Personal Finance function that would enable expense tracking, budgeting, and account balance forecasting. I welcome comments from anybody that has tried these features.
If you’d like to use Yodlee applications yourself, you’ll need an account with one of Yodlee’s Clients.
BillQ is a free online bill reminder service from Seen Creative. Right now BillQ simply allows you to create a queue of your monthly bills so you don’t forget to pay them, but BillQ’s user interface is extraordinary. I will be keeping an eye on BillQ over the next couple of years. Should it evolve into a more advanced online personal finance tool with the same awesome usability, I’ll be sold.
What’s not to love?
It’s hard to pooh-pooh the idea of being able to manage myriad accounts, bills, and budgets from one webpage, but there’s a primary reason such sites don’t yet exist.
Of course, the idea of collecting every single one of your financial accounts in one location is scary. Identity thieves have proven they need far less than a few account numbers to clean somebody out.
I believe, however, online personal finance tools are simply the newest frontier for Internet security.
Ten years ago most people cringed at the thought of using a credit card online. Yet in 2005 we spent over $175 billion shopping online, paying almost exclusively with plastic.
Online-only banks like ING faced similar resistance. Critics of ING said nobody would trust sending funds to a bank they couldn’t see, yet ING Direct now has over 15 million customers.
As my experience accessing my ING Direct account through Fidelity Full View shows, however, ING has responded to security concerns with elaborate security measures; something that creators of online personal finance tools may have to mirror without becoming tedious. After all, with Quicken, Money, and Excel always available, convenience is the name of the game.
Sites providing online personal finance tools must prove that they can securely display and analyze more financial data more easily than our current systems. When they do, it will be an exciting day for personal finance nerds.
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