Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Changed My Mind about Yodlee

After I had written about giving up on Yodlee in my post, So Long Yodlee, I received a comment from an apparent Yodlee representative. I also received another message from Yodlee's senior VP Peter Hazlehurst. Together, their comments expounding the benefits of Yodlee made me think that we were talking about two different products. Their messages mentioned the features of their Yodlee 8.0 platform.

Taking a step backward, Yodlee is an account aggregation service that polls different websites where you have online accounts. These accounts can be aggregated so that you can get a "big picture" look at your financial data. As someone with more than 20 accounts at several different financial institutions, I understand how this type of service can be useful. I mentioned before that I was using two different sites that were "powered by Yodlee". Specifically, these sites were MSN Money and Smith Barney's "My Accounts" feature. Due to problems that I experienced with these websites, I decided to give up trying to make Yodlee's Account Aggregation service work with my finances.

As I mentioned, comments I received on my earlier post got me to reconsider using Yodlee. It turns out that these aggregation services (MSN and Smith Barney) are different from the services offered by Yodlee directly. Intrigued I decided to establish an account directly with the Yodlee MoneyCenter rather than using the other two sites. The differences are like night and day. Let me go over each point that I mentioned in my previous post:

1) Not all banks participate in Yodlee. Countrywide Bank is now available on Yodlee. About three or four of my accounts are still not supported, and I would need to add them manually if I wanted to use Yodlee. According to Peter Hazlehurst, some credit unions use a technology called "CAPTCHA" which shows "squiggly" letters, and Yodlee doesn't support them. The term CAPTCHA is an acronym that means "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart". And, I have no idea what a Turing test is.

2) The security and "Secure Sign On" concerns are still there. This is a question of risk versus reward, and should be up to the individual user. How comfortable are you with storing your personal information online with Yodlee? While Yodlee's security is probably very good, if their security was ever compromised, fixing the problem would be a massive headache for its numerous users.

3) The duplicate account problems are taken care of with Yodlee Money Center. By contrast, if I use either MSN Money or Smith Barney, my duplicate accounts are double counted by Yodlee. As far as I know there is no way to eliminate this double counting in these third party applications. So, I have stopped using MSN Money and Smith Barney (Citigroup) for my account aggregation needs.

4) Similarly, extraneous accounts can be turned off in Yodlee MoneyCenter. But they cannot be turned off if I use MSN Money or Smith Barney. Before this change, I had a couple of accounts that I closed years ago, but are still associated with an existing bank login. These accounts would show up as extraneous zero balance accounts.

5) So things definitely work better with Yodlee 8.0 in MoneyCenter. However, I wouldn't consider all of my concerns to be fully resolved. To make a long story short, many of my issues were indeed corrected. But, there still are a few lingering problems. I think that one issue is how much effort one is willing to put in to make Yodlee work for a particular situation.

I will mention two features that I do find very useful in Yodlee are alerts and auto-login. The alerts feature allow you to set alerts if, for example, your account balance drops below a certain amount, or a very large transaction is processed. This feature can help in the early detection of fraud. The other feature I like is auto-login where Yodlee can automatically log you in to some (but not all) accounts with the click of a button. You don't need to remember or type your password. This, of course, makes it all the more important that you keep your Yodlee password secure.

Anyway, I now consider Yodlee to be satisfactory for my purposes. While I still use an Excel spreadsheet to periodically get a complete picture of my finances, Yodlee is a quick way to check on my account balances.