Monday, December 21, 2009

Yodlee: A Love/Hate Relationship

I have over 25 bank and brokerage accounts, and I use an account aggregation service called Yodlee to help keep track of them. Yodlee automatically polls different websites where you have online accounts. These accounts are then aggregated at the Yodlee MoneyCenter so that you can get a "big picture" look at your financial data. As someone with accounts at several different financial institutions and nearly 100 financial transactions a month, I find this type of service to be useful.

But over the years, I have developed a sort of a love/hate relationship with Yodlee because I have had various problems with the service. To be fair, many of the problems that I've had with Yodlee were temporary, and were more likely related to technical problems with the financial institutions' websites that Yodlee is trying to aggregate rather than with Yodlee itself. Several times a month, I receive an Email message with a subject like this: "Your Yodlee MoneyCenter Alert: Account Error".

In this example, Yodlee tells me that one or more accounts can't be updated because I have invalid login credentials (user name and/or password). However, I do not encounter any technical problems if I try to log into the financial institution's website manually, and the problem usually goes away by itself. I've found that oftentimes, Yodlee problems seem to clear up by themselves. Has anybody experienced similar technical problems with Yodlee?

Yodlee's customer service is fairly responsive. At one time, I even received a message from Yodlee's senior VP Peter Hazlehurst, who offered to help with my issues. Despite its problems, I consider Yodlee a necessary evil since I have so many accounts to keep track of. Although Yodlee is probably the best overall service to use for its intended purpose, I also keep a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that tracks the balances of all my accounts. However, I only update that spreadsheet once or twice a year.

Here are some of the downsides to Yodlee's service that are worth pointing out:
1) Not all banks participate in Yodlee. About three or four of my accounts are not supported, and I would need to add and update them manually if I wanted to track them in 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". I have no idea what a Turing test is.

2) Security and "Secure Sign On" concerns are valid points to consider. 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) From time to time, I notice that I am missing transactions, or get an incorrect balance in Yodlee. For example, Countrywide Bank was recently merged into Bank of America. As a result, the previous history with Countrywide was lost, and it looks like I got a big boost in my net worth when money magically appeared in my Bank of America accounts. This situation results in an inaccurate accounting of net worth, and it is frustrating since I have to make a mental note of which balances are incorrect.

4) Another extreme example relates to the conversion of Washington Mutual (WaMu) accounts to Chase. By contrast to the Bank of America case, I now have a history of duplicate transactions going all the way back to the beginning of 2008. If I follow it back, Yodlee thinks that at one point my balance was negative by about $60,000. (I hope not!) These transactions can be manually reconciled, but for me there would be over 500 records to go through.

5) In another case, I have a 401(k) account that is administer by JPMorgan. Earlier this year, this account stopped being supported by Yodlee. I believe this is due to something called Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) that JPMorgan has recently implemented. While MFA is meant to improve security, it also makes it impossible for this account to be aggregated. The balance shown for my account is frozen in time and does not update anymore. Again I could update the balance manually, but that would defeat the purpose of using an account aggregation service.

I will also 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.

In spite of its problems, I 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. Note a shortcut to the Yodlee Money Center appears in my blog sidebar.

See Also: Versus Yodlee



  1. Have you tried by any chance? I have been using it for a while now and love the interface.

    PS: Keep up the good work. I like reading your posts.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I have heard of and I've visited their website before. However, I never signed up for an account. Can you or anybody else tell me what the advantage and disadvantages of are versus Yodlee?

  3. Mint runs on Yodlee, it provides a pretty user interface on the front end but the backend is all Yodlee. Therefore you are still likely to get more features on Yodlee Money Center than on Mint.

  4. PFStock, can you check your data now? I think we've fixed most it for you.

    Let me know.

    Peter Hazlehurst
    SVP Products
    Yodlee Inc.

    ps... (yes, I'll still follow ur blog :))

  5. Peter Hazlehurst: The problems that I had with missing and duplicate transactions in my Bank of America and Chase accounts have been corrected. I also have not received any "Account Error" messages since December 10th. Thanks.

    The JP Morgan 401(k) account still does not update. I had assumed that this was due to the Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) that JPMorgan uses. But Chase bank accounts use a similar system, and they seem to update fine.

    Anyway, thank you again for your help.

  6. I found your thread via Google. Within the past two weeks, I've started to receive errors in MoneyCenter for my JPMorgan 401(k) account indicating that the site is no longer supported. Was your problem rectified? I, too, see it as defeating the purpose if JPMorgan is blocking Yodlee.

  7. In the end, my problem was rectified, but not by either JPMorgan or Yodlee. The firm that I worked for changed 401(k) providers from JPMorgan to Fidelity. I have not had any problem with aggregating my Fidelity accounts in Yodlee.

  8. Despite the hassles, it stills seems like an interesting service and I might check it out sometime!