Free Online Finance Trackers

I’ve been toying some with our finances lately and I figure it’s about time I started tracking exactly where our money is going.  Most people use Quicken or MS Money for this, but as I run Linux those are out. I could maintain a spreadsheet, but I know I’ll never manually enter everything. And every time I try and use GNUCash, a baby kitten cries. KMyMoney is only marginally better. And neither of them support automatic downloads from my banks.

Enter the new wave of free, web-based personal finance trackers. Most of these sites contain back-ends which screen-scrape your bank’s website and log in periodically to download your account history. They give you charts and graphs of your transactions over time. Very useful information to have. They do NOT allow you to actually -do- any banking through them (i.e., no transfers or whatever). But they’re quite useful for tracking where your money is going.

My requirements are simple:

  • Free
  • Support for all my banks and credit cards, including my small credit union
  • Barring the above, support for OFX or QFX/QIF file uploads
  • Support for 401K, mortgage, student, and car loans a major plus

My findings so far have been mixed.

`Mint <>`__ Mint was the first tracker I tried. Mint has a very slick user interface, and has some really nice features. It also supported at least one of my 401K’s, and supposedly both my mortgages (one always said ‘Experiencing an error, try again later’). However, It didn’t support my main bank, a small federal credit union, and does NOT allow manual account creation and/or manual file history uploads of OFX/QIF files. Without support for my main bank, the site is pretty useless for me, as it won’t even see my paycheck every month. I filed a request to add my bank and my bank’s credit cards, but I was told it would probably be a while. I kept my account for a while but then deleted it.  If all your banks are supported, Mint is something you should try, but if not, steer clear.

`Quicken Online <>`__ Quicken Online I had high hopes for. It used to cost $2.99/month, but was supposed to be free starting in October.  But, when I went to sign up, it took me to a shopping card saying that the first 3 months were free, but then $2.99 a month after that. That’s bizarre, they are supposed to be free all the time. So I ‘removed’ the $2.99 from my cart, and it let me log in anyway. Not a good start.

Like Mint, there’s no way to open a ‘manual’ account and upload OFX files containing your history, so you’re stuck with whatever ‘they’ support. They supported my funky current 401K (through Administaff, Mint did not support this), but didn’t support my other normal 401K (American Funds, Mint did). They supported one of my mortgages, but not the other. But they DID support my credit union, it said so right in the list! Of course, when it tried to connect it gave me an error. I strongly suspect that their ‘script’ for my credit union hadn’t been updated in two years since my bank redid their website for greater security. Again, useless to me. I suspected much more from a site backed by Quicken.  Another bug report, and after three weeks of back and forth over email with tech support, I was able to log onto my credit union.

So now I have half my mortgages, half my 401Ks, and my main checking account. But they didn’t support my credit union’s credit card, which I use for most of my purchases. Finally, I gave up here too, and deleted my quicken online account.

`Yodlee MoneyCenter <>`__ Yodlee seemed promising, but, like the other two would not let you create a manual account and upload OFX files. It turns out that Mint actually uses Yodlee to do all their accounts, so all the non-supported accounts I had on Mint were still a problem with Yodlee. So, once again, I was forced to delete my account.

`Wesabe <>`__ Wesabe is very promising. Wesabe is the first site I used that supported creating your own accounts and manually uploading history; meaning that even if they didn’t support my credit union, I could download my history from the bank and upload it to Wesabe. Wonderful!. Not only that, it comes with a Firefox extension that will record a web macro of you going to your bank’s website and downloading your history, and will automatically run that in the background of your firefox instance periodically to “automatically” upload your account data. This way, your account and password are stored on your computer, not their servers. It’s frankly, brilliant. They also allow you to download ofx files of your account history.

I quickly got my accounts set up that were supported natively, and then manually created my credit union accounts for my checking, savings, and visa card. Most things worked great. There’s a glitch with my bank’s website which won’t allow the firefox plugin to work, but I can still manually upload the OFX files periodically. I went through and tagged all my transactions, and was instantly able to see where my money was going through the interactive flash chart.

The only downside is that Wesabe only supports savings, checking, and credit card accounts. There is no support for 401K accounts, mortgages, loans, or other types of accounts. By allowing checking and savings accounts, you can at least track payments to these other loan accounts, you just can’t keep track of overall balances.

Wesabe includes some slick little flash charts and graphs which you can customize to show where your money is going and when. The simple ‘earnings vs. spending’ chart shown right below your accounts gives you a good idea when you’re overspending, and why. There’s also a community aspect to Wesabe, with discussion groups about various financial matters, and offers from sponsors which may help you save more money.

Wesabe is the best site I’ve used, and the one I’m most likely to continue using. There is one more site I tried, however…

`Geezeo <>`__ Geezeo is also promising. Like Wesabe, it allows you to have manual accounts, making it actually useful to people with smaller banks. It also seems to support a much wider range of banks to begin with. Amazingly, it also supports 401K accounts, mortgages, and loans. It’s the only site I found which could handle all of my accounts plus all my wife’s accounts. Seeing them all collected in one place really drives home the point that maybe we should consolidate some of these things. Since it has access to all of my accounts, it can give an accurate portrayal of exactly how much debt we’re in with our mortgage and student loans. It ain’t pretty.

Like Wesabe, you can tag all your transactions, and it seems to to a fairly good job of keeping track of what’s going on. But there are no nice charts like there are on Wesabe, the lack of those made it easy to see where money is going. In fact, the charts and history seemed to randomly be limited to only 30 days previous, even though I could see account history all the way back to the beginning of the year. It also seemed to have some issues with my manual account, whereby it was dropping the ‘current balance’ I had put in when I created the account. It also doesn’t seem to recognise transfers nearly as well as Wesabe. Geezeo is also big into ‘communities’ like Wesabe, but I wasn’t all that impressed with either site’s community content yet.

Basically, I really love the fact that that I can finally see ALL of my accounts in one place, but the interface still needs a lot of work, and I kept getting the feeling that things just weren’t right on the site.

So, after the past few weeks of looking at these sites, I’m still fighting it out between Wasebe and Geezeo. If Geezeo can fix up their interface and provide some more powerful charting features like Wesabe does, then I’ll completely commit to it. But overall, I think I like Wesabe better. The experience is much deeper and more polished, and just seems to work better. I just wish Wesabe would add support for mortgage and loan accounts (and, to a lesser extent, 401Ks).

Anyone have any other experiences?

(Updated to fix minor typos on 11/2)