I am a terrible budgeter. I usually don't have a clue where the money goes from my paycheck.
I know, I know, "Don't you work at a credit union? You should be an expert!" We all know that sometimes its hard to practice what you preach.
I'm disappointed to say that I didn't find a single one that truly serves my needs as a credit union member.
Getting into an account with Wesebe is initially very easy. The big draw for me was the community aspect of Wesebe. You can tag your transactions and Wesebe will match you with advice from other users on how to save money. It seems like a great system that could help me save a lot every month.
Wesebe also includes a pretty slick mobile interface to actively update your account from a web-enabled mobile phone.
Unfortunately I hit a huge snag when actually trying to upload my account from Maine State Credit Union.
First, MSCU was not listed as a supported financial institution. Fortunately Wesebe makes it easy to manually add your institution to the list.
Second, and this is where I hit a huge road block, MSCU (like many other financial institutions) provides e-statements in the form of a PDF file. Wesebe only supports several file formats associated with Quicken and Microsoft Money (OFX, QFX, QIF, and OFC).
I sent an email to customer support and received this answer:
"Unfortunately, we don't have a way yet to read .pdf files or to convert them into machine-readable form. This is certainly something we'd ideally like to have, but it may be difficult to achieve, since many banks add formatting and design elements that make the .pdf hard to parse."
They also offered to see if there was any way they could help set up the account, but at this point as a consumer I would have abandoned the attempt and moved on. I'll continue to try and get it set up so I can talk about it more in the future.
Next I moved on to Mint.
Mint seems awesome. The fact that it automatically updates the account by pulling transaction info nightly is great I think it is one of the big advantages Mint has over Wesebe (which requires manual upload of transactions). Though, Mint does not have a mobile version of its site available.
Mint also has some social aspects to it as well. It will match up "custom" advice based on your current spending habits. The only annoying thing I found was that it will also try to suggest moving your money to other financial institutions. As a consumer, I'd like to see a higher interest rate on my savings, but it seems a bit like they are pushing a product at me. Also, as an employee of a financial institution it worries me that they are suggesting members move their accounts away from the credit union.
Once again though, I hit an impasse when trying to establish a connection with my Maine State Credit Union account. With mint I wasn't even able to add my institution to the list. I had to send an email to the support staff and received a message back:
"Thank you for requesting that we add your financial institution or financial product to our list of financial institutions we support. As we have to work with our provider to add financial institutions to the system, we did want to advise that it may take time to get your financial institution added & that all requests are based on the frequency of requests we get for a particular institution (small, localized banks and credit unions may take longer). If we are able to add your bank to our system, we will attempt to contact you via email."
Once again, as a consumer I probably would have given up and moved on to look for a different solution. I'll continue to try and work with them and report back on the progress.
I found expensr while looking into this years Finovate Startup in San Fran. This program was the easiest set up of the group. Its as easy as signing up for an email account. It is a pretty basic finance tracking program though.
Expensr does allow you to upload a statement, similar to wesebe, but the upload screen is more difficult to navigate to. Also, the same file format issues arise. Fortunately Expensr make it easy to manually enter a starting balance and transactions. It is a bit of a chore to do everything manually, but at least it works.
Expensr also includes a tagging feature that allows you to easily see where your cash is going and how you compare to other users based on sex, age, and other demographical indicators. Unfortunately most of the information based on these tags is along the lines of interesting trivia like, "did you know that people in their thirties are the biggest spenders on housing?" Interesting, but not exactly something that's going to help me save money.
Expensr also includes a nice little mobile version to update the transactions from you phone. Which is pretty much a must for me.
The Bottom Line?
As a credit union member it is difficult to get the big guys to play. It is a struggle just to get Mint and Wesebe set up for a credit union. Expensr is easier to set up at the expense of some functionality and a community aspect that is slightly less robust than Wesebe or Mint. I'll continue to work with all three in an effort to get a real feeling for their programs and customer support.
If you are tired of buying expensive accounting software like Quicken or Microsoft Money, one of these could do the trick for free. Offering a money management solution (something like Digital Insights Personal FinanceWorks) with your home banking might just be a way to stand out amongst the competition and connect with your members's needs.