I've been banking online as long as I've been online. I've always avoided checks, preferring to do as much as I can electronically.
I used QuickBooks under DOS, and ComputerServe Finance under OS/2. Even though I took "Home Economics" in school - we were all required to learn how to balance a checkbook - it never made sense to me why I should have to reconcile how much I THINK I have with how much the Bank knows I have.
I used QuickBooks, then OFX (Open Financial eXchange - arguably the first public "Web Service," even though it's SGML and bailing-wire - and moved forward as new, better personal finance managers (PFM) came out.
I diligently have exported and imported, massaged and cajoled over 20 years (yes, twenty) of financial data from my first sole-proprietorship at 15 until today moving accounts and account data from bank to bank and from PFM to PFM.
To this day, I'm convinced that Microsoft Money 95 was brilliant, wonderful and before its time. It had a forward/backward browser like metaphor and was unapologetic about it. It wasn't trying to be like the MDI (Multiple Document Interface) "peer applications" of time. It focused on one thing and one thing only - to be a local register for all your money.
Then came the fancy stuff, and the advertising and upselling. I upgraded like clockwork. Oh! A new version of money! It must be 365 days better! I paid my $49.95, then got the Deluxe the next year for $79.95, then the super Deluxe Business Edition. It got slower and slower. Remember I've got Money files with data going back decades, plural. I tried culling the data, to include just the last 10, then 5, then 2 years. Still slow. Painting slow.
Accounts open and closed, banks changed account numbers, banks changed OFX servers, things broke. I got downloaded transaction data like "JITB#45,21312323423,$%@#$@ - $4.95" and wondered why my bank was swearing at me, rather than telling me I spent $4.95 at Jack In the Box on the corner of Walker and Jenkins then plotting it on a map.
Of course, this isn't all Money's fault, it's the banks, it's the data consortiums like OFX and IFX (disclosure, I was the OFX Vendor Committee Chairman for 2 years and I suck too. I could have done a LOT more.) and it's the back end systems.
Data's not pretty, and Money and Quicken are forced to create local rules to parse out the data they get from bank and the bill payment clearing house and built lists of rules of regular expressions to convert JITB#45 into "Jack In The Box."
Plus, if you don't log into your Money or Quicken for a few months, just try catching up and reconciling, especially if your bank only holds 90 days or less of account history.
I switched this year from Money 2006 to Quicken. Sadly, it's even worse. It paints unspeakably slowly, and in the 5 months I've been using it, it's updated itself at least three times, presumably in order to play well with Vista. Regardless, it's the same old story. Chasing data feeds in order to get my small mind around my smaller money. Even more, these OFX feeds that bring this data into Microsoft Money and Quicken may starting costing extra.
So, I stopped. I log into my bank's websites directly. I use their online tools, and they continue to get better, adding Ajaxy goodness, some powered by Corillian/CheckFree (my employer).
(By the way that's not a screenshot of my account...whoever that is did a lousy blurring job.)
I never thought I'd say it and I know Chris "Mr. Desktop App" Sells will disagree vehemently, but if I can get an application online, I'm more likely to use it, and use it often.
Sure, a lot, if not all, of the cool features of a site like Wesabe could be had via a connected local desktop application, but then there's all the updating and what not.
Maybe there's a space in the world for a Personal Finance Manager - a MoneyKiller or QuickenKiller - written in Adobe Apollo, Flash or Silverlight. Maybe online apps that manage money will get smarter with new Browser Plugins like Google Gears (once there's a security story). Either way, I don't think the future of my money involves a 350 megabyte CD-based installer.
Do you use Quicken, QuickBooks or Microsoft Money? Do you connect to your bank from inside those apps?
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.