As I’ve mentioned before, I use Yodlee, an account aggregation service, to track all my numerous accounts on a daily basis. You give them all the logins and passwords of your individual financial accounts, and it logs into all the sites for you. In the end you have a real-time view of all your balances and recent transactions, all neatly on one page.
Of course, many people are rightfully afraid that this leads to one point of access. If somehow Yodlee is hacked, they get all your information instead of just that of one bank. This is true, but I look at it a little differently because I have a lot of accounts.
My analogy here is to imagine each bank account as a safe box. Having all your passwords separate means having a bunch of different safes spread around. Now, if someone cracks one of the safes, the rest should be safe. But if it’s a safe I don’t check very often, I may not know about it until my statement comes. By that time, a lot of damage may have been done.
Now if you use Yodlee, it’s like having the contents of those safes all in one big vault. If a thief broke into that vault, then they’d get access to everything. But, since I check Yodlee at least once a day, it’s like having someone check on that vault regularly to see if anyone has tampered with it. The thief would have a lot of passwords, but I can “sound the alarm” and work to limit the damage immediately.
This speed can also save me money, as the law under Regulation E caps my consumer liability at $50 for those who notify banks within two business days. Fraudulent charges on credit cards worry me less, as consumers are pretty well protected and all the companies I’ve dealt with work fast to fix the charges.
Finally, if you use the same login and password for all your accounts (you know who you are), then you might as well be using Yodlee anyways. If I were a hacker and got access to someone’s Citibank.com login and password, you can bet I’d go right over to PayPal.com and see if it worked there too. And then Bank of America. And so on.
Anyways, that’s why I use Yodlee. I’m not trying convert the non-believers, just wanted to share how I rationalized it. If I had less accounts, I probably woudn’t use it at all. But the convenience is just too compelling.
As a side note, I no longer use the Yodlee that is offered directly on their site. Their most recent version is clunky, slow, and well… crap. Various versions of Yodlee are licensed by many financial institutions, including Bank of America, HSBC, and Wachovia. I now use Bank of America’s My Portfolio in single-column mode and I’m happy once again.