Mint: late-stage adversarial interoperability demonstrates what we had (and what we lost)

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Of course, adversarial interoperability can only go so far and do so much. You really need interoperability as standard, enforced by a consumer-friendly regulator.

Which brings us to a rather fitting postscript to this story:
In the EU and the UK, regulatory action has forced banks to open up customer data through standardised APIs, as part of PSD2


I don’t disagree with the commentary about adversarial interoperability, but …

Patzer was frustrated with the amount of manual work it took to track his finances with these tools, which at the time weren’t smart enough to automatically categorize “Chevron” under fuel or “Safeway” under groceries.

That seems like a misunderstanding of some sort.
This is the benefit of QuickFill, which existed since the earliest versions of Quicken. (I was an engineer on Quicken for Windows from 1994 to 2002.) I still use Quicken 2000, and it definitely has a couple different ways to set the default category based on the payee for people entering transactions by hand.

Patzer’s idea was to create a service that would take all your logins and passwords for all your bank, credit union, credit card, and brokerage accounts, and use these logins and passwords to automatically scrape your financial records, and categorize them to help you manage your personal finances.

For me, that eliminates the main value proposition for using personal finance software to begin with. Mint doesn’t download your financial records, it downloads your bank’s records. The joy of using something like Quicken is catching all the bank errors when you reconcile your records against the banks. It’s astounding how often they’re wrong. What I really want is automation for filling out the claim forms when the credit card charge doesn’t match your receipt.

Quicken was moving in this download-from-the-banks-with-OFX direction even before I left, which is the main reason I stopped upgrading with Quicken 2000 even though I worked on two subsequent releases. (Though the installer won’t run on newer versions of Windows, it’s pretty trivial to migrate Quicken 2000 to newer versions. I just upgraded to Windows 10, and Q2000 still runs like a champ.)

I use Mint. It has worked pretty well across the variety of accounts I have. But two-factor authentication, which a lot of banks are adopting now (for good reasons), has broken it. Its automatic retrieval capabilities can’t deal with the 2FA challenges that these banks present.

I wish there was more granularity in the branding of personal finance software. Personally, I’m not too interested in balancing my checkbook (or the equivalent for credit card transactions). I’m fine reconciling with my memory with a list of credit card transactions.

I thing I liked about Mint was budgeting and trends. For me it came around at a time when I was fresh out of college with student, car, and credit card debt. It also helped me see how much I budgeted for restaurants versus last month/year so I could clean up some bad habits. Tools like Quicken and MS Money seemed way too burdensome for those things.

For the past few years I’ve been looking out of the next thing. Mint has been too garbaged up with ads, goals never clicked for me, and I’m long out of debt and budgets are pretty consistent. I’ve tried YNAB a few times and that hasn’t clicked for me, either. Coming back to my first point, it’s hard to slough through all the personal finance software that’s just a digital double-entry bookkeeping or envelope budgeting or if it’s actually something different.

Some banks use special tokens for Mint-like services. I’ve started getting tired of the user-hostile features of most banks and moving to ones that are friendlier to the things I do (I hate multi-day ACH transfers years after “rolling out” same-day ACH). It’s been really annoying that a bank advertises their online bill-pay or budgeting service, but has no way to demo it until you sign up.

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Yeah, it’s always an excellent idea to hand over login and password for your bank account to a third party. WCGW?

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