I Switched from Mint.com to Pageonce. Maybe You Should Too.

2/22/13Follow @wroush

[Update: As of May 2013, Pageonce has officially changed the name of its app and service to Check.] For more than a decade, I was a faithful user of Quicken, Intuit’s desktop personal finance program. I stopped using it in 2008 after Mint.com came along, giving me the ability to monitor all my accounts from one simple, attractive, mobile-friendly app.

It wasn’t long before Intuit acquired Mint.com, so the company didn’t really lose me as a customer. And they still haven’t. Each spring, I use TurboTax to complete my federal and state tax returns. (The new iPad version of TurboTax works great, by the way—I finished my taxes in about two hours on Super Bowl Sunday.)

But I’ve now stopped using Mint.com as well, and I’ll tell you why: Pageonce came along, giving me the ability to monitor all my accounts from an even simpler, more mobile-friendly—and most importantly, more technically robust—app.

I sat down with Pageonce founder and CEO Guy Goldstein a few weeks ago to get the full story behind the Palo Alto, CA-based startup, which has 60 employees and has raised $25 million from Morgenthaler Ventures and Pitango Venture Capital. But before I tell you about the company, I want to say a little more about their app, and why I think it now outshines Mint.com in the usability department.

The great thing about Mint.com, when it first appeared in late 2007, was that it showed you all of your checking, savings, credit card, loan, and investment accounts in one place: the Mint.com website. Working with a financial data aggregator called Yodlee, Mint.com was able to grab updated account information automatically, every time you visited the site. It built on that data by alerting you about low balances, helping you track your spending by category, and showing you offers for lower-interest-rate credit cards and other financial products. Mint.com’s website and its iPhone app, which appeared in late 2008, were widely praised for their fresh, engaging design.

The trouble, for me, began about 18 months after the Intuit acquisition, when the Mint.com team decided to stop using Yodlee as their data provider and switch to Intuit’s own back end. The reasoning behind the change was understandable, but for users, it was a huge pain. I remember having to re-enter the usernames and passwords for all of my financial accounts. In several cases duplicate accounts showed up that I couldn’t figure out how to delete. As a result, Mint.com was telling me I had a lot more money than I actually had.

And after the switchover, the app never really seemed the same. Every time I logged in, there would be multiple “issues” requiring my attention—usually connections with bank or credit card accounts that had broken and needed to be manually repaired by reentering a password or secret answer. It was exhausting. I was spending more time fixing things in Mint.com than actually monitoring my finances.

I was ready to try any new finance app that could spare me these data-connection hassles. So when Rebecca Lynn at Morgenthaler Ventures told me about Pageonce, one of the companies in her portfolio, I was eager to check it out.

Pageonce overview screen on the iPhone

Pageonce overview screen on the iPhone

Pageonce works across multiple devices (the Web, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7 and 8, and Blackberry) and is exceedingly simple—or at least, the part users see is simple. You start by supplying Pageonce with the login credentials for your financial accounts and your regular household accounts, such as your cable, electric, gas, and wireless bills. The application then pulls all the updated balances together into a dashboard that summarizes your financial situation in one glance. It shows your total cash and investment account balances, the amount you owe on your credit cards, and alerts about things like large bank or credit transactions.

You can also dive deeper into each area, and check the balances of your individual checking, savings, and credit accounts. You can see which bills are coming up soon—and, even better, you can pay them from within the app. Pageonce shows the balance on investment accounts such as your 401(k) or IRA, and how your holdings break down within those accounts.

Finally, the application shows you financial offers tailored to your situation, such as credit card offers. Pageonce itself is free, so the lead-generation fees on these offers are how the company makes money. The startup also offers a credit score reporting service called Pageonce Credit Guard for $6.99 a month.

There are no fancy categorization or budgeting tools, though there is a very basic pie chart tool that compares your spending on utilities, insurance, interest, and the like. There’s also a cool feature called “File Cabinet” that stores copies of your past bank statements and utility bills. And that’s about it.

Goldstein, the Pageonce founder and CEO, says his philosophy about personal-finance apps is simple. “People are struggling with their money and they really need help,” he says. “We give them a solution to track everything and help them with their day-to-day finances,” so they can avoid late fees and other hazards.

And so far, consumers and mobile-industry observers are loving it. Some 8 million people have registered to use Pageonce. CNNMoney called it the “Cadillac of money management apps,” Apple named it a “Staff Favorite” app in November 2011, and the current version of the app gets five stars, on average, from reviewers in the iTunes App Store. That’s a much better showing than the latest version of Mint.com, which gets three stars.

The design of Pageonce isn’t as warm or inviting as that of Mint.com, but what’s far more important to me is that the data connections to my financial accounts seem rock solid. In my time using the app, I’ve only had to fiddle with the settings once, when one of my banks decided to make online users to set up a secret question as a supplement to its regular password.

I was curious about how this startup seemingly out of nowhere to challenge the industry leader—and how it overcame or sidestepped the data connection issues that plagued Mint.com. So I went to see Goldstein at the company’s austere Palo Alto office.

It turns out there’s a back story to Pageonce that helps to explain its smooth performance. A former fighter pilot in the Israeli air force, Goldstein long worked for Mercury Interactive, an Israel- and Silicon Valley-based maker of software testing tools that Hewlett-Packard acquired for $4.5 billion in 2006. One of Mercury’s specialties, Goldstein says, was running quality-assurance tests on Web-based software.

The only sure way to assess a constantly changing website, Goldstein says, was to have the test software ingest it the same way a human would—by “viewing” pages and “clicking” on controls as if it were surfing from a desktop browser. Today, the Pageonce back end works in a very similar way. That means it isn’t thrown off when a bank changes its website in a way that affects login procedures—which they do all too frequently. (Goldstein says this was likely the source of my headaches with Mint.com.)

Strangely enough, though, Pageonce didn’t start out as a financial app. The first version of the application, back in 2007, was a Web-based personal assistant that “aggregated everything about your life,” Goldstein says—travel reservations, rewards program points, itineraries, social media accounts, e-commerce accounts, e-mail, bills (hence the name Pageonce—you could save every Web page in your life and not have to find it again). “It worked extremely well,” Goldstein says, but ultimately the startup decided it couldn’t compete with all of the companies offering more siloed apps, such as Tripit in the travel market. And when customers wrote in asking for more features, it was always about the financial-tracking functions of the application.

So in 2010 the company rebuilt its whole system around Mint-style financial account tracking. Within a couple of years, responding to customer demand, it added bill payment—in fact, the company’s user base started to grow at a rapid clip only in early 2012, when Pageonce introduced a feature that lets users pay bills from the mobile app. Payment volume is now around $1 million per day and is growing 30 percent per month, Goldstein says.

Guy Goldstein, CEO of Pageonce

Guy Goldstein, CEO of Pageonce

The days when you’ll have to write a paper check to your pay your rent or your medical bills are about to end, Goldstein says. Consumers are getting used to the idea of conducting secure transactions on mobile devices, and now want the ability to manage their entire financial lives from their smartphones or tablets. “There’s a big shift in the market from what we call a biller-centric approach to a customer-centric approach,” Goldstein says.

You can already pay hundreds of national or regional billers such as your electric utility from within Pageonce. Just last week the company added a system called “Pay Anyone” that lets users transfer money to small local businesses. Say you want to pay your rent check via Pageonce. You give Pageonce your landlord’s e-mail address or cell phone number, and he gets an e-mail or text explaining how he can log on as a Pageonce biller and receive bank-to-bank payments electronically. (Payments provide a second way for the startup to make money: when users pay a bill via credit card, Pageonce collects a 4 percent fee.)

To a user like me, Pageonce’s main virtues are simplicity and reliability. But in an app that’s mainly about aggregating account data from hundreds of different sources, you can’t achieve either one of these without a lot of work, Goldstein says. In addition to the usual focus on scalability and security, he says, Pageonce had to solve three other more unconventional challenges.

The first, which I mentioned above, was the problem of building smart, adaptable connectors to scores of websites for different financial institutions. (Pageonce never used Yodlee, opting to build its own data interchange software.)

The second challenge was knowing how to handle and plan around the rules and exceptions imposed by different financial institutions. Bank A might only allow Pageonce to pull account data between 1 pm and 3 pm, for example, while Bank B might limit Pageonce’s queries to no more than 3,000 per hour. “There are all kinds of constraints,” Goldstein says. “The main difficulty around payments is not actually doing the payments—it’s managing the exceptions.”

Third and finally, there’s the task of monitoring the platform’s performance and responding to alerts. “The system isolates problems that need human interference and people go fix the system on a daily basis,” Goldstein says. “There’s a whole monitoring team, and that’s what they do all day.”

Pageonce was able to marshall its team’s experience in the quality assurance and testing sphere to build a robust financial-data aggregation application that stacks up strongly against Mint.com. But Goldstein doubts that anyone will come along from behind to try it a third time. “Most startups would not want to get into building a complete payment platform—it’s too expensive from a compliance perspective,” he says. “It takes a lot of deep thinking to make it very simple.”

I’m glad they’ve done that thinking. Nobody wants to spend their time worrying where their money is or when their bills are due. Pageonce has both the design sense and the back-end engineering chops to solve those problems.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://newsdex.net/taylor/ Chuck Taylor

    So how’s their security?

  • http://rturpin.wordpress.com/ Russell Turpin

    Despite their security promises, there’s something that scares me away from having one single username and password to access all my financial accounts. From a risk perspective, I think it’s a good idea to have a different password for my money market, and another for my IRA, and yet others for other bank and brokerage accounts. And a key hidden in the stump for the buried lockbox.

    I’d be more inclined to something like this if financial institutions allowed you to set two passwords on an account, one to gather financial information, and a second to make any changes, including transfers or other transactions. Alas, that requires changing the whole industry.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/san-francisco Wade Roush

    Russell, there is nothing about Pageonce that requires you to have a single username and password for all of your financial accounts. In fact, I think the expectation is that you’ll have different ones for every account; as part of the setup process, before Pageonce can communicate with your banks or other providers and show your various account balances, you have to enter them all separately into the app. If you ever lose your phone, you can go to the Pageonce website and deactivate that device to prevent others from accessing the data.

    I received the following comment about security directly from Pageonce:

    “At Pageonce, we take information security extremely seriously – in fact, nothing is more important to us. We provide 24/7 protection via bank-level security and fraud alerts. We are also monitored and verified by third-party security experts such as TRUSTe, McAfee, Hacker Safe and VeriSign. Pageonce is dedicated to providing you a great service, with the peace of mind that your account is safe and secure. Even more, if you lose your iPhone or iPad, simply log-in to the Pageonce website and deactivate access from your device(s). We have never had a security breach and we plan to keep it that way! In addition, we continue to enforce this by keeping pace with the newest methods of keeping data safe and secure, and check our own systems regularly by conducting ongoing security audits of our system.”

  • Jeff Mercer

    I use both mint and Pageonce, I too use both apps but like Pageonce much more. mint has not been the same since its startup.days.

  • Mark

    I wish I had been told about the fee BEFORE I had given all my bank information and was ready to press the button to pay my bill! What’s the story on THAT? Seems a little sneaky to me. I was directed to this through my utility’s site, so I thought I was dealing with them directly. I can see this fee putting a dent in a person’s wallet if they have a big bill or multiple bills…

    • FanofPageonce

      Because you didn’t read the information provided by Pageonce. It clearly states and even prompts you as the last final note/step before you hit, “paaaaaaaaaaay.” Truth be told, that is how I “almost” missed it, but it does clearly state it.

      Just sayin’

    • wiretap

      They put the service charge reminder at the end instead of the beginning of the process, in the hopes that you’ll pay it anyway since you’ve already spent the time to input all the data and set it up. Sneaky, but that’s an intentional sales tactic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.gibson.1840070 David Gibson

    You didn’t mention if you ever looked at the Yodlee consumer application or not. Did you take a look at that since Yodlee did a better job of interacting with the banks based on your early usage of the app? Just curious if that was an option for you and why or why not.

  • http://twitter.com/ChadCeb4 Chad Brown

    Name change to Check? Very common name and so search engines will have trouble. The good thing about Amazon was it was uncommon word. “Check” implies it is about checking accounts. Is it really that narrow?

  • Steve Joseph

    After reading your article I got really excited about trying it out. Fast forward to the entry of my “business” account credentials into the app where I’ve now received 4 failed attempts and no notifications or prompts as to whether this supports business accounts.

    This alone is where Mint beats check me.

  • cbrown

    Pageonce has caused me all the grief you experienced with Mint. At most only a half of my accounts are working at any one time. A long time ago it was a good program. Now they are just busy adding features and not maintaining their most loyal customers. It’s really almost worthless to me since my main bank account hasn’t updated in over a year and they don’t seem able or willing to fix it.

    • wiretap

      I’m having the exact same experience. I don’t really need check.me, but I thought I’d try it out. So far it’s been pretty disappointing, because check.me appears to be blocked from most providers (at least they are in my case – 5 out of 9 are blocked or broken).

  • mac

    msg to check: How about helping me migrate from mint to check instead of me having to give you all details that mint already has?

    • wiretap

      Mint has no interest or incentive to help check.me. Why, exactly, would Mint provide that information to a competitor?

  • Paul

    “Nobody wants to spend their time worrying where their money is or when their bills are due.”
    Certainly, this is an opinion you hold and not the case for everyone, especially for those individuals who must live paycheck to paycheck and where worry is a fact of life. NO app can remedy that!
    Nonetheless, I enjoyed your well written article. Thank you for helping me to decide between Mint and Check.

  • Peter Lakov

    I would also be very cautious of any site that asks you for
    the password of your bank accounts. And
    in particular if they save it for future use (as seems to be the case with
    Mint.com).

    Not because they will willingly do something evil (which I
    hope is very unlikely for Mint.com, given they are owned by a very trusted
    company such as Intuit), but because if their data gets hacked, both the
    username and the password will become available to the hacker which would allow
    them to empty your account.

    Here are more details on why I believe this is a big
    problem: http://lifeinsoftware.com/2013/07/14/mint-com-asks-the-unthinkable-my-bank-account-password/

  • wiretap

    PageOnce (now check.me) still has some issues. Out of the 9 accounts I tried to link, 5 failed due to internal problems at check.me, or because the service blocked check.me from accessing the data. That’s not a good success rate.

    All of the following currently don’t work (and haven’t the entire time I’ve had a check.me account, a few months now): USAA banking, Netflix, Lowes card, Home Depot card. Bank of America credit card currently doesn’t work, but it did in the past.

    As you can imagine, all the blocked services are important when tracking spending (minus Netflix). Check.me sounds like a good idea, but it’s not turning out that way.

  • Richard McCargar

    Thank you for that info, but as someone new to this, what concerns me more is that if I have a problem, my bank already warned me to not give out my password.

    If there is a problem, will banks be obligated to honor their guarantee against financial loss?

    if not, why would anyone risk this just for convenience?

    • ana

      Exactly. Reference comment above from Peter Lakov. I would have to weigh convenience vs security very very carefully before I provide my account info (retirement accounts in particular) to check.me or pageonce or mint, or whoever else. That’s my nest egg, and the biggest savings pot that has built up over many years. They can claim all they want about their robust security systems, but as everyone knows, security is a cat and mouse game, and occasionally the bad guys hack into any system….and there goes my pot of gold. No, thanks.

      • Richard McCargar

        Thanks. I’d already decided to avoid it completely. I checked with my bank, and giving away the password in this fashion violates my security agreement.

        They won’t protect against losses.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Richard. I didn’t even think of that! I guess I assumed that Intuit had that covered. No warning or anything. I knew it sounded too good to be true. If they offered insurance against losses for a small monthly fee I might be game, but I’m going to close my mint account right now

  • Slava

    I came across this article while searching for mint.com alternatives. I have used Mint from its start, and I always was somehow able to live with its many issues. With many users updating their budgets at the beginning of the new year, Mint went to crawl (as many times before) and this prompted me to finally look for something else.
    I signed up with Pageone, now check.me. Honestly, I expected much more than a bill paying app/service. I didn’t find anything related to budgeting. The system was able to pull transactions from my Bank of America and American Express just fine, but there was no way to mark which particular accounts to use. Under one on-lone ID, I also have an access to the checking accounts of my children, but I don’t want them show on check.me.
    I’m surprised that check.me folks invest so much effort and energy into the bill paying agenda and polishing access to various service provides. I have automatic bill payments set up with Comcast, T-Mobile, Vonage, local electricity, natural gas, and water companies, and, in my case, I could not find any value of the help that check.me offers.

  • Fletch

    I loved mint at the beginning ..still like charts but agree 100% that it is too much effort to keep connections going. I just signed up for check last night but hadn’t start the work to set it up but now I will.

  • Troy W

    You had me SOLD so I signed up and discovered it doesn’t connect to Canadian banks. :(

    • Reverberate

      Yep, that killed it for me as well. With both US/Canadian banking I need mint, but I’m probably going to just give up since my accts keep losing connections. Its to the point now that I have to ask the banks to help me reestablish my accts due to mint’s faulty attempts to access my banks :( Wish there was something REAL we can use. Having so many pwd’s is getting foolish!

  • hmkjr

    I am done with Mint.com for the same reasons, but I don’t see how switching to this app will help since there are no budget tracking tools. What am I missing? how can it be compared to Mint.com?

  • KB

    Well it looks like the idiots at Intuit are plannign to buy Check / PageOnce. That could be the death of a promising app. If yo ucould combine Check’s bill pay service with Mint register entry and category functions, that would be way more useful than the clunky Quicken. I think intuit figured that out quick.

  • jtoth55

    You can’t call this a personal finance management app when it doesn’t even handle budgeting, which IS managing your personal finances!! I’ll stick to mint.com, thank you…

  • Lynn

    Doesn’t work for Canada

  • ssgoku129

    I feel stressed enough handing my financial credentials to Intuit, let alone handing them all out again to some startup company that I have 0% trust for seeing as how they could just collect information over the next few years and just dissapear and legally they could do that no problem, especially with computer security being such a wildcard these days…. Feel like this entire article was written because Intuit dropped Yodlee (which has no competitors, except for Intuit now, how does that not make you feel safer?)… I wouldn’t be so anxious to get the “prettiest” financial application, just be glad Mint exists

  • KW

    Looks like Intuit has found the next Mint.com: Check.me #RIP Check? Per Check (former Pageone) website, service will not change (for now).
    http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_25843366/intuit-buys-palo-alto-startup-check-mobile-payments

  • Amali Heshan

    I like using Mint for short-term finances day-to-day, but I like to use Credit Sesame for longer-term finances, like preparing my credit score for home loans down the line…

  • CJ Sutton

    intuit owns check/pageonce now… so why do they even have multiple apps if it’s all the same company? lol

    • Ed

      Its more about killing off the competition than anything else in order for them to continue to survive!

  • Belinda Ghosheh

    @mintbills is such a horrible company! Shame on @Intuit for acquiring such a dishonest business!