What bank and/or credit card are best for implementing a 100% online, paperless, automated, personal finance system
September 11, 2007 9:06 AM   Subscribe

What bank and/or credit cards are best for implementing a 100% online, paperless, automated, personal finance system?

I want my entire personal finance system to be online, paperless, and automated. My bank is maddeningly archaic when it comes to online banking. It deletes transactions after 3 months so you can't download them and have to type them in, won't export automatically into Quicken without paying exorbitant extra fees, constantly sends me paper statements and other solicitations, uses cryptic identifiers for merchants so you can't actually identify where you bought anything, makes me 're-verify' my online access should I log in from a different computer, and basically seems stuck in the last century when it comes to the Internet.

I want to find a bank and/or credit card that:
1) let me download all my transactions, whenever I want, and never deletes them
2) keeps all statements online, in PDF format, forever.
3) automatically downloads into Quicken or another personal finance program, without incurring any extra fees, and without having to manually log into the site every time
4) does everything via email -- doesn't send me paper statements or tons of other crap
5) lets me set up automatic payments to anyone I choose, using whatever schedule I choose
6) sends account alerts and notices via email
7) uses understandable descriptions so you know what a transaction was

Has anyone found anything like this? Or is the entire banking system hopelessly behind the times?
posted by lsemel to Work & Money (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I use Chase for checking - i have paperless billing, I can automate payments to anyone (Chase mails a filled out check for me if electronic payment isn't directly available), etc. I'm not sure if they ever delete my transactions because I've only had them for a year.

I haven't tried connecting it to Quicken, but a quick google search reveals there is a monthly fee for that, so maybe you've looked into Chase already.

Pretty much everything else you want, Chase does... but they charge $9.95/mo for quicken so maybe it's not worth it to you.

Unrelated note since you didn't ask about savings: Chase's interest rate isn't so great on savings, so I have an HSBC Direct savings account, which I'm happy with.
posted by twiggy at 9:14 AM on September 11, 2007

I haven't used it, but I regular receive information about ING's Electric Orange checking account (I have an ING Savings Account) which is entirely electronic. I don't know if it allows you to download your data into Quicken though. YMMV.
posted by nekton at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2007

Wells Fargo exports transactions to Quicken, MS Money, or comma delimited format for the last 90 days for free, offers full PDF statements for the last 7 years, lets customers entirely opt out of paper statements, sends alerts and updates via email, uses easy to understand descriptions[1], will categorize your spending automatically into a "spending report" that you can then drill down into, and their bill pay service (which may or may not be free depending on the account) sends whatever to whomever whenever.

So not all banks are hopelessly behind the times, but they may not be up to the task of keeping data around indefinitely like you're hoping.

[1] - "CHECK CRD PURCHASE NETFLIX.COM" or "POS PURCHASE - SAFEWAY STORE SAFEWAY PORTLAND OR" along with the various codes for example.
posted by cmonkey at 9:35 AM on September 11, 2007

I don't know about some of the other stuff, but Bank of America's online banking is quite good. Not only do they encourage you to get email delivery of statements, but they offer "e-bills" from several major organizations (credit card, cable & cellphone, for me), which means the essential information about your bill comes right into online banking, allowing you to pay it in one click.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:37 AM on September 11, 2007

USAA does all of this, perhaps minus the understandable descriptions -- I believe those are generated by Mastercard and Visa. However, you have to have some sort of affiliation with the military to get access to it, either by being the child of a member, or having served yourself.
posted by cameldrv at 9:53 AM on September 11, 2007

FWIW, I have an MBNA/BoA Credit Card, and I loathe their online banking. We do checking thru E*Trade, and so far are happy. We transitioned to them away from NetBank (which was fine but I have my own reasons that are nothing to do with service for switching away from there). I don't know about necessarily every bullet point you've posted, but this is my previous question about generally the same subject.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:55 AM on September 11, 2007

Electric Orange insists that you keep a linked account -- they really discourage you from sending a physical check to them. Rather, they'd like you to send paper deposits to your linked account, then transfer the money over to them. A hassle in my opinion, but it reinforces their perception as an e-only bank.
posted by diastematic at 9:56 AM on September 11, 2007

USAA lets you scan a check and then send the scan to them as a deposit. In other words you can deposit a check from home.
posted by cda at 9:58 AM on September 11, 2007

I was hoping that USAA would be the answer, because for me, it always has been.

They do have entirely online banking that my parents rave about, but poking around the site a bit, it seems that they don't meet all of your criteria. The documents/statements are available in PDF , but they're not around all the time. You'd need to store them offsite after about a year. I can't tell if they let it download to Quicken, or whatever.

USAA is an entirely online bank, so it's really really good.

If you can join.
posted by Stewriffic at 10:04 AM on September 11, 2007

The [USAA] documents/statements are available in PDF , but they're not around all the time. You'd need to store them offsite after about a year.

Actually it's two years. The other benefit of USAA is that (if you are a full member) you can use them for things like mortgages, auto loans, auto insurance, home owners insurance, Life insurance, brokerage investment accounts, shopping discounts, etc.
posted by mattbucher at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2007

I'll Nrd suggesting USAA. You aren't going to find any "bank" that will keep your statements/information available forever though at this time. USAA will keep your information thru quicken / money for the last 6 months and the pdf's are stored for about 2 years.

So yeah about USAA, they let you deposit checks at home, free checking, free checks, pdf statements for everything, free bill pay, no ATM fees (like 5 times a month or something like that)

USAA will do everything you want except keep all your information available to you forever.

USAA is an entirely online bank, so it's really really good.

This isn't entirely true. They have one location in San Antonio at the main USAA complex.
posted by bigmusic at 10:17 AM on September 11, 2007

Why butter my buns and call me a biscuit! I didn't know they had a brick and mortar brach.

So yeah. Here's the repeat of me saying that USAA rocks. I've got my insurance and car loan through them.

posted by Stewriffic at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2007

posted by Stewriffic at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2007

I'll second Wells Fargo which has always been very ahead of the times. I know they were one of the first banks to offer online access to bank accounts and Wikipedia says they were actually the first.

Besides what cmonkey said above, you can also set up email/sms alerts for balance thresholds/when checks are cashed etc. You can view all checks online, make electronic payments (manual/recurring) and organize your spending.
posted by vacapinta at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2007

I recently switched to Etrade for all my banking needs and am extremely happy with it. All electronic, and their interface is fast and clear. Not sure about all the features you are requiring like exporting, but that should be easy to check.
posted by lohmannn at 10:59 AM on September 11, 2007

ING Direct is excellent; check them out. Their rates are also great!
posted by nkaujnom at 11:37 AM on September 11, 2007

USAA is good, although they don't force you to go electronic, and will send you paper until you opt-out. (Which is good for luddites like me who hate the e-statement stuff.) Their web interface is great and they interoperate with Quicken very smoothly.

I've also had a past relationship with NetBank, who as the name implies are an all-internet, no-physical-branches bank. In the mid/late-90s they were really ahead of their time, but they've stagnated a bit. Their web site is actually more primitive than USAA's. However, they would meet all of your qualifications and they do everything electronically. (In fact if you want paper they charge you exorbitantly.)

The only thing I think you're not going to get is meaningful transaction identifiers on your credit-card bills. Those are generated by Visa/MC and the bank has no control over them. The only system I've ever seen that's better is American Express's: Amex will (sometimes) break out certain transactions for you more precisely than the other cards. (In particular, at some restaurants you will get subtotals for "Food," "Beverage," and "Gratuity," on your statement. Some hotel rooms will break out the tax. Plane and train tickets will have the ticket number in the 'comment' field in Quicken. Etc.) This is only possible because Amex controls the network almost end-to-end. So if you want this, get an Amex card separate from your account, and then set up auto-debit payments for it from your checking (I wouldn't do this, ever, but it's your money and you said you wanted something automated...I want a human in-the-loop, writing a paper check, every month, personally).
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:23 PM on September 11, 2007

With electronic banking so prevalent now, you don't need to restrict your search to the big banks or online-only players. My local bank (Valley Community Bank) has a great interest rate (6.01% APY) if you get online statements, make at least one direct deposit and at least 15 debit card transactions per month (not ATM withdrawals). Although they have only local ATMs, they rebate any fees you pay to other banks' ATMs and don't charge any ATM fees when you use other machines. I can download my monthly statement as a PDF or to Quicken or Microsoft Money at no additional charge, and there's no additional cost for electronic bill pay. I don't know how long they keep PDF statements, but I always save a copy of each month's PDF locally anyway.
posted by Joleta at 12:30 PM on September 11, 2007

I have one recommendation and one to steer clear from:

I love Paytrust. It's an online bill pay service. My bills get sent to them, scanned in, and I get an email when I get a bill. It has great options for auto-pay when it's < $x. for example, if my cell phone bill is less that $40, it automatically gets paid 4 days before it's due. if it's more than $40, it notifies me and asks me what to do. a lot of banks offer billpay, but i like this because the bills don't even come to me and i can set it auto-pilot when i go vacation.br>
Steer clear from:
Capitol One. Great credit card, but they won't stop sending me paper stuff (balance transfer crap) despite repeated requests to stop.
posted by sharkfu at 5:32 PM on September 11, 2007

Oh, sorry to be so late to the party.

You probably won't see lifetime online statements; seven years is likely the best you'll get. And transaction history usually tops out at around one to two years. Other than that, all of what you're asking is really pretty common nowadays.

All of the banks mentioned here are good for online stuff. Some good ones not mentioned are Bank of America, Citibank, Huntington, and Key Bank.

I'll give an extra plug to Bank of America for "my portfolio" which is very helpful for tracking personal finances.
posted by phoenixy at 12:48 PM on October 9, 2007

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