Archive for October, 2007

New feature: discussion alerts

October 30, 2007

We’ve added a feature that a bunch of people have requested: email alerts for new posts in Wesabe Groups. If you want to keep up on a financial topic of interest, or you want to track a specific discussion, now you can do that by email (in addition to the RSS feeds we’ve always had).

You can subscribe to a group, such as the “Buying a House” group, by visiting the group page (while you’re signed in) and selecting, “Click to follow new discussions by email.” Each time a new topic is created, you’ll get an email with the full content of the initial post.

If you’re particularly interested in a discussion, go to that discussion page, like “Making Money Blogging” (while signed in) and select, “Click to follow new comments by email.” Every time a new comment is added to the discussion, you’ll get an email with the full text of the comment. One good use of this, in the “Make Wesabe Better” group, is to get updates when a particular feature you’re looking for is added or fixed on the site.

If you decide you don’t want to get either kind of alert, each email has a one-click link to unsubscribe.

Email alerts on discussion groups aren’t exactly Web 2.0 hotness. 🙂 But, they are useful for keeping track of financial topics you’re working on or trying to learn more about. Give them a try, and let us know how we can make them better.

Wheaties bookmarks for October 28th

October 28, 2007

Good reading for October 28th:

Firefox Uploader 1.1 released

October 24, 2007

We’re very happy to announce the 1.1 release of the Wesabe Firefox Uploader, our open source Firefox extension for Wesabe members. The Firefox Uploader makes it very easy for you to automatically get your financial information from your bank’s or credit card’s web site, and upload that data to Wesabe. (There’s a great introduction to the Firefox Uploader on YouTube.) The 1.1 release has a bunch of improvements and several great new features.

DashboardThe biggest new feature Tim added is the Wesabe dashboard, which gives you easy, immediate access to your account balances and latest transactions (across all of your accounts). This means you’re a click away from checking on your accounts and seeing where you stand. To bring up the dashboard, click on the Wesabe icon in the Firefox toolbar, and choose “Wesabe Dashboard.”

If you’d prefer not to have the dashboard available, you can disable account balances, recent transactions, or both by choosing “Options” and then “Dashboard.”

(For developers, the dashboard is a Wesabe API client. If you like what it does but would rather have that data available somewhere else, take a look at chrome/content/WesabeDashboard.js in the source for the code. The Firefox Uploader is open source and GPL‘d.)

There are also two major improvements for automated downloading. First, the Firefox Uploader recording system has several substantial upgrades, which make it possible to record downloads for many more banks. In particular, Citibank and ING Direct, both banks that were problematic before, now work with the Firefox Uploader. (ING Direct users, check out this post in Groups for tips on getting a successful download.) We’re adding support for more recording types over time, and we’re getting closer to 100% coverage for bank sites around the world.

Second, the performance of playback is dramatically faster. Tim spent a bunch of time on this, and it makes uploading less obtrusive and much easier to verify after recording. Try testing one of your recordings and you’ll see what I mean — what used to take several minutes to play back will now be completed in seconds.

Beyond these improvements, there are a bunch of fixes and usability improvements with the Firefox Uploader. Your username will be remembered after your first login (but if you’d prefer, you can disable this under “Options,” too). The toolbar button now fits better with different Firefox configurations. And several minor bugs have now been resolved.

Many Wesabe users have told us that the Firefox Uploader has made their experience of the site a huge amount better, and we’re thrilled that’s so. Keep sending in your suggestions and bug reports, and we’ll keep improving it. (And if you’re not a Firefox user, never fear, we’ve got a treat in the works for you, too….)

Wheaties bookmarks for October 11th

October 11, 2007

Good reading for October 11th:

Wesabe named as "Best of the Web" in Kiplinger's

October 10, 2007

Kiplinger'sKiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has named Wesabe as “Best of the Web” in its 2007 “Best of Everything” Awards:

Best Free Budgeting: Wesabe.com

Keep tabs on your expenses while you share your financial know-how with others and benefit from the group’s collective expertise. We like the site’s ease of use and emphasis on security.

Thanks much to Kiplinger’s for the honor!

Wheaties bookmarks for October 9th

October 9, 2007

Good reading for October 9th:

  • Banks scarier than criminals for many, survey finds – The Red Tape Chronicles – MSNBC.com – “A new survey indicates that many consumers are more worried about banks raiding their accounts than criminals. Consumers are five times more likely to switch banks because of hidden fees than security concerns…” Hmm, seems like a false comparison.
  • Wesabe: Spend Smarter: Working parents with daycare bills – Great thread on finances and childcare in Wesabe Groups. @seadeapea’s post is full of fantastic suggestions.
  • 10 Ways to Build the Habit of Saving Money — Get Rich Slowly – “What works in the long-term is understanding your spending habits. Once you understand, you can change by building new habits. That’s how you become a money saver.” Great post! This is how we’ve designed Wesabe — not for complete automation but instead for complete understanding.
  • Mrs. Micah: Finance and Life: Selling and Sucking your Soul: Ethics and Finance – “Recently, I had the chance to let payday loan people advertise on my site. […] All I could think of was ‘They earn their money by exploiting people.’ It’s like a guy who does child prostitution wanting you to do his taxes. Nope.” (via The Finance Buff)
  • 401(k) Loans: At Your Own Risk – WSJ.com – “Despite potential tax and investment consequences, more individuals have been borrowing from their 401(k) plans or taking hardship withdrawals in recent months, some retirement-plan providers say.” (via Ka-Blog)
  • Bankrate: Pay more, get more debit rewards – “Debit cards continue to be the card of choice for many consumers when it’s time to pay for purchases. […] perhaps consumers […] appreciate not receiving a fat credit card bill at the end of the month.” (via Payments News)
  • Making Sure Your Stores Guard the Data – WSJ.com – “…shoppers are pretty much left in the dark if they want to know if a store is keeping their credit-card and debit-card transactions secure. There are a few things savvy consumers can do to check up on a retailer’s security practices before practices before plunking down their plastic.”

Browser Snapshot saves me $29

October 8, 2007

SnapshotOne of the things you can do with the Wesabe Firefox Uploader is save receipts and confirmation pages directly in your browser, for any transaction you do online. We call this Browser Snapshot. This is a great way to keep track of what you spend with very minimal effort, and to keep receipts without having to waste or store paper copies.

Today I wound up calling on a Snapshot I’d saved, and it made me very happy to have the feature. I love USAA’s Deposit@Home service, which lets me deposit my checks from my house with a scanner, but unfortunately I had a problem with a recent deposit, and it wound up costing me $29 in an overdraft fee. I was paid on the last day of the month, and went home to deposit the check that night. It was after 11p Pacific time, but after midnight in San Antonio (where USAA is based), so the check wasn’t credited to my account until the first of the following month. I had a bill payment going out on the first, but it seemed like it would be fine (credited on the 1st and check sent on the 1st). But no — I later found the overdraft fee in my account, and saw that the check wasn’t really credited until several days later, after the weekend.

Fortunately, I’d saved the confirmation page with Browser Snapshot, and was able to tell them the confirmation number from that. “I can email a screenshot of the confirmation page to you,” I offered, but they went ahead and refunded the overdraft fee right away.

USAA

Again and again, I’ve saved money just by keeping copies of everything. I love that Snapshot makes it so easy to do that. I’ve been saving copies of everything, and it just takes a second. When I need it, the Snapshot is right on the transaction in my Wesabe account. This is the first time I’ve saved money directly with it, but I don’t think it will be the last.

Wheaties bookmarks for October 6th

October 6, 2007

Good reading for October 6th:

Credit Repair: Avoid "free"creditreport.com!

October 4, 2007

freecreditreport.comOne of the first things I wanted to do when I started down the path of repairing my credit score was to find out what my credit report is at each of the three major credit bureaus. Knowledge is power, right? I knew that a law had passed several years ago in the U.S. requiring the credit bureaus to give each consumer one free copy of their credit report a year.

One day while the television was on I saw an ad play for “freecreditreport.com.” Sounds like the free credit report mandated by law, but I knew that the credit reporting industry had been pretty unhappy about the law. Who would pay to advertise for a free report?

It turns out that the “freecreditreport.com” site (I’m deliberately not linking to it) is run by Experian, one of the the three credit bureaus, and it is NOT the site mandated by law to give you a free report. Instead, this site gives you one free report and has you sign up with it in the process. Unless you remember to cancel, your “free” report is followed by an automatic, for-pay subscription to a credit access service. Here’s the fine print (actually, the light-blue type on a dark-blue background) from their site:

fineprint

The “freecreditreport.com” site didn’t used to say that — apparently the Federal Trade Commission sued Experian and made them put this statement onto the home page as part of a settlement agreement. Even with it, though, they say that over 20 million Americans have signed up at their site. If you forget to cancel your membership, you’ll pay $142.45 for your first year of “free” credit reports. Ugh! Great deal for Experian, though — if one in ten of the people who’ve signed up were to stay on for that year, Experian would make almost $300 million from a site with “free” in its address.

By advertising this site so aggressively, they also overshadow the actual, truly-free site mandated by law:

www.annualcreditreport.com

I would strongly suggest that you stay completely away from “freecreditreport.com” and instead use the www.annualcreditreport.com site to get access to your credit information. If you want more advanced monitoring services, there are several options — including an excellent one from Experian — which I’ll review in future posts. But don’t be fooled into thinking that something is free when it isn’t.

Some other helpful links on this topic:

By the way, I’d like to compliment Google for the way they rank search results for the search “free credit report” — the first three results shown are the www.annualcreditreport.com site and two links to FTC sites with information on the two sites and what the differences are. The “freecreditreport.com” site ranks fourth in the results, which is great. Yahoo and MSN get close, ranking annualcreditreport.com first, but an Experian site second in both cases. This is an area where misleading search results can really harm consumers, and it’s great to see all three search engines — Google especially — make an effort to steer people in the right direction. (I’m not sure what went into the ordering of those results, but I’m happy with how it turned out.)

See the rest of our posts on Credit Repair.

Wheaties bookmarks for October 3rd

October 3, 2007

Good reading for October 3rd: