RBC Royal Bank’s myFinanceTracker Review

MyFinanceTracker demo screenshot

For some time now the RBC Royal Bank of Canada has offered an on-line, web-based personal finance application called myFinanceTracker. This is actually Yodlee presented through the RBC’s Online Banking web-site, with a bit of branding and curating. I’ve taken it for a test drive on a few occasions and have a bit of experience with it, Yodlee and Mint as well. Here’s what I think of myFinanceTracker so far…

Understanding your personal spending, income, and expenses is essential today. With so many ways to make and spend money it’s no longer as simple as cashing your paycheque and making sure you don’t run-out before your next pay-day.

Budgeting

On-line and off-line software help us see where the money is coming from, where it has to go, and where it ends up. Most of these applications do a basic job identifying your sources of income and then provide a simple aggregation of your historical spending. Predicting (i.e.: budgeting) is usually just done by copy & pasting your past spending into future periods.

MyFinanceTracker allows you set spending limits or goals in various categories but doesn’t help you save for specific bills or expenses. This is sometimes referred to as envelope budgeting – the principal of setting aside a portion of the required amount from each pay cheque so when the amount is due you have it; or setting aside a set amount and not spending in that category until you have enough money in the envelope to cover the full amount.

None of the software I’ve tried has this feature.

Yodlee’s Heritage

As I said, myFinanceTracker is based on Yodlee. Yodlee is a direct competitor to Mint except their focus is selling the service to financial institutions who then provide (or re-sell) it to their customers. There is a consumer version offered directly by Yodlee as well though. RBC has based their offering on Yodlee Production version but with the Classic dashboard – not the newer, more app-styled, dashboard.

They’ve also included the FinApps store, but they don’t offer any apps other than built-in ones that come from Yodlee.

What I’d like to see myFinanceTracker taking greater advantage of the Yodlee platform, rather than lagging behind and leaving users wanting what they know is available directly from Yodlee.

Terms of Service Violations

This one of the things that bugs me the most. If you read your Electronic Access Agreement or Terms of Service or essentially your contract from your financial institution it includes a clause that says “don’t share your password with anyone! EVER!” At the RBC that’s in Part B, Paragraph 15, it says:

You must always keep your Passwords and Personal Verification Questions strictly confidential. You must not disclose your Passwords or Personal Verification Questions to anyone.

Admittedly in the same section they say you can share your credentials with an aggregator (like Yodlee or Mint) but they make it clear they consider that on par with handing your credit card to street junkie!

Now hypocritically in Part C, Paragraph 5 of the same agreement they turn-around and expect you to hand over they keys to all your other financial accounts like we walk around with our PIN’s tatooed on our foreheads!

So basically they’re saying trust us, but don’t trust anyone else.

Data Sovereignty

This one’s so simple it really scares me! Yodlee is based in the USA. That’s where everything happens, and that’s where the RBC is sending all your financial data so it can be displayed as a nice animated pie-chart in myFinanceTracker.

Except our neighbours to the south have enacted a number of laws (or at least tried to) that make me uneasy. Not the least of which is the Patriot Act. But in general, the notion of shipping my financial information to another country where, by definition, I’m a foreigner who doesn’t have the same right as a national seems like a bad idea.

In Canada our banks are subject to Canadian privacy laws and the oversight of our provincial and federal regulators, and industry groups. Yodlee (or Mint) are under no obligation to observe any of these rules. And in-fact as a foreigner you have little to no recourse against them or the American government.

RBC must keep Canadian’s data in Canada where it is subject to Canadian jurisdiction.

Conclusion

So in the end, I’m very disappointed with RBC’s myFinanceTracker. The core features are rudimentary; the advanced features of Yodlee are not yet implemented and there’s no evidence they will be; they expect you to violate your contracts with your other financial providers; and they’re shipping all your financial data to the United States!

And it’s Flash-based! Adobe themselves have (essentially) killed Flash so I’m really not that interested in investing my time in something that’s not going to evolve – and certainly won’t ever make it to any mobile devices!

If there was some way for me to opt-out of myFinanceTracker I would. Until then though I refuse to use and would discourage anyone else from using it!

Cross-posted on Schultzter’s Blog

2 comments

  1. Its funny after reading your article I am disappointed with it (your article) more than finance tracker. I have used finance tracker for quite a few years and have my own complaints against it. However, that being said do I care if it is flash based NO. that would be like me getting on an airplane and asking who makes the engines. Who cares, does it do what I need it to do? That is the relevant question. It also would have been nice if you touched on some of the missing features. So things are missing but what?
    Re “violating terms of service” that has always impressed me as the legal department and the marketing department getting into a fight. For the record more often than not the marketing department is claiming the win because when legal gave it a super wedgie the elastic band in the marketing underwear didn’t break.

    Re the US issue I am going to look into this as I am curious. Time to head down to the bank and ask some poor teller some serious questions. and I guess since I am doing this the article was not a complete miss.

    always enjoy the reading keep up the overall good work

  2. Thanks for the comment brian.

    I’ve updated the post a bit, particularly the Yodlee Features (now Yodlee Heritage) section. Hopefully that makes my concerns more clear.

    As for Flash, you care because more and more people are ditching their desktops/laptops and doing everything with their smart phone or tablet – and the only one of those that still boasts Flash capability is RIM’s tablet!!! The latest version of Android no-longer supports Flash and Apple never did. So this Christmas when you by yourself a new tablet and you try to view myFinanceTracker on it you’ll be in for a disappointment! So then do you keep the old computer around just to use myFinanceTracker?!

    It’s like buying a round-the-world plane ticket and then finding out your plane’s engines don’t support flying over oceans!

    And don’t expect any teller to know where the data goes. I had to fight my way up the tech support chain until I got someone with an genuinely impressive title who had the definitive answer.

    Thanks again,