Guide to Account Aggregation
How to Consolidate and Manage Your Personal Finances
Account aggregation is a service that consolidates information from many financial accounts into one convenient place, such as a home page in online personal finance software. Account aggregation is one of the conveniences offered by online banking and online financial apps.
Quicken and other desktop financial software offer account aggregation with automated transaction downloads and the ability to configure the software to show details for a number of accounts on one screen. However, account aggregation is usually used in reference to Internet-based financial tools that show all credit card, brokerage, savings, and loan accounts held across many financial institutions on one web browser page.
The benefit of account aggregation is that you get a snapshot of all financial accounts while being able to easily retrieve account details, such as recent transactions, in one place. Using this feature, you open one software package on your computer or you log on to one website to see all financial accounts. It saves having to log in to several accounts to tally up a financial overview.
How to Set Up Account Aggregation
To set up account aggregation, you first need to have online banking relationships with the financial institutions that hold each of your accounts. Then, you register each of the accounts in your online or desktop financial software. This is done via a setup routine in which you specify where each financial account is held, along with the username or account number and password or PIN for each account, which grants the aggregator access to view the account details.
When you log into your software with your password, the software uses the aggregation service to securely present login information and passwords to all of the individual financial institutions that hold your accounts. Data for each account are then downloaded, or "scraped," making them all viewable by you in one glance.
Chances are that you are already using account aggregation if you use online financial software or desktop financial software that pulls in or downloads data from multiple accounts.
Where to Find Account Aggregation Services
Many bank websites and some online brokerages offer account aggregation for the convenience of their customers. The latest online personal finance offerings such as Mint, Mvelopes, and online tax software provide account aggregation. Yodlee, a well-known and respected account aggregation service, offers Yodlee MoneyCenter as an online personal finance tool. Many iPhone and Android financial apps aggregate accounts as well.
Is Account Aggregation Safe?
Account aggregation services only offer the software access to view account balances and transactions, via direct connections, not to make transactions. In order to do that, you would need to log on to each account's website. Once you provide your secure login information to the software, an automated system "scrapes" or collects the information in the same way that you would if you logged on yourself. Additionally, the software draws on many advanced security features. For example, if you are logging on from an unknown computer or device, additional authentication will likely be necessary.
Many people who take an active role in their own financial management look to aggregation account services for their convenience, ease of use, and security features. These services can save time without adding additional worry to managing your money.