Instead of signing into each of your financial accounts separately, you can try account aggregation: a service that consolidates information from many financial accounts in one convenient place. You'll find this feature in personal finance software such as Quicken or online financial tools and websites.
Benefits to Seeing All Accounts in One Place
Gathering all of your credit card, brokerage, checking, savings, loan, and other accounts, even if they're held across many financial institutions, together on one page can help you manage your money quickly and more efficiently. For example, knowing how much is in your checking account while at the same time seeing that you have an upcoming credit card bill or loan payment due means you'll be able to account for that payment without overdrawing your account. Seeing all your accounts together is convenient, especially with real-time transaction data at your fingertips.
As part of the aggregation, or clustering, of accounts, these software programs offer automated transaction downloads as well as the ability to see details for many different accounts on one screen, which is sometimes called your "dashboard."
The benefit of account aggregation is that you don't have to log in to several accounts to see an overview of your finances. You just need to access one software program, sign into one website, or open one app to view all of your financial accounts. You get a snapshot of all your balances, transactions, and related data in one place.
Chances are that you are already using account aggregation if you use online or desktop financial software that pulls in or downloads data from multiple accounts.
Where to Find Account Aggregation Services
Bank websites and some online brokerages, such as Schwab, offer account aggregation for the convenience of their customers .
Web-based personal finance offerings such as Mint, Mvelopes, and You Need a Budget help you see all your accounts in one place. Software companies such as iBank (Banktivity) partner with companies like Yodlee, which offer financial data aggregation services, to give their customers increased convenience. Even online tax software can provide account aggregation. Many iPhone and Android financial apps aggregate accounts, too.
What to Look for in Account Aggregation Software
When deciding between financial aggregation services, it's important that your chosen software can access a wide range of financial institutions so that all your accounts are included. Ideally, it'll be easy to use, and most importantly, it should be secure.
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 can register each of the accounts in an aggregation platform. This is done through a setup routine in which you specify where each financial account is held, along with the username or account number and password for each account, which grants the aggregator access to view the account details.
When you sign in to your software with your password, it uses the aggregation service to securely present login information and passwords to all of the individual financial institutions that hold your accounts. Data for your accounts are then downloaded, or "scraped," and presented to you in one place.
Security and Safety
Once you provide your secure login information to the software, an automated system collects the information in the same way that you would if you logged on yourself.
Account aggregation services only give the software permission to view your account balances and transactions, not make transactions. If you actually want to access your money or move it, you would need to sign in to each account's website.
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.
However, you should always take extreme care in providing your financial data to a third party, even one with top notch security credentials. Finra, the financial regulatory authority, warns consumers to be mindful of the risks of divulging personal and financial data to financial aggregators, and cautions people to understand the privacy terms and conditions of any service provider they may use.
Nonetheless, 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.