Security is a major issue to consider in choosing personal finance sites. Issues to think about include where your account data is stored, how well it is protected and what sort of personal information you have to provide when you sign up. Most experts say that data stored on a company's server is actually more secure than if it were stored on a PC, especially since many owners tend to be lax about installing and updating security software on their home computers.
Companies that provide online financial management services offer data security and encryption that is equivalent to that of banks and other financial institutions. Because the user provides only an email address, zip code and password when signing up for the service, data remains anonymous -- no name or Social Security number is attached to the accounts that are stored on the server. Many companies contract out their automatic account aggregation service to a third party -- most to Yodlee, which also provides this service to major financial institutions (and has its own personal finance website). When a company uses an account aggregation vendor, its employees do not have access even to account numbers or data.
Still, some people balk at the idea of providing login information for all their accounts to a financial website. People with such concerns may be happier with desktop accounting software, or personal finance sites that do not require this information. Buxfer.com, for example, gives users the option to export account data from their financial institutions' websites, then upload it to their Buxfer.com account -- thus no need to provide your login information. Both Buxfer and Yodlee also offer automatic account aggregation as an option.
Reviewers say you should consider the following when selecting a personal finance site: