Wesabe, Billeo Add Image Capture: Is it the Next Must-Have Online Banking Feature?

Link to WesabeThis past week, two Web-based personal finance firms, Wesabe and Billeo, have announced feature upgrades (Wesabe release here, Billeo here). One common thread: the ability to easily capture screen images of ecommerce transactions and file them for later reference (note 1).

Link to BilleoThe time-saving feature was added to Quicken several versions ago, but it's still not yet supported at any financial institution or credit card issuer (see Online Banking Report: Personal Finance Feature for Online Banking here). While it won't change the world, it sure eliminates one of life's little hassles, the decision each time you transact online as to whether you really should "print out this page for future reference" (and where to store the pesky printout if you do.)

How image capture works today:

  1. Pay a bill or purchase something online.
  2. At completion of the transaction, select "browser snapshot" from Wesabe's drop-down menu or "save & file" from Billeo's toolbar (see screenshots below). 
  3. The image of the transaction confirmation screen is stored within the personal finance area and is available for future reference should there be a problem with the transaction; since it's stored as an image file, it can easily be emailed to a disbelieving customer-service agent. Billeo includes a "forward" button in its vault to make it even easier.

How image capture can be enhanced in the future: 

  1. It will automate the transaction-reconciliation process, scraping data from the confirmation screen and automatically verifying that the transaction was processed against the user's bank or credit account properly. Billeo popup
  2. If not, an email/text alert will notify the end-user of the potential problem.
  3. A template could be provided for communicating with the merchant to rectify the problem.
  4. The scraped transaction data could also be run against a tagging engine to add very specific transaction tags, e.g., the purchase at Amazon could be split into x dollars for music, y dollars for housewares and z dollars for housewares.

Billeo's Screenshot Capture Feature
To save a screenshot of a payment confirmation, or anything else, users select the shopping button on the Billeo toolbar. That causes a popup to appear (see inset for closeup) where the user selects the bank/card account, enters a transaction description if desired, chooses a page type, selects the correct purchase amount from the values scraped from the screen, and edits the date paid if necessary.

Billeo popup provides users a method of capturing payment details along with the screenshot of the page

Billeo page/transaction capture

Page viewed later in the transaction records
Users can view the transaction and/or image file later in two Billeo areas: My Vault (not shown) and MyBills (below). Mousing over the paperclip launches a thumbnail of the page; clicking on it launches a full-size view of the page.

Wesabe's Screenshot Capture Feature

To save a screenshot, users click on the Wesabe button on the Firefox toolbar. A few seconds later, the screenshot loads (second screenshot below) and users choose whether to "upload to Wesabe" or "save to disk" or both. After the picture has been saved, the user closes the screen. In our test, save-to-disk worked as expected, and it was easy to retrieve the file through Windows Explorer. However, although the upload to Wesabe seemed to work, we couldn't figure out how to access the uploaded screenshots within our Wesabe account.

Closeup of Wesabe tool

Wesabe page capture tool 

Full screenshot of page after launching Wesabe screenshot uploader

Wesabe page capture


1. Billeo has supported page-capture since its 2005 launch, but it was not integrated into the payments-transaction register.

Online Card Receipts from American Express

Amex_print_options_boxDo you ever wonder why American Express, with fewer merchant outlets and higher prices, continues to command a 17% share of all U.S. debit and credit card volume (see note 1)?

Sure, the company’s powerful brand supported by vast and memorable advertising is a factor, but it’s also the product it delivers, optimized for business users and other big spenders. And the company never rests on its laurels. Even though I’m a light user, in 11 years of card ownership, I’ve received on average one card, letter, or email message every week, for a total of more than 500. The company does not let you forget about them.

Amex_printable_recieptAmerican Express also continually improves their product. For example, the latest innovation, announced in an email today (click on inset left), is a minor new twist in online delivery. Cardmembers can go online and easily print receipts, one page per transaction, to be used to match up with other paper records, invoices, expense-reimbursement requests, and the like.

Simple instructions in the email message explain how to use the new option, one of three choices in the Print Options box (see inset upper left) located in the upper-right corner of the main Summary of Accounts page, the default shown after login (click on screenshot below for a closeup of the Summary page).

Amex_print_options Will handy, printable receipts win American Express any awards? Hardly. It barely rates a bullet point in a brochure. But these little things all add up when cardmembers make the decision as to which piece of plastic to pull out of their wallet or purse. 


1. Market share of all purchase volume on MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express credit and debit cards during first half of 2005 (Source: The Nilson Report, Aug. 2005, #840)

Financial Institutions with the Longest Online Archives

In the most recent issue of Online Banking Report, we outlined an important competitive feature going forward: online archives.

We sampled 50 financial institution websites and found the longest archives as follows:

Statements – 24 months at The Whitney Bank
Transactions – 58 months at ING Direct (since inception of the bank)
Images – 84 months at E*Trade Bank

Frost_logoWe’ve just been alerted that Frost Bank has real-time statement archives dating back to 1997, a full 100 months and counting. That’s nearly 5 times the length of our previous front-runner, The Whitney. And effective July 17, Frost will also have 18 month image and transaction archives, double the average length of our sample banks.

Finally, if you sum the archive length across all 3 types, Frost’s 136 (11 + 18 + 18) is the clear winner. Runner-up is E*Trade at 126. No one else is higher than 70.

Keep those cards and letters coming. Email me if you know of anyone who has longer archives than those listed above.

P.S. Another one we got partially wrong: HSBC provides 24 months of archives for deposit products and 12 months for credit cards. We reported 12 months for all.


Intrust Pays $6 Per GB for Online Archives

If you are wondering how much it might cost to enable long-term or lifetime archives for your customers, here’s a data point from an article in today’s American Banker about the pros and cons of pooling image archives with other banks.

Intrust_logoIntrust says that it’s latest 5-terabyte upgrade cost just $30,000. Doing the math, that’s $6 per gig for approximately 5000 gigabytes of storage. Here’s the exact quotation attributed to Jim Simon, Intrust’s VP of operations:

Last summer (Intrust) put its entire (image) archive online as a result of a five-terabyte storage system upgrade that cost just $30,000.

At $6 per GB, storage space for online archives is already so inexpensive that it won’t be long (2 to 3 years) before real-time online access to 7+ years of image/statement history is the norm in banking; and by the end of the decade, we expect most financial institutions to offer lifetime archives.

So if you want to use lifetime archives as a point of differentiation, you better move fast. You only have a one- or two-year window before it’s just another me-too upgrade.

For more information:


Financial Data Archive Trends

Now that Google has doubled the free online storage for its Gmail users* to 2GB, you’d think banks would get with the program. There’s value in storing them bits. However, you are still lucky to get a year’s worth of data, and many places provide just 3 or 6 months (probably about 50k of data, if that).

In May, Online Banking Report will publish a report on the state-of-the art in online archives at financial institutions. You can get a sneak peek at the notes we’ve compiled so far by downloading this file (23-page Word doc):

Download statement_archive_study_for_obr_119.doc

Of the 100 or so banks and credit unions we’ve looked at, most hold data for less than one year. Here are the storage champs according to a quick look at the data:

  • Transaction data: 2 years — tie between Charter One Bank and Commerce Bancshares (Kansas City)
  • Estatements: 3 years — Bank of America
  • Check images: 5 years (according to customer service, 7 years according to its website) — E*Trade

We’ll scrub the data, summarize it, and explain the implications and opportunities next month.

Also I am looking for commentary on the subject. If you’ve got a comment on the pros, cons, or business case for online archives, send me an email.


*Google Gmail is still in beta, if anyone needs an "invite" to open an account, just drop me a note.

“My Spending Report” from Wells Fargo

2005 is off to an innovative start, first the launch of Billeo, a toolbar-based bill payment manager. Now, Wells Fargo puts a little sizzle into its online banking steak, with a preformatted spending report, ala Quicken, appropriately named, My Spending Report.

The bank's press release says its patent-pending, which we can only hope is a marketing gimmick.

Here's how the bank describes the service:

…combines spending transactions from a customer's check card, credit card, checking account and bill pay in one convenient place, accessed through a secured, online banking session and updated automatically each day. Electronic and bill payment transactions are organized by familiar categories such as gas/automotive, groceries, ATM withdrawals, etc.

We will see more and more innovations around data delivery as banks try to differentiate their online services and add value. The stream of banking data available online is begging to be organized, analyzed, flagged, and reported.

Quicken has been doing it for 20 years, but it's more appealing to many users, especially younger ones, to integrate personal financial management right into banking websites.

Slightly Off-Topic Rant
Despite a well-crafted press release, don't bother visiting Wells Fargo's website today to learn more about My Spending Report. Not only is there no homepage link, the site-search function contains no relevant links either. So much for integrating PR with your website.


If you'd like to learn more about the how personal finance functionality is penetrating online banking, check out Personal Finance Features for Online Banking: Why “My Spending Report” trumps free bill pay on the subject from our sister publication, the Online Banking Report.