Amplify FCU’s MoneyTracker Features Personal RSS Feeds

When researching new mobile banking launches (see our earlier post here), we ran across one of the more innovative financial institutions in the country: Austin, TX-based Amplify Federal Credit Union <>, a $400 million asset institution with 40,000 members. The CU's tagline, Bank less. Live more. is right on target for the majority of financial consumers. 

It's possible that Amplify uses more of the ideas we've featured in Online Banking Report and NetBanker than any financial institution we've come across. For example, cafe branches with free WiFi, mobile banking (WAP), Web 2.0 look and feel, high-yield checking (up to 5.1% APY), online chat, fee-based ($5.95/mo) value-add checking account (Amplified checking) loaded with online and mainstream features, and a host of other services from college planning to eBay bidding (see menu here). One surprising omission: no blog.  

OBR Best of the Web
Link to Online Banking Report But our favorite feature, and winner of our fourth OBR Best of the Web 2007,* is Amplify's new personal finance management program, MoneyTracker. MoneyTracker uses natural language search so members used to Googling there way through the day will feel right at home. Instead of using slower drop-down search, a customer wanting to review recent Costco purchases simply enters "costco this year" in the search box.

The program was developed by Austin startup, Jwaala, which announced it in November. Amplify, which went live March 5 (press release here), is Jwaala's first installation.

MoneyTracker also includes an account aggregation engine so accounts at any financial institution can be tracked. And like eBay, it allows users to turn any search into an automatic alert with the option of receiving the information via email, SMS, or an RSS feed (see inset). As far as we know, Amplify is the first financial institution in the U.S., if not the world, to institute personal RSS feeds for its customers, and it is the basis for the Best of the Web designation.

Amplify posted a series of six videos (here) that do a great job explaining Money Tracker, an important part of gaining trial. The style, copywriting, on-screen talent, and staging, are among the best we've seen online.  

Amplify's Main MoneyTracker page (link here):

Amplify FCU landing page for Jwaala's MoneyTracker    


*OBR Best of the Web awards are given out occasionally for features that raise the bar in online financial services. It is NOT necessarily and endorsement of the company or its full product.

Is There Anything Left to Phish? Fake Wells Fargo Credit Card Authorization Notification

I hate phishing. Not only has it cost the world's financial institutions tens of millions in fraud losses, it's just about killed the email channel in terms of getting your customer's attention in a timely fashion, and it's diverted management's attention from much-needed online marketing improvements. That's much worse than the actual fraud losses. 

Like most people with widely published email addresses, I get a half-dozen phishing messages every day (note 1). I rarely give them a second look unless they purport to be from my bank. Almost all of them are placed in the junk folder by Outlook, one of the nicer services of Microsoft Office.

Phishers have to be much more creative these days. The time has past when a few paragraphs of broken English and the bank's logo could net the fraudsters a few extra coins. Now I get fake emails asking me to verify my security settings, authorize account changes, or claim a sweepstakes prize.

Wells Fargo credit card authorization phish CLICK TO ENLARGE For example, today I received a fake credit card authorization request from Wells Fargo (see inset). I'm not sure why it prompted a blog entry. Maybe because I use a Wells card or maybe because I've been talking to mobile banking execs about this very subject. But the fake was good enough to force me to take a closer look. The biggest clue is the wrong format for the USD charge, using a "comma" instead of a decimal point between the dollars and sense. But otherwise it's pretty good, and may even net a few card numbers before its taken down.

I am optimistic that email can still be effective if financial institutions clearly personalize their messages (see samples here and here). However, gaining customer trust back, especially for security-related messages, is a long-term project. That's why we are telling financial institutions to invest in RSS/XML feeds (Online Banking Report #135/136) and/or mobile banking (Online Banking Report #138/139) in order to reach their customers in a way that is less prone to fraud, at least for now.


1. A great online repository of phishing examples is housed at

2. There's a whole book on phishing, click on cover above to go to Amazon's description of the title.

Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU) Offers RSS Feeds from its Info Center (FAQs)

Every financial institution should offer feeds to its contents. It's an extremely low-cost way to reach out to the growing body of customers using feeds to track their favorite information sources (see previous NetBanker coverage here; for a detailed analysis and forecast, refer to our sister publication, Online Banking Report, Web 2.0, Feeds and Blogs for Financial Institutions #135/136).

One new approach is making your FAQs, knowledge base, or other self-service areas available via RSS feed. That way, customers interested in certain topic, say, "student loans," can stay abreast of any new information that becomes available.

One self-service solutions provider, Seattle-based Fuze Digital Solutions <> has imbedded RSS feeds into its platform allowing its credit union clients to make feeds available for specific topical areas such as credit cards or online services

You can see how it works at Washington State Employees Credit Union's <> Info Center, the first Fuze client to use the RSS option. Browsing the list of available topics, users are alerted to the feed option by the orange RSS button (see screenshot below). Clicking the button displays the feed URL that can be imported into a newsreader.

WSECU info center with RSS feed

How Bank of Montreal Puts an Orange RSS Feed Icon in the Browser Address Bar

Over at BankWatch (post here), Colin Henderson, who recently stepped down from his exec post at Bank of Montreal, wrote that his old company recently became the first bank to add an important line of code to their websites (see note 1).

Bank of Montreal RSS feed indicator in Internet Explorer IE 7 CLICK TO ENLARGE

The feature is called RSS Auto-Discovery, and it alerts Firefox, Safari, and IE 7.0 users to available feeds by placing an orange RSS feed indicator below the address bar (see IE 7 above) or on the right-hand side of the address bar (see Firefox, first, and Safari address bars below, source Soxiam).  

RSS Auto Discovery in the address bar

At Bank of Montreal, the icon shows on most pages, but NOT on the homepage. While Bank of Montreal may have been the first major bank to use RSS Auto Discovery, two Canadian credit unions had already implemented it, including:

  • North Shore Credit Union <> which has used it for 2 years
  • VanCity <> which began using it in November (see screenshot below)

Financial institutions are encouraged to add this code since there is no major downside (see note 2). However, it should not be the sole method for publicizing feeds. Most consumers have no idea what an RSS feed is, much less that they can add one by clicking on an orange icon by the address bar.

We like how VanCity has added the RSS feed icon to the right-hand navigation and also included an important link to an explanation of what an RSS feed is (see screenshot below).

In comparison, North Shore publicizes its feed only on the rates page. Although, it is certainly prominently displayed there (see screenshot below).

North Shore Credit Union RSS feed on rates page CLICK TO ENLARGE



  1. According to software engineer Peter Freitag (link here), it requires just a single line of code, plus a few attribute tweaks, to add RSS Auto-Discovery to your website.
  2. The only downside is a small amount of customer confusion on what the icon means. Banks should address this in its FAQs or Help screens and brief website tech support reps in how to answer customer queries.

billQ Uses Account-Specific RSS Feeds for Bill Payment notices

For the past few months, I've been more or less obsessed with RSS feeds (see our latest full report on the subject here). All of a sudden every information-delivery problem seems solvable with a feed.

And there is enormous potential for feeds in everyday banking which primarily involves simple information queries: What's my balance? Did my check clear? Was my mortgage paid? 

The first account-specific financial feed
I've been on the lookout for the first financial institution with account-specific feeds. That search continues, but a non-bank has been using feeds for bill-payment-status updates: previous OBR Best of the Web winner billQ <> (see previous coverage here).

The company has an "RSS Feed" option on its list of automated bill-payment-tracking mechanisms which also include an iCalendar subscription, an Apple OS X widget, or a toolbar applet (see screenshot below for billQ subscription options).

billQ bill subscription options CLICK TO ENLARGE

When using the RSS feed option, bills automatically appear in the user's newsreader software. Below is an example using the Newsgator Web-based reader:

Podcasts and RSS Feeds from City National Bank

We are starting to see RSS feeds used at public financial institutions, primarily to keep shareholders up-to-date on new filings and press releases.

Consumer feeds are still relatively rare, but are growing quickly. By this time next year, we predict as many as half of all major U.S. banks and credit unions will be producing feeds as part of their online marketing mix.*

One bank in front of the curve is Beverly Hills-based City National Bank <>. The bank has seven RSS feeds and three podcasts (see below). They've even added an RSS feed button on the bottom of most website pages (see End Notes). The podcasts are just read-throughs of the articles. That's OK, but the bank should let customers know not to bother subscribing to both. 

The newsfeeds are geared primarily towards business users (2 feeds) and shareholders (3 feeds), but there's also a Personal Finance feed and a Market Perspectives feed. The bank has published three Personal Finance articles so far: the first on Aug. 16; another two weeks later on Aug. 30; then, after a two-month hiatus, a third one today.

City National Bank RSS list

The bank is also podcasting more thoroughly than we've seen before, with not one but two monthly podcasts: personal finance and international business. The company also produces a weekly market perspectives podcast (see list below). Users can subscribe to the audio reports via a newsfeed (RSS) or directly into Apple's iTunes using the appropriate button.

City National Bank podcast listing

*Preliminary forecast. See the final forecast numbers in our upcoming report, Online Banking Report #135, Web 2.0-itizing your Bank (to be published in early November).

End Notes (click on link below for more screenshots)

City National homepage includes links to newsfeeds (lower left)
Note also: link to remote deposit capture service (mid-page)


RSS page loads whenever clicking on an RSS link from another City National page (see RSS button in lower-right corner)


City National podcast directory (note the integrated iTunes button)


Lower East Side Federal Credit Union to Embrace Web 2.0

According to Web-design firm Trabian <>, one of its clients, Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union <>, is redesigning its website to include many so-called Web 2.0 features including RSS, blogging, and integration with the photo-website Flickr and, a user-fed events calendar owned by Yahoo.


So far, the most common Web 2.0 feature is an RSS feed, since it requires minimal programming or repurposing of content. Just about any timely content posted online can be delivered directly to the user's browser or newsreader through RSS techniques. For example, in Uwcu_rssfeed_menuCanada, Vancouver's North Shore Credit Union <> now publishes rate updates through RSS (see above), and Madison, WI-based UW Credit Union <> offers 10 different feeds in its education area (see inset).

It's encouraging to see financial institutions begin to embrace newer collaborative technologies available online. We are not surprised to see credit unions lead the way. During the very early days, circa 1995/1996, many of the online pioneers were credit unions, notably Stanford FCU <> which posted account information online in 1994 and Boeing Employees Credit Union <>, which had the tenth largest online banking-user base in the world in early 1996.

While financial institutions still need to act like "grownups" on the Web (see note 1), younger banking customers in the "MySpace generation" (15- to 24-year olds) will grow up expecting certain things from the businesses they choose to patronize. For example:

  • Instant-messaging access to customer service
  • RSS feeds for service-related messages, such as holiday closures or systems maintenance
  • RSS feeds for bill reminders and other alerts
  • Open forums to post questions and review answers to others' questions
  • Aggregating content from other sites, including competitors'
  • A modern Web 2.0 design (see note 2)


  1. That's why we don't think it's such a great idea for financial institutions to post profiles on MySpace (e.g., Land of Lincoln Credit Union <>). To prospective customers over 30, it looks rather silly. To those under 30, I suspect it looks incredibly lame. 
  2. According to Seen Creative Group's <> Nick Adams, a Web 2.0 look includes "large fonts, lots of white space, and big shiny buttons."
  3. See also, Banking the MySpace Generation, (NB Mar. 16)

Communicating through RSS/XML feeds

Looking for an alternative to email for marketing and service communications?

Bank_of_montreal_newsfeedAs more users subscribe to RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) or XML feeds to automate the process of reading online news, blogs, and other information, they will expect their financial institution to support this communications technique.

Bmo_xmlfeeds_allThe only bank XML feed we’ve seen so far is Bank of Montreal, which publishes its Online Banking News as an XML feed. Bank of Montreal has published 15 items since the feed became available in early March, including interest rate changes, usage tips, and security warnings (click on the thumbnail left to see all 15 items published).

The bank pubicizes the feed on its online banking login page (see inset right). Bmo_feeds_link

According to the Pew Internet Project, only six million U.S. users were receiving RSS feeds in November, 2004, approximately 5% of total Internet users. Even if that number has doubled by now, it still a small minority of users.

However, now that Firefox and Apple’s Safari browser contain built-in RSS readers, it’s only a matter of time before Internet Explorer supports this feature. IE users can still use RSS feeds, but they must download a toolbar add-in such as Feed Scout (, use an aggregation site such as BlogLines (, or download a standalone newsreader such as Feed Demon ( 

Once newsreaders become incorporated in most browsers, we expect usage to skyrocket. Most ecommerce players are expected to published feeds to support customer service and sales. For example, Amazon already offers XML feeds in more than 100 categories, updating users on new items in everything from mystery books, to hip-hop CDs, and action-figure toys.

Banks looking to project a modern image might as well get ahead of the curve and start sending service messages via XML feeds in 2005. It’s a good way to get information out to users who no longer receive or trust your email messages. Producing an XML feed is a relatively inexpensive project with little downside. If resources are too tight, make sure you add it to your 2006 plan.

For more information:
Wikipedia definition
Walt Mossberg’s Personal Technology column (5/5/05 Wall Street Journal)