According to the guidelines for my personal finance app review for my Android phone and/or tablet, I’m basically looking for how the app and I “get along.” I’m not looking to “interface” with an app. I don’t want to have to go through even a 5-minute tutorial but want instead something that’s very intuitive. That said, what’s intuitive to me may not be to someone else, and vice-versa.
Here’s my review based on my previously-established criteria:
- Account Connectivity (x5): If the app can’t connect to my bank, credit union, lender or broker, there’s no point in the app taking up space on my mobile devices.
Since Check is now owned by the same company (Intuit) that owns Mint, I expected Check’s account connectivity to virtually mirror that of Mint. I have had not problem connecting to most of my bills (including insurance and utilities), my credit card accounts and my mortgage, but I figured I was going to be completely unsuccessful at accessing my main credit union account through Check. To my very pleasant surprise, Check has been able to access my main account on a fairly regular basis, in spite of perhaps having to click an extra link to address security issues. Congratulations, Check, on passing my most important criterion!5 out of 5!
- Stability (x5): Equally frustrating is an app that crashes regularly or predictably. If the app closes unexpectedly at some point during my mobile experience, it will receive a 2. If it crashes my phone or tablet, it’s a zero.
Both on my older phone and on my new Android, Check has been a paragon in app stability. Okay, so while it may not be the only very stable app in my review pool, it still earns the highest rating for its dependability.5 out of 5!
- Mobility (x5): This is, after all, a review of mobile apps, right? If the app is not fully mobile (i.e. it requires desktop activity to add account, adjust budgets, identify expenses, etc.), it’s going to get less than a 5 on my scale.
From account set up to bill pay, from expense tracking to viewing investment activity, it’s all available on the mobile platform. There’s really no need to even have desktop access, as far as I can see.5 out of 5!
- Multiplicity of Accounts (x4): If the app only connects with my bank or credit union checking and/or savings accounts, it will get a 2 or 3. I want an app that connects to my mortgage account as well as my small credit union checking account; that connects to my IRA account as easily as my bank’s saving account.No issues here. Check delivers information on all of my various types of financial accounts (cash, securities, utilities, travel, etc.) to one app.5 out of 5!
- Budgeting Tool (x4): As a budget and credit counselor, I can’t NOT require this in a mobile app I recommend. If the app doesn’t easily help me create a forecast of my income and expenses, it’s going to get a 3 or less. If the app requires that I input the budget, it’s going to definitely get a 2 if not a 1. I can enter expenses and income in a spreadsheet, but I want the app to do this for me.
I have been tempted to give Check a 0 out of 5 on this part of the review, since there is no “Budget” menu item anywhere to be found in the app. At first consideration, it seems more like an app just used to glance your balances and review your history. However, since many people – and myself included to a limited extent – would consider the bill notification service to be a type of informal budget, I think a mid-grade review seems appropriate. I look for the ability to set priorities and goals rather than just be reactionary to when bills are due. However, this service is better than nothing, and certainly better than what many households use (which is all too often nothing).3 out of 5!
- Security (x4): I’m not going to rate the level of technology (that’s beyond my expertise), I do want to rate the security’s intrusiveness and my level of comfort with it. If I have to enter a 15-digit pass code into my smart phone every time I want to use the app, well, let’s just say I’m not going to use the app. On the other extreme, if there’s not at least a four-number pass code to punch in, I’m going to be uncomfortable having my financial information on my mobile devices.I have been using this app for a couple of years now and am the epitome of metaphoric frog in the pot. Early on, I really would not have cared if someone saw my travel schedule (although I probably should have) back when the app was Pageonce. As Check has added access to bills and cash and investment accounts, it has added a security feature, but this feature is not required. I have, since doing this review, added the passcode lock to prevent anyone from accessing this app in case they’ve picked up my phone before the screen timed out. I believe, however, that such a security feature should be mandatory rather than optional, but that is arguably a personal preference.4 out of 5!
- Intuitiveness (x3): This is a mobile device, for goodness sake. If the app requires either a Ph.D. in computer programming or that I refer even ONCE to its help page or online manual, it’s getting a 1 or less at best from me.
Like many of the apps in this series of reviews, Check has its main menu down the left-hand side, where you can choose to view your cash accounts, your bills, your investments or your reports. Since Check places a heavy emphasis on paying bills, it’s important to keep in mind that the app is set up like a “file cabinet,” where each account’s information is “stored.” Although a rising generation may never use a physical filing cabinet in their life, the set up still works for me.5 out of 5!
- Expense Tracking (x3): Not to be confused with the budgeting tool, an expense tracking feature should tell me where I’m spending my money and how much I’m spending in general categories. To receive a 5, the app would have to determine automatically from my connected accounts how much I’m spending at restaurants and fast food joints, on entertainment and recreation, on utilities, on loans and credit, etc. If I have to enter the transactions myself and, gasp! categorize them myself as well, the app is getting a 1 or 0 in this category.
As per this section’s pre-requisites, Check does in fact automatically categorize the expenses it sees in my various accounts. However, the categories are limited to bills & utilities, credit cards, loans, insurance and other. To use this as much as I would like, and to be as helpful as it could be, I would want to see the expense categories to include groceries, gasoline, travel, dining, entertainment, and home improvement, to mention a few.4 out of 5!
- Extra (x1): At this time, anything beyond the above criteria is a bonus. And while I love bonuses, they are not the main course. If it comes with a free credit score, a breakdown of my investment portfolio, or an analysis of my daughter’s driving habits, that’s great, but not necessary. Still, I’ll give a few bonus points for any nice add-ons the app might have.
Since Check (Pageonce) started out as an app that would track your travel rewards and let you know about upcoming travel, it’s not surprising – though still nice – to have this services continue to be available. When I’m getting ready for a trip, it’s helpful to receive an email 24 hours in advance to remind me that it’s time to check in.Additionally, Check has a bill pay option that is, as I understand it, fairly simple and straightforward to use. As most of my accounts are paid automatically (okay, all of them), I didn’t try it out. However, I went through the process, right up to pressing, “Pay Now.” And I do receive Check’s emails that notify me when a bill is coming due. It’s a nice reminder. For those who want to pay any bill at just about any time, this is a great feature… and probably the driving factor behind Intuit’s acquisition of Check earlier this year.
5 out of 5!
Years ago, I downloaded Pageonce to my first Android smartphone. It kept track of a few passwords, particularly for travel accounts, helping me be prepared for my next business trip. It would list all upcoming travel with the name of the airline and/or hotel, along with dates and times. Over time, Pageonce added financial account access and, finally, a bill pay services. In mid-2013, Pageonce changed its name to Check. In mid-2014, Intuit acquired Check, salivating over the chance to add Check’s bill pay program to its own mighty arsenal.
Check is now a well-qualified money management tool available for free to all Android phone owners. For those who may not require as much control over their finances, accounts and expenses as I do, Check will make a great addition to their financial toolbox.
Have a great week!