Account Aggregators like Yodlee can be very useful for rate chasers who have many bank accounts. They can make it easy to monitor your bank accounts by automatically logging into them and displaying data for all of your bank accounts in one secure place. Last year I described my experience using Mint.com to track my bank accounts. The fundamental issue with using these account aggregators is that you’re disclosing all of your bank login info to one service. Even though these services keep your bank login info secure, nothing is 100% safe.
ING Direct has a good solution to this security concern. It’s called the Personal Finance Access Code. When you’re logged into your ING Direct account, you can create this Access Code, and this Access Code can be provided to Yodlee or other personal finance tools for read-only access to your ING Direct account. If someone hacks into the personal finance tool and steals your Access Code, they won’t have any ability to move money out of your account. If you think your Access Code has been stolen, you can log into your ING Direct account and create a new one.
It appears ING Direct has offered this Access Code for several months. I noticed the Access Code was being discussed at the Mint.com forum late last year. Many people reported problems in getting Mint.com to work with this Access Code. I guess ING Direct expects Mint.com and other services to have worked through these problems. So now ING Direct requires these services to use an Access Code. The reader shraz provided in the comments the following ING Direct email:
Starting May 25, 2011, you'll need an Access Code from us (along with your Customer Number or Saver ID) to pull your ING DIRECT info into any personal financial management tools (like Mint.com, Yodlee, etc.) that'll allow "read-only" access.
Here's how to create an Access Code:
1. Sign in to ingdirect.com with your Customer Number/Saver ID and PIN
2. Select the 'My Info' tab
3. In the 'Personal Finance Access Code' section, click on the 'Create Code' link
4. Click the 'Create Access Code' button
More details are listed at ING Direct’s Access Code FAQs.
In addition to eliminating the security risk, the read-only access code should make it easier for users to set up their bank accounts inside these personal finance tools. When I was setting up my bank accounts at Mint.com, the security questions and answers that most all banks require complicated the connect setup process. This read-only access code method should eliminate this issue.
With ING Direct, the largest US internet bank, now providing this read-only access code, hopefully, this will become the standard for all banks. I expect more banks will follow with their own read-only access code method. And hopefully, it won’t take too long. I would assume some other banks or credit unions already have this, but I’m not aware of any. If you know of any other banks with their own read-only access code, please leave a comment.