While iBank 5 delivers more and better options for bank connectivity, we also introduced some confusion about how things work. So first, let’s note that we preserved and even improved the existing connection methods from version 4. If you’re satisfied with the way you were downloading transaction data before, iBank should work even better for you now — without any new or additional fees.
But we’ve augmented version 5 with Bill Pay and the optional subscription service Direct Access — two significantly new ways for iBank to interact with your bank. In this post, I want to review all of the different connectivity options to clarify any lingering questions and provide some deeper insight into how some of the technologies work.
Direct Download (OFX). This was a fundamental import method in iBank 4, and we continue to support it in iBank 5. In fact, we’ve made dramatic under-the-hood changes to our OFX engine to make it more reliable and robust. The only problem with Direct Download is that not every bank supports it — but if your bank does, it is a great way to bring in your data. After setting up an initial connection with your bank, your transactions will download automatically each time you press the Update button on iBank’s toolbar.
Bill pay is a feature we’ve added for iBank 5 that deserves mention here, because online Bill Pay works through Direct Download (OFX). Once again, not all banks support OFX Bill Pay, even some of those that do support OFX transaction downloads. Additionally, some banks may require you to enroll in OFX transactions downloads and OFX bill pay as two separate features (and some charge fees for either, or each). When customers contact us about connectivity issues with OFX, one of the most common issues is that the bank hasn’t enabled their accounts for this kind of connectivity. Usually a call to the bank will get it turned on.
Web Downloads. This is a slightly more laborious type of import, but it works with almost every bank and never entails fees. You may have used this method in version 4, but we also made improvements to it for iBank 5. The idea here is you log in to your bank’s website, either through iBank’s integrated browser or the browser of your choice, then navigate to your account and find the export/download options. You then download a QIF, OFX or CSV file of your current data and import it in to iBank. If you download the file through iBank’s integrated browser, iBank helps import those transactions automatically. If it comes from an outside browser, you import the new data via drag and drop to the dock icon or through File > Import… When you import the file, an assistant sheet will appear asking you to confirm which account to import it in to.
One of the nice new things about iBank 5 is that as long as you consistently import the same file type (QIF, for example), we screen out any duplicates. We do this by storing a “fingerprint” of the original imported transaction so if you try to import it again, we look at the “fingerprint” of the incoming transaction and make sure it doesn’t already exist. This means you can always just import “the last 30 days” or “this month” from your bank’s website and iBank won’t import any duplicates.
Direct Access. This is the connectivity option that we introduced in iBank for iPad, and have now brought over to the Mac. There’s no requirement that you use it, and for many users it will seem redundant. But let’s look at why some customers might opt to subscribe in order to download their data.
Once you set up accounts with Direct Access (DA), transactions download automatically when you press the Update button. This isn’t so different from using OFX, except that Direct Access connects with thousands more banks worldwide. So it’s especially useful if you’ve got many accounts that otherwise connect solely via web downloads, as well as for many non-U.S. iBank customers. Also, the service is available on iBank for iPad, so you can use it to download transactions on the go, sharing the same subscription with iBank 5 (your account is linked to your iBank ID). And DA-enabled account data syncs between iBank for Mac and iPad, so you can get updated transactions from either device.
Astute readers might wonder, if my bank charges for OFX downloads, but I want to use Direct Access, can I cancel my OFX service and just use Direct Access? The answer is yes! Some customers who’ve been paying bank fees find that DA has cut their monthly costs.
A side note: sometimes DA-enabled accounts make a connection and later appear in the sidebar with a ! in the middle of the cloud icon. This may occur because the DA server hasn’t learned all of the login information needed for your particular bank. For example, it might fail when it encounters a security question it doesn’t know. Once you enter the response, it is stored on our back-end provider’s secure servers and typically you won’t be asked again.
I hope this post offers a good summary of the various ways to import transactions in to iBank 5. I wanted to try and resolve any confusion customers might have, especially if you are upgrading from iBank 4. The bottom line for previous users: you can upgrade to iBank 5 and keep importing the way you always have. You don’t need to change anything, and no subscription is required to use iBank 5 successfully. But if you weren’t able to connect automatically to a bank before, it might be worth looking to see if it’s supported with Direct Access now.