Check lets you track your cash, keep an eye on investments and pay bills on time for free. Known as PageOnce in a previous life, it offers mobile apps and a website to keep an eye on your bank balances, pay utility bills, and integrate various other online accounts.
Billed as an upcoming rival to Mint, the popular budgeting service, Check’s main selling point is simple automation of your finances while keeping you totally informed. Of course, switching between finance software is no easy task as they can take ages to set up. So could the new and improved Check possibly be worth your time and effort?
Well, the company has just received $24 million in funding to expand its operations. Something tells me that how we keep track of our spending is about to change.
How Does Check Work?
The first thing to do when you sign up, is to link as many of your financial accounts to the website as possible. Bank accounts, utility bills, credit cards, and others such as eBay or Skype, are the essentials. This process can be tedious, particularly for the bank accounts. The extra login security levels require you to log in via Check and possibly give permission for access.
Virtually all US banks and utility companies are supported with a list of popular institutions here. For the rest of the world, support is unofficial and scattered. Trial and error is the only way to determine if things will work for you.
Once your accounts are set up, the Check homepage should present you with a brief overview of your financial situation. Transactions are backdated, so you can review your history right away. To the left are various filter options (investments, credit cards etc.) and along the top your ‘cash’ balance (bank accounts, PayPal, other immediately available funds etc.) is displayed.
Pay Your Bills On Time With Check
One of Check’s unique selling points is its management of your bills. If you sync your utility bills to Check, you will receive an automatic reminder to pay. You can choose to pay them within Check or by another means. Either way, your ‘balance due’ will be updated on your Check homepage.
Check’s notification system will also tell you how much in total you owe to utility companies and how much is due right away. I found this to be a great feature for juggling cash; something students and those short on funds will know all about.
When you pay a bill with Check, a payment receipt is sent to your email inbox.
Check also handles your credit cards in a pretty cool way. The ARP percentage and the minimum payment due is shown beneath each card, along with your outstanding balance. You can use this information to decide how much you should pay off that month.
Check For Your Smartphone
I mainly use the website for adding new accounts and fixing problems which arise. Most of the time, the mobile apps (available on iOS [No longer available] and Android [No longer available]) are fine for paying bills, checking balances and keeping an eye on things.
When you sign in , all of your bank accounts and utility companies sync to your phone straight away. If any require a second log in, that can be done directly from your device.
Much like the website, the home screen offers a crude balance sheet of your finances. You can take a closer look at your bills and choose to pay them immediately or schedule a payment for the future.
Once you have paid a bill, you can choose to pay subsequent bills via ‘Express Pay’. This shortens the payment process by opting to use the same method of payment as before and by bypassing any verification stage.
The app also has an ‘alert stream’, which is basically a notification system for your Check account. It will remind you of payments due or let you know if a problem arises with processing a transaction.
Windows Mobile and Blackberry users should note that Check seems to have discontinued support for their PageOnce apps on those operating systems, with no sign of a new Check version.
Check Charges Fees…Sometimes
Most of Check’s basic features (add accounts, view balances, payments due etc.) do not incur charges. However, the company has a few fees.
When paying bills, the only free option is direct debit from a bank account. Credit card transactions incur a 4% fee. Scheduling a payment racks up a $10 fee, so it’s best to simply make sure you’ll have the right amount in your bank account when the bill is due and pay immediately.
Other services, such as payment reminders, checking out the details of a specific bill or monitoring your investments, are totally free. Those who used PageOnce back in 2008 may remember the $4.99 subscription fee. That has since been abolished.
Is Mint.com A Better Option?
Arguably, Check’s biggest rival, Mint.com is favoured by many for its attention to detail and, well, the fact that it was here first. Mint certainly has greater analysis tools for tracking spending over the long term. However, while you can set up bill reminders with Mint, you cannot pay from within the service. Mint is also susceptible to GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out). Errors or omissions on your part can easily skew Mint’s calculations particularly for areas such as asset valuation or investment funds.
Check offers a much more simplistic view of your money, but trumps Mint in its support for online services. The ability to integrate accounts which are not strictly financial (such as Gmail and EBay) allow for an easier workflow when buying online or checking receipts.
If you’re a numbers nerd and want an interactive bank statement to know where your money is going, and where it could be better spent, use Mint with its detailed analysis. If you simply want to know if it’s going to be fillet steak or Ramen noodles for dinner, choose Check with its simpler overview.
What do you use to manage your finances and which features are key for you?
Image Credit: World Currencies via Flickr