4 Online Budgeting Services Reviewed

SmartMoney reviews four of the most popular, or at least best-publicized, online budgeting and finance-tracking services: Clear Checkbook, Mint, Wesabe, and Yodlee Money Center. They’ve created a simple chart comparing features, to help you decide which best meets your needs—for instance, whether you want text message alerts, or the ability to manually enter transactions, and so on. The most robust offering of the four is Clear Checkbook, although it’s missing a couple of nice features that the otherwise paltry Mint offers (specifically, text message alerts and merchant-based spending breakdowns).

As several of our readers have pointed out in comments on recent Mint-related posts, the big problem with any online service is you’re inviting a new player into your tightly woven web of passwords and security measures—which means you’re creating a new door, however well-guarded, that can be exploited to steal your sensitive data. SmartMoney gets quotes from security experts who say the biggest risk is from having your own computer stolen, but they also admit that the more popular any online service grows, the more likely it is to be targeted by data thieves. Their advice on protecting yourself and choosing a reliable online service:

To protect yourself, install and update firewalls, antivirus software and antispyware programs frequently. Also, regularly change your passwords for both the budget program and your bank accounts, taking care to use a complex combination of letters, numbers and other characters.

To choose wisely, search blogs and personal review sites like Epinions.com to see what other users are saying about a particular finance site. Also, look for security seals from companies like HackerSafe, VeriSign and Thawte. These icons verify that certain security measures are in place to protect your information. Once you’ve narrowed your options, read the site’s privacy and security policies carefully to see how your information is protected, and under what circumstances (if any) it will be shared.

View the comparison chart at SmartMoney.

“Budgeting Software: A Free Way to Manage Your Finances” [SmartMoney]

Clear Checkbook
(Image: SmartMoney)