Report From Finovate '08: Round 3

We spent yesterday at Finovate, a yearly roundup of new personal finance services available online. Here’s a recap of some of the afternoon presentations, including a mortgage comparison service that promises greater transparency, a new credit simulator feature from Credit Karma, and a site that uses reverse auctions to get banks to bid on your money.

SmartHippo says the mortgage process is too complicated for consumers, with too much data hidden from plain view. Their service focuses on transparency in the home lending process. Imagine everyone in your company trading info on their salaries before the next employee review—HR wouldn’t like it, but it would arm you with info you didn’t previously have, to better negotiate for yourself. SmartHippo lets users build lending profiles and share information on their mortgage rates and lenders, so that you can compare notes before you settle on a rate of your own. Lenders also have a presence on the site and can share their rates directly.

The service claims to be truly transparent in collecting and sharing data among users—no bait and switch with interest rates. This month, they’re rolling out a revamped rate search engine that pulls data from over 200 lenders. They claim that since lenders don’t purchase position in their database, it’s a great way to see what are frequently better rates from small banks and credit unions that you wouldn’t otherwise see, since they don’t have large advertising budgets to get the word out to consumers. If you try it out, let us know what you think.

Credit Karma
We’ve previously recommended Credit Karma, which offers a near-FICO estimate of your credit score for free. Their new tool is a Credit Simulator, where you can play out various scenarios—applying for a new credit card, taking out a personal loan, making six months of on-time payments, declaring bankruptcy—to see how they affect your score.

This is an online auction site where banks compete for your CD and high yield savings account business. The banks participate in a true reverse auction in real time, using bots to increase rates until a winner emerges. The founder emphasizes that this is not comparison shopping or sponsored bids—it’s basically eBay in reverse, where participating banks compete for you.

The site is four months old and has around 100 participating banks and credit unions, so they admit that they don’t always have the very best rate, but the number of institutions are increasing. On the other hand, they also don’t allow low-rated rated banks to participate, so bids will only come from “healthy” institutions.

Yodlee’s new offering is called PayToday through their BillPay partnership with Western Union. Through Yodlee you can pay immediately-due bills (as in, it’s due today) with over 1,000 billers. It’s not cheap at $15 per use, but it “solves the problem of last-minute payments.”

One interesting note if you’re into finding weird little ways to save money: Yodlee says if you’re paying $5-10k a month on a mortgage payment, making last-minute payments can actually work out cheaper than regular payments, because it buys you a couple days more float time on your funds each month.

Mint’s big news is that it officially left beta today, and that it now offers lots of investment tracking tools.

Thrive from Loudwater Labs
Thrive—which looks a little like a citrus-flavored version of Mint—attempts to combine the data reporting that every personal finance site offers with some level of advice and financial planning. We’re not sure how Thrive makes money, though, and when we checked out the question on their FAQ, they didn’t provide much info on that either, although they announced yesterday that they’ve partnered with

Fun features: a numerical “Financial Health” score calculated based on your data, and interesting factoids like “You can survive without a job for n days,” “You can afford a home priced at n dollars,” and “You can retire on n per month.”

We’ve discussed BillShrink before—the site finds the most valuable credit card offers for you, and lets you adjust your criteria quickly (and anonymously) to search for specific types of offers.

They’ve launched a third service called My Account, which lets you register with the site so that it can keep tabs on your criteria and keep updating the best offers for you.

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