I would consider myself to be “fairly good” with money; I like to try and save, I obsessively check my bank balance, and I use Microsoft Money 2005 to keep track of where it goes.
Microsoft Money is a fantastic little tool, even though I use very little of it’s capabilities. The ones I use mainly involve graphs and trends, and if you know me at all that won’t surprise you. It will learn that transactions with Sainsbury’s are food, and Shell is diesel. Over time it will provide me with graphs to tell me “Hey, your spending on food has increased 13% to £X” or “You realise you never spend anything on computer games but you do now?”
Of course, most people cannot be bothered with the sheer boredom of entering every transaction into Money. Some people can’t even be bothered to open a browser, log into to their online banking, download the CSV, import it, make sure it all makes sense… I am one of these people.
Until the 22nd of October 2009 Nationwide were the only bank in the UK to support completely automatic downloading of all your banking data and statements into Money. They were the only bank to EVER support it. Whereas it’s very common in the US for banks to do so, for some reason it never got a lot of interest in the UK which I think it a shame; I’ve been using it for at least 5 years through different versions of Microsoft Money and it’s worked flawlessly since then. I open Money and it instantly downloads all my new transactions, and all I have to do is approve them. It will even understands the difference between savings accounts, current accounts and credit cards, and what you get out is quick and easy to understand graphs and if you want, tips on saving money/paying off debts etc.
But now, all this is no more. Tonight I was only greeted with an error. A quick search on the Nationwide site reveals that just 4 days ago Nationwide shut off this service for good. I suppose I can’t be all that surprised, given that Microsoft hasn’t released a new version of Money for quite some time. Some Googling presents a quote supposedly from Nationwide:
“The decision to stop the Microsoft Money service, after so many years
is primarily due to the provider stopping their own support for the
product. As they assist us with any technical issues and licence us to
provide a dedicated server for this system and we will no longer be able
to do so from 22nd October, the service is no longer available. Please
note this software does not access our main online bank, as you do from
our homepage, it uses a special server designed and maintained under an
agreement from Microsoft they are no longer providing.”
These words are oh so familiar and makes the cut-off even less surprising: special server, license, support… I’m sure there is a lot of good reasons behind the scenes for the cut-off and with Microsoft powering the backend the end date was always going to come.
I do wonder, however, just how many people this affected. There was no communication at all from Nationwide or Microsoft; and searching for the issue online provides many blogs and forum posts of disgruntled users, who no longer have quick and easy access to their data. I do half wonder whether I could find out the file format of the system (OFX is a standard, if it does indeed use that) and write my own proxy that logs in and turns the data into something Money can understand. This is made even more necessary because apparently Money won’t accept a CSV, it will only accept OFX (which seems reasonably given OFX is an open standard for financial data exchange) and Nationwide won’t/don’t provide this. If they did, making the few extra steps to import my data wouldn’t be such a big deal, but as it stands it’s a huge pain.