The concept that drives Check (formerly Pageonce) is not new. Intuit Quicken, Microsoft Money, and Yodlee were all early providers of online banking and bill-pay. Then Mint.com came along, providing access to personal finance accounts without all of the extras that the others offered. Its graphical interface and ease of use made it a hit.
All of these services worked similarly. You supplied your sign-in credentials for your online financial accounts, and you could then download cleared transactions. Services that supported bill-pay provided tools for setting up payments to creditors and other individuals and businesses.
Check does primarily the latter, but it does it pretty well. It’s been around for a few years, and the company has intentionally kept the app simple. It’s far from a full-blown personal finance manager like Quicken. Rather, it’s about bills. You can manage your bill-paying tasks from your Android phone (also available for the iOS and through a browser). It simply lets you schedule and pay bills —pay anyone who has an email address or mobile number, in fact—and keep track of your account balances.
A Popular App
Check claims roughly nine million users, likely drawn to the app for its mobile capabilities, since there’s no real advantage to using it through a browser. Its competition consists primarily of your own financial institutions’ websites, which generally offer more than basic bill-paying, but which often lack Check’s real draw: access to all of your money accounts: investments, bills, credit card, loans, etc. You can even hook up to the companies that hold your travel rewards and get your current balance. Check has developed relationships with the most prominent billers in each category, so you only have to enter your login credentials to create a link.
Check’s home page is exceedingly simple. It displays current totals for cash, bill obligations, investments and credit card debt, from which you could get an instant—rough—estimate of your net worth, assuming you’ve linked absolutely every account you own. Two other links on the opening screen take you to credit card offers and to the optional credit-monitoring service ($6.99/month). Returning to this page is a challenge sometimes, as clicking the Check logo in the upper left often doesn’t take you to the home page. You’ll have to use the Android’s back button, repeatedly, sometimes. And you can’t view data in landscape mode.
Click on the “+” sign in the upper right corner to start connecting to banks, billers, investment accounts, etc. Find the specific company you want to connect to, tell Check how you want to pay (credit or debit card, or bank account), and enter your user name and password. That’s it: You’re now connected and can start viewing balances and paying bills.
When you click on the Bills icon after you’ve set up at least one, the screen displays your total and minimum payments due, with a list of those you’ve already set up and when they’re due. Click on the Schedule button to set up your regular payment. You can even see your bill details, which is unusual in a bill-paying app, oddly enough.
Payments are delivered in 2-5 business days, though you can send a same-day payment for $14.99 and a two-day payment for $2.99. Standard payments sent via bank are free. Credit or debit card payments incur a service charge of 4 percent.
Little Help, But Not Much Needed
Check lets you make payments to billers who aren’t included in its database, like your landlord, your health club or your brother-in-law. You enter the business or individual’s cell phone number or email address. The recipients then receive a message telling them that there is money waiting for them. They have to create an account by entering a user name and password, then their bank routing and account numbers. Once they’ve done that, the funds are dispatched.
Check updates your accounts once daily, but you have the option of doing a manual refresh. And it offers four reports: bill history, all transactions, payment history and a pie chart that illustrates what percentage of your money is going to bills, credit card, loans, insurance and miscellaneous recipients. This chart would be more meaningful if you were able to assign categories to transactions.
Mint.com is our Editors’ Choice because its apps—for iPhone and iPad, Android phones and tablets—are smarter than the competition’s, both in their use of mobile technology and their implementation of financial tools. It helps you make intelligent spending decisions wherever you are, which is what you need when you’re out and about. Still, there are Check has its points, too. Aside from the somewhat funky navigation, there’s nothing difficult about setting up and using Check, which is good, due to the dearth of online help (phone and email support are available). It’s a simple app that doesn’t offer a ton of features, but it does online bill-pay as well as anyone. Even if you don’t use it comprehensively, the easy mobile access to bill payments may save you some late fees.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc