Ask LH: Can Accounting Software Automatically Import My Bank Statements?

Ask LH: Can Accounting Software Automatically Import My Bank Statements?

Dear Lifehacker, I find it hard enough to stay motivated to do my accounts, and downloading statements from multiple banks is an absolute pain in the butt. The double-handling of information just seems incredibly unnecessary in this day and age. Is there any way I can automate filling out all my Excel spreadsheets or use software to keep my books in order without breaking the bank? Thanks, Death By Double Entry

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Dear DBDE,

There are lots of options for accounting and finance software that can automatically import data from Australian banks — though in some cases you’ll have to opt for the small business version to get the feature. Note also that the frequency with which banks issue updates varies (many do daily, but some only offer monthly feeds).

If you’re just after basic tracking, we’re fans of Pocketbook, and it’s entirely free. If you’re producing business accounts, then MYOB Essentials, Reckon One, Saasu and Xero. (This isn’t an exhaustive list, just the obvious candidates — point out others in the comments by all means.)

Which one you choose is up to you. We often advise people to use the same software as their accountant — that makes transferring data easier. That said, exporting into a usable format isn’t usually difficult.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • +1 for Pocketbook. Love it – as long as they connect to your bank.

  • What about Pocketsmith. Works very well for tracking a budget.

  • Currently running quicken and it allows extracts to be loaded but it’s a manual process that is annoying.

    Do any of these programs “fully” automate the process once configured?

    • No but they do learn. Only thing I say is stay away from Quickbooks ( reckon ) products. Xero is great and Myob is ok they all have faults. Saasu was unprotected open date system ( ie unlockable for past periods ) the last time I looked at it which is very dangerous.

      Accountants love to hate Quickbooks. Powerful program…… Powerfully stuffed up by clients

      • Oh yea, quickbooks is great, unless your client has a different version and doesn’t tell you what one it is, then you need to try it in 50 different versions of quickbooks as it never tells you what version of quickbook it was made in.

  • I run a small accounting firm and LH is 100% correct, so many options available. Xero is the biggest one around at the moment, but it’s costly. We’re promoting QuickBooks Online at the moment, its cheaper and does the job for most small businesses with some extra impressive features for certain clients also.
    We’re giving it away with our Fixed Priced Accounting solutions at the moment.

  • I’ve been disappointed by Pocketbook. This is primarily because I, like many Aussies, have Australia as my second country. I still do a number of transactions and have a number of bills each month due in my home country. Pocketbook thinks each of these is an overly large bank fee, and warns me about them, rather than understanding that they’re a foreign transaction that is related to one of the fixed (except for exchange rate) monthly expenses I’ve told it about. So I get an email from them about a severe bank fee and another email from them about missing a bill payment. “This isn’t the automation solution I’m looking for.”

  • Been using Xero for 18 months now, and cant express how much simpler my book keeping has become. Once set up, your bank account update automatically (can be a few hours behind, but at least your not inputting anything into the system manually). I have my business cheque account, my work visa, my work overdraft and a separate account I keep for my GST revenue all linked. Once your “train” the programme to recognize your standard transactions, it remembers them and puts this as a suggestion for you to just click and , presto, its done. I can do it while my wife drives to Perth (3 hours) and have everything up to date within 10 mins. Really handy for working out cashflow issues. Also does payroll (1 x casual employee) where she inputs her hours directly and I can just approve etc).
    its about $50 AUD a month but saves me soo much time, BAS takes 5 mins and don’t need to pay anyone to do it for me.
    Cant recommend it enough (and not connected in any way to the makers or distributors of the product.

    cheers Gary

  • I know it’s not all that good an answer but in the past I created an excel script to log in and navigate my internet banking site so it downloads my statements, saves it to excel and creates a report.

    Again this is not the best answer for 2 reasons, banks can update their online banking so when the macro goes to navigate through the site, if a button doesn’t exist anymore or has been renamed, it will stop working.
    Depending on how automated the user wanted it, the users username and password would be stored somewhere where anyone could see it (that being said, when I ran my script I had it so I put in my log in details every time so its not saved anywhere).

  • Something you fail to mention in the article is HOW the different companies do it. Basically it comes down to what bank you use and what software you use. For the vast majority of banks you need to, unfortunately, give them your bank username and password so their scripts and just scrape the needed data. This means that you have to hand over your login info, which while they say is secure, by doing so you normally void the T&C of your bank meaning they can choose to basically give you the middle finger if cash goes missing.

    The alternative way that some of the web based software uses, and this is very reliant on what bank you use, is they can use integrated bank feeds which is effectively an api that allows them to access the transactional data of your bank without being able to actually do anything in regards to moving cash around. This also normally requires a signed form from your bank allowing the software to access it. I know for a fact Xero does it this way with a few banks, I think MYOB does but not sure as they basically just bought out the company that was doing it before(as MYOB does with a lot of its software) but I believe it does now, and pretty sure Reckon Online does this as well.

    Just thought this is pretty relevant info for people wanting to use these programs or ones like them.

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