If you haven’t noticed, there are hundreds of new banking apps out there, they’re popping up all the time. Some of them I’ve tried just to see what their app is like, but none have been able to pull me away from my FREE Charles Schwab Checking account. That was, until I saw Albert.
Albert purports to be a service that can save you money by doing clever things with it’s AI and team of Geniuses. They claim to be able to save me money and place a human expert at my fingertips for my financial questions, like, can I afford to eat out today, or how can I pay off this loan faster? Being someone with Bipolar disorder, you’d be correct in guessing I’m terrible with money. Having an advisor is something I’d have if I were wealthy, but I’m not, lol, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity. I’m willing to pay for something like this, $5-$10 per month to manage money in one place and get some legitimate financial advice or assistance. (Plus I like cool debit cards, hahahaha) So, I took a stab at signing up and linking my accounts.
Thus begins my Journey to Financial Freedom with Albert.
This golden yellow brick road soon became a bit grey and tattered during the sign up process as I realized they don’t support Google Voice, where I house my primary phone number. Ugh, so I had to use the real number assigned to my mobile phone which isn’t a number I use anywhere, so I don’t want it associated with me, but whatever. Maybe I could change it later, I thought.
Moving through their app I got to the point where you link your bank accounts and noticed a HUGE RED FLAG! They use Plaid. UGH.
Plaid, if you don’t know, is a FINTECH company, that is, Financial Technology, and they make software that makes it easy for start up companies who offer financial services, like investing, checking, and savings, to connect their apps to their customers banks for the purposes of managing money in one place, transferring funds between accounts (verifying account ownership), and a lot more. I’m really just scratching the surface of what Plaid does. They also work with huge banks as well for the same thing, banks like Bank of America, Citi, Chase, etc… they’re no small time company.
The unfortunate thing about Plaid, while the idea of what they do is great, their execution of the service that facilitates the linking of accounts to an app, exactly the implementation that Albert is using, is buggy. And I don’t mean, like 1 in 1 million users will encounter a bug… no no this is like Waffle House at 2 am Saturday night/Sunday morning… there’s probably gonna be a drunk guy with a problem your first time in. And, as I predicted, I ran into a problem linking my Schwab account, my credit union account, and other accounts. You get to the two-factor and their system can correctly interpret the question that’s being asked from a 3rd party banking system, but it can’t correctly parse the answer thru the Plaid UI which is overlaid into the Albert App, to the banking system at the other end, so no matter how many times you answer your security question correctly, you end up in this circular use that gets no where fast. It looks like this:
You can try again later, but it won’t work. Sorry to sound like Marvin the depressed robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s not worth your effort. I’ve had this exact experience with Plaid and other apps that use it. It’s really unfortunate to see.
To the Albert team, you should really evaluate your choices in partnering with Plaid. There are much better platforms on the market that actually work and don’t frustrate your potential users. This is literally reducing the size of your money funnel. I may be the 1 person to blog about something so small, “oh wah wah I can’t use an app…” I’m only the one person who’s calling you out for it in public. But I assure you, there are many many other would-be users of your Genius service who have ran into this problem and abandoned the setup process, then closed their Albert account as I did. Thus ending my Journey to Financial Freedom with Albert.
Real quick trip.
Peace. Have a plaid day!