Pending transactions/ real time import
is there a plan to add a feature that allows to import pending transaction? I also wonder about being able to import transaction close to real time instead of every 12 hours. I am a former Mint user and that is definitely something I feel YNAB is missing and reducing its use for me.
I have been using YNAB off and ON since before it was a web based product. My wife and I have tried SOOO Hard to build the habit of putting a transaction in as we make them to keep things up to-date but we just can't do it. It has been YEARS of trying. The only reason we go off of YNAB is when i find something that can handle realtime transactions to see if it could work. One example is Simple. I loved walking out the door of the store and seeing the transaction. It was super easy to then put it where it belonged only simple does some wacky stuff that I couldn't get my head around. So then we end up back at YNAB I realize that simple different in that it is directly tied into the bank but even if YNAB could pick things up at the rate that my current bank sends me text messages of my transactions that would be amazing!!
Some Day said:
I would love to have Pending Transactions as an option too! Just show them what they are and let me Manually Add them, with just a click of a button!🙂
This is obviously the correct solution. I've had the pending beta for a while now and this works great. The only problem is that I have to manually type in the shown pending transactions that I want rather than being able to add them with the click of a button. The feature is even optional too. (You can turn it on or off in the interface.)
Why it's so hard to program (I'm a programmer) or why it hasn't been added, I have no idea.
Hey, bobbucy ! I totally understand your concern here—I don't want pending transactions messing up my budget, either.
To avoid that, the pending transactions in YNAB are treated the same way as they are at the bank: They don't affect the budget/account until the bank posts them or the user explicitly approves/moves them to the register early. They're cordoned off into a separate area of the account register like scheduled transactions, and you can collapse and hide that area, too.
I'm very concerned with adding unnecessary complexity to importing transactions. The fact of the matter is that I don't need another section on the account screen that I need to hide. Why aren't you just adding an import option for each connected account that says either import pending transactions or don't import them?
Why aren't you just adding an import option for each connected account that says either import pending transactions or don't import them?
And to answer this question, they do have this. Or, at least it doesn't show them. I'm not sure what's happening behind the scenes but you won't see them.
As many are probably not aware, YNAB already has facilities to enable real-time pending transaction import. I will go into details on how I set this up at the end of this post.
I’ve been living with pending transaction import for the last 18 months there are several caveats that in my opinion make pending transaction import a potential mine field for new and semi-experienced users. We must remember YNAB is in the lifestyle business, not the software business. Their goal is to sell the YNAB method, their software is simply a mechanism to aid in achieving this lifestyle and its revenue is simply there to aid in furthering their promotion of the method. Their method isn't for everyone, nor is their software. They are aware of this and are not trying to cater to the maximum number of users by opening up any and all features. A clean and concise default toolset will sell their method better then trying to mix in any and all extra features to attract the maximum number of advanced users. Thankfully, YNAB openly support community based enhancements to their software via the YNAB toolkit and API.
When discussing pending transaction import we must remember what pending transactions are in their most fundamental terms. Pending transactions in the banks eyes are nothing more than vendor’s requests to the bank to verify credit availability. Therefore, pending transactions have at times little correlation with the final posted transactions. For instance, swipe your credit card at the gas pump, the gas vendor will ask the credit card company if you have enough credit to support reasonable fill-up. (100$ is typical in Canada). This pending transaction is then recorded by your bank and displayed to you mainly for fraud prevention reasons while they wait for the final tally from the gas vendor. Similar processes occur for restaurants and other vendors where the final tally isn't always known at the time of credit card swipe. Pending transactions have a life span and are expected to expire if the pending transaction isn’t followed up with a formally posted transaction within a few days.
Given the transient nature of pending transactions, maybe 20% are ultimately fictitious in nature. Fictitious meaning the pending transaction as initially presented does not correlate with the final posted transaction.
I probably enter more than 90% of my transactions in YBAB using the pending transactions import system I have setup. I also probably discard or modify 20% or so of these transactions as they are not in sync with reality.
Some considerations I have for any official pending transaction import scheme:
1. Pending transactions must be instantaneous. Once you swipe our card and approve a transaction, that transaction must appear in our budget within a maximum of minutes. Using the system I have in place, the transactions are in my budget for approval/categorization by the time I get to my car once leaving the store. If the transactions are not instantaneous, then one risks losing track of spending which is core to the YNAB method. Anything short of instantaneous entry will lead to complacency which YNAB is directly trying to avoid with their method.
2. Transactions should be imported just like the current direct import method, but with the transaction marked as uncleared. Once the transaction is posted, the transaction should be matched up and then be marked as cleared. This is exactly how the current system works for manual transactions if you enter those transactions in YNAB before the bank clears them.
3. There are going to be times where the pending transaction either completely disappears from the bank’s systems or the pending transaction is ultimately posted differently than originally captured. There is no easy way to resolve this. Any pending transaction import mechanism requires diligent reconciliation of accounts. I’ve had more than one occasion where I need to track down an errant transaction that was ultimately never posted, or changed before being posted. A good example is online ordering. The vendor will seek authorization for the complete order upon order acceptance, but bill out only as items ship, making for a mess when trying to reconcile. This leads to categories being overdrawn. This problem also exists when using manual entry, however, it is more pronounced when using pending transaction import. This is a mine-field for new users that needs to be avoided.
So how did I set this up?
The system noted below is not for the faint of heart. However if you are technically inclined about such things, you can figure your way through it in an evening or so. I did it within a month or so of signing up to YNAB and have to say it has really benefited my family’s adoption of the YNAB method.
Remember banks make very little money from you as a customer unless you hold a balance on a loan (credit cards, mortgages, etc). Your deposits are liabilities to the bank as they are required to pay those back to you at any time. Expecting the banks to ever competently allow free and open real-time access to your banking data is a fool’s folly. Given how direct import works today, YNAB’s partners must manually poll the banks systems to gain knowledge of the transactions applicable to your accounts. Expecting real-time access to pending transactions through this method is almost certainly never going to fly. At best they will be several hours old. I’ve not researched the open banking standards in Europe; however, I expect the same limitations are present, thus limiting access to real-time data. This makes the primary usefulness of instantaneous pending transaction import almost impossible using today's direct import systems.
What the bank is truly worried about though is fraudulent activity. Banks have invested significantly in systems designed to limit fraud as I expect this is a significant cost driver. While they can do their best to detect fraud within their own systems, their best asset for fraud detection are the account holders themselves. Therefore many banks have created systems that instantly notify the owner of their accounts upon any activity related to their account. We can harness these notification systems to directly funnel information into our budget via the YNAB API.
My bank (and I expect many others) provides many mechanisms for distributing this information. One such mechanism is via email. When I swipe by card and authorize a purchase, my bank instantly (within a minute) sends me an email. I then have my email provider forward this email to a service like Zapier. (IFTTT or such would also work). Zapier then processes the email from my bank and enters it into my YNAB budget via the YNAB API. This whole system of events occurs when any transaction on my credit card is processed and is usually (>95%) of the time sitting in my budget waiting for me when I get in the car after leaving the store. This system also works really well to avoid forgetting about transactions.
There are many positives to pending transaction import that can really help in adopting the YNAB method, however due to technical limitations in the banking systems today; the reality of a pending transaction import method that jives with the YNAB method being widely adopted is probably not going to happen any time soon.