Monday, July 13, 2009

Quicken: Bank of America and the OL-226-A Error

UPDATE: Are you still a Quicken user? What are you doing? Go download YNAB and change the way you budget... for the better.

----- Original Post -----

Here's a quick PRO TIP that WORKS for the infamous OL-226-A Error that Quicken produces whenever you try to download your Bank of America credit-card-only (i.e., you don't have a checking account with them, just a credit card) account information via Direct Connect:

Create a new account and choose Bank of America - All Other States. Once your new account is created you'll need to categorize all your transactions, but from here on out you should be able to download your monthly statement via direct connect without issue.

For years, I was an MBNA credit card customer. Then in January 2006, Bank of America bought MBNA, and I became a Bank of America customer by default. During this transition, an important banking feature seemed to become quite flakey: the ability to download account informaiton (transactions) directly into Quicken, without going to my bank's web site and downloading them separately.

The inconvenience of not being able to download transactions directly through Quicken was one reason I lost touch with my finances for some quite some time--it was always such a pain to go update my account that I kept putting it off until there was so much data to go through I gave up all together.

Recently, I found myself in a situation where it now made sense to track my income and expenses. I went through all the motions and downloaded my transactions from my financial institutions, categorized the transactions, etc. All was well--even Bank of America--until the very next day after I set up all my accounts.

For some reason, my Bank of America account was only able to download transactions the very first day. Today, it decided it didn't want to update. Now... having had plenty of problems with Quicken in the past, I immediately wrote it off as a quicken problem and began my search.

The error code Quicken gave me was OL-226-A. Seems like lots of people had this error, and most of them had to do with Bank of America. I later learned that many of *those* people were specifically using Bank of America - California specifically.

After lots of troubleshooting over many weeks and months, I finally broke down and called Bank of America, where I waited on hold for over 20 minutes before I spoke to a rep, who proceeded to tell me that I could not use Quicken for a Direct Download of financial transactions because I had a credit-card-only account. He went on to say that if I had a checking account with them, I'd be able to do it no problem.

"No way," I thought. I need a second opinion. So I spoke with the rep's manager, who proceeded to tell me the same story: I must have been downloading transactions all these years by, and I quote, "some unexplained glitch in the system."

I'm sorry, what did I just hear? That must mean that somehow I've been beating the system all these years until something went haywire.

Excuse me? I think I need to grab my boots, because the bullshit's getting pretty thick. I mean, what kind of shit is that? This is the largest fucking bank in these United States of America, and you mean to tell me that I can't download my transactions using the most popular financial software on the fucking planet? Something's wrong here. Something doesn't add up!

So after I got off the phone, flaming pissed, I set out to end this bullshit once and for all--after all, I can't leave my boots on forever.

About 15 minutes of serious digging landed me on this gem of a thread from Quicken, which I seem to have misplaced because I first started this post back in December of 2008. (Side note: wow, the blog post that time forgot.)

In any event, I was able to delete my current Bank of America account in Quicken, the re-establish it using this little trick: when Quicken asks you what state your account is located in, choose Bank of America - All Other States.

That's it! So far, it seems to be working well... but I must say, I'm a Mac user once again and I've been waiting eons for Quicken to come out with a Mac version of Quicken... and I've been let down yet again. Quicken Financial Life for Mac will not be coming out until at least February 2010. I say "at least" because they company has pushed it back several times since 2008. At this point, I think I'm considering moving on to something like -- I've been trying the two in parallel, and I'm noticing some interesting differences.

For example, Quicken only downloads Bank of America's credit card statements once per month as an entire statement; Mint, on the other hand, downloads transactions on a per-transaction basis, as if you were logging into the site directly and viewing the latest and greatest. This is particularly handy because after a month passes and I download all my transactions into Quicken, I often wonder what certain expenses are that I don't have receipts for. With Mint, I can check it daily, weekly, whenever the mood strikes me.

What's more, while both programs automatically categorize your downloaded transactions, Mint puts Quicken to shame because it is constantly improving its algorithms/database to predict which category your income and expenses really are. Unlike its aging great grandfather Quicken, which seems a bit like it's playing pin the tail on the donkey--in the dark.

Would I switch to Mint today? Probably not. While graphs are nice, I like the reporting in quicken because I use a zero-based budgeting system and need to make sure certain numbers get down to zero by the end of the month... reporting makes that easy. I also like the flexibility of entering transactions manually--like when you write a check today and nobody deposits it for a month--that Quicken has and Mint desperately needs. Sometimes those laggard checks get deposited at the wrong time, creating surprises. But had I been able to enter that transaction manually, I'd have seen that my balance really wasn't $1,000 but $1,000 minus that $500 check and, well, I wouldn't have bought that $501 collector's postage stamp. ;)

Phew, that was a long post. If you're still reading this, you either really liked what I had to say (thank you) or have too much time on your hands. Or both. ;)

Till next time, World!