Big Question As CUs Move To Dump Quicken: How Many Members Care?

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The Quicken download icon may soon disappear from credit union online banking sites, as many CUs choose to dump Intuit's Web Connect service rather than starting to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars per year in licensing fees.

The question that remains: How many members really care?

About one-third of the CU clients offering Quicken downloads at Database Management Services, Inc. (DMS) have cut or will soon cut Web Connect, according to Joe Pearson, president of DMS. DMS, which offers homebanking platforms to about 190 CUs, delivers Web Connect to approximately 45 of those.

The changes are in response to Intuit's fee implementation for Web Connect, which Quicken has offered free of charge for about one year. Most CUs that use Web Connect will be billed for the service beginning this year (see related story on page 1).

Web Connect allows consumers to automatically download transaction data in OFX format from the credit union's website to their Quicken money management software.

"Many of our credit unions can't swallow the cost," Pearson explained. DMS will pass along Intuit's new annual fee, which the Boise, Idaho-based vendor declined to identify but said reflects a significant reduction below the $3,000 figure. "Still, a lot of credit unions can't or don't even want to pay the (lesser amount)," he added.

Les Bois FCU in Boise, Idaho, is one of those DMS credit unions. The $26-million CU dropped Web Connect in January, when the fee for DMS clients was still $3,000, according to Ken Clifford, CEO.

"Quicken's fee increase just makes it impossible to offer the feature," Clifford said. "But our members understand. We put a message on our website, and we didn't hear any feedback from any members.

"We're in the process of converting over to support Microsoft Money downloads, instead," he added.

DMS clients might be considered lucky, relatively speaking. Credit unions providing Web Connect through other data processors or directly from Intuit may have to pay a lot more than the fee the company has negotiated.

The $89-million, New Orleans-based RiverLand CU was quoted a $3,000 annual fee for Web Connect through its data processing provider earlier this year, and has since decided to discontinue the download service, according to Sandy Beaubouef, director of Information Systems at RiverLand.

"We currently have only a small number of members using the service and it would be nearly impossible to justify or pass on the cost to such a small number of users," Beaubouef said.

Only 4.5 % of the CU's 500 bill pay users are also using Web Connect, she added.

RiverLand first heard about the new fees after the fact, missing its chance to negotiate for fair pricing, Beaubouef said. "Of course, I would have liked to negotiate on pricing prior to being sent a bill."

Some credit unions are still in the dark about the pricing policy. "At this point, we haven't heard anything about pricing," said Jerry Merrill, chief financial officer at $41.3-million Concho Educators FCU.

The San Angelo, Texas-based CU provides Web Connect through Galaxy Plus, a credit union data processing firm. Galaxy Plus President Tim Milz said he preferred not to comment on Intuit's policy or how it will affect Galaxy's CU clients.

DMS said there has been no uproar from members of credit unions that are discontinuing Web Connect. Perhaps that's because, of DMS' homebanking end-users, only about 10% use Web Connect, said Pearson.

"Credit unions have simply explained the situation to their members," he said. "And members have been pretty reasonable."

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