OFX: Open Financial Exchange

Published: 06 Jun 2007

My latest interest is looking at an API called OFX or Open Financial Exchange. OFX exists to allow clients to connect directly to financial institutions and download transactions. An example is downloading the transactions of a checking account for some period of time. I started looking into OFX because there seems to be a need for a good personal finance application for Mac OS X and the one feature missing from existing apps is live connectivity to banks.

HBCI

While OFX was created as a joint effort by Microsoft, Intuit (makers of Quicken and QuickBooks), and Checkfree for the north-american market, HBCI (Home Banking Computer Interface) was designed to meet the needs of the European market.

Update (June 8, 2007): After Googling and doing further research, I've found that some banks actually charge a fee for connecting to an account via OFX. Some banks simply don't offer OFX and instead narrow their focus on more prevalent formats such as Quicken, QuickBooks, and Microsoft Money. These alternative formats are generally free of charge via file downloads as opposed to downloading transactions on demand from a client.

It seems as though OFX never really was adopted as a standard format or at least by most of the major banks. OFX connection information is very difficult to track down and most of the information I've found is vague. I suppose this explains why there are only a few major players in the market of personal finance desktop applications that can offer the crucial feature of being able to download live transactions.

Update (July 16, 2007): I've found a couple of start-ups that offer free personal finance management online: One actually hasn't been launched yet and it's called Mint. The other site, Wesabi, looks promising and offers tips and tagging for each transaction line item so you can easily see how much money you're spending in each category. A key feature missing from Wesabe is the ability to directly sync transactions with financial institutions. Instead, they offer two alternatives both of which involve manually downloading an export from your bank then uploading them to the Wesabe site.

Further Reading

  1. OFX Home Page
  2. Microsoft Money 2007 Partner Tools and Resources
  3. IBiz OFX Integrator from /n Software - a commercial component with OFX wrappers for various languages.
  4. LibOFX - an open source OFX parser library.
  5. OFX Blog - a lot of useful information including connection details for several financial institutions.
  6. AqBanking - a pet project, successor of OpenHBCI2.
  7. openHBCI - an open source, client-side implementation of HBCI.
  8. ofxrb - a pure-Ruby OFX (Open Financial Exchange) library.
  9. Intuit technical information