BillGuard is a personal finance security service powered by the collective knowledge of millions of people. The family of data scientists, mathematicians, security experts and industry leaders below have come together to protect consumers by facilitating the sharing of that knowledge.
BillGuard is a financial protection website that analyzes your bills for fraudulent charges, which it pinpoints by crowdsourcing from its users. If one person flags a charge, similar ones on other people's bills will be alerted as well. It's a simple process that serves as a basic level of protection for your credit and debit cards.
Users can analyze and mark their own transactions as questionable or OK, with email notifications sent out if BillGuard discovers something worth a second look. After registration, users essentially don't have to do anything except check in occasionally; it's foolproof. However, simplicity can also be a detriment. There's little sense of interaction or customer service, and user alerts feel like they're sent into a void.
Still, BillGuard does its job reliably, and it definitely feels secure. We hope to see a true mobile app soon.
Pros Cons Easy registration and website navigation No true mobile app Review all transactions at a glance Lack of in-depth analysis of questionable charges Free of pushy ad/editorial content Difficult to discern how influential my marked charges are
Sign-up is easy, and you can register up to three cards for free. You can add more cards by referring friends or upgrading to the family account, which is $79/year for up to 10 cards. BillGuard doesn't have a mobile app, but iOS 6 users can add it to their Passbook to get mobile updates on their iPhones or iPads. As far as security goes, BillGuard automatically logs off after 20 minutes of inactivity, and it doesn't offer to remember emails or passwords. The personal information it asks for is sparse, further protecting your identity.
Payments show up on BillGuard pretty soon after they appear on your credit card account. The dashboard is a streamlined two-column layout, with transactions on the left and the overall scan report on the right. All pertinent information is easily captured with a glance, providing a quick check to set the mind at ease. Clicking on a transaction reveals a pop-up with a few additional details.
From there, you can change the labels of your transactions. Marking something as "Unsure" gives you the option to send a question to the BillGuard admins; while it's not immediately clear what this accomplishes, BillGuard will then send you an automated email the next day to basically remind you to do something about it (flag the charge, contact the merchant, or designate as OK). I suppose it's an extension of BillGuard's simplicity, but I couldn't help wondering if they couldn't offer something a bit more useful. I'd like to see what other customers have experienced, for example.
At the end of every month, BillGuard sends a scan report that summarizes your transactions for the month. It includes useful information such as how much money you've spent and received, the highest amounts paid, new merchants and recurring charges.
After initially signing up, I had one "Unsure" charge, a purchase I made at a local artisan pudding shop. (Turns out other Billguard customers are not fancy pudding eaters like moi.) I made another purchase there three weeks later (for research purposes, of course), and Billguard marked it as OK, showing that it learns quickly.
The majority of my transactions were marked as 100% OK, with a few (such as Staples and Megabus) coming up as 99% OK and 1% Unsure. As with the aforementioned email, BillGuard doesn't offer any further information, like why other customers thought it was fishy or how many of them thought so.
Billguard's categorization system is generally accurate. Lesser-known merchants might show up as Unknown, but categories in BillGuard aren't extremely important unless you really can't remember the names of places where you've been spending money. You're free to add your own information under individual transactions, from category to location and website, and BillGuard will update the information for all other transactions under that merchant.
There's no editorial content on BillGuard; the site focuses on inspecting credit/debit card charges and nothing else. In this age of ceaseless marketing and time-sucking link bait, the simplicity is refreshing.
Overall, BillGuard is an easy-to-use website that provides an extra layer of spending security and doesn't clutter your inbox with incessant emails.
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