1. Forcing me to stay on budget, unless there's an emergency (perhaps allow purchases over budget after the third attempt).
2. Automatically distribute paychecks or other income into different accounts (some to retirement, some to savings, some to checking, w/e...); this behavior could change based on the current distribution of your money too, so if your "emergency fund" got really low you could automatically spend more of your income replenishing it.
3. Deny unwanted transactions and tightly control your own fraud detection (SMS confirmation for every purchase out of your zip code, confirmations for purchases from new places, you name it...).
4. Automate the creation and destruction of virtual cards to minimize danger of online purchases or to make sure that "free trial" never starts charging you.
I'm sure there's tons of other awesome ideas, but I want all of these quite badly.
First of all, there's heavy regulation when it comes to banking software. There are laws and bank regulations that are here to prevent people from losing their money and/or suing the bank for some reason or another. Root needs to take great care to ensure that the software written by their users stays within the boundaries of south african law and their own bank regulations.
Second, the software absolutely needs to be reviewed not just by people from Root but also by a reputable independent consulting company.
Third, Root mustn't allow direct initiation of transactions from their platform to prevent potential disastrous effects due to bugs. You should be able to write code that does something when the money is being received or sent from your account but not code that charges your account.
With great power comes great responsibility. The number of times you say 'perhaps', 'unless', 'so if', or 'could' is so high that you would have to thoroughly review your code before trusting it.
So yeah, be careful but I don't think you could lose your home.
Anyone who thinks they can get away with 3 months of not paying back any kind of credit product, let alone a mortgage, is going to be in trouble. If your friend skipped 3 mortgage payments in a row, I'm surprised they won the case in court. They must have had concrete proof that a bank employee truly misinformed about what it means to miss multiple payments in a single year, let alone 3+ consecutive payments.
It happened to me once. I received an unreasonable bill for building maintenance fees, didn't pay, they sent me a lawyer making more unreasonable demands, I told them to fuck off (after consulting a lawyer myself). The thing is : because I didn't know how much to pay, I didn't pay for several months in a row. I only paid after everything was sorted out. It never went to court BTW, the guy responsible for the mess has been fired and his successor did a great job cleaning it.
This is why he eventually won the case... But the bank was already aware of this, and they were just going through the motions. Either way, be careful.
He did not get his house back though...
It could be in the form of frameworks/libraries, but also full-blown clients. Even if it wasn't your custom code, you could still chose which software fits your needs best.
...If someone wants to say, "well sure, but that's not my money", I hope they'll also name the services or apps they work for, so I can avoid those.
Even then, if I telephone a business on the other side of the country and order something over the phone then the transaction will originate hundreds of miles from where I am. You don't need to be physically present when your card is used. There are many scenarios where a card could appear to move around the country (or world) while still actually being legitimate transactions.
After some time, the MC system seems to have learned my patters and also coordinated with other data. For example, I bought a ticket to US with the same card. No single call on any purchase over there. They knew I was in US and most probably the shopping was legit.
You can call the credit card provider and have your card locked down to just your state, etc.
Or better yet, an app on the phone to just "enable transactions for a minute" since many addresses of POS systems are likely far from the actual POS.
Authorizations of this sort count against your available balance, and time out eventually if not fulfilled; when you look at your account and see "pending charges", this is what they actually are. Not all charges use this process - when the total amount is immediately known, it's generally immediately charged as well. But in any case where the amount may change or the account requires validation before a transaction can proceed, this is how it's done.
Presumably, since a valid authorization constitutes an agreement to pay the charge (hence the language under the signature line on your bar tab), the "enable" step you perform via the API would permit the authorization to occur, and fulfillment would work the same way it does now.
That sounds bizarre and backwards to me! I guess we live in different countries/regions with different conventions. So it probably depends on what people do in South Africa.
And someone should also program it to donate to women's charities when you use Uber..
Let me picture this. You are standing at the checkout of a grocery store with a big shopping basket, and you find out that you are over budget for today ... Not sure if I would like this functionality.
Even people with very little money use credit occasionally, and I can definitely see the benefit of strong-arming a budget so you don't spend money you don't have.
The typical reaction to this scenario is to put back what you have at the grocery store and leave (or put back enough so that you _can_ afford it).
(It could be argued that you don't need a feature like this at all if you have X level of self-control, but many people would benefit from taking any requirement of self-control out of the equation.)
// sweat in hands
// checking bank balance of the account
500 - Bad Gateway
// hurried typing
// enter password
people will just transfer in a small portion of their money to this automatable account and not risk 100%
so while this roboaccount can go mad and empty everything , you are only out say $3K when your traditional main account still has $9999997K
Treasury functions within large corporations do the same thing. They dole out only a portion of the companies wealth to departments so they cannot go mad ( amongst other reasons )
All the rest are great ideas though! ;)
The biggest bank is a phone operator and people can send each other money over the phone and from what I understand this is very common. Also interestingly most phones aren't smart phones. It's mostly analog. Banks have a serious incentive to create and encourage cashless societies -- because they're limited by the liquidity ratio.
People there are more skeptical of hard cash there while here it's nearly on par with Gold in terms of confidence.
I don't think I've to explain offering an API allows third party engagement and endorsement and an opportunity for others to grow their service. Yes there are security concerns but these can be all secured from backend.
1. Fees at most banks are high. (A basic account with no transactions typically have fees of several dollar per month).
2. If people are moving away from physical cash, its because of security concerns (theft and robbery), not liquidity.
3. Most transactions are done by credit card, debit order or Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT). EFTs are done between numbered banks account. Mobile to mobile phone transfers are still very rare.
4. People are stubornly loyal to their banks. If root fails, it will be cause of this.
E.g. My sons school charges 2% extra if i use credit card, Rs 20 if i use netbank and does not accept cash. So on a Saturday i am happy pay in cash when i have nothing else to do.
Unless government makes the transfer without fee (now they can print less money and that cost can be used for this infra of transfer), why is cashless better in the scenario where that saved time is not used for anything value generating?
Genuinely looking for answers to this that makes sense rather than saying time is money.
Feature of cash, not a bug. It's not the best choice for every situation, but neither is digital, which is why it's important that people have both options available.
Also consider Bitcoin as a "cashless society" alternative to the financial panopticon - no one's looking over your shoulder there and it's definitely not "cash".
I'm clearly in the 'it's nobody's business except for the parties involved' party...
'Cashless' as in 'cash is illegal' terrifies me. It's nothing more than a force multiplier for the power brokers (banks, govs, etc.).
There will always be corruption, theft, etc. But in one scenario, anyone can do it. In another, only the third (one) party can do it. Tell me which is better, oh starry-eyed Valley dreamer?
Which is why the tinfoil me gets change before doing tinfoil purchases xD
Ahem, ahead of the US, really. Canada and the EU can be cashless already, with chip cards and direct bank withdrawal at the POS a reality for 99.99% of merchants.
But it gets worse than that. If the government wants to punish you, they can just cut you off. Can't buy food, can't pay rent.
Oh you think your friends can help you? China has that covered too, with its shiny new credit system. Being associated with - let alone helping - people cut off from buying food may result in a drastic lowering of score and ability to do business yourself.
On the bright side, used wisely such coersion may he better than outright violence at stopping criminals and terrorists.
You do have to show government ID to get a cell phone or purchase long-distance train tickets. Also checking into a higher end hotel. And since using public Wi-Fi requires you to authenticate with your Chinese phone number, that's also effectively linked to your ID. There are many aspects of Chinese society that are easily trackable by the government, but commerce does not seem to be one of them, at least from what I've seen.
The idea that eliminating paper is some sort of boogeyman from Revelations is about as silly as the idea that holding on to your Glock allows you defend your rights against a corrupt government. Neither actually offer any type of protection against these particular issues.
Unless you are wandering around with $20K in cash everyday, your bank account is still subject to the very things you seem to be afraid of. The only thing that changes in a mostly cashless society is your access to your bank account. If the government is going to freeze your account, it matters little if you have a chip card or need to go to the teller.
Thankfully, we in the west have moved most of the management of this to the private sector, and require things like warrants before any real action is done. That can and is an issue at times, but has little effect on the day to day implementation of one method over another.
Try buying Cuban cigars without cash anywhere. Your VISA or MasterCard will mysteriously fail to allow this purchase – because, due to the embargo, these companies just refuse to allow transactions containing the words "cuba", "iran", etc.
VISA and MasterCard also have additional rules of their own, and if you have a society that is cashless, they can just cut you off, too.
This is giving a for-profit entity (which, by its own nature, does not care about you, just about taking your money) far too much power.
Sweden is having that problem: You can’t do anything without a debit card anymore, banks have high fees just to get cash from your account, but the only debit cards you can get are from VISA or MasterCard.
This wouldn’t be an issue if there were many competitors, or even local competitors, or if the systems were open.
The US definition of a "debit card" is massively different than the Canadian one. For us, our bank card is the debit card. The same one I use to take money out of my account at an ATM is the same one I can use to buy a $1 coffee.
Why some banks do charge outrageous fees, thanks to the free market there is a healthy market and many banks in Canada are now fully virtual or offer next to no fees.
Just because a system is poorly designed in one locale does not mean the idea itself is flawed, just that it should be implemented in an improved way.
I keep seeing this pop up, but it's a misconception; we have these in the US too. I have one, although I don't use it for purchases (I use a rewards credit card that gets paid off monthly instead). Here's an example (hopefully Wells Fargo doesn't redirect you because you're in Canada): https://welcome.wf.com/checking/?gclid=CIzL2ong1NMCFVBtfgodb...
The Interac system in Canada is pretty much a given for any vendor that has a cash register. That automatically makes every single bank card into a direct debit card. You can choose to use it if you want of course, but it's default for all bank accounts, really.
But that’s the point.
Cuban Cigars are legal in Germany.
You can legally buy them.
But every payment processor that’s located in the US can not process such a transaction.
Relying on foreign companies for most basic needs means you lose a lot of sovereignty.
It's more likely the case that an American credit card holder cannot buy them, even when he is in Germany, because he's subject to American laws, as I would be if I took a box into the US and started selling them.
It went so far that PayPal, VISA and MasterCard ended up threatening several German store chains to stop selling products from Cuba or they’d end all business with the store
It went into national media, and was discussed on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/ka26b/paypal_bl...
Rossmann won against PayPal in court, to this date they don’t offer any payment via PayPal.
They came to an agreement with VISA and MasterCard, where if a sale contains embargoed products, everything but these products can be paid by card, but the embargoed products can not.
Uhh, which ones? Free chequing accounts have transaction fees for Interac, and with unlimited Interac accounts you pay monthly or must keep a minimum balance. I'm sure there are a couple exceptions, but certainly not with TD, CIBC, NBC, etc.
The issue of "un banked" can be distinctly American too, actually. Given the extent of social programs in Can/EU, even the nearly homeless have bank accounts, because government funds are pushed directly into accounts, and it's more secure/timely than receiving a physical cheque. Not having a simply checking account is a very rare thing in Canada.
Making transactions more customizeable/automated is a great advantage. Why would you not want that? Also, this just came out, so it remains to be seen what long term effects it may have.
WTF are you talking about? No one uses bank transfers to send money to their families in the SADC region: it's quicker and cheaper to use formal and informal money transfer agencies where the recipient gets cash, which is not stolen "90% of the time".
I swear HN seems knowledgeable on all subjects except those I am deeply familiar with...
1. SWIFT transfers do get used for big transactions or paying corporations, but no one I know will be sending amounts less than monthly income this way
You can make a fairly valid extrapolation about the other areas where HN seems knowledgeable from this data point.
I started discounting what I read here about when I realized that.
When I said, "transfer the money from one bank account to another", I actually meant not sending the money physically, but by using various other means. I didn't know how to word this, and it came out wrong.
And I was talking about the cash being stolen 90% of the time, if you do choose to physically carry it with you back home. (Or trust someone else to do it)
This is also not true. 17,000 Zimbabweans travel into South Africa daily by road, most are destined for Musina (nearest South African town to the border) where they buy goods with cash. If theft rate is 90%, that would result in 15,300 cases of theft per day (5.5 million per year) which (a) just can't go unreported, even if you think Zimbabwe is some undeveloped backwater and (b) where do I sign up to join this very effective Thieves Guild? It has to be well-paying.
1. As of 2015, numbers are seasonal. http://www.702.co.za/articles/10509/31-000-people-cross-bord...
2. Because of depleted nostro accounts, most Zimbabwean banks have a maximum international withdrawal of $20-$50 (US dollars) per day
Good old Gell-Mann amnesia.
I fully agree.
The actually official Zimbabwe currency can't really be taken seriously because of insane inflation rates.
US Dollars vary greatly in price. Small transaction fees are nothing to operate cashlessly for some of these people compare to the risk of trying to store cash.
Even India recently banned high denomination notes because they were so associated with drugs and illegal behaviour.
> Absolutely -- the police can be very corrupt in Zimbabwe so you don't want hard cash hanging around or it will be taken.
Yes, the police are corrupt but they won't rob you, they might try and coerce a bribe.
> The actually official Zimbabwe currency can't really be taken seriously because of insane inflation rates.
This is wrong. It has been wrong for close to a decade because Zimbabwe "demonetized" its currency (Zimbabwean dollar) in 2008 after an infamous bout of hyperinflation - you might have seen/heard of the 100 Trillion dollar note.
1. Unless you have been incapacitated by a traffic accident. A worrying trend has emerged in recent years where passers-by or attending police go through the car and belongings of dead/dying accident victims. See http://www.chronicle.co.zw/chiriseri-corpse-robber-cop-dies-...
(I've never been to Zimbabwe: if there is a difference between cops "coercing" a bribe and what I'm assuming you mean I'd appreciate the clarification!)
Yes: you can say no to coercion but you have no choice when you are being robbed.
Violence (or the threat of it) is a hallmark of robbery: Zimbabwean police will not do that at traffic stops - they are usually not armed. They will, however threaten to impound your vehicle for minor infractions (which would be illegal in most cases) and/or threaten to jail you to wait for your court date. Either of these situations will require paperwork and the money goes to the state and not their pockets, so they make you wait and reconsider the bribe, but eventually let you go. Usually.
Also, in the context of this thread, having cash or money in the bank makes no difference because traffic stops now have portable card machines for "spot fines"!
This is a totally reasonable feature. If a merchant wants assurance that they will be paid, they should charge a deposit.
The closest I've had is Entropay, but I don't really trust them for large payments.
Recurring payments are so abused, I can't count how many times I have been mislead. And there is a strong financial incentive to mislead people. And having to contact my credit card company after the fact is not good enough.
As a warning, there are some problems with entropay.com though. Over the last year, some merchants have been able to detect that entropay.com virtual credit cards are prepaid, and require a plastic card. Also, entropy cards are from Malta, so companies like Spotify or Netflix will only give you access to content licensed there. Finally, and most importantly, entropay.com has a tendency to "float" your money, and I've heard that sometimes they just snatch it. I've never dealt with more than $150 at a time.
Since they are based in Malta, I think it would be very hard to dispute anything with them. But if you have to do any bigger transactions, you should use a bank here anyway. But it's great for trying out services where you don't trust them, or are just concerned with overages. I use them as a buffer for a lot of recurring payments.
I've seen some services on hackernews that offer virtual credit cards, but the problem is, that they all are tied to some underlying checking account, and even if the prepaid balance is declined, the company is obligated to somehow collect the money, if they can. There's no way to simply cancel a recurring payment. I'm sure that this is because they are required to by banks in the US.
I really wanted to have a complex money firewall, like you describe, but in practice, I've ended up just using plain old credit cards for most things. It is still very good to have an entropay account, though.
Right now, the scale is not tipped in my favor. I would be happy to pay for it.
I understand that banks have reasons for things to be arraigned the way they are.
I would love to have a "personal firewall" level of control over my money. I'd like to see that Widget of the month club is requesting $50, and I can confirm/deny it.
I only signed up for a widget of the month because it seemed like a good idea, but they deceived me into thinking I could back out at any time, and then when I cancelled my account, they just "paused" it for three months.
We don't use the "banking" model for other resources that are supposed to be our property. An app on my phone isn't supposed to be able to delete my photos, and the accepted solution is not that I call some external entity to undelete them. I know that these examples are very different, but that is what I would like.
I can also simply block someone from contacting me if I want, without having to justify it to my isp. I want to be able to do that with my money. If someone disagrees with me doing this, and thinks I still owe them money, they can be free to sue me, or do some other sanctions.
Right now, I create virtual credit cards and only fund them enough to pay my recurring payments. I want to automate it.
95% of the time, recurring payments that fail for me are done in bad faith, and these actors will not make a fuss if they can't process their payments.
I know this is probably a pipe dream, and that there are already system I can use, and that our financial system is set up the way it is for reasons. But that's a pain point for me, and a lot of people. People would like to be empowered, and feel that they have control. I think, in the end, things won't really change. Most people will still pay legitimate charges.
EDITS: added 2nd part and formatting
The only company I have found that actually does what I'm describing is entropay.com, and they are based in Malta and I don't trust them for big transactions, as they have been known to steal people's money.
This would be fine for in-person transactions, where you can approve it on your phone, but for transactions you aren't expecting (e.g. recurring monthly subscriptions) it seems like you'd need some notice -- or a long timeout period.
It would also be cool if a bank could abstract bill payments for me, where they present the debit, and show the time window to pay it, and let me select what business day to process it on.
Actually, all of these services exist in one form or another. If you have a business account. And most banks have bill payment processing. But I'm surprised that no bank is offering these services bundled together, directly to consumers. I'd happily pay for a checking account console.
Yes, even just a list of the recurring payments (that is updated in realtime and that you can centrally discontinue) should be available to the banking consumer -- and it should be the responsibility of the banking entity to provide this feature.
The do not, because the financial sector makes its revenue from payments occurring, rather than not. A consumer would naturally gravitate towards a bank that was not limited by this concern (or derived equivalent profit elsewhere for provision of value)
I would love to be able to script my bank. Chase.com is an ongoing battle. There are plenty of projects to automate banking, but it's an uphill battle.
I'm sure if I had a business account, I'd have more access than what the browser gives me.
I would love to be able to do things like, see what payments are flagged as recurring, and group them together, and sum them.
This website requires the following permission:
[x] Monthly recurring payments of $20
[o] Automatically get the payments
[ ] Send me the link to deposit every month
You usually pay via SEPA recurring transfers, and just authorize a company to take $n money monthly (and can easily revoke).
Or you set up an automated recurring transaction to transmit that much money.
Or you allow a company to take just any amount, at any time, but you can revoke each transfer.
This last is how you usually connect debit cards, credit cards, Amazon, PayPal, to your account.
Cancellation was theoretically possible by calling or mailing the merchant, but too many times, an extra payment (or two, or three...) went through and it was hell to get the money back. The banks were not much help - you would have to try to get the debit reversed, and it was no fun.
I think I had a few similar experiences here in the USA, but I can't recall specifics. Now I pay everything in "push" mode via online banking, as silly as that may seem.
I hope things like SEPA work better at revocation than what I experienced back in the day!
Most subscription-based businesses that go to your bank account get an authorization to do an "ACH pull". In some instances, this authorization alone can act as collateral (e.g., in securing payday loans or medical payment agreements). As such, I would assume that allowing consumers to revoke the authorization is more problematic than it sounds.
What I don't love is the lack of information they have on their website. They're in South Africa, does this mean the service is only available for South African residents and Rands? Or can we get international accounts for U.S. and Canadian dollars and more?
Anyone have any further info other than what the site presents? Do we have any founders or insiders reading that can enlighten us further?
1) Is the API limited to types of transactions or do you host configuration information? For example, I've often wished for a bank account that would look at my outgoings and some criteria that I've set, and then allocate some monies to savings or investments on a percentage basis rather than an absolute number. Are those calculations something I'd need to do at my end and then send you a bunch of API calls to make the transaction, or would they run as bots on your server? Sorry if that's not very clear
2) Will you impose tight or narrow restrictions on who can open accounts? For example in the USA many banks require an SSN to open an account and won't accept an ITIN (another kind of tax ID sometimes issued to immigrants), placing millions of people outside the banking system and thus making it that much more difficult for them to pay bills etc.
3) Will your service have access to the SWIFT network for international transfers or are you subject to restrictions while you prove some sort of banking bona fides? I don't know anything about banking relationships in South Africa or so but I've noticed the US is very aggressive about limiting transaction access for anything that looks like it could be remotely connected to crime of any kind, and I have sometimes had the impression that US banks are very 'suspicious' of anything that might coincidentally pose a threat to their business model.
I want to wish you a lot of luck and am very excited to see where this might go. I've never enjoyed dealing with money or finance, and get no more enjoyment out of being paid than I do out of paying bills. Financial chores are about as much fun as cleaning a toilet and the idea of being able to reduce the amount of time spent on dealing with money without putting myself at financial risk sounds heavenly.
(1) A mixture of the two. We do allow you to write code that we host for you, to make prototyping (or building small features) easier and quicker, and you can access it all through the API, so you could do everything through a few https calls. (All account transactions are available to you)
(2) We try our best to make everything as seamless as possible, but we still have to comply with local regulations. We're working hard to create the best user experience possible given the tightly controlled environment we're in.
(3) That's part of the plan, yes :)
I'm interested in two pieces of data we couldn't get there, but that I had really high hopes for.
1) Dynamic merchant-type filtering before auth. For example, if tom has spent 50$ on food this month, all merchants that identify as "food" will fail auth on further transaction attempts. I'm not sure if these are still called MCCs outside of the US, or "merchant codes".
2) Level 3/line item receipt data. For example, instead of showing I spent 5.00 at QuikEMart, it shows 2.50 on soda, 2.00 candy bar, 0.50 tax.
Will your platform offer that level of control/visibility?
- for the stack was there specific criteria why certain languages where chosen in your use cases?
are there any API rate limits for clients?
are there any current plans on mitigating DDOS or other malicious attacks?
2016 has been a hard year for banks and hacking specifically the story about Bangladesh. The trend seems that this will become more likely as we move towards a full online infrastructure. For banking this is another layer where vulnerabilities can come up are there are plans in place for this?
I'm not affiliated with Root, but the bank they are partnering with (Standard Bank of South Africa) was also hacked in 2016 and defrauded of R300 million ($16 million) via withdrawals from ATMs in Japan. I'm sure they are acutely aware of the need for security.
Separately, looking to make this a platform for other vendors to issue cards? E.g., so another company can add logic for say, a teenager's card that the parents manage, and use your platform for this?
- Do you have programmable virtual credit card numbers?
- Have you considered virtual bank account numbers as well? For example, I have had issues with organizations continuing to deduct from my account via ACH after stopping service. If I had a virtual bank account number that could be deleted, those rascals could be stopped in their tracks the moment I make the call saying "you are no longer authorized to deduct from my account". With the current system banks still let the unauthorized ACH transactions slide.
Marqueta can do this. You can issue CC's via api, and then fund them with Visa direct. It's amazing.
Unless things have changed recently, please watch out for the money laundering laws if you are in the USA. It is easier than you might think for absolutely innocent people to fall foul of them, making life miserable (speaking from experience).
Our banking laws are favorable to startups; I could start my own bank, if I wanted to, for little more than the cost of a business license. Many merchants run their own little micro-banks, partly because of the aforementioned problem. Please help :)
2) What are your plans for supporting other languages? (cough Ruby cough)
3) How would I make a script integrate with a 3rd service?
In all seriousness, I would be fairly worried running someone else's code on my bank account unless it was very straightforward. Even forgoing malice and incompetence, there's plenty of "wow, that's a crazy interaction between systems that wasn't obvious" to go around.
Can this interact with FNB or ABSA accounts? Is it international? In short, what are the limits?
Also, I just want to say this is really cool. I've wanted something like this for ages.
I think tech people vulnerable to buzzwordism have an instinctive response to respond to any mention of money with "blockchain!", even though it's really only useful in this context for decentralized payment systems (i.e. not for banks). The only place banks might want to use blockchains is for low-trust inter-bank settlement.
edit: if it is the case, I would be excited to see some docs
Seems legit. Also, I hope that CC number on your top background image is flagged to never be handed out to a real customer ;)
Otherwise this looks promising. I hope to see something like this in the USA soon!
Would that be possible with your API?
I'm not sure what Standard Bank is doing with regards to 3DS, but it would certainly be neat if its implementation were programmable as well.
Probably I'm asking for the impossible because of the heavy regulation in Germany but just wanted to put it out there.
Edit: Most banks also seem to support FinTS , but it seems a bit of a PITA.
Edit 2: figo might be worth a try as well, though I don't know their pricing.
Edit 3: bunq is quite nice as well. I implemented a few basic calls in node when they launched the API. Not the easiest API to work with, but acceptable.
Other than that, I'm very satisfied with the service, and I use them as my bank bank, but I use Revolut (revolut.com) for my everyday transactions, just because it "feels" nicer. The transparent N26 card definitely turns heads, though, cashiers are always asking me about that.
Weirdly enough barely anyone in Germany ever commented on it while in South Africa people do so every time I'm at a store :D
There used to be (still is?) an API called HBCI, but to my knowlegdge that required a smartcard (maybe not to bad an idea) and was mostly read-only. I think in the early 2000s you could use things like Quicken and MS Money to do homebanking (is this why some people in Germany still have the impression that it is dangerous and complicated?)
I think what "Sofortüberweisung.com" initially did was just to scrape the websites of all major banks, and use the HTML as an API. Then the banks found out they could not do much against it legally (and also fearing backlash because they had no good website-payment solution themselves), and they made some agreements.
For the API - almost all business accounts support HBCI or EBICS. For example my tax accountant and tax software have full access to my business account.
I wonder what happened there, and I hope Root can better stay on track!
Long story short, we're still working on making the API available to our members. Plans changed along the way and we ended up releasing our mobile business bank account first, but our long term goal of offering a more open platform remains.
It's tough to do anything innovative within the US banking system due to regulations, partner challenges, risk, and other factors, but we're going to keep working at it.
I hope you guys succeed! Not many startup founders look at the tangled mess of regulations that is the financial sector and think, "now that's where I want to be!"