Mvelopes Re-Design and Free Version Fall Short

I started using Mvelopes to manage my budget in February 2009, less than one month after the launch of this blog. Since then, the software has remained mostly the same in terms of functionality, design, and price.

Last week, Finicity launched a new version of the product with the promise of grand improvements.

Unfortunately, my long-time favorite in the envelope budgeting space has fallen short of expectations, and has been quickly replaced on the first-place pedestal.

What’s New?

One of the biggest changes to the Mvelopes software is that it now includes a completely free version. It’s limited to 25 envelopes and 4 accounts, and restricts other features like the debt center and live chat support, but for most users it would probably be sufficient.

As a result of the new free version, it seems that Mvelopes has seen a deluge of new user sign-ups since last week, and I’m sure that many paying users have considered switching down to the free membership.

The other side of the new launch is a complete re-design of the user interface.

Mvelopes has provided a “getting started” video for Mvelopes 4 which is a decent peek into what the new version looks and feels like inside the program. You can watch the video on YouTube here.

If you’ve used Mvelopes in the past, you’ll immediately notice the drastic changes–the site feels more modern and probably more like what the recent generation of Web users is used to.

As they say, though, it’s what underneath the good looks that counts.

Things I Like

There are plenty of things to like about the new Mvelopes.

In terms of pure looks, the site was stuck in the last decade and badly needed a facelift to compete with sleek, modern sites like Mint.

While the new visual design of Mvelopes is a bit less than one could expect for 2012, it’s definitely an improvement over the outdated design that has been the hallmark of the software for many years.

Functionally speaking, there are some key improvements in the interface over the old version. Specifically, there is more emphasis placed on the difference between funding plans and spending plans, in a way that makes it much easier to appropriate different amounts for upcoming months within the same envelope.

There is also much more inter-linking between features, such that clicking on something naturally takes you to more details about that item.

Finally, the new free version is a big plus for people on a tight budget (those very likely to need something like Mvelopes) and packs enough functionality to avoid the $10+ a month of extra cost.

Things I Don’t Like

The switch-over to the new version was plagued with problems. With only a week into the new release, the Mvelopes team has been furiously working to address problems that should have been dealt with well before launch.

Above and beyond the functional problems, my bank connection failed just days after the switch, and I had problems logging in to Mvelopes for a while.

Any information related to pricing has seemingly disappeared from the Mvelopes homepage, even though a premium, paid product still exists. I suppose that anyone wanting to sign up for a paid edition will first need to get a free account and then run into a brick wall when they try to add a 26th envelope.

The user interface is quite honestly the biggest problem with the new release. Information that used to be presented in a way that was easy to connect and control is now spread across multiple screens. I found myself navigating the site on many occasions with no apparent way to get back to where I just was.

Where one or two screens or clicks were necessary in the past, many more were now needed to get the same work done. Drag-and-drop was nice, but full of glitches at best.

With all the problems converting to the new version and the user interface problems, customer service reps undoubtedly have their hands full. But when, during a recent customer service experience, I was told that I would be followed up with via email because they couldn’t solve my problem on chat, I expected as much. About a week later, no such luck.

User Feedback

When Mvelopes posted about their new release, the feedback began to pour in almost immediately. As of this writing, there are over 40 comments on the post, the far majority of them lamenting about the new release. Here are a few samples:

Having been involved in the beta all of our feedback during the beta seems to have been ignored and major problems still exist in the system. – Ross

I have used this product for years and love it, but if some major changes don’t occur before you drop the old version, I will probably have to look elsewhere. – Accchief

I was hoping for a nice AJAX based, Web 2.0 driven application, not another Flash/Flex based app. This is no longer 2003. – Jay

I am regretting now the gift memberships I gave away for the holidays – my friends and family are going to think I support a product this awful. – Allison

Having worked in software development I have no idea how this peice of crap was actually released. – Betrayed

The new version is a worthless starting point in my opinion. I think you would be better off abandoning it, and reverting back to the old Coke…I mean app. – Joe

There are countless other complaints about specific features in the software, but I’m not going to beat a dead horse here.

Finally and sadly, I share the sentiments of this comment:

This makes me seriously question the viability of Mvelopes as a company. – Craig

The idea of looking elsewhere when the old version was retired was echoed in multiple comments. The Mvelopes launch screen indicates that the old version will still be around for the time being, but users may start dropping like flies when it’s finally phased out in a few months.

My Heart Goes Out to…

Everyone who purchased a Lifetime Membership, which was almost what we did, since I believed in the product so much. My memory is foggy, but I think the price was at least $250 or more when it was pitched to us about a year ago.

The servers are now populated with everyone who is using the product for free. What’s more–many users (like myself) would have switched to the free version because it would meet our needs.

Lifetime Members have committed their money, so that’s water under the bridge. But many are now expressing outrage that their membership is being put in jeopardy by a new software version that is, as many feel, simply unusable.

Now What?

Based on my evaluation and the experience other users have had with the new version of Mvelopes, it’s clear that my recommendation of Mvelopes needs to be withdrawn.

It’s no longer my product of choice if you’re trying to start envelope budgeting or looking for an electronic solution.

What will I do personally? I already have a copy of YNAB 3 installed on my computer, and converting my budget from Mvelopes to YNAB took no more than an hour. While the issues I had with YNAB still persist, I have to say that the YNAB experience is now preferable to the new Mvelopes.

What are your thoughts?

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25 thoughts on “Mvelopes Re-Design and Free Version Fall Short

  1. I’m seeing the same thing. I’ve seen a record number of new signups this month at Inzolo. At first I thought it was the New Years’ resolutions crowd, but I started getting a lot of emails from users who said they were so upset with the re-write of Mvelopes that they started looking for an alternative and they are finding a happy home. When Mvelopes started talking about a rewrite I was really worried they would move to HTML5 and drop flash. I guess they decided to stick with what they know.

  2. We’ve used Mvelopes for years and bought the “Lifetime Membership” for over $300. We were in shock when just months after paying the $300 we got an email saying “Mvelopes in now free!”. There was no indication that there were two versions, the free version being with limited functionality. I only learned thru web research that there were two versions and the differences between the two. Very disappointing that Finicity didn’t have a communication plan for their existing paying clients. I noticed that there is now a new note when trying to log in that states that the old version will be available indefinitely. The saga continues…

    1. I don’t think Finicity has a choice but to keep the old one around if they have any hope for keeping existing customers around.

  3. I saw your blog post and wanted to provide some feedback. I have worked at Finicity for over 10 years now. Mvelopes members have always been very passionate about the product, which is awesome. We have many users who have been with us since the product existed only as a standalone PC based application.

    It is true that we have faced challenges after the roll-out of the new version of the application. Since the release, we have received hundreds of feedback responses from members, both positive and negative and we are working as quickly as possible to address member concerns. In the 9 days since the release, we have pushed out a number of bug fixes and user interface tweaks, and will continue to do so over the coming weeks.

    Any member is encouraged to login to the application and provide your feedback by clicking the Help icon in the upper right.

    I am confident that the new version of Mvelopes will quickly become the preferred version even for long time users and look forward to a chance for a follow-up review in the near future.

    1. I’m afraid a whole year later the new version is still face down on the pavement. Take it from a developer (me): the product has very serious issues. I no longer trust that the information I’m being presented is accurate, which is a cardinal no-no. It has to be accurate. All other UX is peanuts compared to this, and Mvelopes fails. Secondarily: IMO, one reason your new version flopped is that you picked the wrong platform for it. You should have dumped flash as soon as you had the chance. Lots more to say, but those are the high points. I’m left with no recourse, really, but I’m searching for options. I’m even considering getting Quicken, which is a serious compromise because I wanted a cloud-hosted, zero-based-budgeting solution.

      1. aggieben I fully agree with you. It hasn’t gotten any better. I keep looking for an alternative–I would jump ship in a ment if there were another envelopes based online tool that syncs automatically with banks.

  4. I’ve used MVelopes in the past but stopped (can’t even remember why, now….). Back when I was practicing financial planning, I’d recommend the product often to people to help with budgeting.

    Thanks for this insightful review of the new release.

  5. Pingback: SoOverDebt.com Wins “Blog Post of the Week!” Again….Conspiracy? - The Free Financial Advisor | The Free Financial Advisor
  6. I also had YNAB 3 installed on my PC for over a year now not being used because I preferred MVelopes. My experience with the new Mvelopes has been pretty much like yours. About 3 weeks ago I started moving over to YNAB and used both programs for about a week (as I was transitioning) and now only use YNAB. I had a few outstanding bills to pay using Mvelopes so I was waiting for that to occur and now I can cancel Mvelopes after using it for about 3 or 4 years.

  7. I too was one of the customers suckered into the “lifetime” membership. In essence the company scammed faithful users out of money right before offering a free version and launching one of the worse new version upgrades I have seen in my life. Having worked on software projects countless times in my life, I see this as the typical “we put x amount of time into this, no backing out now” mentaility. The simple fact is people hate it. I am furious with mvelopes and trying to figure out what I am switching to instead. The second they force the new version, I will hit every review board with full reviews of everything that has happened in the last six months. I am sitting on gift cards that I was going to give my friends…..wouldn’t wish this new version on my worse enemy. @Tyler….the only way you are going to make your customers happy with the new version…..is to develop a new version of the new version. Mvelopes was loved because it was money management at a glance….now it could take you hours just to see your money. Start over….or go the way of New Coke, Netflix, etc. Just so you know….customers that leave don’t come back. Oh, but Mvelopes doesn’t care….they got my money already.

  8. I recently signed up and it has NOT been very user friendly. It is a good tool, I believe, if you can figure out how to use it. The tutorial’s make it seem very easy, but once you are using it on your own it gets very confusing. Still trying to navigate through it…

    1. Hang in there Anne. It’s a lot of work to set up and of course it gets easier from there. We haven’t found any better way of budgeting and then tracking our spending to the penny. One thing I would suggest is auditing your credit card statements once you receive them…matching the transactions on your statement to what comes in to mvelopes. The reason being that sometimes there are missing transactions in mvelopes and if you lost your paper receipt (or never got one) your accounts will never reconcile. Best of luck!

  9. We used mvelopes (for about 2 years) and liked the concept, but not necessarily the execution. We’ve since switched over to EEBA and love it! I never thought we’d like to manually enter all our transactions, but within a week, we were sold. Not only are the phone apps clean (I have an android, my wife has an iphone), but the automatic syncing is great. All in all, its everything I always wanted and now I dont have to deal with the glitch-ridden mvelopes.

  10. I’ve been using Mvelopes since 2007 and loved the previous version. I’ve had nothing but problems since the new version came out. In my opinion, they took a great product and destroyed it.

    When I asked why the changed it so drastically, the answer was that new people found it to overwhelming. So wait, a program that automatically downloads your bank transasactions, allows you to create a spending plan (not see where your money goes); drag money to envelopes as you spend it was too overwhelming? That’s called budgeting.

    I’m a person who does not want to see where my money went, I want to plan where my money will go. Mvelopes has taken a big step backward as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been searching for a replacement program because I still have tons of glitches “error at server”; “channel disconnected”, etc. And I’m told that the developers cannot replicate those errors even though I’ve tried on two computers in two locations using two different browsers and two versions of windows.

    I praised Mvelopes before this new version. Now, I’m wishing I could find something else. There is a great opportunity for a company to create a good envelope budgeting program based on Mvelopes’ previous model because I know that many people would switch. Mvelopes would lose many paying customers. (I paid for a lifetime membership and I’d still switch because I think they are way in over their head and they don’t seem to be listening to long-time users.)

  11. I’m a lifetime member of Mvelopes. Their product was just so much better than the competitors, even with its flaws. But that was before the new version. I keep hoping that their next blog post will announce a change of management and a commitment to rewrite the entire application from the ground up. It’s been nearly a year since the release of this new version, and I still use the old version 75% of the time. The new version is not salvageable. The UX is abysmal, and the technology choice is just wrong. I do hope they turn things around.

  12. I’m another Lifetime Mvelopes member disappointed in the new version. Thank God they still make the “old” version available or I would have left long ago. I’ve been looking for an mvelopes alternative, but just can’t seem to find a viable alternative.

    To those who’ve switched to YNAB, I’m curious how you’ve dealt with manually entering transactions? That’s the #1 thing that has kept me using mvelopes…I just can’t imagine manually entering all our transactions.

    If there was another online envelope budgeting system that automatically pulled down transactions from our bank and Credit Cards, I would switch in a heartbeat. As it stands, still going to stick with it and hope they don’t take away the old version.

    1. Having used both Mvelopes and YNAB, I was also skeptical about having to enter transactions, but having done it for more than a year, I would never go back. Manual entry is the only way I have an accurate, live picture of my account and envelope balance, and I use the Android app to do it as I spend. If I miss anything, the bank import and reconcile take care of that.

  13. I’m a little baffled by all of these comments. I started my budgeting by creating my own software but finally got tired of updating/developing it so I tried Mint which is good at looking at what you’ve spent but not as good at working on the future. I’ve been using Mvelopes for under a week and I must admit that at first, the interface was overwhelming and I couldn’t figure out how it worked. Finally I found the tutorial videos (https://enrollment.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/472) and after watching these it seems like cake.

    I read all of you upset about bugs/glitches but I haven’t discovered any just yet. Certain things seem glitchy until I discover they’re intentional and if you understand why it’s doing what it’s doing it actually benefits you. I read every comment here scouring the posts for specific issues but I feel that everyone here is being very vague about why Mvelopes is no good. Don’t misunderstand me, if so many of you are upset with few defenders there’s probably a reason for it but I haven’t discovered it for myself yet.

    I actually found this post because I’m so excited about Mvelopes I wanted to find a reason to get the paid version. I was searching for “Mvelopes free vs paid” when I found this. Almost all of the posts here are very old so perhaps Mvelopes has fixed the issues ya’ll had such an issue with?

    1. Christopher,
      I would say that the majority of complaints, myself included, are coming from people who have used the “old” version of Mvelopes before it was redesigned. We have the frame of reference of what the program used to be and how simple and direct it was to use. Bottom line is that I’m excited to hear from you because you don’t have the same reference point, and it’s good to hear that the program makes sense. I think envelope budgets is THE way to go, and whatever program you select should be one that you personally feel comfortable with.

      1. Thanks for the feedback Wojo. I almost checked out the old version last night but decided not to taint myself with the view of superior functionality! To be fair, I think the current version is probably not suitable for the majority of users but having programmed my own budget software for years I understand a lot of the complicated issues that are even still somewhat difficult for me to overcome. If I were to recommend Mvelopes to anyone it would have to be with the idea that I’d be there to help them through it, or provide a link to the tutorials at the very least.

        Your comments about previous exposure to an older system makes a lot of sense. Thanks for that.

    2. Christopher,
      I agree with Wojo, I think the majority of the complaints are from users of the previous version. I have been using mvelopes for about 8 years, and I had high hopes for the new version. As someone with a development background, I had hoped they would move away from Flash and use more HTML5 and AJAX. Actually you might say I had hoped it would be more like Mint, in terms of slick programming and great design. The new version freezes a lot for me and sometimes won’t even load. It is slow, and feels clunky. It seems they have made a lot of things that are simple in version 1 and over-complicated them. I could give more specific examples, but if you are happy with it then maybe it’s best not to cloud your opinion🙂
      I realize this is all a matter of perspective. It is interesting that as a newcomer you like the app better. I’ll have to remember this.
      In regards to free vs paid, as far as I know these are the two major differences (I’m surprised how little information there is on this on their website):
      1. Free limits the number of accounts and envelopes (I don’t recall how many accounts and envelopes)
      2. I think free doesn’t include bill pay (which I make a lot of use of)

      1. I believe it was 3 accounts and 10 envelopes but don’t quote me on it. 10 envelopes was well short of what I typically use in an envelope-based system (I have close to 50 now in YNAB).

      2. Also with the free version of mvelopes you don’t get live support via chat which we use quite frequently since it is very convenient. We also have around 60 envelopes and 16 credit and savings accounts linked so the free version wouldn’t work for us.

      3. Thanks. I think it’s 25 envelopes and 5 envelopes. I just counted and by dumb luck I’m currently using 4 accounts and 24 envelopes which fulfills all of my needs. Looks like I’m soar free for awhile.

        I actually first checked out Mvelopes about a month ago but gave up because I couldn’t get the web-app to work; similar issues regarding freezing, things not loading, etc. When I decided to give it another try about a week ago I discovered that it works perfectly for me using Internet Exploder, but when I use my favorite browser, Google Chrome, it sucks.

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