Plaid is a company that provides API-based tools and solutions for interfacing with financial institutions. Among their products is a transaction API that handles authentication with financial instituions and provides ReST access to transaction and balance information. As of March 2020, they provide free developer accounts with access to up to 100 “items” (financial institution accounts), and production accounts with a pay-as-you-go pricing model that is quite affordable.

With many of my banks and credit card companies discontinuing support for OFX Direct Connect citing security concerns (mainly that most of them use OFX 1.x implementations that require your normal credentials in cleartext), or breaking the OFX protocol in ways that only Intuit seems to support, I needed an alternative to the pain of writing error-prone screen scrapers. Plaid seems to be this solution, is reasonably priced (or free for initial testing with a developer account), and supports all of my accounts. As such, I’m going to be discontinuing development on the OFX Transaction Downloading component and focusing on Plaid for the future. Plaid provides a simple, easy, secure way to retrieve balance and transaction information for accounts.

The Plaid component uses the same “OFX” models in biweeklybudget that the older OFX Direct Connect component used. Transactions retrieved via Plaid will still show up on the “OFX Transactions” view, and reconciling works the same way. Both Plaid and OFX write their data into the same models and database tables.

IMPORTANT As of late 2022, a handful of financial institutions, Chase being the most notable, require OAuth2 integration via Plaid. This requires that your Plaid account request and be approved for Production environment access, which is a non-trivial process that requires additional legal agreements and a security and privacy review. In addition, Chase has their own partner review process that includes a security review. While it is possible for an individual to pass these reviews for a personal project, it’s far from trivial. I would only recommend this for folks who have professional experience developing and operating applications that handle financial data, and who intend to operate biweeklybudget in a similar fashion.


The first step to using the Plaid transaction support is registering for an account with Plaid. As that process may change, I recommend using their site to find out how. As of this writing, there is a large “Get API keys” button on the homepage to get your started. You will initially be given testing / sandbox keys, which can only retrieve information about fake accounts that Plaid maintains (though it is realistic data, and can be used to see how biweeklybudget integrates with Plaid). In order to retrieve your real data, you will need to request Development access. Once you have that, you can proceed.

biweeklybudget needs to be configured with your Plaid credentials. I highly recommend setting these as environment variables rather than hard-coding them in your settings file (if you use one). You will need to run biweeklybudget with the following Plaid-related environment variables / settings:

  • PLAID_CLIENT_ID - Your Client ID credential, provided by Plaid.
  • PLAID_SECRET - Your Secret credential, provided by Plaid.
  • PLAID_ENV - The Plaid environment name to connect to. This must be one of “Sandbox”, “Development”, or “Production”, and must match the environment that your credentials are for.
  • PLAID_PRODUCTS - The Plaid products you are requesting access to. Right now, for biweeklybudget, this should be transactions.
  • PLAID_COUNTRY_CODES - A comma-separated list of country codes that you want to be able to select institutions from. Only US has been tested.


Linking Accounts to Plaid

  1. Click the “Plaid Update” link in the left navigation menu.
  2. Click the “Link (Add Plaid Item)” button under the “Plaid Items” table. This will connect to one of your financial institution logins via Plaid (an “Item” in Plaid parlance). Note that one Item (institution login) may have multiple accounts.
  3. When the Plaid Link process is complete the new item will be shown in the Plaid Items table.
  4. Click the “Accounts” link in the left navigation menu.
  5. Click the name of the Account that you want to link to one of the new Plaid Accounts.
  6. In the Edit Account modal, scroll to the bottom and select the appropriate Item and Account in the “Plaid Account” dropdown.
  7. Click “Save changes”.

Updating Transactions via UI

Updating through the UI will retrieve transactions for the last 30 days. If you want to retrieve more than that, you must do so via the API.

  1. Click the “Plaid Update” link in the left navigation menu.
  2. In the “Plaid Update Transactions” table, select the Plaid Items that you want to update transactions for.
  3. Click the “Update Transactions” button at the bottom of the table.
  4. When the update is complete, you will be redirected to a page showing results in a table.

Updating Transactions via API

Transactions can be updated via a simple API at the same /plaid-update endpoint. This API can return either a JSON or human-readable plain-text output depending on the Accept header. For full documentation, see the documentation of PlaidUpdate and post().

In short, the endpoint takes a POST or GET request that specifies an item_ids parameter as a string comma-separated list of PlaidItem IDs to update, or the special string ALL to update all Items. Optionally, you can specify a num_days parameter to retrieve transactions for something other than the last 30 days. The response is either JSON if the Accept header is set to application/json or human-readable plain text if set to text/plain (if set to any other value, it will return the full HTML that would be sent to the browser).

The following examples assume that biweeklybudget is available at

To update transactions for all Plaid Items via a GET request and return human-readable text:

$ curl -H 'Accept: text/plain' ''

  % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
                                 Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed

  0     0    0     0    0     0      0      0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--     0
  0     0    0     0    0     0      0      0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--     0
  0     0    0     0    0     0      0      0 --:--:--  0:00:01 --:--:--     0
  0     0    0     0    0     0      0      0 --:--:--  0:00:02 --:--:--     0
  0     0    0     0    0     0      0      0 --:--:--  0:00:03 --:--:--     0
100   874  100   874    0     0    231      0  0:00:03  0:00:03 --:--:--   232
AcctOne (plaidItemId1): 23 updated, 0 added (stmts: [21728])
AcctTwo (plaidItemId2): 31 updated, 0 added (stmts: [21729])
AcctThree (plaidItemId3): 35 updated, 3 added (stmts: [21730])
TOTAL: 89 updated, 3 added, 0 account(s) failed

To update transactions for Plaid Item with IDs plaidItemId1 for the last 60 days via a POST, and return JSON:

$ curl -XPOST -H 'Accept: application/json' -d 'item_ids=plaidItemId1&num_days=60'


API responses from Plaid are logged at debug-level. The UI process of linking an account via Plaid happens mostly in client-side JavaScript, which logs pertinent information to the browser’s console log. The Plaid Dashboard also provides some useful debug information, espeically when correlated with the link_token and/or item_id that should be logged by biweeklybudget.

Changing Plaid Environments

It may be necessary to change Plaid environments, such as if you started using the Development environment and then switched to Production for OAuth2 integrations. This process will require setting up Plaid again.

Also note that Plaid transaction_id (our fitid) _will_ change between environments. As such, you should update transactions in the old environment immediately before switching environments, then update transactions in the new environment, and you will need to manually ignore any transactions that are duplicates.

  1. Un-associate all of your Accounts from Plaid Accounts. This can be done manually via the Account edit modal or by running the following SQL query directly against the database: UPDATE accounts SET plaid_item_id=NULL, plaid_account_id=NULL;
  2. Delete all of your Plaid Accounts and Plaid Items from the database: DELETE FROM plaid_accounts; DELETE FROM plaid_items;
  3. Update your configuration / environment variables for the new PLAID_ENV that you want to use and your PLAID_SECRET for that environment.
  4. Re-link all of your Plaid items, and then re-associate them with your Accounts.