Review: Personal finance software for Mac-iPhone

Personal finance software used to be a straightforward matter for Apple Mac users, in that Intuit Quicken provided a steady, standard service.

At one point, almost 10 years ago, I was very contented with a Palm Treo-Mac syncing option offered by LandWare (Pocket Quicken). This allowed me to enter expenses on-the-go.

The departure of Inuit from the UK market (where they only sell their QuickBooks product now) was a blow to many. And the Treo-Mac bliss is no more.

I moved over to MoneyWell, which has been promising an iPhone syncing option for well over a year now. Increasingly frustrated, I’m reviewing my options now.

Here are my reviews of personal finance software, whether desktop, web-based, and/or iPhone application:

  • Quicken
  • iBank
  • iCompta
  • MoneyWell
  • Splash Money
  • Yodlee
  • Cha-Ching
  • Wesabe

My feature list criteria was:

  • ability to manually add banks to account list
  • multiple currency support
  • account reconciliation
  • iPhone syncing

20100228 Finance Quicken MacQUICKEN

It took ages for Intuit to upgrade from Quicken for Mac 2007 to their latest Quicken Essentials for Mac. It does have a modernised, Mac interface.

But can you manually add your banking accounts? Doesn’t appear so. Instead, are you reliant on whether your banking institution is one supported by Intuit? Thus, does QEM even support multiple currencies?

Also, no syncing features.

Instead, Intuit offers Quicken Online, which is a portal for Mint.com, which itself is useless for anyone outside the USA: (a) you cannot import any data, and (b) it only stores the past 90 days of USA bank accounts (linked with Quicken).

Quicken offers an iPhone app, but it is a sync feature between your iPhone and your account at Mint.com. Because your Mint.com account has nothing to do with with Quicken desktop software, Quicken appears to have made its mind up firmly that it will not offer desktop-mobile device syncing.

Or if there is to be Quicken-iPhone syncing, it’ll be some absorption of Quicken Online, i.e. USA-only.

Quicken has decided that the USA and automatic banking is its marketplace, leaving behind many thousands of users who used to enjoy manual account management (loans), multiple currencies, and now in the 21st century, mobile device syncing.

Quicken has strategically removed itself from the dominant, global financial management software provider it once was. Their new offering provides me no incentive to return.


20100228 Finance iBankIBANK

iBank fantastically failed to import my multiple-account .qif file (painful 15 minute programme hang before quit). Importing individual account .qif files successful.

Like many other reviewers, I don’t care for the Cover Flow view. You can switch to a traditional list view, but in iBank this looks like an ordinary Excel table.

Like SplashMoney, there is an iPhone sync app. Even better, you can create transfer transactions.

iBank does provide a fulsome feature set (manually added accounts, online banking statement downloads, multiple currency support, mobile syncing).

It’s just that I found an less expensive and just as competent alternative, iCompta.


20100228 Finance iComptaICOMPTA

iCompta is a freeware reasonably priced programme developed in France. Multi-currency support is obviously there. Moreover, multiple language localisations are available in French, German, Spanish, and Italian.

iCompta has the full feature set as in iBank — ability to add manual bank accounts, enter transfer transactions, and manual and online account reconciliation.

Its iPhone app (for which you have to pay) syncs easily with the desktop software.

UPDATE (8/8/2010): I’m still happy with iCompta. But a criticism with its iPhone app is that it takes so long to launch, c. 2 minutes. Seriously. No way to prevent it from opening all historical (closed) accounts, so all 40-odd get opened. Would be nice to select which accounts get transferred over to the iPhone (like lists in iTunes). Still, iCompta is the only desktop-iPhone combination that works sufficiently well for me.

In addition to managing your banking accounts, iCompta has its own unique feature of adding individuals (drawn from your Apple Address Book) to your account list, to keep track of money owed. Not an essential feature, but I appreciate the logic (i.e. not all of your money flows via banks).

iCompta is the personal financial application for me. Hooray.

 

My preference for iCompta is due to its focus on essential functionality and thoughtful execution. In contrast, iBank suffers from its zeal on Cover Flow eye candy, which it presents as an advantageous USP.

UPDATE (8/8/2012): I switched over to using MoneyWell, which I’ve been using for over a year now. If iCompta could resolve the very long start up time on their iPhone app, then I’d consider returning.


20100228 Finance MoneyWellMONEYWELL

MoneyWell has a good all-in-one-page interface. It uses the concept of envelope budgeting, through buckets. I was pleased to see a clean import of my many years of Quicken data.

There is also a good transfer transaction facility between accounts: by using the view matched transaction feature, you can change the actual foreign currency amount (and one-click back to the original transaction).

There are online banking features. However, I’ve never been able to get this to work properly with my USA or UK listed banks.

For well over a year, we’ve been promised an iPhone application. Still waiting.

No Thirst Software, who makes MoneyWell, concentrated their recent efforts on upgrading the software to version 1.5. Unfortunately, this latest version is a real memory hog: my MacBook fans kick into high gear as soon as I open the programme, and performance is sluggish; this was not an issue with all previous versions.

No Thirst development is contingent on little staff resources, and consequently I fear that this otherwise innovative programme is going to wither.

UPDATE (6/8/2010): No Thirst Software announce their LONG delayed iPhone app, which actually has a very appealing design and clever functional purpose of showing you the remaining balance in your “bucket” before you make that spontaneous purchase. This is accompanied by a free upgrade to verion 10.6 of their desktop software. Unfortunately, Moneywell still causes my MacBook to overheat and constantly crashes (kernal panics) whenever I attempt to import transactions (OFX or QIF files). Remains too unreliable for me.

UPDATE (8/8/2012): No Thirst Software has sufficiently updated MoneyWell so that it is stable on my MacBook. The synchronisation feature is now via DropBox, which sounds great in theory, but for over a year I can never get my iPhone and desktop account balances in sync after the first time (i.e. first sync works but thereafter not!). I’ve stopped using the iPhone app and have accepted MoneyWell’s shortcomings.


20100228 Finance SplashMoney

SPLASHMONEY

SplashMoney, a product by SplashData, has been around for many years. For me in my Treo days, not using SplashMoney was simply a decision I made between them and LandWare’s excellent Pocket Quicken.

SplashMoney comes is many formats: Palm, Pocket PC, iPhone, BlackBerry, and desktop. This is the most extensive offer of platform support that I have found for any personal finance application.

I duly purchased the Desktop and iPhone versions, hoping for the best.

SplashMoney successfully imported my single, multiple-account .qif file, as well as retaining the transaction categories and automatically adding new accounts found in that file. Unfortunately, Splash Desktop made a hash of the transaction data; my manual attempts to resolve balances made the variances even worse. I can’t understand what is happening in the background. However, individual account .qif file import was successful.

But far worse is the fundamental inability to enter any transfer transactions between any two accounts! (At least I couldn’t see how to do this on either the desktop of iPhone app.) How can a financial software programme not provide a transfer transaction feature?


20100228 Finance YodleeYODLEE

Yodlee provides online financial management software to the banks (and other financial institutions); your bank’s online service may have Yodlee running the show in the background.

Gracefully, Yodlee offers a free online aggregator for individuals, through its Yodlee Money Center service.

Accounts cannot be manually entered; you can only add banks that offer online access. However, the list of supported financial institutions goes even further than Mint.com’s offering in regards to UK banks.

But the lack of adding accounts manually and no prospect of any iPhone/syncing application rules Yodlee out for me.


This was a long search to find a personal finance programme for Mac users that could be used to sync with an iPhone. In the end, I found only three programmes — iBank, iCompta and MoneyWell — that satisfied all of my essential criteria: manual account addition, multi-currency support, transfer transactions, account reconciliation and iPhone synchronisation.

I use MoneyWell as the best of the lot. I find it remarkable that there as yet no single personal finance software programme that stands out as a leader for Mac users.

Feature Set Table:

Programme/Feature Quicken iBank iCompta Money
Well
Splash
Money
Yodlee
Add Manual Accounts Y Y Y Y
Multiple currency Y Y Y Y Y
Account reconciliation Y Y Y Y Y ?
iPhone sync Y Y Y Y
Transfer transactions Y Y Y Y ?

20100228 Finance Cha-ChingCHA-CHING

I was attracted to Cha-Ching’s pleasing graphic interface and offer of desktop and iPhone app syncing integration.

Cha-Ching (by Midnight Apps) was the only desktop app (beyond MoneyWell) that successfully imported an amalgamated (multiple account) .qif file, but unfortunately without adding the relevant bank accounts to my Cha-Ching list of accounts. (I trust adding individual account .qif files would work.)

But the failure to include any categories with the imported .qif files is a deal breaker in itself.

Cha-Ching does offer the most graphically pleasing iPhone app.

Yet lack of multi-currency support makes this a non-starter.

Added to the fact that it Cha-Ching desktop crashed all the time on me!

Cha-Ching is just not a viable proposition.

UPDATE (8/8/2012): Well, well. Cha-Ching was acquired by Intuit two years ago, with no remnant of the original application.


20100228 Finance Wesabe


WESABE

Wesabe offers a free online financial management service. Its USP is its community focus, where individuals can ask and reply to queries from other users on financial matters.

As for this community aspect, Wesabe is the leader. However, as for its financial software, it’s way behind.

There’s no way to add bank accounts manually. The is the same situation as Quicken Online (Mint.com), but Wesabe isn’t as mean: you can find the major UK banks to add to your list of accounts.

Far worse is the inability to reconcile any of your accounts. I sent a message to Wesable support about this, and their reply was, “Why would you want to do that?” Um, because it’s one of the basic aspects of financial accounting and because I don’t always trust what the bank says I’ve spent.

Wesabe has a solid looking iPhone application that gives you ready access to your online account.

But without the ability to add manual accounts or any reconciliation, Wesabe is too limited and too much of a leap of faith.

UPDATE (30/6/2010): Wesabe announces the closure of its financial management product altogether; its community-based online discussion boards remain. What an Icarus experience.

3 thoughts on “Review: Personal finance software for Mac-iPhone

  1. thanks for putting this together. i have been hunting around for a while too. also just looked at Squirrel, but their multi-currency is still in beta; and split transactions are not supported (hard to believe).thanks again, very helpful.pascal

  2. I too have been hunting for decent finance software for many years. I just switched to iCompta too after many months with iBank.What sealed the deal for me is that it handles reports in multi-currency too and converts all my accounts to one currency if i need this.With iBank I had to prepare separate reports for each currency which was a huge problem. My business sells products in $US but pays for a lot of services in Thai Baht and therefore it wouldn’t create one single report detailing if my business was making a profit or loss each month.

  3. Two HUGE things that iCompta can’t do: print checks and generate and print reports at tax time. Quicken Essentials for mac can’t print checks either! It amazes me to see products like Quicken for mac and EudoraPro give up on the mac platform and just walk away. I’ll have to stick with Quicken for now but I hate how there is no iPhone app and sync.

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