The Quicken suite of personal finance software from Intuit remains among the most highly rated products in the field. Experts praise the longevity of the products, as well as the many features found in each edition. Quicken provides automatic downloads from more financial institutions than any other personal accounting software on the market. Quicken also offers more features than any other software, including automatic categorizations of downloaded transactions, investment tracking, and saving, budgeting and planning functions. Conveniently, you can import data from Quicken directly into Intuit's TurboTax, and Quicken helps you identify expenditures that are tax deductible.
Quicken 2012 (*Est. $30 and up) includes a revamped budgeting function, automatic downloading of transactions from investment accounts, and access to current currency exchange rates. Experts agree that Quicken is easy to set up and use. Free customer support is available via online chat (available 24/7) or email, to which Intuit promises to respond within a day. Phone support costs $25 per call, but some calls are free, such as those regarding installation problems or issues with importing data from an earlier version of Quicken.
Users can select the edition of Quicken 2012 which is most suitable for their needs. The Quicken Starter (*Est. $30), has basic tools for tracking accounts, bills, debt and investments, documenting tax deductions, and paying bills online, while Quicken Deluxe (*Est. $35), adds the ability to download and track your 401(k), IRA and investment account information, along with more advanced portfolio management, savings and tax-planning tools. For most users, Quicken Premier (*Est. $50) offers more than they'll ever need, with great home page displays of cash flow and other financials, document scanning, the ability to attach documents electronically to transactions, superior management and planning tools, stronger reports and excellent portfolio tracking.
Intuit provides online support for three years after you purchase your software, so those with 2010 versions need to upgrade to Quicken 2012 by April 30, 2013 in order to continue that support.
Moneydance (*Est. $50) lacks the financial planning tools that Quicken offers, but otherwise has most of the same features, including automatic downloading of financial data from the user's accounts, though it doesn't connect with as many institutions as Quicken 2012. It is cross-platform software that works with multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac and Linux. Moneydance supports multiple currencies and offers translations into many languages, including Spanish, German, French and Korean. These features, as About.com's Shelley Elmblad points out, "set Moneydance apart from other personal finance software packages and make it useful to a wide population of international customers." Moneydance 2010 includes several new features including capital gains reporting, as well as new tagging options for filtering reports and graphs.
Another advantage of Moneydance for many users is that it does not include advertising in its software, unlike Quicken. It includes a backup utility so you can set up automatic backups and store data, and you can also encrypt data for added security (but you must remember your password or you won't be able to retrieve it). Support functions include an embedded help program, an online user's guide, a user's forum and email support. The latest version, Moneydance 2011 adds the ability to import data directly from Quicken Essentials for Mac and offers a way to access to banking websites without leaving Moneydance. You can get a free trial download that lets you manually input 100 transactions and import an unlimited number, so you can see for yourself whether Moneydance meets your needs.
You Need A Budget (*Est. $60), also known as YNAB, is another well-reviewed but less well-known option for personal finance. Users can track income and expenses, reconcile accounts and generate their own reports. A major plus with YNAB is its focus on teaching people how to set up and maintain a budget, and work towards their financial goals. YNAB comes with three basic reports: spending by category, total spending and current balances. YNAB does not automatically download data from financial institutions, however; you must either enter it manually or download it and then import it. The latest version, YNAB 4 is available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, and has a streamlined interface and added features. You can now sync your financials with mobile devices and create new spending reports, and access more organizational tools.
YNAB 4 has not been reviewed extensively. The BeingFrugal blog offers an overview of the new version, praising the ability to sync your information across devices as well as the new reports. YNAB 3 has won kudos from two of our top-rated review sites, TopTenReviews and PersonalFinanceSoftwareReviews.com. TopTenReviews says that the online help and support for the product is "amazing." YNAB gets an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 from more than 200 users on Amazon.com, who like how easy it is to set up and use, compared to Quicken 2010. Kiplinger.com recommends it for those who "need extra motivation to achieve financial discipline." Although YNAB 3 is slightly more expensive than some software programs, upgrades are free for life. You can get a 34-day free trial download, and it comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee. Users report that YNAB's online forum is helpful in answering their questions, and that customer support is excellent.
iBank (*Est. $60) personal software is recommended by reviewers at MacWorld and CNET as an alternative to Quicken Essentials for Mac. The reviewer at MacWorld states that iBank will "… replace any application you're currently using." iBank is a full-featured financial management system that keeps track of bank and credit cards, your investment portfolio and your budgeting and planning. iBank imports data from most Quicken products (except for Quicken Essentials for Mac) and has an innovative way of downloading bank transactions via your bank's web banking feature. It's based on the envelope-style budgeting system, in which virtual envelopes represent different spending categories, and also has a camera feature for taking photos of receipts which can then be tied to transactions. iBank doesn't currently have an online bill-paying option, but its 30 day full-version free trial means that you can try it out fully before purchase.
SplashMoney is available in a desktop version (*Est. $20) that runs on both Windows and Mac operating systems, as well as a mobile version (*Est. $30) that's bundled with desktop software. SplashMoney has the most mobile apps of any of the software we reviewed, and is available for the iPhone, iPad, Android devices, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. Reviewers say SplashMoney is best suited for users who are new to financial accounting software and just want to manage financial accounts and set up a budget with basic reports. You can download transactions directly from many financial institutions, though the software does not automatically categorize them.
However, there are none of the advanced planning or investment-tracking features that other applications offer. Brian Hart, writing at The iPhone Blog, likes the fact that the software supports many types of accounts and multiple currencies and provides real-time currency updates. About.com notes that SplashMoney is perfect for novices and those who want a simple way to manage their accounts and track spending. SplashMoney offers a 30-day free trial and a 60-day money-back guarantee, so it's easy to try it out without making a commitment.