Over the weekend I spent some time migrating my 14+ years of Quicken data from Quicken 2007 to iBank, which was at the top of my list of Quicken alternatives. I’ll be providing lots of details below, but the executive summary is that iBank (currently version 4.2.4) is a great piece of software, though I’m not convinced that it’s right for me.
While the good folks at IGG Software were kind enough to provide me with a review copy, iBank comes with a 30 day free trial that can upgraded to the paid version at any time. That should give you more than enough time to decide whether or not you like it – and if you do, simply register your copy and keep on using it.
Okay, back to the topic at hand…
Getting your data out of Quicken
For starters, I had to export my data from Quicken into a QIF (Quicken Interchange Format) file. This is one of several data formats that Intuit has developed and then abandoned over the years, and it’s the preferred format for importing into iBank.
In Quicken 2007, you can export to a QIF file by going to File > Export > To QIF. In my case, this took a few minutes as I have a ton of data – when all was said and done, I wound up with a 1.8 Mb text file.
Also note that Quicken is unable to export the price history for securities without a ticker symbol. This isn’t a huge deal, as most of our investments either have ticker symbols or are tracked as dollar-denominated investment – click through for more details on how I track CDs and Lending Club investments.
Getting your data into iBank
The next step is to install and launch iBank. When it comes up, tell it that you want to import from Quicken for Mac and then simply drag-and-drop your QIF into the window. Once again, you may need to wait patiently at this step – it really depends on how much data you’re dealing with.
NOTE: If you’ve been using Quicken Essentials for Mac, you’re out of luck, as it doesn’t support QIF export.
Once the import is done, you’ll get a window that asks you to verify the account types. Be careful with this step, as there’s no way to change account types after you create your file. For me, the only glitch at this point was that all bank accounts defaulted to checking accounts, and I had to change a few to savings accounts – though this is mostly a matter of aesthetics.
Double-checking the import
Okay, now that my data was in iBank, I needed to double-check the import and make sure there weren’t errors. The easiest way to do this is to open Quicken alongside iBank and cross-reference the balances for each account to make sure that they agree.
Given the huge number of accounts and transactions that I was dealing with, I expected to find a number of errors, but there were surprisingly few. Moreover, as far as I could tell, most of these errors appeared to be Quicken artifacts as opposed to iBank import errors. Regardless, this cleanup step was very fast and easy.
Strengths and weaknesses
My first impression of iBank once I got everything imported and started poking around was that it’s a very nicely polished piece of software. It’s much prettier than my old version of Quicken, and it’s fairly easy to navigate. The built-in help files are extremely helpful, and IGG also hosts some very nice support forums where you can mingle with other users as well as support staff.
One particularly awesome feature was the ability to cut/paste transactions from one account to another. This comes in especially handy if you make a mistake when setting your account type. You can’t change the account type after it’s created, but you can create a new account of the right type and then select all and cut/paste (be sure to cut and not copy!) the transactions into the new account. From there you can simply delete the old account. Slick! (And useful in other scenarios, as well.)
As I dug deeper, however, I ran into some unexpected limitations and annoyances. For example, when looking at how securities are set up, you can’t customize the the investment “Type” or “Risk.” Rather, you have to choose from a pre-set list of plain vanilla options.
Once again, this lack of customization isn’t a huge deal, but it could be an issue if you like to visualize your asset allocation with more granularity than Stock vs. Mutual Fund vs. ETF, etc. and Growth vs. Income vs. Speculation vs. Hedge. It would be nice to be able to specify things like domestic vs. international, large vs. small cap, etc.
Another annoyance is that iBank lacks a default portfolio view where you can see share numbers by account, returns, etc. While you can access this info through a custom report, the report has to be generated on the fly each time you view it, so there’s a bit of a delay when clicking over to review your portfolio. One tip here is to open your report in a separate window so you don’t have to wait for it to regenerate if you click in and out of it for any reason, but still… I miss the Quicken portfolio view.
I was also disappointed that you can’t enter total transaction amounts when recording an investment transaction. Rather, you have to rely on share price and number of shares and hope there isn’t a minor rounding issue. I often have things like a $1000 transaction that totals up to $999.99 or $1000.01 due to rounding errors from multiplying the share price by share number.
In Quicken, you can set the transaction amount and that spare penny will automatically get added or subtracted in the “commission” field to make the numbers work out right. In iBank, you have to do this manually. Yes, I’m anal – why track your finances with a computer if you’re not? And yes, I do a lot of manual updating, so that might be part of my problem.
If you’re a hard core investment tracker, then you might also be disappointed that that all investment basis tracking is done on a first-in-first-out (FIFO) basis, which might be a major sticking point if you’re into tax loss harvesting and prefer to specify tax lots. I do this, but I’ve always kept a separate spreadsheet for tracking this, so iBank’s use of FIFO tracking isn’t a show stopper for me.
The reporting is a bit cludgy, in that it tries too hard to make you use specified intervals, such as the past week, month, quarter, year, etc. While you can set custom date ranges, but there’s no easy way to generate reports for all of your data. Rather, you have to specify the relevant date range to get a look at all of your data at once – and then you’ll have to update the date ranges as time goes by.
Oh, and for some odd reason, it rounds of all you investment returns off to the nearest whole percentage in the investment reports. Why? Seriously… Why?
Finally, it’s worth noting that iBank doesn’t support billpay. This is a complete non-issue for me, as I use our bank’s billpay interface, but it might be an issue for you if you’ve grown accustomed to paying your bills from inside of Quicken.
The final analysis
In the final analysis, I was reasonably impressed with iBank, but I’m not convinced that it’s the right solution for me. I had extremely high hopes going in, the data migration was a snap, and I think it will be a great solution for many. That being said, I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to things like investment reporting, and I suspect other “power users” might be likewise disappointed with some of the limitations that I ran into.
Given the above, I’m going to keep poking around. My next (and hopefully final) stop will be Moneydance. Stay tuned for more updates…