On Monday I talked about my experiences moving from Quicken to iBank. In short, iBank is a solid option, but it’s not right for me. I’m a bit of a power user when it comes to tracking investments, and the reporting features (and lack of a true portfolio view) were deal killers for me.
So… I next turned my attention to Moneydance from The Infinite Kind and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t need to go further down my list of Quicken alternatives. Unlike iBank, which has a 30 day free trial, Moneydance has a free trial that is limited to 100 manually-entered transactions.
Given that Moneydance costs $50 (though you can easily get a $10 discount; more below) I wasn’t too crazy about this highly restrictive trial. A limit of 100 transactions really isn’t enough to thoroughly test out the software, and I thought twice about even giving it a shot. However, I had read enough reviews that I was convinced that Moneydance was the next best option on my list. Thus, I took the plunge…
Getting your data out of Quicken
The process here is identical to what I went through for iBank. In fact, I used the exact same QIF export file for Moneydance that I used for iBank. If you need details on exporting to QIF, check out my previous post.
Getting your data into Moneydance
The next step is to install and launch Moneydance. When it comes up, choose “Import File.” Next, be sure that the “From Another Program” button is selected – if you don’t, your categories will get screwed up.
From there, the official guidance from the Moneydance creators is to check the “Import Account Info Only” box and run the import to create the account so you can verify that they’re right. Once you’ve verified the accounts, uncheck that box and repeat the process to import your data.
The trouble with this approach is that it didn’t work very well for me. The accounts got set up properly, but when I imported my transaction data, it was a mess. I ended up with bizarre (and hugely negative) balance in our bank accounts, etc.
I thus decided to start from scratch, but skip the “Import Account Info Only” step. Ahhhh… Much better. Some of the balances were off by a bit, but it was close enough that I figured I could sort it out.
Double-checking the import
The most obvious problem was that certain types of split deposits got screwed up. I’m talking here mainly of payroll deposits that included numerous deductions as well as a transfer out to a retirement account. This latter bit – the transfer out – got included in the split deposit, but then got duplicated on its own.
Once I figured this out, however, it was an easy thing to cruise through out accounts and delete the duplicates. This not only fixed underages in our bank accounts, it also fixed the overages in our investment accounts. All in all, it was pretty straightforward. Yes, it took a couple of hours before I was completely up and running, but I was dealing with 14+ years of data.
The only other glitches were that I wound up with an extra bank account called “Unknown: PAYEE” (I ended up deleting this with no problems) and one of our investment accounts, somehow got split into two identically named accounts. Fortunately, it was easy to re-assign the errant transactions from one account to the other such that I could ultimately delete the duplicate.
Strengths and weaknesses
Right off the bat, I noticed that Moneydance isn’t nearly as pretty as iBank. The interface is rather utilitarian, and the graphs are line and pie graphs similar to what you might cook up in Excel if you didn’t have a lot of time to pretty things up. But aside from this minor (very minor) complaint, Moneydance is a very impressive piece of software.
In short, it shares none of the operational weaknesses that I identified in iBank:
- It allows you to customize your investment types (beyond a default list of options) for tracking purposes
- It has an excellent portfolio view
- It allows you to enter exact transaction amounts to avoid rounding errors (and the need to compensate with $0.01 commissions) in investment accounts
- It supports specific ID of shares for tracking tax lots
- Investment returns are rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent (as opposed to whole percents)
- It also supports online billpay, though I haven’t messed with this as I use our bank’s billpay interface
Another very nice aspect of Moneydance is that it has a public API, which means that users can right custom extensions to add desired features and customizations. I’m not a programmer, so I won’t be doing any of this myself, but it’s nice to know that it’s a possibility, and that some other users have already written some handy extensions.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention… Moneydance is available for Mac, Windows, or Linux so you won’t be tied down to a single platform if you decide to use it for the long term.
Getting a 20% discount
If you’re interested in buying Moneydance, be sure to swing by their Facebook page first. In the left sidebar, you’ll see a link for a “Discount Code.” Go ahead and click it – no code… But if you “Like” their page, a 20% discount code will appear, bringing the total price down to $40. And yes, you can “unlike” the page later if you don’t want it cluttering up your account.
The final analysis
In the final analysis, Moneydance looks like a winner. No, it’s not as pretty or polished as iBank, but the interface is definitely serviceable and it has a very robust feature set. If you have a lot of data, the post-import cleanup might be a bit tedious, but it shouldn’t take too long to straighten things out.
So far, after a couple of days of use, I haven’t run into any show stoppers. I’m sure a few annoyances will crop up here or there, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to adjust and work around them – just like I did when I was first getting used to Quicken.
Just be aware that the trial is (as I noted above) somewhat crippled, in that it can only handle 100 manually-entered transactions. You can, however, import an unlimited number of transactions, so you should be able to at least test out the import and mess around a little before making a final decision.