The state of personal finance software on the Mac is terrible

I switched to a Mac in early 2005 and although I don’t see myself ever willingly going back to Windows at home (I use it at work), the one area that makes me wish I was on a PC is personal finance software. I’ve been a Quicken user since 2000 and have enjoyed the benefits of easily tracking my spending, budgeting, online bill pay and cash flow forecasting for almost all of my adult life. I can still remember pondering the switch to Mac and thinking, “oh great, they have Quicken for Mac.” But that was the last time I thought of a product from Intuit in a positive light. Converting from Quicken for PC to Mac was one of the most difficult software migrations I’ve ever done — and I do them for a living. I spent countless hours on the phone with support trying to figure out why my registrars didn’t balance when I imported my qif files — no, Intuit doesn’t support a direct import, but rather you export everything and import it back in. In the end I made the transition and missed the superior PC version of Quicken, holding my breath as Intuit released paid upgrades to its Mac product, only to realize none of my beefs were addressed.

But hey, at least it worked and it had many of the same features I had in the PC world, that was until Lion came along. Faced with the choice to upgrade to Quicken Essentials or to not upgrade to Lion, I bit the bullet and hoped for the best. That hope was unfounded as I lost access to one of my favorite features, online bill pay. For the past 10 years I’ve entered a transaction into Quicken and had it paid by my bank automatically, but not anymore. Now I have to enter the transaction into my bank’s website and then enter it again into Quicken — if I wait for the transaction to clear, which will enter it automatically, I don’t have the ability to forecast my cash flow. That is bad enough, but the budget tool in Quicken Essentials does not work, I won’t go over the details here, but the issues are well documented in the Intuit community forums.

And so last month I decided to get serious about budgeting and while a spreadsheet does a pretty decent job at a high level, tracking my day-to-day spending against the budget on a spreadsheet is anything but workable. At first I tried HomeBudget for the iPhone and while it was ok, I found it tedious to enter each transaction manually since it doesn’t link to my bank account. Then there was the Mint upgrade this month, which added budget features, so I figured now was a time to try it again. Mint is actually pretty good at keeping tracking of spending with a great iPhone app and website. I can quickly open it on the go and categorize my spending and see how I’m doing vs my goals in that category. I haven’t tried it a whole month yet, but I’m hopeful it’ll fit this specific need. The problem is, it only fits this one need, and not all my needs as it doesn’t do cash flow forecasting, at all, or bill pay. I can’t even work on a budget until the month begins — typically I like to get it worked out at least a few days in advanced.

So here I am over two years after Quicken Essentials was released realizing that Intuit is never going to fix it, never going to add online bill pay and never going to add an iPhone app that syncs automatically. So instead I’m using four applications to do what I used to do with a single app (bank site for bill pay, Quicken Essentials for cash flow forecasting and reconciliation, Mint to track day-to-day spending, and Google Docs for my monthly budget).

24 Responses to “The state of personal finance software on the Mac is terrible”

  1. Eric Jilot says:

    Give Moneywell a try.

    • Ben Drawbaugh says:

      MoneyWell looks really good, but it’d cost me $60 for the iPhone and Mac app and it doesn’t do bill pay. It’d probably be worth the investment if it meant I could get down to one app.

  2. Carlton Bale says:

    I have an old Windows PC that I remote desktop into just to run Quicken. What a waste of time and money just to run 1 program. I’ve been hoping that Mint would become Quicken-like enough to be my primary tool, but it’s still missing too many features. I’d gladly pay a lot of money for a mac tool that did EVERYTHING you mention, but I can’t find a no-compromise solution either.

  3. AJ Peck says:

    Can’t you use something like VMWare Fusion and continue to use Quicken? We use Excel for the high-level budget and then just pull out cash for all of the actual spending (excepting bills & gas).

    • Ben Drawbaugh says:

      I could but I’d have to reconvert my data back and up until now I haven’t given up hope that Intuit will fix Quicken for Mac. My wife and are strongly apposed to carrying cash. But sometimes I wonder if it would be easier.

  4. Scott says:

    pardon my institutional bias, but iBank 4 may be your best solution. offers way more than than either mint or quicken essentials. syncs to iPhone app, iPad version due this month (bill pay should appear in a later update). but it’s the most complete ecosystem of finance management apps for mac.

    • Ben Drawbaugh says:

      I’ll be honest, the initial investment has deterred me from trying it — time to convert data as well as cost to acquire. But seeing as you took the time to post here, I’m going to take the time to convert — assuming the 30 trial will allow me to convert my 10+ years of Quicken data. I’ll be honest, it was the mention of envelope style budgeting in the feature list that pushed me over. I’m very hopeful that I can get down to one app again! I’ll write a follow up post on how it goes.

  5. Scott says:

    fair enough! if you run into any questions, see our video tutorials, or check in with our support team – Live Chat’s available during east coast business hours.

    • Ben Drawbaugh says:

      You could have saved me some trouble my mentioning that iBank 4 can’t directly import from Quicken Essentials.

  6. Scott says:

    ah, it isn’t that iBank “can’t import” – it’s that essentials is the only version of quicken, for mac or PC, that “can’t export” a QIF file, a standard format used by every capable finance app and most financial institutions as well. apologies for any oversight on my part, but i may have assumed that’s common knowledge. here’s one of the blog posts about this topic that went viral when it got posted:

    (i should also point out rob’s follow-up:

    again, we’re more than happy to answer questions for you about iBank – support is free even for trial users.

  7. Scott says:

    you’re right – iBank imports both QFX and CSV data. but there’s much more to it than that, obviously. i think we’re at a point where you should email me – i mentioned my “institutional bias” above but didn’t clarify that i’m a marketing person, not a technical one. at this point i don’t feel it’s helpful for me to seem either promotional or uninformed in this forum, so drop me a line and we can converse further.

  8. zeeke says:

    Keep us informed Ben, I’m still looking for a good finance app for Mac. I’m doing everything in excel right now. Got some 4 years of data and analysis to convert when I actually migrate.

  9. JimFrey says:

    I am using the Ibank 30 day trail. It really has all I need. It has split transactions, reports customizable for specific categories and time periods, reconcile, prints checks, and data import from QIF files The only problem is that when I import my many years if Quicken window data, the checking account balance is way off. This apparently can be caused by checking account category names that are the same as account names (not sure I have any of these), transfer transactions, etc. I am about to assume working through this is too hard and go the VM Fusion route.

  10. corey says:

    wow, iBank sounded good but a quick look at the reviews of the iPad and iPhone apps in iTunes shows a very low rating. Sad, I was hoping this would be the one for replacing an aging Quicken for Mac. I just got a new mac, and would rather not install that old stuff (if it even works) on the new hardware. But I really want the mobility of iPad/iPhone apps. Curious Ben if you ever looked further or the import issue stopped you cold. Or are you still using the 4 apps in concert?

    • Ben Drawbaugh says:

      The import issue stopped me cold, but I’m still planning on giving it a try when I have some time to spend on it, as there is a Quicken bug that keeps causing me grief when reconciling (it incorrectly dedups two transactions on the same day for the same amount).

  11. Keith says:

    I bought an iMac in 2012 and was wanting to use a personal finance package to start fresh with in 2013. My investigation so far has left me confused as to what I should use. Ideally I would also like to be able to access the software from my iPhone and iPad. Would like thoughts of this forum as to recommendation for a new user that has no file to update / import. Thanks!

    • Ben Drawbaugh says:

      I wish I could help Keith, but I’ve yet to try iBank because of the import situation. If it were me, though, I’d give iBank a try. If you do, I’d love to hear what you think of it.

  12. Dona says:

    I used Quicken and QuickBooks on a PC for years and loved both of them. I do not need anything fancy to track my finances and maintain a budget. I am also a brand new Mac user. With that said, however, all the research I have done to find a reasonable personal finance program for the Mac has had me running in circles and very frustrated. Just when I think I’ve chosen iBank, I read another awful review. Just when I think that MoneyWell is the way to go, some other review site says don’t do it! I can’t believe the Mac world has yet to come up with something comprehensive for the everyday user. Has anything new come out in 2013 that I should know about before I make this frustrating decision?

  13. Chris Bishop says:

    I converted from Quicken 2007 to iBank less than 2 years ago and have been very happy with both the desktop and iphone versions. I pay nearly every bill via credit card, which we pay off monthly. For the few billers that don’t accept credit card, I pay from my bank website. I had no problem converting my Q2007 files, I love the website downloading and reconciling is a breeze!

  14. Dan says:

    I can’t stand iBank. Been using it for the past 2 years and I’m finally dumping the slow piece of junk. I’m going to give You Need A Budget a try since I keep reading so many good things about it. It’s a different concept, but at least it’s a piece of Mac financial software that gets good reviews. Bye bye iBank. I won’t miss you!

  15. Ron says:

    Another thumbs down for QuickBooks on the MAC. And the lack of API support like it’s PC counterpart is doubly disappointing. I’ll give iBank a go.

  16. Andy says:

    Dona: you should try “Inesoft Cash Organizer” financial app ( It has web version and desktop version for MAC and Windows. Support importing data from Quicken and csv. Can store your data in cloud or locally.

  17. Mike says:

    Finally, there’s a free cash forecasting website. recently launched and offers high quality financial planning and budget forecasting tools. You can create a highly accurate budget and project it 5, 10, 20 up to 100 years in the future and instantly be alerted when financial plans are impacted.

    There is a built in financial planner too which helps people plan for mortgages, retirement, having children, taking vacations, even landing upcoming promotions. The site is and offers 100% free, professional-grade financial planning tools. So far, It has delivered on all the features we’ve been discussing.