Quicken's Double Cross

Did Quicken prices double? They certainly appeared to if you were a user of Quicken Basic and wanted to upgrade to the latest version, as I discovered this week.

I paid $29.99 for Quicken Basic a few years ago. That simple version is gone, replaced by the $29.99 Quicken Starter Edition, which appears to have pretty much the same features.

There's just one catch: The Intuit folks only want new users to have it, so they crippled the product so that it can't import Quicken files from previous versions. If you're an existing Quicken Basic user, you must upgrade to the Deluxe version, which it will happily sell you for $59.99.

I have a problem with that. I use Quicken Basic to keep some very simple books for a local nonprofit and we don't need the fluffy whiz-bang features, nor the extra cost. I've always found it a bit annoying that existing users don't get upgrade pricing but are expected to pay full price (although there are occasionally rebate offers that ease the transition). Now we were being asked to pay twice as much to upgrade to a version with features we didn't need.

The features in Quicken Basic (and Starter Edition) are more than adequate for most people, who just need an electronic checkbook with the ability to download statements and some basic reporting capabilities. The problem, I suspect, is that it's difficult to get people to upgrade every year, let alone move to a fancier version with more bells and whistles. So Intuit decided to give upgraders a push up the value chain.

This may help boost Quicken's revenues per sale, but it may also annoy users and lose the company some business. Our initial response was to consider moving to Microsoft Money, which still sells for about $30. Unfortunately, Microsoft lost the sale when its product couldn't import Quicken Basic 2005 files.

We ended up biting the bullet and buying the Deluxe edition. The good news is that we found a copy for $39.88 at Wal-Mart, which was $20 less than Staples. It pays to shop around.

Then we discovered a "$30 rebate" offer for users of Quicken Basic on the Quicken Web site. There was no mention of a rebate on the product box, nor did that offer appear on the Quicken Deluxe product page on the Web site. I missed it at first.

But if you looked under the Support tab on the Quicken.com home page, selected Upgrades and selected Quicken Basic on this page, you see a pitch for a $59.99 Quicken Deluxe purchase plus a limited-time rebate offer.

After closer examination, however, I discovered that the $30 rebate was really only a $10 rebate. You receive $10 in cash. The balance of the "rebate" consisted of $20 in coupon offers which could be applied to the purchase of additional Intuit products.

In the end, our cost came to $29.88 - the $39.88 purchase price less the $10 rebate, which we are still waiting to receive. That's about what we paid for Quicken Basic. But now we have a bloated piece of software with features we don't need.

And next time we need to upgrade I suspect that it may cost a lot more than $30.

Quicken: The Saga

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