The Quicken Ultimatum

I was reviewing my bills and trying to figure where I can cut back -- like everyone else these days -- when my electronic checkbook interrupted to ask for upgrade money.

Intuit gave me an ultimatum: Pay up or we shut you off.

With 15 years of Quicken data at risk, I set out to find out just exactly what my options were. Along the way, I discovered that my little upgrade problem was part of a larger challenge for the personal financial software market overall -- and for Intuit, which dominates in a way that even Microsoft must envy. Here's what I found out -- and how I made my choice.

Confessions of a Quicken Junkie

I am a long-time user of Quicken. I've been hammering in my checkbook transactions since 1993 -- something that my wife views as an anal-retentive waste of time. She's the kind of person who can keep a rough balance in her head at all times and doesn't worry about balancing the checkbook down to the penny. She always knows basically where she stands financially.

I'm not like that. I have to know every detail, and Quicken is my biweekly ritual to find out. So I sit in my office with the paper checkbook, Quicken on screen, and fret over missing receipts and unknown transactions. My wife has learned to put up with the outbursts from the office when bank statements don't magically line up with Quicken's balance and I have to uncheck 77 cleared transactions and start over.

She hates the constant cash register "ka-ching" as Quicken logs each register transaction (should I tell her I can turn it off?). And she somehow tolerates the constant interruptions. "Honey, what was this $78 charge I downloaded from the bank?" For all that, I can never remember the balance -- something that's always a point of ridicule in our house. But I always know where to find it. And hey, I produce great reports.

It's not all that bad, really. With increased use of VISA debit cards and the ability to electronically download current transactions as they post at the bank, the process has become much easier. And the reports make a big difference at tax time.

The Quicken Ultimatum

But I digress. My current version is Quicken 2006. I've seen no value in upgrading -- I use the program as an electronic checkbook -- so I had not bothered with the yearly refreshes: 2007, 2008 and now 2009. So, finally, Intuit decided to force the hand of us Quicken 2006 holdouts. Right after the first of the year the pestering commenced. Every time I launched Quicken, Intuit was in my face with a continuous string of discontinuation of service "Service Alert" pop-ups.

Quicken Discontinuation of Service Dialog

It stated that, Effective April 30th Intuit would drop support for Quicken 2006.

No more support? I could live with that. But what got my attention was this statement: "This means you will no longer be able to access ... [d]ownloads of your bank, credit card, credit union, or investment account transactions."

Now that's a problem. I'll talk about what happened next tomorrow.

Quicken: The Saga

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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