Quicken has been my go-to program for managing my vast empire's finances since a decade before the last century ended. I used the early Windows versions, and the DOS versions before that. Through the years, it's become slicker, and has added such features as budgeting (seriously?) and managing bill payments, rental property and investments.
But I use Quicken mainly for recording and managing my checking and credit card accounts. I download transactions from banks and credit cards, and can see at any time how deep are my debts and the projected shortfalls in my checking account. When I see a credit card charge for two tickets to Dubai, I know immediately that it's a scam, at about the same time my credit card company alerts me. At the end of the year, if I've been careful to assign categories such as "property tax" to my financial transactions, I print out a report that makes tax time much easier. I give the report to my accountant, which makes his job easier, too. In some cases, Quicken data can be imported into TurboTax to make tax time even easier.
The latest version of Quicken adds a feature that's connected to about 11,000 banks, credit card companies and everyday payments such as the gas bill. The first time a payee is set up, your sign-on details are recorded. PDF files of bills can be downloaded, and, in theory, the amount of the bill and due date come up, along with the category you've assigned to it (utilities, for example). But Quicken simply couldn't come up with the correct balance for my gas bill or the correct due date. It couldn't give me balances for two of my credit cards and it didn't know that I'd already paid a bill using my bank's bill-pay feature. A bank "pay-from" account – usually your checking account – funds the bills.
Calls to tech support to solve the bill-paying feature were fruitless – wait times were interminable, made worse by the kind of hold music that's piped into hell.
I was hesitant to enter all my user names and passwords for bill websites, even though Quicken assures users that its site is safe. That's a brave claim, given recent mass hacks. But I forged ahead anyway.
This latest version of Quicken offers more editions for Mac users -- Quicken Starter, Deluxe, and Premier, ranging in price from $35 to $ 75. The Premier version has a free bill-paying feature, but I'm already using my bank's free bill-paying feature. You can do side-by-side comparisons at www.Quicken.com.
On the Windows side, there are four versions, with the Home, Business and Rental Property version a best buy at $100 if you need all those features. Most people will probably settle for the Deluxe version at $50. That version includes savings goals in addition to financial tracking. There's a 40 percent off sale at Amazon, Staples and Office Depot that runs until Dec. 2.
Those prices are for "memberships." Like a lot of software companies, Quicken is charging yearly for their programs. True, you get what companies call a "free" upgrade. I'll rant about memberships in a future column.
For the sake of this review, I installed Quicken 2018, which deleted Quicken 2017, which I liked very much. I could use the 2017 version with no membership fee, until Quicken decides not to support it anymore. Support should be in quotes, since it's difficult to get live help for issues that aren't covered on their website. To be fair, that website has a wealth of information, but I couldn't find one that addressed my gas-bill issue.
In all financial issues there's a bottom line, and Quicken 2018 is no different. If you want to download and pay your bills through the software – assuming you can get it to work – Quicken 2018 is worth the membership fee. If you're happily traveling down the road to fame and fortune, though, 2017, which you've already paid for is as good as Quicken gets. Not every piece of software needs to be updated every year.
Speaking of updates: In a previous column I wrote about wireless charging pads for iPhones 8 and X and other brands and models. The Belkin Boost Up device, currently available only from Apple for $60, works with a thin case like my $40 Speck Presidio Grip (www.speckproducts.com). Unlike some devices, the Belkin comes with a power plug, which is essential. Without it, charge times when connected to a computer will take all of a winter night. The Belkin that uses a power adapter took three hours to go from 5 percent to a full charge on my iPhone X.
About The Writer
Harold Glicken is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at email@example.com and a collection of his columns can be found at www.helpware-online.com.
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