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Quicken Hack: How to Track Airline Miles or Points

This article was written by in Best Of, Giveaways, Software. 34 comments.


One of the features I liked when I used Microsoft Money was the ability to track airline miles or points. I didn’t accumulate many, but it was good to see what I had available in one place rather than going to the individual airline websites.

I switched to Quicken and I was disappointed to find that there was no similar option. I was determined to find away to track miles, so I discovered a work-around. Here are four easy steps for setting up accounts within Quicken to track your airline miles.

Before you get started, make sure you have your most recent statement with your latest miles or points awards. By the way, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to zoom in on a screenshot.

quicken-1.gifStep 1. Enable Support for Multiple Currencies.

By default, Quicken is configured to use only one currency. What we’ll do is enable multiple currencies so we can create one of our own to track miles. In the application menu, choose Edit → Preferences → Quicken Program. Select Calendar and currency on the left column, and place a checkbox next to Multicurrency support. Click OK.

quicken-2.gifStep 2. Add a Custom Currency for Miles/Points.

In the application menu, select Tools → Currency List. In the currency list window, click New. For Currency Name, use Miles/Points (or your choice). For Symbol, enter Mi or any other unique currency symbol. You can leave Currency Code and Shortcut letter blank. For Mi per $, enter 100. This will value each mile at one cent, which may approximate the real value of miles or points. Click OK. Close the currency list window.

quicken-3.gifStep 3. Add Your Airline Account.

On the main “Quicken Home” screen, Click the button labeled “Add Account” on the sidebar. Your account isn’t held at a financial institution, so select that option and click Next. The application will prompt you to select a currency; select Miles/Points and click Next. The best type of account for airline miles is Asset, so choose Asset and click Next. Name the account “Eastern Airlines Dividend Miles” or the name of the particular loyalty program and click Next.

Check your latest statement and enter the statement date and balance as listed. Now you’ll be presented with the register for your new account.

quicken-4.gifStep 4. Hide Balance from Net Worth.

Since it may be difficult to convert your points into real cash, you may wish to remove your airline miles account from being included in your net worth. If you wish to do so, click the “Customize” button in the sidebar to open the Account List. Scroll down to find your airline miles account listed under Assets. Place a check mark in the second box under the column heading “Don’t Include in Totals.” Click Close.

Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for any additional points or miles programs you’d like to add. That’s it! You’re done. The only feature missing the ability to configure accounts to have zero decimal places, as airlines rarely credit an account a portion of a mile or point. Regardless, you can configure reports within Quicken to track your miles. There’s no way to use Direct Connect, Web Connect, or Automatic Web Update to synchronize your airline account with your provider, so all updates must be done manually.

Got any more Quicken tips? Leave them here or just say hi. Anyone who comments here will be entered to win a free copy of Quicken Basic 2007. Now you can use the free software to track rewards miles as well as your bank accounts and house values.

Updated April 5, 2011 and originally published February 15, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 34 comments }

avatar D

Okay, love the article. It may be a good tool for tracking points, but what about the accounting side of the software.

Basic knowledge is that all entries are balanced – for every debit there is a credit.

How are you entering your points – once the account is created? I guess is my question.
Do you have a “Rebate Account” or how is it expressed on the P & L (income statement)?

I actually track my points manually in the REF column, but mine are $1 for $1.

avatar D

OOPS – I got more. Why change the currency? Or is this just for the accounts that aren’t $1 for $1.

I think you have the makings for another post here.

Either you are welcome, or I am sorry!

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,480 (Platinum)

D: Great questions!

Quicken doesn’t function with double-entry accounting like professional business accounting software. Double-entry won’t really work for miles because you can’t consistently take a portion of your airline ticket price or credit card bonus and apply part of that towards your miles. A flight to California may cost $250, and you’ll receive 1,000 miles. A flight to Boston may also be $250, but you’ll only receive 400 miles. The miles you receive is related to the distance traveled, not the price of the ticket, so the “exchange rate” varies. I use 1mi = $0.01 just because that’s the most you can get if you try to cash in the miles in many cases, if possible at all.

Back to your question, to use double-entry accounting, each credit card purchase for which you are awarded miles or every ticket bought, you’d have to offset it somehow against a transaction in your miles account, and while this might work well for credit card purchases in which you gain one mile per dollar (for example), you’d have to “split” each of those entries… and it wouldn’t work at all or miles awarded for distance flown.

To use double entry accounting in Quicken, you should be looking at each category as a separate account, and I don’t think many people use the software that way.

QuickBooks is a different story.

For your other question, points awards are entered as an “increase,” and the Payee can be the name of the airline or the credit card. You can create a new income category for creating reports or leave the transaction uncategorized. If you do create a category, you’ll have to remember to keep that category out of your other income/expense reports.

Here’s more on double-entry accounting and Quicken.

avatar Jason

Great article! Thanks!

avatar D

OOOOh, I have to disagree slightly with the first part – Quicken does use a double entry system, but it’s fault is that it does not require you to follow suit. This is where most peoples records fall short. I know, because I am left deciphering the mess from people that do not use this one basic step.

oh no, here I go again,- very dangerous to look at categories as accounts, but I do understand your logic.

I do not have miles, like I shared before. If I had a client who wanted to track I would advise this:

1. create account for points like you shared above. Although I wouldn’t advise them to create a currency.
2. Then when they charge on the card in question – using your example:

a. Enter charge to Airlines $250
b. open the split
1. enter travel expense $250
2. enter points earned into Asset Account Miles/Points $400
3. enter to an other income account, called Miles/Points earned.

This way I could track all necessities:
1. travel expenses
2. credit card balance
3. Redeemable miles/points balance
4. Total earned in miles/points for specific period.

Anyway that is my view. I just can’t advice a single sided entry, not if you want accurate #’s. Welcome to my anal side.

Thank you for this fresh look!

avatar D

Enter other income amount #3 should have been a negative $400. the site didn’t include my words, not liking my presentation I guess.

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,480 (Platinum)

I see what you’re saying, D. I think the difference is that your method requires an “income account,” but the typical use of Quicken does not include income accounts, thanks to the income categories.

While the double-entry accounting system is the best to use for accurate records, I would believe that most Quicken users do not use it. Those serious about accounting would be better served by QuickBooks, PeachTree, etc.

I’m writing from the point of view of a typical Quicken user who also wants to include airline miles like Microsoft Money.

I agree that the new currency step isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice way to look at the approximate redeemable value of your points and to recognize that you’re not looking at dollars in the rewards account.

I like the idea of having a receivable rewards account as well as an earned rewards account, especially since credit cards don’t credit your rewards until the statement is created. But do you really want to split every credit card transaction that creates receivable rewards between the expense and a transfer? It’s a great idea in theory, but I think it’s too detailed for everyday use.

Creating one increase in the one Rewards account each month for the credit card rewards and once for each airline ticket purchase or hotel stay will probably suffice for the vast majority of users who want to track this information.

Thanks for your comments! It’s definitely an interesting discussion.

avatar TF Miser

I’ve never used Quicken so I can’t provide any tips. I’ll take a chance for the free copy though.

avatar Tom

I promise that if you give me a copy of quicken, I will figure it out and provide tips! Thanks!

avatar Valerie

My husband had fits when he first realized that there was no “ledger” account in Quicken….this happened years ago when we lost track of an incoming check and had to go in and out of each of many accounts in Quicken to see where we had deposited it. (This was before you could make a universal search to “find all”.)

So, I created a “ledger” account, which I call “All Income” Any incoming checks for either of us is shown as a deposit in the All Income account, and appropriately categorized. Then I use a transfer to send the deposit to the account where we actually deposit it. Split transactions take care of the fact that sometimes we deposit a portion to one account and another portion to a second account.

The blaance of All Income must always be zero (incoming checkes are always transferred to another account.) If it is not, I know immediately that I have to look for a missing transfer.

A mini double entry arrangement.

avatar Erin

Pretty nifty. Thanks for the tip!

avatar Erin

A Tip for Quicken that I forgot to mention in my last comment…

Quicken 07 no longer supports QIF imports for most account types, but it DOES support them for liability accounts. I found a workaround to import QIF files from some of my credit card accounts.

1) Create a new liability account – call it what you like, I used “temporary QIF imports”.
2) Create an account for the account that only offers QIF downloads (for me, these are small-outfit credit card accounts).
3) Import your QIF file into the liability account.
4) Highlight the imported transactions in the liability account’s register, right click and select “move transactions”. Choose your credit card’s account from the list, and you’ve just saved yourself a bunch of manual entry.

avatar Bobby

Never used quicken but heard a lot of good things, and some not so good, about it.

avatar DoubleJ

Thanks for all of the great tips for Quicken. I’m a fairly new user and one of my goals this year is to actually manage my money via Quicken.

avatar cdiltz13

This is great – thanks for all the great info!

avatar PJ

Thanks for the great article.

avatar JClarkin

I’m hoping to win the opportunity to try out Quicken. I have tried MSMoney and thought it was ok, and am now testing out Wesabe (web based).

Thanks for all the interesting articles on this site : )

avatar Phil

Thanks!

avatar Jerry

I’ll give it a shot even though we use Money for almost everything (but we hae to download the quicken files from our institutions to get them to import).

avatar Poorer Than You

I don’t have any Quicken tips, since I’ve never used it. I set my boyfriend up with Pear Budget last week, though, so I’m interested to see how that works out for him.

avatar Vish

Thanks, I hope I win Quicken this time.

avatar Futuralogic

me too

avatar mstein_88

Great article. Thanks for sharing, Flexo! This blog is the best.

avatar Barb

Hey Flexo! Don’t use Quicken–I’ve only just started tracking my income and expenses using that most high-tech of software, Excel.

avatar ib

i haven’t used finance software yet.
thank you for the opportunity!!!

avatar QH

I personally look after my family budget and all spending items need to be accounted for so that at any point in time you know where you are. Requires discipline but that’s the only way.
To help you with budgeting I’d recommend a personal finance software by Australian business Parcus Group.
Easy to use program with features including budgeting, financial planning, real estate analysis, shares valuation, life insurance…
Costs US$24 so it’s not a huge investment but absolutely great value for money.

avatar Andrea

hope the contest isn’t over just yet :)

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,480 (Platinum)

Thanks everyone, the contest is now over. Feel free to continue leaving Quicken tips!

avatar Rose

I have been a Quicken user for about 10 years. For the most part I am satisfied with the software although I spend a lot of time with work arounds and fixing stuff at tax and budget time. I’m getting married in a few months to someone who does not track expenses but is okay with starting. I was really disappointed to find out we could not keep finances separate and then merge when we are ready in Quicken. I’m wondering if this might be a good time to check out different options. If you have used both Quicken and Microsoft Money, do you find one much more efficient than the other? For those who have combined finances, do you think it is easier to add fiance’s info to my account or start out clean? Any other suggestions? Thanks.

avatar Valerie

To ROSE…You CAN keep multiple accounts in one Quicken File (i.e., checking, savings, credit card, investments, even cash accounts, for each of you. Then at the end of the year, you can format your reports to include any or all of the individual accounts, thus merging the data.

i.e., you can show combined earnings and spending or get reports for same for each of you.

I think your confusion may be in thinking you’d set up a separate Quicken FILE for each of you…one for her, one for you. Doing that, you could not merge the data. However, by putting all the accounts in one Quicken file, you can play around in many, many ways.

avatar Bob

Another way
I’ve tracked the Miles, miles, and other reward points as securities with a zero price. (Their value is questionable until you achieve a volume.) This approach keeps the value out of your net worth and doesn’t require a separate currency. You can Add or Remove shares as you use them or lose them.

avatar GoManGo

Skip Quicken, Get Mile tracker
This reminds me of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where the guy with the scimitar traps Indy in the market. He does all the gesticulations with his humongous blade and Indy pulls out the gun and just shoots the guy. Bottom line: use the right tool for the job. In this case, use the free Mile Tracker from USA Today (http://www.usatoday.deskport.biz/). You can track multiple airlines, multiples users, update regularly, know when miles expire, etc. And did I mention, free?!

avatar TexasYankeeJohn

Great “point” GoManGo! I am a long time user of Quicken and would like to see them incorporate a points tracking/management option. In the meantime, I will try the Mile Tracker tool mentioned above, and others (if available), while sticking to the old adage “use the right tool for the job” or “what smarter not harder”.

avatar Bryan Deter

Thanks for the tips.

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