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The New Quicken Online: A New Direction for Money Management Software

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The other day, I participated in a preview of the new Quicken Online product, scheduled to launch on January 8. This new product is intended to compete with some of the existing money management web tools currently existing, like Mint, reviewed by Sasha here, Geezeo, and Wesabe. Intuit has spotted a need for a more robust solution for managing cash flow, and the targeted audience, “young and responsible,” is increasingly turning towards the web for software.

The philosophy behind Quicken Online is that people are living beyond their means and need help managing short-term cash flow. The most pressing question for many younger earners is whether they will have enough money to pay their bills. Therefore, they haven’t built in tools yet to manage investments. Quicken Online will track your checking, savings, and credit card accounts.

Right away I saw that Quicken Online is very different than the traditional Quicken desktop software.

The purpose of Quicken Online is not reconciliation or tracking your full financial situation. There is no manual entry of financial data once you’ve set up your accounts and entered your passwords.

Once you sign up for an account on Quicken Online, you will be asked to set up at least your primary bank account by providing the username, password, and any other information you would normally use for logging into that bank’s online interface. Quicken Online will use the same multi-factor authentication (MFA) used by the participating bank. Rather than connecting to the banks through a third party service like Yodlee as many of the other tools do, Quicken Online fosters Intuit’s existing relationships with over 5,100 financial institutions.

It’s fairly easy to find your bank when adding an account. Here’s an example of how you might add a Bank of America account to your profile. You can click on the thumbnail for a closer look.

Quicken Online screenshot

Rather than entering your transactions manually and matching them with information from the bank as you would do with the desktop version of Quicken, all information is retrieved directly from the financial institutions each night.

Since you are not maintaining your own financial records, Quicken Online will not know whether you have any outstanding checks. To solve this, Quicken Online allows you to manually enter any checks written but unposted. The software then calculates your RealBalance, which is shown alongside your bank balance when viewing your accounts. This will help you visualize how much money you will have available, possibly saving you from overdrawing a checking account.

Once the check clears, Quicken Online will automatically match the downloaded transaction with the one you entered.

Like Mint, Quicken Online will automatically and intuitively rename your payees based on the naming habits of all other customers, but your own changes will always take precedence. The new software will also categorize your expenses through the same community-based technique. Every day, Quicken Online will be smarter about suggested payees and categories than the previous day, and Intuit expects this feature to be much more accurate and intuitive than both their own desktop software and the competing online software.

As I mentioned, the primary goal of Quicken Online is to help people organize their bills. There are features in place to build awareness of your financial condition into daily life. Once your bank information is saved, Quicken Online will retrieve activity for the last 90 days in each account. From this data, the software will suggest a list of recurring bills. You can edit these bills and activate settings for bill reminders, which can be sent via email or text message. Unfortunately, when the software launches, the bill payment feature will not be ready.

The main portal or home page of Quicken Online looks very much like the desktop software’s cash flow screen. There is an area on the left in which all of your accounts and balances are listed, but the main focus is your income, expenses, and what is left over. You can use the pie charts to drill down into your data for more information. Here is an example of my account’s home page in the beta version of Quicken Online. (My list of accounts disappeared during this session; I can attribute this to the instability of unreleased software.)

Quicken Online screenshot

Quicken Online also provides special features for iPhone users. If you have an iPhone, you can log into your account to view your latest balances and 5 latest transactions in each account, all downloaded nightly.

An important feature missing right now, but planned for the future, is the ability to pay your bills directly from the software. I see this as an important part of fulfilling Intuit’s stated goal of managing short term cash flow. Also planned is the ability for your information to tie into TurboTaxOnline. If this connection is seamless, then it should save significant time and effort when preparing to submit tax returns for 2007.

For those of us who have grown comfortable with the Quicken desktop product, remember that Quicken Online is a different product. This isn’t a replacement; in fact, the software is targeting individuals who are not currently customers of Quicken. I don’t believe the pricing is finalized yet, but the fee for the initial year will likely be $2.99 per month or $29 per year, although there will likely be a free introductory period. Other online services with the same features are currently completely free.

Quicken Online has some positive factors that will help its success. They have the power of their brand name, a trusted direct relationship with banks, strong multi-factor authentication security, and 80% market share of the desktop market (according to Intuit). The “intuition” features rely on the behavior patterns of the entire community, and this software has the potential to attract more customers than other online software. As time passes, Quicken Online’s intuition will only continue to improve.

Personally, I haven’t been a fan of what’s been offered for online money management tools so far. I’ve grown comfortable with desktop Quicken, and cash flow is not my biggest issue at the moment. I am concerned more with asset allocations and investing for the future. Due to these issues, I am not the primary demographic Intuit is targeting for this software. However, I like exploring and experimenting with financial tools. I will use Quicken Online occasionally, as long as it doesn’t require any effort beyond the time I already spend managing my finances. This is where the software shows a strength: I could refrain from visiting Quicken Online for months, but as long as I don’t sign up for any new accounts, I can come back to Quicken Online and view current information.

For software I will likely not use often, for me it will come down to price. $2.99 per month is actually a very competitive price for an online service, but the other offerings are currently free (though full of advertising). For the intended audience, the planned features of Quicken Online should put it ahead of the other choices.

Updated March 21, 2011 and originally published December 21, 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 .

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar jb

Sounds like a pretty interesting service, and closer to what I am looking for.

Maybe I should have stuck with it longer, but every time I tried to set up Quicken, the quirks would get so annoying and my financial picture would get screwed up that I just quit. With traditional Quicken it seems that you MUST use it daily to keep an up to date financial picture.

What I am looking for is an up to date financial picture of my net worth and investment performance (including asset allocation data). All this data is available online from my various banks/institutions, and if Quicken Online can pull it all together that is fantastic.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,380 (Platinum)

jb: Quicken Online won’t pull in your investment account information. They’re looking at cash flow only, at least for the time being.

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avatar ron

not sure if it matters much to you or not, but the URL of the beta site is visible in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window in your screenshots. since you took the time to x out the URL up top, i didn’t know if it’s a big deal or not.

not that you can sign into the program anyways since they check against a list of testers.

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avatar jb

Flexo: Thanks for the follow-up.

Is there any service that can pull together a complete financial picture (including investment information, asset allocation)? I thought that regular Quicken could do it but when I tried to use it just for that Quicken would get all out of whack. Regular Quicken wants me to use all of its features, but I just want the financial picture!

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avatar JBW

The best combination I’ve found is Yodlee for tracking (I access it through Fidelity) and Morningstar’s Instant X-Ray tool for asset allocation information. You have to enter the stock/mutual fund symbols and current balance into the X-Ray tool, but with Yodlee, everything should be right there and it shouldn’t take too long. If it does, maybe it’s a signal to simplify your holdings.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,380 (Platinum)

Ron: I was more concerned with the exact URL being hidden. The domain itself not a big deal.

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avatar David Mackey

I love Mint. But if Quicken can offer wider authentication (Mint has trouble with some financial institutions) they could quickly become the front-runner.

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avatar Patrick

I’m not sure I would use this in its current state. I am in the same boat as you and am more concerned with tracking my investments and planning for the future. I’m sure they have that in development, and I might consider it then.

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avatar Peter Glyman

Hey guys,

Shameless Geezeo plug here…a couple of features sometimes unknown about Geezeo.

-Aggregation for all account types including Investments (checking, saving, brokerage, loans, etc.)
-Simple spending targets and automated budget tracking

Lots more but I’ll leave it at that. Would welcome your feedback.

Thanks,

Pete Glyman
Co-Founder, Geezeo
http://geezeo.com/profile/pglyman

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avatar Dividends4Life

It is an interesting concept, but not one for me. If the business model fails, what you have come to rely on could disappear overnight.

Best Wishes,
D4L

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avatar kloewer

Everbank provides an aggregation of all your accounts, and lists your resulting net worth. Plus you can pay any bill online…all the while earning great interest rates on your checking account.

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avatar aşk

Everbank provides an aggregation of all your accounts, and lists your resulting net worth. Plus you can pay any bill online…all the while earning great interest rates on your checking account.

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avatar Tommy Dillard

I guess I am an old fogy, but I just want to keep my own register. Will you please tell me how I can set up a register in the quicken progem

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avatar Tommy Dillard

I guess I am an old fogy, but I just want to keep my own register. Will you please tell me how I can set up a register in the quicken progem

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avatar Robert L. White

I now have a new Dell desktop computer using Windows 7. My old computer was on Windows 2000 Professional and my old Quicken was 2000. I made backup disks from my old computer, however I can’t find anybody that knows how to install info from this CD to my new computer.

Can you point me in the right direction?

Bob

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avatar Robert LaVeine

I have used quicken for several years.
But I have had problems downloading from some banks while others present no problems.
Also the symbles are changed . What is there perpose. Like QDF file? Or QIF. Are these causing the downloading problems?
The new quicken home and business 2010 will replace quicken home and business 2009. That I’ve had trouble downloading my bank statements to.

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avatar roman

complete JUNK ????? Do not even think to buy

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