Mac Personal Finance Software = Disappointment

by Matthew Bookspan May 08, 2007

Okay, so it is going on a year since I made the switch to the Mac. We now have multiple Macs in the house (two personal machines and one business). However, in the time since I switched, I have yet to find a decent Macintosh personal finance product.

I have tried Quicken for Mac (2006, not 2007), iBank 2.0, MoneyDance, JumSoft’s Money 2.0, and Midnight Software’s Cha-Ching. Can’t say that any of them holds a candle to Quicken 2007 for Windows. Yes, they all have interesting feature sets. However, I need a powerful tool with a rich feature set, and I want it at a reasonable price.

One of the fallacies of all personal finance software is that they make your life better by helping you to organize your accounts, bills, etc. What the marketers neglect to tell you is that YOU must maintain the software in a very diligent fashion. Further, they neglect to tell you the amount of manual work it takes to perform this maintenance. Of course, there is no reason to use such software unless you intend to maintain it.

Thus, when I switched from Windows, I had hoped to find a great product on the Mac that decreased the time it takes to perform my personal financial tasks. Prior to the switch, I had been using Quicken 2007 Premier edition for Windows. Although it, too, is an imperfect product, it met my needs.

Quicken 2006 for the Mac came with my MacBook. I was excited because I knew the 2007 version would be coming (it follows shortly after the Windows general release). I figured that I would migrate my data file and make the permanent switch. When I learned that I could no longer auto-download transactions from my financial institutions (FIs), and that the best I could get was web connect (download a file and then import it into Quicken), I said no way. Note, this is not necessarily a Mac Quicken problem. The FIs need to support special servers to support the auto-downloading of transactions (OFX is the file format).

You have to understand that on Windows, whether you use Quicken or M$ Money, you have auto-downloading of transactions enabled for a boatload of FIs (as long as you are running a version of the software released in the last two years—given how both Intuit and Microsoft gouge their customer base for upgrades/support). And, prior to switching back to the Mac, I had been using versions of Money or Quicken for the past 12 years.

Anyway, returning to the Mac software…. So, I tried a few other programs as mentioned above. Again, the big problem with all of them was the data entry model. Only MoneyDance supports auto-downloading of transactions from FIs. However, MoneyDance is a Java app wrapped in Cocoa. Although it works, frankly, the app is ugly and very non-Mac-like. That’s because it works exactly the same on Linux and Windows (which, although great for software design consistency, is not great for how users get work done).

I also tried the betas of Cha-Ching. This is a clever little application that bases transactional entry on a tagging system. Although this is good at enabling categorization entry by tags (AKA keywords), it really isn’t much better than using built-in categories within Quicken or any other app (which allow you to change the categories to anything you want). Also, its online integration really just hosts the Bank’s web site…if you call that integration.

iBank is a very pretty product. If it supported auto-downloading of transactions, I would probably use it as my day-to-day application for managing my personal finances. However, it lacks a powerful portfolio manager. Money 2 from Jumsoft also just doesn’t manage to have enough features to really make it useful either.

Most of the Mac personal finance apps are designed for simple budgeting or bank account management. They miss the mark for data entry and overall financial institution (auto-downloading of transactions) support. There have been many reviews of all the Mac personal finance software (MacWorld, others). However, none of these reviews discuss the switch factor. This is pretty crucial because as users make the switch, they care about what tools port over in a way that gives them incentive to stay completely tied to the new platform.

So, after almost a year of using the Mac, which product did I settle with for personal finance management? Parallels, Windows XP, and Quicken 2007 Premier Edition. Nothing beats the product’s feature set, simplicity, and FI integration. Quicken 2007 Premier Edition also has a great portfolio manager and smart reporting. Still, even with that great feature set, the product still sucks as I must always run Windows in order to use it. I just wish there was a real alternative on the Mac.

Maybe one day….


  • I gave up on personal finance software on the Mac. I’m now using Yodlee Moneycenter. It’s not as fully featured as, say, Quicken, but it works well enough for me and being a webapp, it’s available anywhere I can get access to a computer and a browser.

    Honou Flammen had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 2
  • I’ve been evaluating, myself.  It’s also not as fully featured, but it’s not under-featured and it does provide automatic uploads (which are really key for my needs).  It doesn’t handle investment accounts, though.

    I’m also finding that I kind of liking the tagging approach they take (similar to cha-ching).  I didn’t think I would, but it’s much better than I expected.

    The developers and management are also extremely accountable and responsive.  That’s the part I’ve liked best.  I post a question or support request and I hear back within a few hours.  Every time.

    musetracks had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 2
  • This article represents what I believe is lacking in the Mac community, an informed and balanced discussion coupled with constructive feedback.

    I was satisfied using quicken until a glitch a few years ago. I was speaking to someone from Intuit’s technical support because I lost my data and I wanted to restore from a backup.  The barely intelligible person from Bangladore wanted around $60. to solve the issue. Afterwards I went on Intuit’s forums and realized that this is a product that they just don’t care about. Windows is the bread and butter, so that is where their efforts are focused. I think it is blatantly clear since we have not seen a universal version ( power pc/intel ).

    Keep up the good work Apple Matters!.

    gpgma had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I partially agree, it tooks me a lot of tests to finally found my personnal finance applications which is iBank 2.  It does pretty well the job even if the lack of documentation mean exploring a lot.

    The import of QIF file took me lot of time to master but now with the rules in place the importation is really fast.

    From my point of view the only think that miss to iBank is support of internationnal funds for porfolio (ISIN code) and applescript on budget part (or a widget).

    lafber had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • “14. Which FIs did you switch to for the Mac version of Quicken?”

    Both Charles Schwab and Etrade are brokerages that support auto updating in Quicken. I switched to BECU for my banking.

    nazanne had this to say on May 09, 2007 Posts: 2
  • I switched to a Mac last September and immediately purchased a copy of Quicken Mac 2007. I am now using Quicken 2006 with Parallels. I can’t agree that the FIs are to blame for the download difficulties. My bank downloads a QFX file that Quicken will not accept. It displays the message, “Cannot verify financial institution.”
    After initially getting a couple of downloads from my brokerage account It would no longer log in correctly even though user name and password were correct. I complained to Intuit but got no sympathy

    rbostock had this to say on May 10, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Re: comment 21 “Cannot verify financial institution.”

    Whenever Quicken import an QFX file it “phones home” with the bank id in that file to check that financial institution has been paying its fee to Intuit. If it determines it has not it will throw out that error message. There is a separate fee for Windows and Mac support. Given the market share, many smaller banks don’t support Mac. Sucks but that is the Quicken business model.

    Microsoft Money does not have this limitation but it has other issues.

    Red Ronin had this to say on May 11, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I personally use iCompta (, it has all the functions I need in a very intuitive user interface. Plus it’s free and there will be an iPhone version soon.

    PassionVoyages had this to say on Sep 15, 2008 Posts: 1
  • There is no shortage of personal finance software on Mac (I personally found over 20 applications), but most of them are copycats - they have roughtly the same finctionality and the same concept.

    I would like to mention Cashculator ( - a unique personal application developed by Apparent Software. While definitely not solving the issues raised in the article, it provides a fresh perspective om Mac finance management.

    Cashculator is the Mac way to track your cash flow. It is a different kind of personal finance application – instead of focusing on the past and logging previous transactions, it focuses on future by forecasting your financial situation.
    It has a simple and intuitive interface and it allows making better decisions regarding your personal finance or small business.

    You are all welcome to download it a free trial version on and check if it fits your needs.

    Kosta Rozen had this to say on Feb 24, 2010 Posts: 1
  • Sadly, it is over 3 years since this post and the situation is virtually the same.

    DickDono had this to say on Jun 22, 2010 Posts: 1
  • I have been using Flair Finance for my accounting, it is pretty simple.

    Dianna had this to say on Aug 28, 2010 Posts: 1
  • Thank you for the efforts you been putting on making your site such an interesting and informative place to browse through. I’ll be visiting your site again to gather some more valuable information. java programmer

    Jake Kear had this to say on Sep 08, 2011 Posts: 6
  • I have a Mac but I preferred to play it safe,so I installed an antivirus software.I opted for an antivirus security software.It insures protection and I don’t have to worry about any problems.The easiest solution.

    JosephHall had this to say on Sep 30, 2011 Posts: 6
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