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Moneydance - Review 2020 - PCMag India


Quicken
for Windows had competition not long after its 1991 launch. One of
those rivals was Moneydance, a free, open-source app released in 1998. That personal finance software has been updated substantially over the
years. Today, it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux, with a $49.99 price tag (after 100 free manual transactions). Moneydance offers much of the same functionality as Quicken, including income and expense management, online banking and bill pay, investment tracking, budgeting, and reports. It supports multiple international currencies and cryptocurrencies, features that are foreign to the other personal finance apps we reviewed. In addition, Moneydance safeguards user data by communicating directly with financial institutions.

Still, Moneydance lags behind
Editors’ Choice winner Quicken Deluxe in many ways, primarily
due to a dated, sometimes clunky user interface and substandard mobile apps. By contrast, our other Editors’ Choice, Mint, bundles its budgeting and credit-reporting features into top-notch web and mobile apps. For those reasons, we can’t recommend Moneydance as wholeheartedly as those services, though it still has a place among
the many recommended personal finance solutions available today.

Moneydance welcome screenPersonal finance management solutions generally don’t require a lot of time to set up. Moneydance outlines the steps on its Welcome screen.

Jumping
Right In

Moneydance
doesn’t offer much in the way of setup, but neither do its competitors. All that
you really need to do to get started is to set up connections to your online
financial accounts—checking and savings, credit card, investment, and loans. There’s
a Welcome to Moneydance window, but it basically just tells you to do just
that. You can also specify which file should open when you launch the software
(Moneydance supports multiple files), and you can see when you last logged in
to all of them. Think of files as sets of accounts belonging to different individuals.

Importing
Data

Moneydance
can download account data from a generous number of major and minor financial
institutions. For most of these, you create the connections to your online banks
by entering your username and password for each. This involves following a
simple set of steps. You create new accounts (like checking and credit cards)
and then highlight one of them in the left vertical navigation bar (the
Sidebar) and select Set Up Online Banking from the Online menu. A wizard-like
tool walks you through the process.

It
does the same for online bill pay. Moneydance lets you connect to your
bank’s online bill pay system and authorize payments from within Moneydance
itself. Quicken Deluxe currently offers Quicken Bill Pay to existing Quicken
Deluxe customers, but that service is being discontinued effective Aug. 31,
2020. The new Quicken Bill Manager is only available to users of Quicken
Premier and Quicken Home & Business, so you have to upgrade to use it.
Mint supported bill pay for a while, but it no longer does.

Occasionally, when you’re setting up online banking, you have to use a workaround, as I had
to do with two credit card accounts. It’s similar to the process you sometimes
have to employ to import Quicken or QuickBooks data from a bank. Moneydance
walks you through the steps required, which involves going to the financial
institution’s website and authorizing the connection, then returning to
Moneydance to download the transactions. This process worked fine for me, but it’s an
inconvenience.

If
you’re worried about the security, here’s what you need to know. Moneydance communicates
directly with financial institutions rather than going through a third party
(like Yodlee), as most personal finance programs and sites do. So the
connections you make occur strictly between you and your bank. Moneydance’s staff
doesn’t have access to your data, and no other provider gets your usernames
and passwords.

Moneydance online bankingMoneydance has online banking and bill payment options.

Using
Moneydance

Moneydance
doesn’t offer the fresh, state-of-the-art user experience that sites like
Credit Sesame do. It still uses standard Windows menus in addition to the
Sidebar, which shows your list of accounts and their balances. Below that,
you see links to the software’s many graphs and reports. Quicken Deluxe offers
many more, though, and both its reports and graphs look smoother and more
elegant. They’re also more customizable. You can, though, memorize and run customized reports in
both.

At
the top of the toolbar, there are two additional links. One takes you to Summary, which most personal finance sites call Dashboard. This is an
overview of some of the most important numbers in your financial file—and
it’s a good one, one of the best I’ve seen. All of your accounts are displayed
in the left vertical pane, along with their balances. A table of
common exchange rates sits below that; you can click a link to open a box that allows you to
set your base rate.

The
right vertical pane contains overdue and upcoming reminders. Underneath that is a
calendar showing the current month’s transaction reminders and general
reminders, as well as a color-coded list of current expenses in text and
graph form (you can change the date range for them). There’s also a link to
updates and extensions. In the box that opens, you can see whether you have the
most recent version of Moneydance. You can also see the list of extensions
(add-ons) that work with Moneydance, like Balance Predictor, PayPal Importer,
and Debt Insights.

The
Summary page is customizable. Click Preferences in the File menu, and your
options for adding, removing, and moving items appear in a new window. The
Preferences window also offers settings for printing, backups, your online connections, and the interface. You have tremendous control over the software’s
aesthetic; you can choose from six themes, and further adjust fonts and colors
for each.

Moneydance registerMoneydance offers good transaction management tools via its right-click menus.

Directly
below the link to your Summary in the upper left of the screen is a link that
opens your main Reminders screen. To create a new Transaction Reminder or
General Reminder (to-do list items), you can either right-click on a date to
open a data entry window (Moneydance makes good use of local menus) or click
the plus sign in the lower right corner. If you want to remind yourself to pay
rent every first day of the month, for example, you open the Transaction Reminder
window and enter the details of the expense.

Moneydance
supports recurring reminders using an unusually flexible scheduling tool; you
can create daily, weekly, monthly, or annual calendar entries, and request
advance notice a specified number of days before the actual reminder is
supposed to occur. You can also define reminders from account registers. You
right-click on a transaction and select Create Reminder from Transaction in the
menu of options to open the Transaction Reminder screen. This method creates a reminder with an entry’s details; you don’t need to fill it out manually.

Your
Registers

When
you click an account name in the Sidebar, the register for that account
opens in the middle of the screen. Registers in Moneydance resemble paper
checkbook registers, though they’re not as elegant looking as those some
competitors have designed. Click a recently downloaded transaction, and a
small box opens in the upper right corner containing its date, description,
category, and amount. You can edit the description to make the bank text that
came in more understandable there. You can also change the category, though if
you need to create a new one, you have to go back out to the Tools menu to
do so. After you make a change, click Confirm to update the
register with the transaction.

There’s
more you can do with individual transactions in the register. Right-click one, and a local menu opens displaying your many options. For example, you can add an
attachment; duplicate it; or mark it as uncleared, cleared, or
reconciling. If you need to edit one or a group of transactions, the Batch
Change option in the transaction menu lets you make changes to
individual fields (it would be nice if you could do this without the extra
step). There are some other options here, like single-line vs two-line mode,
delete, and sort filters, but the really unusual one reads Show Other Side.
Accounting websites, for the most part, try to steer clear of the nuts and bolts
of double-entry accounting, so I was surprised to see a reference to what are
essentially debits and credits. It’s nothing the average user needs to know,
but it’s there if for some reason you want to see it.

There
are other ways you can work with transactions. For example, you can split their
totals among categories, if an expense needs to be broken up and
assigned to different ones. I didn’t know this was possible until I clicked a small arrow in the transaction register out of curiosity; I’d have thought this
tool would be better marked. Only Quicken Deluxe offers better transaction
management.

Moneydance expense chartYou can run numerous reports and create graphs, but they’re not as polished as Quicken Deluxe’s offerings.

Investments
and Budgets

Quicken
Deluxe and Moneydance are fairly evenly matched when it comes to investment
tracking. You can create multiple
investment accounts and set up securities (like stocks, bonds, and mutual
funds), recording your holdings for each. The software can download
market prices from multiple online sources to keep your portfolio updated, and
it handles stock splits and cost basis calculations capably. Once you
entered all the data required, you can view your investments in any of four
different views: portfolio, investment register, bank register, and securities
detail.

This
last view is the one you’ll probably consult most frequently. You can add,
edit, and remove securities, see their histories, and record stock splits.
There’s also a price graph here. I’m a little surprised that there isn’t a link
here to additional investment graphs and reports; you have to go to the
Sidebar to access them. They include Asset Allocation, Investment Performance,
and Capital Gains.

Moneydance’s
Budget Manager lets you create budgets of varying frequencies. One, Mixed
Intervals, is a powerful, flexible budget type that lets you set your own
start and end dates and create each budget item on a repeating interval. It also displays a color-coded graph to gauge your budget adherence
quickly.

Anyone
who’s ever worked on a budget will be more familiar with the other, more
standard budget types: Weekly, Biweekly, Monthly, and Annually. When you create
a new standard budget, a sizeable table opens with income and expense types
already labeled. This list is more comprehensive than what you’ll find in most competitors’
budgets—so comprehensive, in fact, that it can be unwieldy. You can, though,
edit the category list to meet your specific needs, and the budget will change
to reflect your modifications. You can also click the Budgeted tab to see only
rows that have numbers in them.

The
Budget Manager is easy enough to use. You enter your projected budget amounts
next to any income or expense items that apply to your situation, such as Salary,
Bills, and Healthcare. Because these labeled rows match the software’s
categories, Moneydance enters a number in the correct row every time you
enter a transaction that uses a specific category. So, you can see at a glance
how you’re doing as you go through the budget period. You can also run the Budget
report, which compares budgeted expenses to actual expenses and shows the difference.

Once
you completed one budget period, like a week or a month, you have three
options for creating the next period’s budget: Copy and
rollover previous period; Copy previous period; or Use actual spending from
previous period. Quicken Deluxe offers more flexible budget tools, including
the option to view your budget as a color-coded graph. It’s easier to use, and
much more aesthetically pleasing, like most of Quicken’s features are in
comparison to Moneydance’s features.

Moneydance Securities DetailMoneydance offers capable investment tracking and reports.

Unusual
Mobile Setup

Moneydance
does offer iOS and Android apps, but they haven’t been updated recently. All
you can do is view and edit your transaction registers, and manually add new transactions. Additionally, setup is a two-step process. You must first do a one-time sync that
moves your Moneydance file from desktop to mobile through Dropbox. It’s not
difficult to do using Moneydance’s tools, and the sync is only needed during
setup, but no other personal finance service we’ve tested requires that. Plus, rival services’ apps boast superior features and interfaces.

On
the other hand, this use of Dropbox as a go-between means you could share your
Moneydance file with other users, no matter what operating system they use.
That’s unique in this group of personal finance solutions.

A
Capable Old Timer

Moneydance
is closer to Quicken Deluxe than any other competitors we’ve reviewed. It’s
also the oldest next to Quicken. That maturity is on display in features like
transaction management, investment tracking, and online bill pay. No other personal finance service supports multiple currencies, either. Moneydance’s user data care is commendable, too.

Still, Quicken is stronger in several areas, including budgeting, reports, and planning. It also
offers a service that lets you use the cloud to set up a connection to a
password-protected website where you can view much of your Quicken data and enter
transactions. And Quicken’s user experience is far superior to what’s offered
by Moneydance. Unless you need support for multiple currencies and online bill pay, we
recommend you look at Quicken Deluxe or our other Editors’ Choice winner, Mint,
first.

Taxes are a major part of your financial situation. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, take a look at our roundup of the best online tax services. You still have some time to file your federal taxes, since the federal deadline has been pushed to July 15.

Moneydance Specs

Free Version Yes
Free Credit Report/Score No
Web Interface No
Income/Expense Tracking Yes
iOS App Yes
Android App Yes

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