How to Choose the Best Personal Finance Software
The top performers in our review are Quicken Premier, the Gold Award winner; Moneydance, the Silver Award winner; and Buxfer, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing personal finance software that meets your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 programs.
Keeping on top of your personal finances is undeniably important, but gathering and organizing your statements and bills across all of your accounts can feel overwhelming. When money management requires more time, attention and effort than you want to devote to it, personal finance software can help by making the task easier to accomplish and easier to maintain.
Although all personal finance software requires an initial time investment to set up and some may require you to manually import your data, the best programs save you time by syncing with your financial institutions and then give you real-time access to your data. The best programs also sync with mobile apps that make it convenient for you to monitor your money wherever you are on whatever device you use the most. So what's the payoff? According to recent studies, individuals who look at their finances often come out financially ahead of those who don't track their transactions. You can visit our Personal Finance Software Learning Center to read articles about the benefits of budgeting.
You'll find that most personal financial software is available for both PC and Mac, although some still cater to a specific platform or have separate programs for each. If you're looking for Mac-specific programs, be sure to check out our Personal Finance Software for Mac review. If you need tackling your taxes after your finances are in order, our Online Tax Software review can help.
What You Should Expect From Personal Finance Software
All home finance software includes budgeting and reporting tools. Look for programs that give you maximum flexibility in tracking and categorizing your expenditures, including the ability to split transactions across categories. You want to be able manually import your account data in common formats, like Excel or CSV, in the event that you're unable to connect to your accounts through the software. Most services on our lineup offer both options, however. You also want to ensure that the software's security features include secure socket layer encryption and password protection.
Personal Finance Software: What We Evaluated; What We Found
We looked for personal finance software that is easy to use, doesn't require a significant time investment to maintain and is accessible on mobile devices. We researched online and tested each of the software on desktop computers and mobile devices in order to evaluate the features and capabilities of each program. Key differentiators include syncing to mobile banks and the ability to upload files downloaded from your financial institutions. Whether or not a service syncs to your broker accounts may be important to you if you have personal investments.
When evaluating services, we considered the connectivity features, including the way in which you are able to transfer your banking information. All of the services in our personal finance software reviews either allow you to sync directly to your bank or to import files with your transactions. The best services, such as Quicken Premier and Buxfer, allow you to do both. The majority of these services offer direct syncing to most popular banks, though you can still manually input your information for most smaller banks and credit unions.
When testing, we had an easy time syncing certain services, including online services Buxfer and Mvelopes, which is to be expected as the service is already online. Other desktop services were also simple to sync, including AceMoney and Moneydance. Some services were less easy to sync, including BankTree, which is a UK-based service, so U.S. banks are not as easy to sync with.
The best personal finance programs have iOS and Android apps that sync your data to your phone and tablet so you can check your budget, enter cash transactions and see a real time overview of your accounts from wherever you happen to be. In general, services that are online, such as Mvelopes, simply provide a mobile app. However, some services require you to also have a Dropbox account as an intermediary for transferring account information, which may be less convenient. Either way, mobile functions allow you to upload transactions, manage categories, track spending and view reports.
Quicken's mobile apps stand out when connecting because even though it is a desktop program, it does not require a Dropbox account. Further, it has additional features other apps do not, such as snapping a picture to save receipts.
In addition to adding your checking and savings accounts, the best personal finance software also enables you to stay on top of your retirement and investment accounts. About half of the programs we reviewed – including MoneyDance, AceMoney and BankTree – offer personal investment capabilities, which help you monitor your investment performance and analyze your asset allocation, and have additional tools you can use to monitor your portfolio and securities. If investments are a large part of your financial plans and monitoring goals, Quicken Premier is your best choice, as it tracks your investments, offers stock information and helps you plan for retirement.
What Else Is Important to Consider When Selecting Personal Finance Software?
Other capabilities that you may wish to look for as you select personal finance software include the ease of creating a monthly budget, tracking your money and accessing reports.
Create a Budget & Manage Your Money
Although all personal finance software includes budgeting tools, this is the feature set that you're likely to use most, so it's important that the budgeting tools are easy to use, enable you to quickly create a budget and efficiently track your transactions. Some services are simpler to use, such as You Need A Budget (YNAB) and Buxfer. Their budgeting features are intuitive and their platforms are easy to navigate. However, their simplicity comes with fewer features. For example, YNAB does not sync to financial institutions, and Buxfer has fewer reporting options. Quicken products are very simple to use, and if you're less interested in investments, Quicken Starter is a simple yet powerful software.
Personal Finance Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations
Quicken Premier is our top pick as it syncs with banks and offers mobile options, powerful reports and investment portfolio management. It is also the best choice if investments are important to you. If you want the powerful features and reliable name of Quicken but do not need the additional features and are looking for a cheaper option, Quicken Starter has all of the budgeting features we considered important.
If you are looking for simple budgeting program in an intuitive online platform and mobile apps, we recommend Buxfer. MoneyDance is also an easy-to-use desktop software. It offers mobile apps, but you must also have Dropbox. For the most simple and easy-to-use service, though one that does not give a syncing option, we recommend YNAB, as it is one of the easiest programs to use.
The best personal finance software are those that connect with your financial accounts and make it easy to access all of your financial data in one place. Additionally, they have iOS and Android apps that integrate with the software, making it convenient to monitor your finances, enter cash transactions and even tweak your budget from your phone or tablet. We have included services that are all good choices depending on what your needs and preferences for personal finance management.