Quicken is one of three very well-known, widely used and highly successful financial software programs developed by Intuit, Inc. (INTU). Intuit subsequently sold its personal financial management tool to private equity firm H.I.G. Capital in 2016.  

Quicken offers users services from basic checking and savings account management and budgeting, all the way to portfolio analysis and management features such as capital gains tracking. There are Windows-based versions of the program available as well as for Mac that's compatible with Apple's operating system.

Although manufactured for a number of global markets, Quicken remains focused largely on a North American customer base. While Quicken has dominated its niche market since its first release in 1983, there are a number of similar, alternative products available and which are increasingly challenging its dominance.

key takeaways

  • While Quicken still dominates the financial software program universe, several alternatives exist.
  • One rival is Mint, a read-only budget planner and spending tracker.
  • Another rival, Personal Capital, offers investment management services.
  • Banktivity, developed specifically for Apple products, serves as a personal or small business financial management program, allowing users to monitor accounts across several devices.

Mint.com

Intuit itself offers a simpler, more basic alternative to Quicken in Mint, which it acquired in 2009. Mint is cloud-based, rather than a standalone software program. It is a free service and only offers basic features such as creating and tracking budgets and financial goals and monitoring one's credit score.

Mint.com offers services similar to those contained in Quicken's most basic starter version. Basically a budget planner and spending tracker, it does not offer significant investment management services. The program is criticized for account synchronization problems and for the fact it does not allow monthly bank reconciliation because it automatically assumes all downloaded data is correct.

The fact that Mint.com is a read-only service is both a plus and a minus for the program. A read-only service offers greater Internet security, since even if someone were able to access a user's information, all they could do is see the accounts and not able to take any actions (such as transferring money out). Of course, the con of being a read-only service also limits what the user can do and, therefore, the capabilities and functionality of the service.

Like virtually all similar personal financial management programs, Mint is accessible through almost any Internet-connected device, including personal computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital represents an attractive and less expensive alternative to Quicken for individuals who prefer a cloud-based program—and one that (unlike Mint) offers extensive investment management tools. In fact, as of December 2019, it had $12.3 billion in assets under management (AUM).

The basic Personal Capital financial services package, which includes account tracking, budgeting, bill paying, and other basic services, is free. However, Personal Capital makes its money primarily from individuals, with a minimum of $100,000 in assets, who choose to upgrade to the personal wealth management services the company offers. Fees begin at 0.89% for the first $1 million of assets managed and range down to 0.49% (for accounts over $10 million) per year. Personal Capital's fees are significantly lower than average for full wealth management services.

With the paid wealth management service, clients are assigned a personal financial advisor and receive all the usual services a client expects from a wealth management company, including tax and estate planning, tax-loss harvesting, advice on insurance, educational funds for children and any other necessary services to provide full financial management for clients.

But even the free personal finance services offered are extensive and competitive with what is offered by Quicken. Included are services such as budgeting, a retirement planner, a 401(k) fee analyzer, and an investment allocation target checker. The budgeting component includes a cash flow tool that allows individuals to input income and spending, and then receive weekly, monthly, or annual analyses of their projected cash flows.

The retirement planner can be used to map out a retirement plan, and then to monitor how closely the user is adhering to the plan. This feature allows users to set spending and savings goals, track income events, and project the future value of their investment portfolios. Its asset allocation component determines a user's risk tolerance profile and then makes appropriate investment allocation recommendations. The comprehensive features and the flexibility of input variables offered in this module compare favorably to any comparable service, free or paid.

Personal Capital has received good reviews on a number of levels, one being that it offers better account synchronization than most programs of this type. It also receives high marks for customer service, a rare plus for a free financial services software program. Personal Capital offers much more in-depth investment analysis and planning than Quicken. It also offers enhanced security through its use of two-factor authentication.

Personal Capital services are accessible by computer, tablet, or cellphone.

Banktivity (iBank)

Debuting in 2004, iBank was designed by IGG Software specifically for Apple's operating systems—at first, macOS (for desk- and laptops), and later iOS (for iPhones and iPads). IGG re-christened it Banktivity in 2016.

Aiming to serve as a personal or small business financial management program, Banktivity offers a myriad of financial services, including bank, credit card, loan, and investment account management. Features not included in Quicken but that come standard with Banktivity include multicurrency functionality and variable loan amortization. Its platform for reviewing all of an individual's financial accounts can be found on one central dashboard: checking, savings, money market, equity and fixed-income investments, retirement accounts, loan accounts, and brokerage accounts. 

With its continually updated charts, Banktivity stands out for the detailed income, expense, and investment performance analysis it offers, tracking buys and sells of stock shares, dividends, and stock options.

The program also allows for easy production and printing of custom financial reports, and it even allows a user to print new checks when needed.