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January 31, 2005

Intuit is costing you money

You may or may not be familiar with Intuit, the company that makes the popular personal finance software Quicken. You may be surprised to know that even if you've never used Quicken, Intuit is costing you money. I'll explain why.

If you do use Quicken 2005, you will have noticed that Intuit dropped the capability to import QIF files. The QIF format is a simple text file that financial institutions could generate and that you could download from their webserver to import transactions into Quicken. Although annoying, dropping this feature wasn't the end of the world since QIF is an out-of-date and error-prone format in need of replacement.

However, truly nefarious is their replacement for QIF called QFX. It turns out there is an open standard for financial data import called OFX. This is the format used by Microsoft Money. However, Quicken instead only lets you import QFX files, which are identical to OFX files, except that a small header is added to the file that identifies the financial institution where the data originated. When you import the QFX file into Quicken, it connects to Intuit's server and verifies that the financial institution has paid a license fee to Intuit. If the institution has paid, Quicken imports the data. If the institution has not paid, the import fails (even though you could open the file in a text editor and see the data yourself).

Effectively, all these banks and financial institutions have to pay the "Quicken Tax" to Intuit every year so that Quicken will import their data. And I've heard that the fees that Intuit demands are very large -- on the order of tens of thousands of dollars for a small bank. In the end, this costs us all money because these costs will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher fees and lower dividend rates at your bank.

So if you are using Quicken, you may want to think about moving to something else in the future. Microsoft Money surprisingly seems like the better choice, or if you use *nix or Mac OSX, check out GnuCash. Finally, you may want to check with your banks and gently ask them to stop paying the Quicken Tax.

Posted by davemoore at 12:52 PM | Comments (2)