Review of: Banktivity
Reviewed by: Larry Ludwig
Last modified: September 15, 2017
Banktivity 6 is a great alternative for dissatisfied Quicken for Mac users. This personal finance app has all the features competing Macintosh apps have and a few features typically available only on Quicken for Windows. The downside is the annual fee you'll pay for connecting your banks.
What options are available for the Apple Macintosh user who wants to manage their personal finances? Banktivity 6 by IGG Software is one. In this review, we’ll discuss the updates that have been made for the release of this app’s sixth edition. (Note: The app used to be named iBank. But in early 2016 IGG Software renamed it Banktivity.)
Quicken 2017 for Mac is a non-starter for some users. That program has improved significantly over the years. But most consider it a second-rate citizen when compared to the Windows version.
For some reason, Quicken for Mac is completely different from the Windows version. If you want all of the features of the Windows edition, I have recommended using Quicken for Windows on your Macintosh via some virtualization software.
However, this is where Banktivity 6 comes in in an attempt to fill the need for a Macintosh-only personal finance app. So this review of Banktivity will primarily compare it with what I still consider the gold standard among personal finance applications: Quicken for Windows.
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- Tagging (New) — Allows you to track spending across multiple categories for events like a vacation.
- Workspaces (New) — Get side-by-side windows that allow you to work in multiple parts of Banktivity at the same time.
- Quick Reports (New) — Drag and drop to create an instant report of your finances.
- Direct Access — Connect to more banks than ever. This is done via Yodlee. But this service isn’t free. A one-year subscription is $39.99. A 90-day subscription is $12.99. A 30-day subscription is $4.99. A free 30-day trial is available.
- Budgeting — In an improvement on the previous version, you can build savings, track spending, monitor daily progress, incorporate scheduled income and bills, compare goals vs. results, and sync your budgets to Banktivity for iPad.
- One-Button Update — Similar to what’s offered in Quicken, you can now download all financial transactions with one click.
- Improved Investing Tools — Enhanced investment support for bonds and options.
- Setup Assistant — Making it easier to import from other applications.
- Prevent Duplicate Download Transactions — Superior elimination of duplicate transactions from bank downloads.
- iPad Synchronization — Sync of scheduled transactions.
- Improved Speed — Better use of import rules to speed categorization.
- Better Categorization — The ability to categorize investment transactions.
What Is Banktivity?
Banktivity is a personal finance app for Macintosh users. Created by IGG Software, it helps users pay bills online, track their spending patterns and maintain a budget. It’s a good alternative to Quicken if you’ve got an Apple-centric household with a Macintosh computer and “i” mobile devices.
Converting From Quicken
I’m a longtime user of Quicken for Windows. To test Banktivity, I exported a QIF file of my current data from Quicken. I suspect many people will do this. So I tested this part out extensively. In its fifth version, Banktivity added a setup assistant, which makes the import process much easier than previously.
Banktivity requires the latest macOS – Sierra (10.12) or newer. If you have an older Macintosh you’ll not be able to use Banktivity.
I was surprised by how painless the conversion from my Quicken file was. I had a few minor issues in account categorization, but that was it. I don’t use Quicken for Mac regularly. So I wasn’t able to test this feature. I suspect the import process is similar and just as easy.
Unfortunately, all of the online download account information is not passed to the QIF file. You must manually set up each account within Banktivity. Most of my 52-plus accounts are set up to download It can be a long, tedious process to set up each one. Mind you, this isn’t the fault of IGG Software. Rather, the limitation is in the QIF file format (which was developed by Quicken), and security reasons require this setup.
When using Banktivity with any bank that requires a direct connection for synchronization, you must create an account with IGG Software. The direct connection service is in addition to purchasing the software. A one-year subscription costs $39.99. (I suspect most people will purchase this.)
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Like Quicken for Windows, Banktivity Mobile can sync with your iPad or iPhone, so you have access to your information on the go. Unfortunately, the app isn’t free and costs $9.99 if you want mobile access.
I don’t need a total view of my finances from my iPhone. The mobile app is useful primarily for transaction entry. So that would mean I would need to have access to only my checking, cash and credit card accounts. I wouldn’t care about investment accounts while on the go. Personal Capital does a better job with their consolidated view of investments.
Beyond this, the synchronization works well and gives you access to the same information you have within your desktop software. The app does not give you access to these sections: budgets, memorized transactions, scheduled transactions, historical security prices, account interest rates, or reports.
If a conflict occurs, your desktop software will notify you and allow you to pick which transaction should win. It is possible to synchronize with multiple mobile devices. But your desktop Banktivity software will always be the master.
Quicken also has an iPhone app, but from testing both apps it appears that Banktivity’s functionality is slightly better.
The investment area has been improved from the previous version, but it’s still not as useful as either Quicken for Windows or the online service Personal Capital.
The positive: It allows you to reconcile your accounts and does allow for downloading transactions from popular financial institutions. It can even download the latest stock quotes into Banktivity.
New for this version is a centralized portfolio view that shows you all of your investments in one place. But Banktivity’s investment “type” category is based upon investment instrument, rather than sector.
IGG Software touts currency conversion as a big feature in their application. Yes, I do consider it a good feature that pretty much no other personal finance software offers. But there is a good reason no others offer it. How many individuals have accounts in different currencies?
Assuming that the United States is their primary audience, there is very little need for this feature. U.S. citizens must comply with a complex array of compliance issues when owning foreign bank accounts.
So this is a neat feature and a must-have for those who have this problem, but I just don’t see that many users needing it.
Pros and Cons
- Strong Macintosh Support — If you are looking for a native Apple app, Banktivity is a serious contender with MacOS, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch support.
- Private Cloud Sync — Sync your data in the cloud among multiple devices.
- Multi-Currency — For those who need the option, Banktivity supports multiple currencies.
- Tagging — Makes it easy to track and group spending patterns across categories.
- Report Exporting — Reports can now be exported to CSV (otherwise known as comma delimited) files.
- Costly — If using the direct connect feature (I suspect most users will), Banktivity costs $104.98 for the first year. This makes Banktivity one of the more expensive personal finance applications available.
- Requires Latest macOS — Banktivity requires the latest macOS - Sierra (10.12) or newer. Users who have older Macintoshes or who haven't upgraded to the latest version won't be able to run Banktivity.
- iPhone App Costs Extra — If you want access to your finances on the go, the app costs $9.99.
- Odd Portfolio Categorization — Investments aren't categorized based upon asset class (e.g., large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap, etc.) but by type of security(e.g., bond, stock, mutual fund, etc.).
For those who want a native Macintosh application, Banktivity should be on your short list to consider. Banktivity has all of the must-have features any modern personal finance application should have.
It’s great to see Banktivity improve with each new version. This version makes it just that much closer in comparison to Quicken for Windows and, in my opinion, surpassing Quicken for Mac. However, while the investment functionality has improved from the previous version, it could still use some improvements to match Quicken for Windows.
For others who are more concerned about budgeting and balancing their checkbook, these limitations aren’t that big of an issue.
From my extensive testing, I actually like Banktivity 6 enough to perhaps personally use it as a supplement to Personal Capital, which I like using for the investment tracking.
If you’re looking for desktop software that’s Macintosh-based, Banktivity 6 is hard to beat.