Empower vs. Quicken: Here’s Why I Chose Empower

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As I've mentioned in my Quicken reviews, I've been a long-time user of the accounting software. In fact, I've been using Quicken since it was a Microsoft MS-DOS product (now over 25 years ago). But due to the lack of new features and no customer service, as well as my getting tired of the constant updates and bugs — unfortunately, it's time for me to say good-bye to Quicken. Here's what I'm using instead.

Which Is Better: Quicken or Empower?

In my testing, I've always enjoyed using Empower, since it allows me to see my entire financial picture and investment portfolio at a glance. So much so that we even recommend it as one of the best investment apps available today.

Previously, I held onto using Quicken because I have a long history with the product. I also liked the idea of keeping my financial data locally on my desktop computer. The mobile access within Quicken is a neat feature but never worked exactly to my liking, so I primarily used the desktop version.

However, in the past few years, my needs have changed, and I now want the ability to access my personal finances on the go. That has made Empower all the more appealing.

  • Quicken has been around for a long time. If you're looking for robust accounting software that's desktop-based, it's long been considered the gold standard. However, if you want to track your investments as well as handle budgeting and managing other aspects of your personal finances — and do all of this from the convenience of your mobile device — Empower would be a better fit for you.
  • Plus, there's the issue of cost. Quicken requires a paid subscription, whereas Empower is free.
  • If you want a free app that handles only budgeting — without tracking investments, we'd recommend Mint as well.

Here are the reasons why I ditched Quicken and switched to Empower.

Reason #1: Quicken Usage Is Declining

Quicken Trend

Investor Junkie's visitor traffic is a good indicator of the personal finance software space. I study the trends, read user comments, and see which apps are gaining in popularity and which are losing market share. Year over year, I've noticed much less visitor traffic going to our Quicken reviews and an increase of visitors to our review of Empower.

I'm sure that in some small part this is related to some of the negative issues expressed about the product. More importantly, I believe that user demographics and what people now expect when managing their personal finances are changing.

Like it or not, individuals and investors alike (especially Millennials) want convenience with up-to-the-minute access to their finances. We want to be able to access our finances anywhere, anyplace and at anytime.

Now, with the 2019 release, Quicken has taken some steps in the right direction. It has added a web-based platform that you can access from any browser. However, this new platform is intended to be a companion to the desktop software, rather than a replacement. You'll still need to go onto the desktop app to sign up and do most of the heavy lifting.

Quicken is a legacy application that has added some mobile and web functionality, but in reality, it's still primarily a desktop application.

Unless Quicken is completely rewritten, it will never be like its sister service, Mint.com. Now that we know that Quicken has been sold, perhaps the new owner will improve it.

Reason #2: Quicken is Now an Annual Subscription

Quicken 2019 Editions
Quicken 2019 editions are now an annual subscription

Quicken released its latest version, which is available in four subscription levels: Starter, Deluxe, Premier and Home & Business.

More importantly, Quicken is now an annual subscription. With the older versions, you had a three-year sunset before you were forced to upgrade.

Now you must pay an annual fee or the online features of Quicken are no longer usable.

Empower, on the other hand, is free.

Quicken is no longer the bargain it once was. Existing Quicken users will have to pay an “annual toll” to keep using the product; otherwise, your data is read-only.

Reason #3: I Can Sync With More Banks When Using Empower

From my testing of both products extensively (I have more than 60 financial accounts), Empower supported more of my accounts.

Many accounts with Quicken require a manual download and then importing these transactions into Quicken.

I was surprised by this result, since Quicken is the de-facto standard in online downloads.

I know behind-the-scenes Empower uses Yodlee. In some cases, Yodlee screenscrapes an account in order to download the transactions — hence the wider support of accounts by Empower.

Empower also supported accounts in which I had two-factor authentication enabled. So that is a plus for the security-conscious user.

So Why Not Use Mint Instead?

You may be questioning my decision to use Empower instead of Intuit's Mint service. Both are free services. As I mention in my review of Mint.com and comparison of the two products, it's great for budgeting but lacks the feature I deem most important: investment tracking.

  • I don't need the ability to budget and, in fact, don't adhere to the traditional idea of budgeting. I need a program with an overall financial picture and long-term investment plan.
  • Mint also uses the same synchronization service that Quicken uses, so logically I would expect similar problems when syncing up to the same financial intuitions. Based upon those two issues alone, the only obvious choice was Empower.
  • Even as a free service, Empower just seems to get it right when it comes to online reporting and using Yodlee as the back-end synchronization.
  • To steal a quote from Steve Jobs, Empower “just works.” Even though I'm a “techie” at heart, I despise dealing with technology problems. For me, a technology solution decreases in its usefulness if the negatives outweigh the benefits. Lately, Quicken has become quite a nuisance.
  • One of the negatives with most online personal finance software is that the transactions, unfortunately, are read-only. For example, I cannot upload my historical financial data, which also means I can't reconcile my bank statements, nor can I use a Bill Pay feature through their service. However, these negatives are less of an issue today, since many of the big banks now have online bill pay.
  • In addition, most banks, brokerages, loans, utilities and credit cards allow you to pay directly by entering your bank account information. So Quicken's Bill Pay feature isn't as necessary as it was in the past. For these reasons, and for my needs, Quicken no longer fits the bill, and I've switched to using Empower.

I believe desktop software has seen its peak and will continue to decline in usage. The writing is on the wall. Personal finance software like Quicken will have to adapt or die. Otherwise, they'll become more and more of a niche application.

Quicken vs. Empower Side-by-Side Comparison

Customer Service 9/10/10
Ease of Use 9/10/10
PromotionsJoin for Free
Trial Period Days Days
Refund Policy
Bill Payment
Bill Management
Investment Tracking
Retirement Planning
Tax Reporting
Reconcile Transactions
Credit Score Monitoring
Zillow Tracking
Custom Categories
Manual Entries
Import QFX, QIF Files
Currency Support
Two-Factor Authentication
Customer ServicePhone: 24/7; Email

Larry Ludwig

Larry Ludwig was the founder and editor in chief of Investor Junkie. He graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor of science in computers and a minor in business. Back in the ’90s, I helped create some of the first financial websites for firms like Chase, T. Rowe Price, and ING Bank, and later went on to work for Nomura Securities. He’s had a passion for investing since he was 20 years old and has owned multiple businesses for over 20 years. He currently resides in Long Island, New York, with his wife and three children.

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