September 24, 2018

Banktivity Review: Is It Good?


Banktivity 6 set out to be the alternative for Quicken for Mac. It claims to be one of the most complete personal finance software packages for Mac users. Does it live up to its name?

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Banktivity helps Mac users budget, pay bills, manage/track spending, and track investments. It's compatible across multiple Apple devices and has powerful reporting capabilities to help Mac users get control of their financial life.

Banktivity offers a setup assistant and allows you to convert your Quicken (qif) files right into Banktivity with a somewhat simple process. Let's be honest, though, any conversion comes with its hiccups and frustrations—Banktivity included.

Keep reading to learn if Banktivity is something you may want to consider as an alternative to a Windows-based budgeting program.

How Does Banktivity Work?

You make Banktivity as intricate as you want. Some users rely on it strictly for personal finance budgeting, helping them to stay on track. Others include their business finances and/or track their investments to use the full capabilities of the program.

Banktivity makes it somewhat simple to start. Whether you import your transactions from Quicken (Windows or Mac) or you start from scratch, the setup assistant helps you get started. No matter which way you start, you'll want to link your eligible accounts to generate reports and start budgeting.

Keep in mind that Banktivity only works as hard as you do. In other words, you'll need to categorize and/or tag each transaction and run reports as you need them. A favorite feature of many users is the "Quick Reports,"' which are simple summaries of your current spending. This can give you a bird's-eye view of what you have available to spend, preventing overspending moving forward.

While you must work on a desktop to get started, you can also download the Banktivity app for your iPhone or iPad and have synchronized information across all devices. The downside, though, is the lack of reporting capabilities on the app. You must rely on your desktop for reports, but the app does allow for entering transactions on the fly.

Contacting Customer Service: If you are looking for phone support, you won't find it with Banktivity. Instead, they offer support online via live chat or email. They also offer a variety of online articles that may answer some of your most common questions.

What Are the Fees?

Banktivity 6 for Mac computers is $64.99. But there's more. If you want automatic account updates from your bank or you want to use the app, you'll pay an additional fee. Banktivity isn't very transparent about the actual cost for what they call "Direct Access," which automatically updates your accounts with recent transactions in your bank accounts. You can view the cost of the app in the app store on your iPhone or iPad, as they each have separate fees.

Reasons We Like Banktivity

  • You can sync your information across your Apple devices to budget on the go. We like the capability of the app because it prevents you from getting behind on entering transactions. If you wait until you are at home in front of the computer, several days or weeks might pass before you get to it. With the app, you can enter transactions as you go.

  • You can see different screens side-by-side. You'll see a feature called "Workspaces" in Banktivity 6. These workspaces are screens that you can view side-by-side. If you want to see your personal budget next to your business budget or you want to see your budget compared to recent spending, you can do it all on one screen.

  • You can customize reports as you need to help you get a better handle on your spending/finances. You choose the transactions you want to see and click "Report On" to get your customized report. You can save it for later or refine it further, based on your budgeting needs.

  • You can tag your transactions in addition to placing them in categories. Sometimes expenses overlap in categories. For example, you go grocery shopping while on vacation. Technically, it ends up in the grocery category. However, you want to see it as a part of your vacation budget. If you tag the expense "vacation," you'll see it in both categories.

  • You can pay your bills directly through Banktivity. Even though vendors and many online banks offer online bill pay, some people prefer to do it through their budgeting software. Banktivity 6 offers the ability to schedule, pay, and track your bills as long as your bank offers the proper OFX connection.

  • You can track investments alongside your budget. Some budgeting software programs are strictly for budgeting. Banktivity offers the best of both worlds with investment tracking too. You can view your portfolio and see current stock quotes all in one program.

  • Banktivity offers private cloud syncing. Your data isn't stored on your Mac, but rather in the cloud. This is how you can see real-time information on any device you use. This includes your Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

  • You can plan for unscheduled expenses. Rather than sticking to the same bill schedule month after month, you can enter unscheduled expenses, such as birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, or vacation expenses, in the appropriate month. Banktivity will then reflect those expenses accurately as you enter those months. Some users call this the "envelope method."

  • You can sum up as many transactions as you want quickly. Do you want to see the total of a few transactions without running an entire report? Banktivity 6 allows you to select your desired transactions and see the running total at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. You don't have to run reports and manually add—it's done for you.

  • Banktivity has a powerful "Find" function. If you often search for a particular transaction in your budgeting software, you'll enjoy the "Find" feature. Simply search for a transaction by keyword or amount, and Banktivity will show you the transactions that match the criteria. From there, you can make edits or even change the transaction altogether.

Reasons You May Want to Look Elsewhere

  • You need a newer Macintosh to use the program. In order to use Banktivity 6, you must have the latest Mac operating system, Sierra 10.12 or newer. The program is not compatible with any older operating systems.

  • The portfolio categorization isn't useful. While you can track your investments, the program categorizes them by security type. For example, all of your bonds are categorized together and all of your stocks are in another category. Many investors prefer to see their portfolio grouped as sectors, such as large cap and small cap categories.

  • You have to manually update your transactions if you don't pay for Direct Access. While there is a workaround to Direct Access, paying for the service yields the most convenient results. Without it, you can download your bank transactions and upload them manually. This takes more time and effort in what should be a seamless process.

How It Compares

Quicken: Quicken has caused some frustration for Mac users, forcing them to look elsewhere, including Banktivity. Quicken is now a subscription-based service, which you pay for annually. If you stop subscribing, you can't use the program any longer. It offers similar features to Banktivity with the exception of the side-by-side screens that many users prefer.

Moneydance: Banktivity and Moneydance offer similar features. Again, the "Workspaces" feature is exclusive to Banktivity, giving it a leg up on Moneydance. Moneydance doesn't offer the "unexpected expenses" budgeting system that Banktivity offers, either. Moneydance does work on Windows and Mac computers too.

Bottom Line

Banktivity offers features similar to Quicken for Mac but at a lower cost. You don't have to pay an annual subscription fee. You don't even have to subscribe to Direct Access if you don't want to. While it does have its downsides and quirks, it can be a good value for the cost for Mac users.

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