Publish date:

Quicken's Migration to Mint is Not So Fresh

Intuit bought the Web accounting software that was beating it, but couldn't make a smooth transition.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Call it a dark cloud in the cloud-based computing sky: Intuit's (INTU) - Get Reportnot-so-elegant wind-down of Quicken Online.

Bean-counting software tools such as

FreshBooks

,

TST Recommends

PeachTree

and

Netsuite Small Business

try to make a dent in Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit's combined online and inbox suite of products. But who knows why they bother.

QuickBooks

,

Quicken

and

TurboTax

still control probably 90 percent of the small-business accounting market.

But apparently it's still not enough.

Last year the accounting giant spent $170 million buying

Mint

, the fast-growing, free, Web-based personal finance site, and began migrating users toward it and away from its extant free online personal finance tool, Quicken Online. Intuit introduced it only two years ago, a year after Mint's debut, but earlier this summer announced it would wind the service down as of the end of August.

Since Quicken Online is a favorite for sole proprietors and the process of moving one's books from one tool to another is no joke, I've been testing the rollover options for small-business Quicken Online users with an account I set up for my personal finances.

It looks like planet small biz has its accounting work cut out for it.

MINT AND QUICKEN ONLINE DO NOT GET ALONG.

It's important to understand that Mint was written with an entirely different software platform than Quicken for the Web.

Overall, Mint gets points for making the cold-start process easy: Simply go to Mint.com, open an account and start entering your financial information. For free fiscal software, Mint is hard to beat. In fact, I recommend it. But the actual importing of one's existing Quicken Online data is far from a slam-dunk.

Remarkably, there is no easy upgrade path. Because of the different software platforms, Quicken Online cannot flow directly into Mint. Instead, information must be imported as it would be from any other bank or credit card account. In the process, critical ledger tags that can describe business transactions in existing Quicken Online accounts were flat-out lost on about half of the entries moved to Mint. And to restore these tags? All that beautiful ledger information has to be entered again. By hand. Ugh!

BOTTOM LINE.

Transferring your data, while not impossible, is an out and out pain. A company representative said the system was set up to make Mint ledgers 90 percent accurate from Quicken Online information. But 90 percent right is a B in grade school and an F in accounting.

Here in money world, when it's wrong. It's wrong. And that pretty much describe how Intuit has handled the wind-down of Quicken Online.

End-of-life Quicken Online users can also upgrade to online versions of Intuit's classic QuickBooks, by the way. QuickBooks can be pricey for smaller firms and is not nearly as Webish or plug-and-play as Mint It all has a real-accounting-software feel, which can turn off some mathophobes. (You already have to get over the fact you are storing sensitive company data on a remote Web-based service.) Overall the online experience is solid, with good ledgers and smart services such as powerful invoicing. But unlike Mint, QuickBooks Online is far from free. The basic package starts at $120 a year, and, again, while there are data-import tools for Quicken Online, they are not particularly slick.

The imported information was just uncertain enough that I felt I had to recheck all those entries too. Again, ugh.

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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on Fox News and The WB.