Stupid? Quicken moves to subscription model for software – UPDATE

I have long been a user of Quicken products ever since the very first DOS-based versions came out. Most of the time I’ve upgraded either when significant new features were added or when it was required due to a new OS. The most significant and important update to Quicken came when it started supporting direct transaction downloads from financial institutions making it a lot simpler to balance, categorize and see snapshots of financial health.

Maybe a little more than a decade ago, Quicken moved to a planned “sunset” product lifecycle model where each new version now had a lifespan of 3 years. After 3 years, the product would no longer function for downloading (or importing) transactions and it wouldn’t receive any bug or security fixes. About a year ago, Intuit, the owners of Quicken, decided to sell off its consumer products (Quicken) to private equity firm, HIG Capital which put the product’s future in limbo.

Quicken now requires “membership”

Well the other shoe dropped this week. About 3 days ago, I received a CD-ROM in the mail gleefully announcing my invitation to upgrade to Quicken 2018 (we are currently using Quicken 2016 Home & Business). On opening it up, the headline says “The new 2018 release of Quicken is here. With the convenience of our new membership plan”. (And yes, that’s exactly how they worded it: a complete sentence with period followed by a fragment.)

Uh, “membership plan” sounds like subscription to me. After looking further, the new ownership has indeed changed the way Quicken is being sold from now on. Instead of buying a version every three years, now you are forced to buy a one or two year “membership plan”. The problem is, both plans are basically priced the same as buying ONE three-year sunset version each year. A to Quicken Home & Business now costs $99/year where I used to be able to buy the 3-year sunset version for $89 at Costco.

Cost tripled

Bottom line, Quicken has more than TRIPLED the cost of its software overnight. To make matters worse, the 2018 version comes with really no new features other than some minor improvements to reporting and a more consolidated bill paying window. Whoopee. Against this, Quicken as a product, has become more and more buggy. A quick trip onto the Quicken support forums shows that the 2017 version is riddled with issues ranging from lockups to data file corruption to continued lack of connectivity to financial institutions.

Generally, when companies RAISE prices, they do so from a position of strength. Their products may be in high demand. The demand curve may be relatively inelastic. The new replacement product may be really “new and improved”. In Quicken’s, I don’t see any of those conditions. The market for desktop and app-based financial programs isn’t strong. Given the number of discount schemes I’ve seen from Intuit to sell Quicken over the years, I can’t believe the demand curve is anything but elastic. And finally, it’s clear the company is not selling anything “new or improved”.

Just today, Quicken’s new CEO, Eric Dunn, issued a corporate ‘splainer trying to couch this hot mess as a consumer benefit. You can read his tortured “letter” here: From Eric Dunn, CEO of Quicken: Letter to the Quicken Community about the Membership Plan

What will you do?

So some questions for all you Quicken users. Will you upgrade to the subscription model when your current sunset version runs out? If not, how do you plan to deal with not using Quicken any more? What are the favored alternatives out there? There are several open-source programs including GnuCash, Tryton, KMyMoney and LedgerSMB that all support online banking. There are also other proprietary programs including MoneyDance and MoneyWiz as well as SAS solutions such as Mint.com. Do we even need personal accounting/financial management programs any more?

UPDATE

The above mentioned “letter” from Eric Dunn has generated so much negative commentary (I’d guess that the negatives outweigh the pros by 10-to-1) that the thread has been locked by Quicken, Inc. At least they were brave enough to allow comments in the first place, but it’s clear this is a highly unpopular move.

2 Comments

  1. Christopher Heyde

    Purchased the 2018 Quicken Deluxe and despite multiple tries and calls to customer service I can’t get the product to show up in my account in Quicken.com and therefore can’t download it.

    Initially purchased and downloaded on line and could not register, and therefore could not run, the new software.

    So far this has been a huge fail on the part of Quicken.

  2. Bob C

    I was kind of suckered into buying Quicken 2018 when I bought a new computer. I had been running the 2015 version and didn’t have the install file any longer. Of course, I was going to lose the ability to download transactions soon anyway, since I was right there at the three-year mark.

    The bottom line is that subscription models for software like Quicken do not serve the customer. They support an organization that is likely larger than it needs to be. There is nothing about basic bookkeeping and investment tracking that changes so dramatically that a new version is required every three years, nevermind every year. And there’s the rub. Paying what is essentially a $20 a year subscription is acceptable, even if not really necessary. Paying $100 a year is not. It actually has me thinking about using the power of Excel to track my finances and download transactions in an Excel format.

    I’m not really interested in supporting a team of developers working on changing display colors and graphs in the software. Come on guys. Debit Rent, credit cash. Not so hard. It’s been the same damned thing for a hundred years. There’s no value add to what they do with new versions. None. Zero. And they know it. It’s why they kill your ability to download transactions if you don’t upgrade or pay the subscription price. If the “upgrades” were useful, people would pay to upgrade. All they are is a lame way to try to convince you that you’re getting a better product, but clearly they mean nothing to the average user.

    Truth is, once Microsoft gave up Money years ago, this was eventually going to happen. They own the market. It’s them or nothing. I think when this sub runs out, I’ll choose nothing. I’m finished with the Quicken crack.

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