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Microsoft's Money 2004 Premium is an attractive upgrade for current Money users who want to delve deeper into online banking and financial management. The $60 package (after a $20 mail-in rebate, which expires September 30, 2003) offers online bill paying from MSN, a capital-gains tax optimizer from GainsKeeper, and one credit report plus one year of credit monitoring from Experian. If you can do without the capital-gains tool and the free credit report and can get by with only one year of complimentary bill paying, the $40 Money 2004 Deluxe is a better buy. The $20 Money Standard edition should suffice for those who need only to create a family budget or balance a checkbook. But online bells and whistles aside, Money still isn't as easy to use as Intuit's Quicken. And current Quicken users might lose data when converting their files to Money. Setup from CD takes less than five minutes and requires 75MB of free space on your hard drive. Money 2004 Premium automatically deleted an old copy of Money 2001 and converted our existing financial portfolio. When importing a Quicken portfolio, however, Money 2004 Premium failed to convert stock-option and vehicle-mileage data, altering the final account balances. Microsoft does offer a &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ms&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fsupport%2Emicrosoft%2Ecom%2Fdefault%2Easpx%3Fscid%3Dkb%3Ben%2Dus%3B242362">knowledge base article for known Quicken import problems. You'll also need to sign up for Passport, Microsoft's proprietary online authentication service, to use Money 2004 Premium's online support, background banking, and bill-paying features.
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|Money 2004 Premium adds new credit-management and capital-gains tools to its task-based interface.|
Money 2004 Premium's main interface changes little from the 2003 version, retaining the browserlike navigation icons and embedded links to content both online and offline. But some of its new features are confusing. For example, in the Premium edition, when you click the Experian icon on the home page, you're whisked away to Experian's Web site and invited to subscribe to the Credit Manager service for $79.95. But wait--isn't this service free for one year? It is, but you'll need to click another link on Money's Credit Center page to find the correct setup screen. Money 2004 Premium's main interface includes new features such as Top Stories, a listing of the latest financial headlines from MSN Money, Kiplinger's, Briefing.com, and other Web sources. The new Choose A Task drop-down menu takes you quickly to common activities such as the account register or the Credit Center.
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|Money 2004 Premium's new Credit Center provides one free credit report and 12 months of credit monitoring.|
Also new to Microsoft Money 2004 Premium is MSN Alerts, e-mail warnings regarding a user-selected group of stocks and personal accounts. For instance, MSN Alerts could notify you when your checking account falls below a certain amount, to avoid the bank's minimum-balance fee. Microsoft .Net Passport registration is required for this service.
Included with the Deluxe and Premium versions is the new Credit Center. An obvious nod to the mortgage-refinancing boom of recent years, it provides one year's free credit monitoring and one free credit report from Experian--one of the big three credit reporting agencies--and supplies lots of self-help data on how to clean up a credit score. Additional services, such as receiving a three-agency report, cost extra. The Premium edition also includes a capital-gains tax optimizer from GainsKeeper.com, a provider of automated financial tools, and generates a printable Schedule D form for federal taxes.
We were miffed by the so-called backup-to-CD feature in Money 2004 Premium. You can back up your Money portfolio to a floppy or hard disk; however, to write to CD, you must copy the backup file manually from the hard disk--tedious. We think a better approach would have been to write directly to CD upon exiting Money. In its never-ending battle with Quicken, Money's biggest advantage is its free, toll-free, phone support available every day (weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekends 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT). Quicken users get no weekend support and must pay $1.95 per minute to discuss issues other than installation and data conversion.
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|Money 2004 provides excellent support, including an online query form shown here.|
Our calls to Microsoft support were answered promptly and politely. Hold times were never longer than a few minutes, even on weekends. Our online queries received e-mail replies within 24 hours. In addition, Money's support site offers a wide selection of FAQs, tips, and other product-related advice.