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Users say Microsoft's Money is broke

Glitches in the new edition of the personal finance software keep some folks from paying their bills.

Complaints are mounting among Microsoft customers about glitches in the new version of the company's Money personal finance program, including errors that prevent customers from paying bills online.

Customers posting comments in a Microsoft community newsgroup and various product review pages say the new Money 2005 has made it difficult or impossible to access online bill paying services Microsoft runs through its MSN subsidiary.

Pierre Aterianus, an electrical engineer from Whitefish Bay, Wisc., said he followed Microsoft instructions to turn off MSN Bill Pay before installing Money 2005 and then reactivate the service, yet he still can't pay his credit card bill. Attempts to initiate payments either aren't sent or result in a "duplicate payment" error message, he said, and Microsoft support personnel haven't been able to provide a solution.

"I now basically have one week left to resolve this issue or be faced with either a bank overdraft fee from duplicate payments or a late fee from the credit card company for not paying my bill," Aterianus said. "This upgrade has been the worst I have ever experienced and the first to make me seriously consider switching back to Quicken," Intuit's market-leading personal finance software.

Steffen Urban, a systems administrator from Riverside, Calif., said he spent several hours in fruitless chats with Microsoft support personnel trying to get bill-paying services to work. When he finally was able to connect to the service, thanks to trial-and-error work of his own, he found every bill he had ever paid through Money recorded twice, causing the program to report a deficit of more than $2 million.

"Microsoft's response was terrible," Urban said. "Only through the newsgroup I found out that I am not the only customer with this problem. Just a little e-mail, stating that there is a problem, would have done the job."

AnnMarie Coe, Microsoft marketing manager for Money, said bill-paying problems have been isolated to a small section of customers upgrading from Money 2004. Microsoft support has worked with such customers individually to work through issues, she said.

"We implemented an upgrade process that has caused some confusion among a select group of users," Coe said. "They don't need to re-enroll (in MSN Bill Pay), they just have to turn it off temporarily, and I think that's where the confusion lies."

Money users were thrown for a loop earlier this year by a prolonged outage in accompanying MSN services

Other Money 2005 customers have reported problems accessing information from brokerages and other financial institutions that offer Internet downloads of account data. Further complaints have centered on corrupted data and other glitches in transferring account data from a previous version of Money to the new one.

Steve Conklan, a teacher from Centreville, Ala., said he had to replicate a few accounts by hand and eliminate duplicate accounts to make the shift from Money 2004 to 2005, a process he considered typical of previous Money upgrades.

"The truth is that Money never does a good job of converting last year's file," Conklan said. "There have been years when I have to export every account. It wasn't very hard, but I am fairly knowledgeable with computers, software and Money. For new users and casual users, however, Money can be a real pain."

A Microsoft representative said such problems are isolated incidents, and support personnel will work with customers on a case-by-case basis to address them.

The glitches come at an unfortunate time for Microsoft, undercutting any possibilities to cash in on customer dissatisfaction with Intuit's Quicken, the perennial leader in personal finance software. Quicken 2005 buyers have complained about changes in file format support that have prevented access to online banking functions in some cases,

At least Microsoft can't blame the Money glitches on black magic. The company made like an elevator and skipped over the number 13 with the program, going from version 12 with Money 2004 to version 14 with Money 2005. The change was intended to align Money versions with corresponding MSN services, according to a company statement, but several online wags have seen a little superstition at work.