We tested the $79.99 Money 2007 Premium ($30 less with a mail-in rebate), which includes extras such as a free year of credit monitoring and online backup, as well as H&R Block's DeductionsPro. You can also check out the new, basic Money Essentials for $19.95; the $49.99 Deluxe version, which lacks Premium's extras but includes the latest budgeting tools; or the $89.99 Money Home & Business, which adds invoicing, payroll options through PayCycle, and Schedule C tracking.
Thankfully, Money's system requirements haven't changed drastically: you'll need Windows XP SP2 or later. Installation took us less than 10 minutes in our tests. We were careful to uncheck any boxes that might place us on unwanted advertising mailing lists; take care to do the same when you register this product.
If you're upgrading from a previous version, Money 2007 will display your saved transaction history from 2006 or earlier. To set up for the first time, Money makes it a snap to add accounts, especially if they're already accessible online. Signing in to Money while you're connected to the Internet will update the latest information from your connected bank, credit card, and other financial accounts. Money provides links to a variety of financial accounts and displays them within its easy-on-the-eyes, blue and white interface.
However, we're not crazy about needing a Windows Live (formerly Passport) ID to use Microsoft Money 2007 to connect to our financial accounts online, although data transmissions are encrypted, of course. It is convenient, but you'll need to entrust your financial information to Microsoft's servers. If you're using that same ID to log in to Windows Live's many services, such as Windows Live Mail (the update to Hotmail) and even Windows Live Local's maps, then you should zealously guard that password or otherwise risk losing control of your financial secrets. Unfortunately, we were unable to sign in when we first mistyped our Windows Live ID. Money told us to "go online" but didn't say where. We would have appreciated a link to the online sign-in page for Money.
We like Money 2007's well-laid-out and customizable interface, which by default displays a list of accounts and a spending pie chart on the Home page. Intuitive shortcuts include the ability to double-click a pie slice to bring up a register of expenses for editing. The browser-like layout includes back and forward navigation arrows and various straightforward drop-down menus. You can quickly access specific resources for banking, scheduling bills, creating reports, investing, planning, and taxes.
Money 2007 is so similar to the 2006 edition that we had to dig before finding new features. That's good if you already like the interface, but Quicken 2007's radical new home page layout simplifies the view of your financial status. The biggest touted change to Money is its Savings & Spending Budget (not available in Essentials), which helps you figure out how much money you can spend or put aside each month. Its wizard walks you through adjusting spending in various categories, such as Automobile and Dining Out. Version 2007 also adds a spending tracker for budget groups, improved bill paying, and a balance adjustment tool.
Money has improved its tool to help you estimate tax deductions, but you'll have to consider separate software to file your taxes. You can export your data from Money to TaxCut and Intuit TurboTax, but we find that Intuit Quicken 2007 offers more seamless integration with its maker's various financial applications. Unfortunately for young users, neither Money nor Quicken offer explicit help for managing student loans.
You can also use Money to track expenses with visual spending "thermometers," as well as pay bills, plan for retirement, plot to overcome debt, and access MSN Money News. Money 2007's various Web-linked resources for news and tax tips can be helpful, but you can find most of that information free online anyway, and we wish they didn't include graphical ads.
Microsoft offers help for Money 2007 in the form of well-done videos and an excellent, built-in searchable user guide and FAQs. You can also consult the online knowledge base and user discussion groups or subscribe to an RSS feed for support updates. E-mail chat is free from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m on weekends. Toll-free telephone assistance is also free during those hours.
If you're already a fan of Microsoft Money and the 2006 edition serves you well, you can probably meet your money-management needs without upgrading to Money 2007. However, you may have to upgrade if you own an older version of Money and need to connect with banks online, because Microsoft cuts off that access after two years. For new users to financial software, however, we prefer the extra features and the dead-simple home page offered by Quicken 2007.