Finance Apps: iBank vs MoneyWiz 2

Finance apps are one of the trickiest categories for the Mac and iOS. There is intense interest, as I discovered firsthand after posting a short piece on both MoneyWiz 2 and iBank’s new cloud sync solution. I have gotten quite a bit of feedback asking for a more detailed rundown on these two options. This piece is intended to be a rundown of the pros and cons of each, with some recommendations along the way. It isn’t possible to hit upon every single feature in any reasonable length article, so I am covering the main features and the ones I use the most. I am limiting myself to MoneyWiz 2 and iBank for this comparison. I do realize there are many other options out there. Your mileage will definitely vary, but for me these are the two best apps.

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For a little bit of a history, I stated out using Quicken many years ago. I would guess that most Mac users who have been on the platform more than 10 years probably started here as well. Quicken used to be the only real game in town. Yes, PC users had the late lamented Microsoft Money, but we really only had Intuit’s offering. Initially I loved Quicken. When I got my first smartphone[1], the Treo 650, I discovered Pocket Quicken. This was an amazing piece of software that allowed me to easily enter transactions on the go and sync them back to my computer. At the time this was a breakthrough in finance management. When the iPhone came out, I actually kept a Palm TX around solely to use this app, as the iPhone had no equivalent. Then two things happened.

The first was Intuit completely bungling the Mac product. While the Windows version continued to advance, the Mac edition sat for years on version 2007. Intuit chose not to rewrite the software for the new Intel Macs despite the fact that it was clear this was a requirement going forward. Their release of Quicken Essentials was met with scathing reviews, so much so that they had to go back and rework Quicken 2007 into an Intel compatible app, years after the fact.

The second, and more important, was the iPhone. Before the App Store even existed[2], IGG Software was the first to market with a finance app that worked on the new device. iBank already existed as a Mac app, but IGG found a rather clever way to get the iPhone in as well. This was accomplished using a web app – at the time the only “apps” allowed on the iPhone – that ran off the .Mac iDisk.[3] This was very basic. The phone simply existed as a vector to enter new transactions, with no management capability on its own. But it opened the door and made me an iBank user.

Fast forward a few years and I had grown discontent with iBank. As everyone else was moving toward cloud sync, IGG remained stubbornly stuck in the old days of the Mac being the sync center of the universe. A new player, MoneyWiz, had come to market. The killer feature here was true, reliable cloud sync that did not require any single device be the center of the action. At last the iPhone, iPad, and Mac were equals in money management. After a lot of debating, I abandoned iBank for MoneyWiz. MoneyWiz lacked some advanced features of iBank, but its reliability and simplicity made up for it.

And that brings us to today. MoneyWiz recently released a major update to version 2. iBank in the meantime refreshed the entire lineup, bringing a new Mac version, a refreshed iPad version, and a whole new iPhone app that was more full featured than the original entry-centric app. More important was the release, at long last, of true cloud sync for iBank. Initially I thought MoneyWiz would still reign supreme for me, but I decided to give the new iBank a try. There are things about each app I love, there are things about each app I do not. What follows is a breakdown of the major functions that both apps support, and a deeper look at where each succeeds and where each has a way to go.

Design

The look of an app is important. Not just for aesthetics, but to help guide the user as to how the app works, and making it easy to use quickly. This is perhaps most important on the iPhone, where you are likely to use an app of this type while walking out of a store with a bag in hand.

iBank for Mac uses a very straightforward design that looks as if Apple themselves have created it. This has the advantage of giving certain visual cues to long time Mac users. But the downside is in complexity. iBank has a lot of features and a lot of options, and this can make navigating it daunting at first. For example, there are two + signs in the main window. Can you guess what they do? One adds a new account, the other adds a new transaction. But neither are labeled, so it is very likely you will click the wrong one a few times before it starts to make sense. It gets worse if I go in to reconcile mode. Three + signs, with the new one adding a new statement. I still click the wrong one here from time to time. Look at this (redacted – sorry its my real data) screenshot below. Which plus sign does what?

I still click the wrong one sometimes.
I still click the wrong one sometimes.

The transaction field itself seems very busy here. All items are visible at all time, even when not in any edit mode. It makes it faster, but also clutters up the interface quite a lot. There is no way to be in an account without having at least one transaction selected at all times. This gets scary as I often am afraid I will accidentally delete or edit a transaction without realizing it.

On iOS things get simpler. The apps use a basic white background and completely fit in with the iOS 7/8 style. The iOS apps feel pared down compared to the Mac app. The iPhone is really all about entering new data, with a large + button in the corner. I actually like this touch since I rarely do major money management from my iPhone, but it is by far the most likely place where I will enter new transactions.

Always a tap away to add a new transaction.
Always a tap away to add a new transaction.

MoneyWiz is almost the complete opposite. The Mac app looks almost nothing like a Mac app. The dark window and bold styling makes it stick out. The disadvantage of eschewing standard design is that you need to retrain your users to a new way of using your software that may not be clear to them. But even Apple no longer sticks to standard design, so this is less a concern today than it was years ago. And it brings with it the advantage of being able to tailor your UI to the tasks at hand. MoneyWiz still suffers the two + sign issue, but the one to add an account is so small and off to the side that I rarely click it by accident.

Well, this looks different.
Well, this looks different.

Where the design of MoneyWiz really shines is when you compare it to the iOS apps. The design is so similar that putting down one version and picking up another feels like you are using the exact same thing. Clearly MoneyWiz has taken great pains to make its multiple products line up across platforms, and this effort is immediately apparent. The downside of this is that entering a new transaction on the iPhone is not as simple. There are multiple ways to do it, and which one is fastest depends on which screen you are looking at in the app. And they feel oddly small and almost hidden. On the iPhone I want speed above all else when entering new data, and MoneyWiz can feel cumbersome.

The new transaction button feels almost hidden.
The new transaction button feels almost hidden.

MoneyWiz tries not to overload you with information. Unlike iBank, most of the transaction details are hidden unless you are editing. This makes the app a bit more glanceable. The Mac has an expert mode that looks more like a spreadsheet, and more like iBank, if you prefer that view.

It is hard to call a winner here. MoneyWiz is simpler and easier to pick up and use, but iBank feels more like a Mac app to me. On the iPhone I definitely prefer iBank just due to how fast I can open the app, add a transaction, and be on my way. Otherwise if you are an old time Mac user you may find iBank more familiar. If options annoy you, MoneyWiz is likely to fit your style better.

Accounts and Transactions

Both apps support multiple types of accounts – though not all types are shared between the two. Both have a simple wizard for setting up new accounts to help set the parameters, and to connect to online banking when supported.

iBank supports the following types of accounts:

  • Checking
  • Savings
  • Credit Card
  • Investment
  • 401K
  • Money Market
  • Line of Credit
  • Asset
  • Liability
  • Loan
  • Cash

MoneyWiz supports the following types of accounts:

  • Checking
  • Credit
  • Savings
  • Loan
  • Cash

You may notice that Investments are absent from the list here. This has been a long-standing request, but the feature has continually been pushed back. It was originally promised for version 2, whose own launch was delayed multiple times, but ended up not making it into the final version. It is supposed to be coming in a future update, but when that may be is anyone’s guess.

Both apps allow you to link to online accounts for automatic transaction downloading, which will be covered in greater detail later in this article. Interestingly when it first launched MoneyWiz 2 had no way to disconnect from an online institution once you connected. This has been fixed in a recent update. Both apps allow you to group accounts together.

Adding new transactions is a fairly straightforward process in both apps. MoneyWiz 2 gets some additional points for allowing for a customized new transaction screen. You can set which fields to use, and in what order. This is a huge step up from version 1 which was rather inflexible in this regard.

You can customize which fields appear, and in what order.
You can customize which fields appear, and in what order.

iBank’s new transaction entry happens directly in the normal transaction view. You simply add a new entry and enter the data. It can look a little odd if you are used to the way MoneyWiz does things, but you get used to it pretty quickly. And it actually is closer to how it would look in a physical checkbook. But it still looks cluttered compared to the more focused transaction entry of MoneyWiz.

Just like your checkbook, minus the running ink.
Just like your checkbook, minus the running ink.

On mobile, MoneyWiz basically sticks to the same transaction entry screen. iBank on the other hand really adapts this process to take advantage of the mobile device. Most notably iBank has the ability to use location services to find the name of the payee. This can save you time as it will automatically assign a category if it is able to find the correct business. Unfortunately I have found this feature to be unreliable. I do not know where the database is pulling from, but I frequently do not see the name of a major business I am standing right in front of. For example, iBank was completely unaware of a huge Rite Aid in my neighborhood, and the businesses it did find were ones I had never heard of.

I find I much prefer the entry screen on iBank over MoneyWiz on the iPhone. It is just faster. The add button is available on nearly every screen, where MoneyWiz often buries it down in menus. For online accounts in MoneyWiz, the add button is missing entirely, though there is a reason for this I will discuss in the automatic downloading section. I don’t use entry much on the iPad as it is rarely the most convenient option, but both apps are fairly straightforward here.

Transactions can also be scheduled. This is a hugely important feature as this is how I remind myself of upcoming bills. MoneyWiz does very well here with a nicely laid out calendar view. Entering a scheduled transaction is very similar to entering a new transaction, and existing transactions can be imported to scheduled ones. You enter the account, the type of transaction, and the frequency. iBank is similar, but the UI here is not great. It is always a two-step process. First set up the account, frequency, and alerts in a pop up window. Then you abruptly switch to the transaction editor to complete the process. Again it is not hard to figure out, but I find the two-step process annoying.

Your schedule or transactions in a calendar.
Your schedule or transactions in a calendar.
Your scheduled transactions in a...list.
Your scheduled transactions in a…list.

iBank supports adding your scheduled transactions to the built in Reminders app, while MoneyWiz does not. MoneyWiz does support its own push notifications however. These notifications will trigger when a transaction is due. iBank gives you the option to specify how long in advance you wish to be reminded of due transactions. But the app has to be running for this to occur, whereas MoneyWiz can alert in the background. MoneyWiz makes scheduled transactions available on all platforms. iBank curiously omits this function from the iPhone app, though it is present in the iPad app.

Both apps allow you to set custom categories with images to represent the categories, but MoneyWiz does a much better job of this. For iBank, you must choose either personal or business finances when you first begin. This will load default categories with images. The images are not great. They look about a decade out of date at this point, something you would expect to see from a later edition of Microsoft clip art. Any new categories you add require you go out and get your own icons, which likely won’t match. MoneyWiz includes dozens of nice, modern icons that you can use with additional categories you have created. There is somewhat of an advantage with iBank’s ability to load your own icons, but I prefer having the larger, more modern icon set to choose from.

MoneyWiz includes loads of high quality modern icons.
MoneyWiz includes loads of high quality modern icons.
iBank includes a handful of Clippy's relatives.
iBank includes a handful of Clippy’s relatives.

Budgets and Reports

I will admit that I am not a huge user of budgets in finance apps. I am convinced that very few people actually stick to their budgets, and I certainly have been guilty of ignoring any and all alerts related to my own. But this is a major feature of finance apps. Actually, there are plenty of apps that do just budgets and nothing else.

iBank treats your budget as an interactive report. It uses a wizard to walk you through the setup. You can choose which accounts to be included, as well as whether to include scheduled transactions. These will be the basis of your monthly budget. Once created, you can set up unscheduled expenses by category. If you go over in one category, you can move money from another with leftover funds using an envelope system. It works reasonably well, but it definitely takes time to get used to. It also makes more sense once a full month or two passes. You can create multiple budgets that function independent of each other.

Very professional.
Very professional.

MoneyWiz budgets are more straightforward, if much more constrained. You select the accounts and categories and how much you can spend on a monthly basis. Once done, it will show you how much you have used for the month with a status bar. You can select an under budget category and transfer to an over budget one. You can also select to have unused allocated money rollover to the next month automatically.

It'll do.
It’ll do.

One thing MoneyWiz offers is a simple, on demand forecast view. It is a bit hidden, but great once you discover it. In the schedule transactions view click and hold on any date in the calendar to be given a high level overview of your anticipated balance on that day. It only bases this on scheduled transactions so it is of course limited in its predictive capabilities, but a nice touch nonetheless. iBank does offer a forecast, but in the form of a report.

See how much money you won't have next month.
See how much money you won’t have next month.

iBank offers a wealth of reporting options. Each type of report has a small summary screen in the wizard that guides you on how it is meant to be used. The wizard helps walk you through creating choosing the accounts to include, the time frame, and other elements required to generate the report. These reports are live, updating themselves as the data is updated. You can print or save as pdf, as well as export tab delimited text file if you need to send the information to other software such as excel. Reports in iBank are powerful, and clearly are meant to be printed. Each report looks like a piece of paper right in the app.

Lots to choose from here.
Lots to choose from here.

MoneyWiz is not so in tune with the physical world. Its reports are designed to live within the app. Yes, they can be printed, but this appears more of an afterthought than their reason to exist. MoneyWiz is more “generate on demand” than iBank. The reports here require fewer steps to set up, but are not nearly as extensive. You can choose to save the reports if you like. An advantage of reports in MoneyWiz is that they appear across all devices, unlike iBank’s, which live exclusively on the Mac.

A final note here concerns the summary screen. Both apps have one. iBank’s overview screen only appears on the Mac, and is not editable. But it does include most of the at-a-glance information you are likely to want, such as net worth, rate of savings, upcoming transactions, categories, etc. I find the rate of savings particularly useful as my guess is most people don’t put aside nearly as much as they should, myself included. MoneyWiz allows you to add “widgets” to the dashboard screen, but there are only four: statistics, accounts, pending transactions, and scheduled transactions. So while on the surface it is customizable, there in reality is not too much to do here since the options are so limited. I appreciate the pending transactions the most. It is nice to see all uncleared transactions in one place. But I do not like the UI. Clearly this was made for the iPhone screen, but on the iPad and certainly on the Mac, it just looks like they blew up the phone screen. There is a ton of wasted space here.

iBank has a great overview screen.
iBank has a great overview screen.
I sure hope this isn't what the iPhone 7 screen will look like.
I sure hope this isn’t what the iPhone 7 screen will look like.

Feature Parity

If nothing else, the story of the last few years has been how phones have gone from simple communication devices, to advanced PDA-like smart computers, to full fledged powerful machines that can go toe-to-toe with their desktop companions. It has been interesting to watch as iOS apps went from being almost toy-like to become powerful first class productivity machines.

But this has been a process, and not all apps have embraced the mobile-first world. This is nowhere more true than in the finance app category. Some, like Quicken, are still primarily desktop apps with a mobile companion that does not match its parent software’s functions. Conversely, there are numerous iPhone apps with no desktop companion at all.

iBank began life as a desktop app. The mobile side initially was a mere companion for data entry, and it remained that way for quite some time. Last year iBank Mobile was discontinued in favor of iBank for iPhone, which brought the mobile app much closer in features to its desktop companion. Closer, but not all the way there. Despite being a new app, IGG has left numerous features out of the mobile product. For example, there is no way to see scheduled upcoming transactions on the iPhone app, though the iPad does support this feature. Reconciling to statements is a desktop only function, as is marking transactions cleared unless you use Direct Access.

While the features do not line up, iBank still does a reasonably good job of maintaining continuity between platforms. The iPhone is better at transaction entry than any other app, which makes sense given its use case. I do wish I could see and even post my scheduled transactions on the iPhone though. That is a curious omission.

MoneyWiz, on the other hand, makes feature parity a headline feature. These apps are clearly designed around the idea that the same people will use it on multiple platforms, and that a consistent experience is paramount for these users. In fact, I am hard pressed to find a major feature that exists on one app that is missing from another. The only really notable thing I can think of is that the Mac has an advanced editing mode that the iOS apps lack. But this is a feature that really only works on the desktop anyway, so it makes sense.

Otherwise you will find that switching between iPhone, iPad, and Mac will be about as seamless as possible. Were it not for the different form factor of the device, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell at all.

iBank has come a long way from the early days in having a unified feature set between their apps, but MoneyWiz reigns supreme here. In fact, MoneyWiz may do a better job than nearly anyone else, including non-finance apps at a consistent, equal experience no matter what device you use.

Automatic Downloading

There seems to be two kinds of people who use personal finance apps. The first want to have minute control over every aspect of every transaction, and prefer to manage it by hand the way they used to manage a physical checkbook. The second want the app to handle as much as possible, acting more as a central repository for their online finances. Over the years many services dedicated to that second group have appeared, such as Mint and Personal Capital. But is does not need to be a zero sum game. Increasingly the desktop apps are supporting some form of direct download. Quicken has done this for years. But this has often been an error prone, expensive, and unpredictable process.[4]

MoneyWiz now supports automatic downloads for the first time in version 2. This was a major new feature. Unfortunately, it is probably the worst new feature of the app. It seems that MoneyWiz intends online accounts to touched as little as possible by the user. While you can enter transactions manually, MoneyWiz makes no attempt to match these when the transaction appears in your online account. It will simply download them again, making your balance off by the amount of that transaction. It actually leads to more work for you as the user, when it should lead to less.

Worse, automatic downloads in MoneyWiz are slow. Painfully slow. It took several minutes for each account every time I tried to sync. I actually was afraid it would time out in the background if I closed the app. Bank support is decent, but there are a lot of gaps. There is a very good chance that at least half of the accounts you have will not be supported.

The list isn't as long as I hoped.
The list isn’t as long as I hoped.

This feature is new, and clearly they can work out a lot of these bugs. But right now I consider it to be useless. And this feature has an additional cost to use, and the cost is fairly steep. At $50 per year, it should be much better than this. Right now it is more or less a beta, but it is not labeled as such and is being sold at the full price. Honestly, this is the feature that lead to my previous comment that I was becoming less impressed by the day at MoneyWiz 2 post launch.

iBank on the other hand has probably the best automatic download of any finance app ever. It actually supports multiple types of automatic downloads. The first is the traditional OFX download. This has been what banks have used for years with apps such as Quicken. While some banks offer it for free, most charge a monthly fee for the access. And it is not terribly well supported on anything other than the current version of Quicken on Windows.

The second option is where iBank really knocked it out of the park. Direct Access is a phenomenal feature. Almost every single account I use is supported. You simply log in with your account info and the downloads begin. No need to activate anything on the bank’s side. It works mostly like Mint. Unlike MoneyWiz, iBank is designed to use this function in conjunction with manual transaction entry. It is extremely good at matching transactions and marking them cleared once they appear in your online account. I think I have only ever had one that failed to do so.

iBank has one of the most extensive catalogs of financial institutions I have ever seen.
iBank has one of the most extensive catalogs of financial institutions I have ever seen.

Direct Access is support on all devices. Like MoneyWiz, it requires a subscription, though it is $10 cheaper per year than MoneyWiz, despite the fact that it works much, much better. I used to be one of the people who managed everything by hand and did not even attempt to link to my online account. But Direct Access has converted me. I now consider it an absolute killer feature. There is no comparison here, iBank wins this one by a mile.

Syncing

Early on there was no syncing. I got a receipt, took it home, and entered it in Quicken. Pocket Quicken made this much easier. Yes, the sync was on demand, but it made it harder to lose a receipt before recording the transaction. iBank raised the bar even higher, but fell behind once the Mac was demoted from the center of the universe. Now that they have finally caught up[5] a direct comparison is more fair. I won’t be talking about iBank’s old sync methods of WiFi direct or WebDAV because 1) they are horrible and 2) they are being removed in the near future. Cloud sync is the way of the future. Also note that iBank’s cloud sync is currently labeled as beta, but since they have released it in the shipping version that regular people are using, I feel it fair to discuss it here.

Both iBank and MoneyWiz have chosen not to use an off the shelf syncing solution such as iCloud or Dropbox. Both have custom solutions. For apps as complex as these, this makes total sense. Dropbox is too document centric, and iCloud has proved unreliable.[6] MoneyWiz was first out of the gate with their SyncBits technology. It was what made me switch to them in the first place. SyncBits is actually an entire sync platform that is open to other developers, though currently only one other app from the makers of MoneyWiz actually uses it. SyncBits has proven extremely reliable. I have almost never seen an error message in years of using the product. The server is the central hub of the data, so any device can be synced directly to any other. All data is synced across devices with one notable exception, images. MoneyWiz allows you to attach an image to a transaction, such as a photo of a receipt. But this will live only on that device. The developers initially promised an option to enable this in version 2, but this seems to have been pushed back. A nice touch to SyncBits is that it includes settings. If you want to enable a running balance for example, you only need to do it once and this option will then be selected across all your devices.

IGG is very new to the cloud sync game, having released theirs only weeks ago. Similar to MoneyWiz, iBank sync allows any device to communicate with any other. All data is synchronized, though as I previously mentioned, there are gaps in features available across multiple platforms, so not all data is actually usable across multiple devices. So far iBank’s sync has seemed a bit slower than MoneyWiz, and I have gotten some error messages. This is likely growing pains as the service is new. A local document still exists on your device, which is good for those times when the server is offline. While I personally have not had any major issues, I should note that a friend of mine has. Unlike MoneyWiz, iBank allows for multiple documents or “books” as the mobile apps call them. This makes it more powerful, but may also be confusing as each book will sync independently. It has not been a long period of time, but so far iBank’s cloud sync is working well for me and it definitely points the app in the right direction. This was something they desperately needed and I am so glad it is finally here.

The last point I want to make here is security. Obviously financial data is about as sensitive as it gets. IGG has made a big deal on their blog about the security of the cloud sync. iBank requires you use two passwords to sync data. First there is your iBank ID. This is your online account, and is a traditional password that can be reset by IGG in the event you forget it. The second password is created when you first sync a document. It is used to locally encrypt your data before it is sent to their server. This means that even if they suffer a breach, the data stolen would be useless, and IGG cannot leak the encryption password because they do not have it. But this also means that if you yourself lose this password, the data cannot be recovered. This is my preferred method of securing sensitive data. Yes, it puts the onus on the user, but it is the only way to come as close to guaranteeing security as possible.

MoneyWiz does not say too much about their encryption beyond the fact that it uses SSL. Unlike iBank, the only thing needed to decrypt your data is your SyncBits password. It is important to note that this can be recovered by customer service in the event you forget it. While convenient, there is a potential danger that they could lose control of their password database and the data be exposed. I should note that this has not happened, and I hope that they are properly storing passwords on their server to mitigate this danger.

There is one final note I need to make about iBank before coming to a conclusion here, and this happened near the end of my writing of this article. The iBank sync server has not been reliable. More than once I have experienced a multi day outage with their sync server, with the only information given by the app being a cryptic error message. Again, this is a new service, and they are still calling it beta. But if this continues for too long, I will be concerned enough to come back and revise this section accordingly.

This went on for over two whole days. BETA!
This went on for over two whole days. BETA!

All in all the winner here is MoneyWiz, but mainly because their sync platform is tried and true. iBank is new to the game and still has some issues to work out. Also, it is a bit scary to use a sync system labeled “beta”. If only MoneyWiz could get image syncing up and running they would really pull ahead. iBank’s lack of feature parity makes some of the synced data useless on certain platforms. But iBank has finally seen the light on this and I am glad to see they finally have a usable solution. Assuming they only improve from here the future looks bright for their cloud sync as well.

Stability and Reliability

Its inability to buy happiness aside, money is important. No finance app is worth so much as a penny if it is unreliable or destructive. Perhaps nowhere other than photos and business critical software is stability more important.

In the entire two years I have used the original version of MoneyWiz, it was rock solid. Errors were very rare, and at no point did I ever lose data as the result of a bug or other issue. I did have an issue once were sync stopped working, but customer support – which is excellent – was able to walk me through resetting it without losing a thing. It was a little scary deleting files to make it work again, but everything was back up and running in no time.

MoneyWiz 2 has been reasonably stable, but it is suffering some new app growing pains. I have not experienced many crashes, but the software does lock up more frequently than version 1 did. It has always recovered but the program is noticeably slower than it was in the old version.

MoneyWiz stores all of its data in the user library, which under normal circumstances is hidden from the user. This has the advantage of preventing users from being their own worst enemy and messing with the file, but it also makes it more difficult to backup the app’s data independently. In addition, MoneyWiz limits exporting to either PDF or CSV. PDF is useless for backup, and CSV is not exactly the most reliable way to export if the goal is to import later with everything intact.

I should note that under MoneyWiz 2 I did experience my first loss of data. It was a result of attempting to use automatic downloads. My bank ended up spewing a whole bunch of categories into the app, and I went in to remove them. Somehow in the process a transaction was deleted, but it did not seem to be a recent one. I did not want to go through years of data to find it, so I quickly gave up. Yes, I was deleting categories, but I specifically told MoneyWiz to reassign those transactions to other categories. This seems not to have happened.

iBank is generally stable, but I have had more issues here over the years. This was a major issue in the pre-cloud sync days. When syncing the mobile apps to the desktop, I would frequently find it entering an error loop from which I could not recover. Thankfully since the arrival of cloud sync this has not occurred, but I still sometimes hold my breath when opening the app for the first time each day.

And advantage that iBank has is that it stores its file in the documents folder on the Mac. This makes it extremely easy to back up, and to create duplicate files when I want to do something that could possible lead to data loss. This has saved me more than once.

IGG’s support has generally been helpful in the past, though not as fast as MoneyWiz has been. It should be noted that I have not used their live chat support, which is relatively new. I have heard positive things about this service.

Neither app is perfect, and that is to be expected. If I had to choose a stability winner it would have to be MoneyWiz as I have had so few problems with it over the years. But so far things on the iBank side have been much smoother since cloud sync was introduced, growing pains on the server side notwithstanding. They key here of course is to backup your data regularly, and iBank actually does make this easier as it supports the document model.

Pros and Cons

If you have read this far I hope you have a sense that neither app is perfect and that each has its strengths and each has its weaknesses. If I had to summarize the pros and cons of each app it would be as follows.

iBank

Pros

  • Faster transaction entry on iPhone
  • Direct access to the file on the Mac makes backup easier
  • Better options for export
  • Direct Access is a nearly flawless implementation of automatic downloads
  • More detailed reports

Cons

  • Can be overwhelming at first
  • Cloud sync is new and untested
  • Some features missing on mobile platforms

MoneyWiz

Pros

  • Easier to learn
  • More consistent design across platforms
  • Excellent cloud sync
  • Simple, on demand forecast

Cons

  • Slower transaction entry on iPhone
  • Harder to backup independently from the library folder
  • Export options limited
  • Automatic downloads are not ready for prime time, and far overpriced for the features it offers

Conclusion

I get the feeling that a lot of you reading this really just came for this part. Which software is the one to pick? I could just say that both are great in their own way and that it is really up to you. And that is true, but I am not going to do that. Instead I will tell you what I did.

I choose iBank. After more than two years away from it I have returned, thanks in large part to two features it lacked the last time around, cloud sync and Direct Access. Cloud sync really was a deal killer for me and the primary motivation for the switch to MoneyWiz. It is still kind of embarrassing that it took this long. I realize they are a small team, but we knew that cloud syncing was the future years ago.

Over that time, I really did grow to love MoneyWiz. It almost felt hard to leave them, but there were two things that pushed me over the edge. The first was automatic downloading. This feature is just so poor in MoneyWiz, and so amazing in iBank, that there really was no way to possibly justify using it in MoneyWiz, much less paying for it. The more I used it in iBank, the more I really came to depend on it. The second feature is support for investment accounts. More and more I am paying attention to my financial stability and planning for the future. MoneyWiz has been promising this for a long time, but the feature keeps getting pushed back further and further. iBank does it very well, especially when combined with Direct Access.

None of this is to say that MoneyWiz is bad, it just is not the best solution for me, not since iBank finally overcame the biggest hurdle. If your finance needs are very simple, MoneyWiz is still probably the better choice for you. iBank is powerful but rather daunting for new users. MoneyWiz feels more like the app of the future, at least design-wise. It is just missing too much of iBank’s power for me to stick with it.

I do hope this has been helpful to anyone reading who is trying to manage their financial life. The sad truth is that most people never even come this far. So many people I know, adults with responsibilities, do not pay close enough attention to their money; how much they have, where it goes, and what they are saving. Technology, and especially mobile technology, makes this easier than it has ever been.

If you want to give these apps a try for yourself, please use the links below.

iBank for Mac – $59.99

iBank for iPhone – $9.99

iBank for iPad – $19.99

MoneyWiz for Mac – $24.99

MoneyWiz for iOS – $4.99


  1. Before the iPhone existed keep in mind.  ↩
  2. Remember when web apps were supposed to be enough?  ↩
  3. If you have never heard of .Mac or iDisk before, read more about them here.  ↩
  4. I have heard this has gotten better in newer versions of Quicken, but I just am no longer interested in what Intuit has to offer.  ↩
  5. To think we all made fun of Things for how long it took them to get cloud sync into the world.  ↩
  6. CloudKit does seem to be much more stable, but it is still too new to rely on for data this intricate and this important.  ↩
Finance Apps: iBank vs MoneyWiz 2 was last updated January 28th, 2015 by Michael Truskowski