|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.
|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.
|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.