Quicken 2003 Premier Review
By Fred E. Kagel, Dir. Freehold Computer Training Ctr

    The core of Quicken 2003 Premier is Quicken Basic, a simple to use checkbook program that helps you categorize expenses, organize and balance a checkbook. Premier follows Quicken Deluxe in the tradition of adding personal finance features and enhancing online transactions. These features include earnings alerts and mutual fund rating change notices. The program includes tax strategies for offsetting capital gains/losses and for handling mutual fund distributions at year-end. Previously, Quicken has always generated sufficient tax reports, but the reports had to be transferred to tax forms or had to be used in conjunction with TurboTax. Now, tax schedules A, B and D for deductions, interest and dividends, and capital gains are created directly as reports.

    Premier provides reference guides to evaluate stocks, mutual funds and bonds along with tax and capital gains advice. Premier has what is called an Investment Sale Optimizer, which allows you to either minimize taxes or maximize ROI (Return on Investment). That feature has always been available in Quicken for as long as I can remember: when selling a stock, you can specify lots sold or have Quicken automatically choose lots to minimize or maximize gain.

    Online banking and bill paying, credit card transactions, and investment management are part of Premier. However, I’ve gotten use to my own bank’s way of transferring funds between accounts and bill paying. I will have to investigate further and check out costs before adopting any changes. As usual online features are subject to approval and to additional fees. Currently I pay $4.95 a month for a non-Quicken bill payment for my business and personal accounts.

    Installation of Premier went seamlessly after disabling my antivirus program, but converting my previous Quicken data almost caused a major disaster. The first time you open your old data, Premier is supposed to convert to the new format. However, Premier 2003 did not recognize my data or backup from 2002 Personal Plus, referred to by Premier as an "interim previous release." Luckily, I had backed up the program to another drive. I reopened the old program after rescuing a lost DLL, I exported my data via Quicken’s QIF format. The export/import was successful, but I had further problems. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the valuation of one of my investment portfolios was off by more than $5000. In trying to correct the discrepancy, I exported and imported again. Folks, you do NOT want to do that! Import doesn’t overwrite; it duplicates the transactions! Premier previews the imported data and permits the acceptance of all newly imported data with a single click. However, data cannot be rejected in batch mode; each transaction has to be rejected one at a time – a rather tedious procedure. In the end, I had to basically delete the account and start over. I finally found out that the discrepancy occurred because price history did not export via QIF. Once I manually entered the portfolio prices in the transferred accounts, everything was copasetic. I have not heard of any other misadventures like mine, but as precautionary advice, backup of your original data and keep your old program warm!

    The new user interface, which displays account subtotals, is acceptable, but I prefer the old tabbed groupings of banks, investments, credit cards, and other assets and liabilities. Everything fits on the screen with the old arrangement. With the new setup, you have to do a lot of scrolling.

    Premier runs on Windows 9x/ME/2000/XP and requires 70 MB of HD for all of its features. List price is $80, street price $50. If you only need Quicken Basic, the checkbook, the price is $30 – and that includes both TurboTax Deluxe and TurboTax State for free (after rebates).

    I recommend Quicken 2003 Premier if one needs an interactive tool to fully manage banking, credit card, investments and financial decisions. Just be careful converting your old data.

© 2003 by Fred Kagel, Dir. Freehold Computer Training. All rights reserved. Permission granted to republish in non-profit publications provided this notice appears in its entirety. Contact fkagel@freeholdcomputer.com or visit www.freeholdcomputer.com.

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