29 January 2004 - Here's a sad story of how the new, buggy version of Quicken almost cost me $2,500 by paying some bills twice and robbed me of my precious sense of financial security.
I use Quicken Billpay for all my bills. I never write checks any more. A click, click, click in Quicken. A mix spit internet Update. My bills are on their way to their destination. No muss, no fuss. At least that's how it used to be. If you're using Quicken Billpay, or thinking about it, let my story be fair warning to you. The vendor admits that the process is not reliable!
The Carefree Life
One day after work I'm opening my bills and paying what I have to. That's life. I opened my MBNA Mastercard bill, it's a new one (more on that later), and much to my surprise, I owe nothing. Nada. Zip. In fact, I have a credit with them of about $1,200. Hmmmm. I looked at my Quicken check register to see if perhaps I had sent in an extra payment by mistake - that's happened before - but not this time.
My MBNA card is a new one. I used to have another company's Visa card. They sold out to MBNA, took my old card and gave me this new one. This transfer happened in December. A tingly feeling came over me. Perhaps they had mistakenly credited my MBNA account twice for the same payment. Ahh. The tingle was my anticipation of how good I'd feel pointing this mistake out to them.
Ring, ring, goes the MBNA 800 number.
Blah, blah, blah, "You have credited my account twice."
"No Sir, we show a credit balance."
"I know you do, but that's not correct. Please check your records."
"Ok sir. I'm looking at the old records. Let's see, you made a payment of $2179.90 on December 1 and another payment of the same amount on December 15."
"Doesn't that seem a little odd to you? Hmmm?"
"Well sir, I'm sure our system is correct."
"And I owe you nothing this month?"
"And if I closed my account right now, you'd send me a check for the credit amount?"
"Of course sir. Would you like me to send you a check?"
"No, that's fine. Thank you for looking into it."
Hah! What chumps. You try to help out a big company like MBNA and they don't even listen. I think they'll catch on to this in a few months and it will all resolve itself. At that point I'll be able to gloat about how nice I was to call them and alert them to this big accounting snafu. There must be millions of dollars caught up in this. I'm so smart, I smugly thought.
Something Isn't Right
On to the next letter, my checking account statement. Balancing against the Quicken check register is so easy it is almost fun. Click, click, click. Balances out, and everything is fine. This time however I see a HUGE problem: TWO payments to MBNA! Also, two payments to PG&E. Also, two payments to one of my lesser used merchants. The first payments are dated by my bank in the first week of December. The second set of payments in the latter half of December. I PAID MBNA TWICE. Auugghhhh. My feeling of superiority ran out through my shoes. Oh well, at least I didn't make too big a fool of myself with MBNA.
But wait - those second payments were not in my Quicken check register! I looked again. True, I have only one of each of these payments in my register. All I could imagine was that the new Quicken Billpay service had screwed up.
I was a Check Free user since the beginning. I'd enter payments into my check register in Quicken and the software would dial Check Free and send my payments on their way. Over the years I've had one or two issues around a payment not getting to a merchant on time. Check Free always resolved these to my satisfaction. It was really maybe two small issues over the last five years.
In 2004 I got a note that my Quicken99 was leaving support life and I was forced to upgrade. I lead in my other technologies, but in my financial software I am decidedly un-experimental. I upgraded to Quicken 2003 Premier and at the same time I moved to Quicken Billpay. QBP is essentially the same service as Check Free, but Quicken runs it. The move required me to reenter a lot of my payment data, but that was a good chance for me to drop some merchants as well. Overall it went pretty smoothly. I was so pleased that I upgraded to Quicken 2004 Premier in October 2003. Everything went very smoothly again. Smoothly at least until the middle of December.
Quicken Billpay Support is Great
I called Quicken Billpay. They are a marvel of efficiency. I did not wait long for a support rep. When I explained the situation the rep was serious, interested, and all business. I like that. She looked into her records and sure enough, she found these duplicate transactions. The only problem? Their system said that my PC had sent in the transactions twice: once on November 25, once on December 10. Huh? These transactions were not in my Quicken check register. She showed me where to find a record of online payments in Quicken - no duplicates there. The only record my Quicken software had was of the transmission made November 25. I continued to explain the situation and she put me on hold for a conference with the next level of support. She came back on the phone and dropped the bomb -
"My technical support engineer says that bugs in Quicken software can cause this. It is not a problem with the Billpay service. The problem is with the software on your PC."
To say the least, I was flabbergasted. My entire carefree financial system depends on Quicken to be 100% accurate and for Billpay to work every time. If this isn't true, what am I going to do?
"I understand your concern sir, but there is really nothing we can do at Billpay. Your software sent in the payments twice. Here are the transmission dates and transmission numbers..."
"But you are the same company - Intuit owns you both. Aren't you worried about how this will affect your customers? What do you recommend I do?"
"I understand your concern. We recommend that you pay your bills via our web site and then download them into Quicken. This way you can be sure that the payments get made and made only once."
" "Get Made?" Do you mean there's a chance that a payment I make through Quicken software, like my mortgage or my health insurance might not get transmitted to you even though my Quicken software says it will?"
"That's right sir. I'm sorry."
"But paying bills on the web is not what I want to do. If I need to do that I might as well do it at my bank for free and forget about Quicken Billpay's $9.95 a month charge."
"Well, after each upload/download you do, you should double check the Quicken online transmission screen to make sure each transaction made it."
"But when I look at it now it doesn't show the double payment? How can I be sure that if it shows up here it actually made it? Bugs like these are hideous."
"I know what you mean, but there's really nothing I can do about it. You have to call Quicken software."
Christ! Ok. The QBP lady was very nice to me. Very helpful, there just wasn't anything she could do. She did provide me with the transmission numbers that proved, to her, that my PC has sent the payments twice. Since she works for Intuit too, I was convinced.
Quicken Support? Hello?
I called Quicken software support. Unlike QBP, there is a lot of clicks heard on this line as, I assume, I am routed offshore. Once there I wade through a deep phone tree until I at last get into a queue for Quicken software support. There I wait, and wait, and wait. This is not going well. I won't bore you with the long and frustrating dialog I had with a Quicken software engineer in India. The bottom line from him:
- He suggests that my Quicken personal data file might be corrupt.
- There is no tool from Quicken to check the integrity of a personal data file.
- In this case Intuit recommends rolling back to a backup copy, back before the problem occurred. Since the problem occurred six weeks ago and I have run Quicken many times since then, there is no personal data file to go back to.
- However, since Quicken can open my personal data file, it is not corrupt now.
- I can keep using it - no worries.
I must say, this was another frustrating case of a support engineer offering no help what so ever. He did not want to acknowledge a problem in Quicken. He kept insisting that it was a Billpay issue. He did not want to hear that Billpay had told me to call him. He did not like that Billpay had convinced me that it was a Quicken software issue. In the end he said that all software has some bugs and I can't expect it to be flawless. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I explained to him that the other bugs I've found in Quicken are quaint, but this one is inexcusable. I wanted someone to look into the problem, acknowledge the bug, and provide a fix. If anything, this area in Quicken cannot have these kinds of bugs. He was not happy with my call at all.
From my perspective, even if there was a file to go back to, it does not address the fundamental problem that the software paid a bill twice without recording it in the local Quicken database. How can I prevent that from happening again? Quicken is encouraging us all to go to online bill presentation - have your bills sent directly to them. Given this horrible performance I have to say that sounds like a very, very bad idea to me. In my mind I would be nuts to trust these guys with my financial transactions. It makes me wonder about the Quicken brokerage service too.
So now I am very sad.
Quicken 2004 has apparently taken away from me a very valuable service, the ability to have carefree electronic bill payment. I am back to worrying if my payments make it on time. I have to keep extra money in my checking account to cover mistakes made between Quicken software and Quicken Billpay. I have to find some other solution to my need.
I describe my experience here in the hope that you, the reader, can learn from it. As you evaluate electronic bill payment services remember - they are great time savers, but at least this one does not work reliably.
You have been warned.
October 2004 -
Dear Mr. Schrempp,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us.
I am disappointed to learn that you wish to cancel your service. As one of the premier online bill management services on the Internet, we at Quicken Bill Pay take our customer satisfaction levels very seriously. I would love to have the opportunity to better understand why you wish to cancel and whether there is anything we can do to work with you to continue to service your account. Your feedback is important to us.
***If you still wish to close your account, please know that for security purposes, we are unable to cancel your account via an e-mail request.***
Please contact us at 877-486-xxxx, and one of our representatives will assist you with your request.
Intuit - Quicken
Original Message Follows: ------------------------
Hi, I want to cancel my QBP account. How do I do this? Jim
Wow, she really wants to know about my experience. I like that. Ok, I'll tell her why.
Dear Ms. Morgan-Evra,
You said, "I would love to have the opportunity to better understand why you wish to cancel and whether there is anything we can do to work with you to continue to service your account." I hope you meant it. Here's my story.
I have become unbelievably frustrated with Quicken. First, after updating to Quicken 2004 I found that several of my BillPay transactions had been paid twice. Twice. Twice. Did I mention, "twice." The combination of Quicken2004 and BillPay wrote an extra $2000 in checks against my account. These extra epayments did not show up in my Quicken register. I had no way of knowing about this except that my account was drained of a handful of c-notes.
BillPay support was very nice. They said, "unfortunately, that can happen with Quicken if some problem occurs during the online update process". Oh great. What's a user to do?
Quicken support were butt heads. After long arguments with them I was eventually told that maybe BillPay support was right. Sheesh. You work for the same company. I reminded the Quicken support guy about that. In retrospect, he probably gets a lot of disgruntled customers these days, given the apparent quality of Quicken.
Anyway, BillPay support was very apologetic and suggested I pay my bills via their web interface, or at least that I verify payments by looking at their web interface.
OK, I lived with that for a while.
Then my Quicken file became corrupted. I paid Quicken support, very helpful this time, to help me recover a previous version.
Then a few months later my Quicken file was corrupted again. Quicken support was again helpful, and rolled me back again to a few weeks back. However, this time I suspect that my Quicken file has some corruption in it and I wanted Quicken to verify that the corruption was fixed. Unfortunately, Quicken has no way to verify the integrity of a Quicken file. Sure, they run a little tool, but the Quicken support guy told me it just fixes a few things and does not actually verify the logical integrity of the database. WHAT?!!?
Also, I loved the Quicken retirement planner that came in my Premium edition. Unfortunately there are a few bugs in it that make its analysis unreliable. These were verified for me by Quicken support.
Quicken is now considered, in my mind, to be both unreliable and dangerous. And I tell everyone I know about my poor experience. (Guess what? Other friends often respond that Quicken has become unreliable for them as well!) I don't know that MSMoney is any better, I only know that Quicken doesn't work for me anymore. I even put the story on my web site: http://www.jimschrempp.com/about_me/rantsraves/quickenbillpay.htm
I stopped using Quicken and started paying bills via your web site. At least it worked!
But I can't say the change was all bad. In looking around, I found that Financial Engines now offers their product to individuals for just $300 a year. I am now a regular user of their retirement planning and investment advice. Sure it costs 6x the price of Quicken EVERY YEAR, but it's worth the money for a tool that does the job.
I looked around for a substitute to Quicken check book management, but haven't had the energy to make a move. I look at Quicken sometimes, but I don't pay my bills there and I don't count on it to do anything important.
I was angry and sad and in denial about the death of my dear friend of 10 years, Quicken software.
Then an old friend, my credit union, reminded me that they offer bill pay via a web interface. And for free. Oh my!
I hate bill pay via the web, but you know, I hate Quicken software more. Web bill pay is slow and laborious compared to running software on my PC. So if I have to do it, I might as well do it for free. And with Financial Engines for investment advice, I can maybe get by.
I've been using my credit union's site for about two months now. I gave them one recurring payment and they have done fine with it. Just last night I bit the bullet and moved all the rest of my recurring payments off of QBP and on to the credit union site.
So, it is with no sadness that I bid QBP adieu. Your team was great. Yet an airplane with one good wing is of little use to me.
I have moved my financial life over to more stable platforms who also have a bright future. Perhaps we will meet again in the future. I wish you all the best of luck - with your future tied to Quicken software, you're going to need it.
I never heard back from QBP.
Jim Schrempp is a sometimes freelance writer (only Vanity Press will publish his work) living in Saratoga, California. His writings have appeared on numerous pages on his own web site. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else (although Jim wishes more people shared his opinions)