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Computerized Investing > First Quarter 2012

Track Your Finances on a Mac With iBank

| | COMMENTS (13) | A A   Reset

by Joe Lan

There are a multitude of financial planning and investment management products available for computer users. However, most are designed for the PC; if you are a Mac user, your choices are few and far between. In the October 1, 2011, Computerized Investing email, we featured an app called iBank Mobile for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The app offers the ability to sync with iBank 4, a more comprehensive program designed for the Mac. In this Feature article, we take an in-depth look at iBank’s capabilities.

Setting Up Accounts

When you open the iBank program for the first time, you are asked to save and name your current file and choose a default currency. After the main program window opens, the first step is to set up your various accounts.

iBank can track checking, savings, credit card, investment [including 401(k)], asset, liability, loan and cash accounts. There are several ways that the program allows you to set up accounts. The simplest method is to automatically connect to your financial institution and download your transactions. To do this, click on Add Account at the top left of the main window. At the add account window that pops up, name the account, select the appropriate account type and choose the default currency. At the next screen, you choose your financial institution by typing its name in the search box. You may select either direct download or Web download. To download account values and transactions directly, you must supply the program with your login and password for each account. Alternatively, the Web download option uses a browser within iBank to navigate to your financial institution’s website, where you log into your account yourself to download values and transactions. As a third option, you may manually input values and transactions for each account you wish to track. Needless to say, manually inputting figures is much more time consuming, but this approach does not require entering usernames and passwords for your accounts.

We tested three separate accounts when setting up the program: a credit card account held at Citibank, an investment account held at Scottrade and a checking account held at JPMorgan Chase. We were able to sync the credit card and investment accounts without a problem, and the transactions in each account were downloaded properly. Surprisingly, we were never able to properly sync with the checking account. In addition, JPMorgan Chase does not allow exporting of transactions, so the checking account had to be set up manually.

To manually set up an account, simply provide the starting balance and name the account. Transactions can be added after the account has been properly set up.

If you are a previous Quicken user, iBank can import your transactions from a QIF file that has been exported from Quicken. At the original iBank welcome screen, instead of choosing to create a new iBank document, select to import a Mac or PC Quicken file. Navigate iBank to the exported QIF file, and the program will set up your accounts and transactions using the data contained in the file.

After you have set up your accounts, they will be listed on the left-hand side of the main window, underneath Accounts (Figure 1). Clicking on an account name brings up a window showing the account transactions, which can be sorted by date, transaction type, category, or withdrawal or deposit amount. Make sure to categorize all your transactions. Once you have done so, iBank will identify and automatically categorize recurring transactions when you enter them.

iBank Report Templates

iBank comes loaded with several useful and intuitive reports. The key to maximizing the value of the reports is to provide detailed categorization of spending and income.

When you are ready to generate a report, click on the plus icon at the bottom left of the main window and select Add Report. There are 10 default reports that come with the program, including income and expense, net worth, portfolio summary, investment summary and forecast reports.

After selecting the income and expense report, you must provide a name, specify a date range and choose the appropriate currency. Click on Create Report, and the report generated shows your finances for the given time range, including pie charts of your income and expenses. The slices of the pie chart are broken down by category.

At first glance, the report is fairly ordinary. However, one aspect that separates iBank from other personal financial management software programs is the dynamic nature of the reports. Clicking on a chart slice allows you drill down into that individual category for more detailed information, and you can edit each transaction with a single click. Scrolling down in the main report shows bar charts for monthly aggregate income and expenses, as well as transactions, in a tabular format. Click on any of the bars in the bar chart or categories in the table to look at the data represented.

The net worth report shows a bar chart of your net worth for the time period selected (Figure 2). Once again, clicking on any of the bars provides a further breakdown. In the case of the net worth report, clicking on a bar takes you to a balance sheet of your assets and liabilities, along with your total net worth at the bottom for that particular month. Furthermore, assets and liabilities are separated into accounts, and clicking on an account provides the transactions in the account, which can be edited. Pie charts are also provided in this report.

The portfolio summary report lists your current portfolio holdings in each investment account, along with the number of shares, current price, market value, cost basis, and short- and long-term gains or losses. Clicking on each holding presents the transactions (all previous buys and sells) for that particular asset.

After you have run a report, it is added to the list on the left-hand side of the page. Double-clicking on any of the reports allows you to edit the data contained within the report. For instance, you can change the name and time frame of the report, as well as the included transactions, accounts and categories.

Envelope Budgeting

Budgeting will always be an integral part of personal finance. iBank helps in the process by offering envelope budgeting, which is a budgeting process by which cash is set aside in “envelopes” earmarked for specific expenses.

Once again, users should make sure that each transaction is categorized accurately. This will ensure that the budgeting feature works appropriately and provides the most useful information. A very simple way to manage the categories that you currently have is to select categories from the Manage list.

To create a new budget, click on the plus sign at the bottom left of the main window and select Add Budget. The new budget window will appear where you name the budget, select the period and choose the default currency. The program allows you to specify the accounts to be used in the budget. For instance, you may not want your investment accounts to be used in the budget. At the next screens, you specify income and expenses as well as the amount and frequency of each. A total running amount will be tracked for each income and expense, as well as a total for the default period of the budget. Be sure to update the income and expenses, as iBank will attempt to automatically fill as many as possible using the transactions that have been imported.

After you have specified income and expenses, the last screen is used if you want to enable the envelope system of budgeting. Input the starting cash in each envelope (the amount you have earmarked for that particular expense). If you are creating a fresh budget, enter zeros for each.

When the budget is complete, it will be presented in the left-hand menu under Budgets. There are two views available—category and envelope—and you can toggle between these using the two buttons at the bottom of the screen. The envelope view tracks the virtual cash available in each envelope. For instance, when income is received, it will be available as cash to fill envelopes. Select Fill Envelopes at the bottom right of the screen to fill each envelope with the budgeted amount for the period. Cash will be deducted from the cash available amount and added into each envelope earmarked for expenses. Then, as you progress through the month, transactions that are properly categorized will be deducted from the appropriate envelopes, showing you how much is left in your budget for each category. In addition, a total progress bar is available at the top, depicting your total expenses compared to your budgeted expenses.

Managing Investment Accounts

The process for setting up an investment account in iBank differs slightly from that for setting up a checking account. Once again, begin by clicking on the plus sign at the bottom left of the screen and then click on Add Account. On the next screen, name the account and select either investment or 401(k), depending on the type of account you wish to set up. Find and select your financial institution on the next screen. Certain banks allow direct downloads, but others require a Web download (as described earlier). After you provide iBank with the necessary information, the program will prompt you to supply the current cash value.

iBank compares your current securities with your transactions history, and if there is missing cost basis, the program prompts you to fill in the missing data. You can enter different cost bases for different lots. When you are entering the cost basis, the program will not move on the next security until all your shares have been accounted for.

When you are finished setting up your investment account, it will appear below the Accounts section on the left-hand side. Transactions that have been downloaded will automatically appear. Alternatively, you may enter transactions manually. iBank does not automatically download future transactions if you buy or sell holdings in your brokerage account. Therefore, you must enter transactions such as buys and sells, dividends received and cash transfers.

Click on the add button below your investment account to create a new investment transaction. Fill in the appropriate inputs, such as share price, amount and commission, and iBank will automatically update the cash you have available. When adding a new security symbol, iBank will ask for some additional information, such as type of investment holding and level of risk, plus any other notes you would like to record.

Certain brokerage accounts will only allow a partial transactions history download. If this is the case, you must manually input the rest of your holdings using your account statements.

Click on Download Quotes at the bottom of the screen to update the market value of your holdings. iBank is only able to retrieve pricing for stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and indexes; the market values of other holdings must be entered manually.

Investment Summary Report

iBank’s investment summary report is the most comprehensive investment report that the program offers. Again, set up the report by clicking on the plus button at the bottom left of the program and selecting Add Report. At the next screen, select Investment Summary and select the accounts you want to include. You may choose to see a comprehensive report of all your investment accounts or you may choose to view reports on each account separately. The date range of the report is fully customizable on the next screen. You may also select the specific currency in which the report is generated.

After creating the report, click on its name from the Reports list to select it, or double-click on the name to edit the report.

The top table details your investment gains and losses for the period covered by the report (Figure 3). Gains and losses are broken down into realized and unrealized, as well as short-term and long-term, gains and losses. Income is also shown, divided into dividend and interest. You can click on each of the three sections—realized gains, unrealized gains and income—to view more detailed data. At the bottom of the table is a written summary of some general trends of your portfolio.

The two pie charts under the table represent your current securities by type and level of risk. Make sure that your investment holdings are properly labeled according to risk level so that the pie charts are accurate. Click on any of the chart slices to drill down to a detailed holdings page. Next, a net worth bar graph is shown with breakdowns for cash assets, liabilities, securities and security liabilities. The horizontal axis represents a net worth of zero; assets are drawn above the horizontal axis and liabilities are drawn below. A black trendline depicts your total net worth over time (assets less liabilities). Once again, clicking on any of the bars will bring up more detailed data. Since each graph represents a specific time period, the data provided will be for that period.

Finally, a return on investment summary table is provided. Information offered includes the total cash invested, the cash earnings, the ending market value and the return in percentage form. Clicking the accounts provides a list of the transactions for the investment period detailed in chronological order, as well as the return for each transaction.

Syncing With iBank Mobile

iBank offers a convenient way to track your transactions without having to use a computer. You can update transactions with mobile devices running iOS, such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, and sync the updates with the program on a Mac.

Your mobile device can be synced using either iBank Mobile or iBank Investor app. These apps can be found in the Apple App Store; iBank Mobile costs $4.99, while iBank Investor is free.

To sync with iBank Investor for the iPad, download the app to your mobile device from the App Store, run the app and create an Iggsoftware account. After creating the account, go to the iBank for Mac program and select Set Up Device for Syncing from the File menu. The sync settings screen will appear in the middle window. Sign in using the username and password that you created for the app. Your account will be synced with iBank Investor.

iBank Mobile is more powerful: It allows you to enter transactions into your mobile device and sync it directly with your Mac.

To sync iBank Mobile, you first need to purchase the app from the App Store. In order for the devices to sync properly, your mobile device and your Mac need to be on the same wireless network. After launching iBank Mobile, tap the settings button at the bottom-left corner and tap Setup Syncing. After you select Sync with iBank for Mac, a numerical code will appear on the next screen. Go to the iBank for Mac program and select Set Up Device for Syncing from the File menu. Click iBank Mobile at the top of the screen, select Set Up New Device at the bottom and then click Next. Your mobile device running iBank Mobile should appear in the list. Click on your mobile device, click continue and enter the numerical code generated by iBank Mobile on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

You may choose to sync the device using MobileMe, Wi-Fi or WebDAV. In order to use MobileMe, you must have an account set up. If you choose to use WebDAV, you must enter the server URL, username and password. Using Wi-Fi does not require any additional information; however, the device and computer program can only be synced when they are both running and they are both on the same wireless network.


Overall, iBank provides a great method of tracking your finances on an iOS program. Setting up the program and downloading transactions was pleasantly simple, although we did run into a snag downloading checking account transactions from JPMorgan Chase.

The program costs $59.99 to purchase, or you can download a free 30-day trial, which provides an adequate amount of time to test the program. For users who are tired of having to run Windows programs on a Mac, iBank provides an alternative and is worth exploring.

iBank 4

IGG Software Inc.

System Requirements:
Mac OS X 10.5.7 or higher
$59.99; free 30-day trial


Brian from WA posted over 6 years ago:

How does iBank compare with other portfolio management software? I am sure there are lots of differences, but is it in the same league as Quicken Premier or the others reviewed recently? If so, I'll download a trial copy and compare for my needs with other candidates. I am still bumbling along with the defunct Microsoft Money until I have the time to decide on a replacement and make the switch. It is also time to replace my PC. I would like to go back to using a Mac. The main reason I switched to PC was the lack of financial s/w for the Mac. Now that Mac's run Windows too, that is not so a big an issue.

Rick from TX posted over 6 years ago:

I won't be buying software from the Windows® only crowd. My experience has been that their software suffers from the same poor design as Windows and IE. I believed the propaganda when I was younger and bought a clunky old PC; I hated it. My first iMac showed me the difference. I'll never go back to Windows.

CNBC and Bloomberg have apps for iPad.

Richard l. from IL posted over 6 years ago:

iBank is a great alternative to Quicken. It operates differently and doesn't match every feature, but is quite comprehensive. I would definitely recommend a (free) trial. Setting up automatic transaction downloading (for both bank and broker transactions) is straightforward, so it's easy to get some into the app so you can see how it works.

I'm a Chase customer and have never had problems downloading transactions, FWIW. A friend uses it, too, with similar results. It sounds like Joe Lan's experience may be an exception, not the rule.

I use iBank primarily for checking and credit card accounts.

I like the version 3 of the software better than the current, v4, software for investments because v3 has a Notes field that shows up in transactions and in a current portfolio list, but v4 doesn't. I find it useful for tracking investment decisions, stop orders, etc. I've found StockMarketEye an even better app for investments, partly because it offers Notes and has superb charts.

R from CA posted over 6 years ago:

A month ago I was looking for a Mac program that would track my investments (including downloading transactions). iBank was the first alternative I found, but the reviews I read indicated the MoneyDance was a much better alternative for investments. MoneyDance is written in java so can be used on Windows or Mac OS.

Nola from CA posted over 6 years ago:

We have been using iBank for over a year and find that it's an excellent option for Mac - especially now that Quicken no longer supports investment transactions in the latest Mac operating systems.
One feature of iBank that is not mentioned in the review above (and not highlighted in the iBank instructions) is that you can easily download many investment reports (for example, a list of your Portfolio, or a Category Detail listing) into Excel by opening an empty Excel worksheet, clicking on the report and just dragging it into the Excel worksheet. (Quicken is counterintuitive too, but in a different way: it requires you to print a report and then select Excel as a print option.)
One way in which iBank is superior to Quicken: Quicken keeps making you buy an update every 3 years or they won't let you download securities prices - iBank doesn't put a time limit on that service.
In addition, I have found that when I had questions about iBank, they give excellent e-mail responses.

Robert from SD posted over 6 years ago:

Does anyone have experience with Moneydance versus iBank? I have been using Moneydance on the mac and am pretty satisfied, but it is built for use on either mac or windows so the user interface could be better. I am wondering if it is worth a switch from Moneydance to iBank.

Linda from CA posted over 6 years ago:

Thank you, Joe, for this comprehensive review of iBank. I have only seen an ad for iBank, not a credible editorial review anywhere. I will definitely trial it, along with iBiz for my new start-up business. I suffered for many years using Quicken on my Mac. I look forward to trying iBank.

Charles from CA posted over 5 years ago:

I have been running iBank parallel with Quicken 2007 on a Mac since November 2011. When importing into iBank from Quicken a few records seemed badly stored in Quicken but never seemed to effect any report I generated. Among the weird was unprintable, of course invisible or shown as "?", characters that cause the record to choked in iBank. Operating the two programs in a parallel display permitted the data to be corrected in both programs. I played with nine accounts and it took about 2 hours to get everything to agree.

At one point I combined two brokerage accounts, a journaling with cross referencing to three other accounts. iBank was the easiest of the two, not perfect but fastest to get up.

The most irritating aspect is the date: In Quicken when cursor high lights the Date field the "+/=" and "_/-" keys increments date up or down, starting with the days field and moving onto the preceding or following month. Same for year. This is superior to the iBank process or retyping the entire date. A lot of time is wasted in iBank when the slash separator and other numbers are accidentally erased. I found it very easy to mess up the date when making many entries and have corresponding difficulty in locating where the record ended up in the scheme of things.

I have had to use backup's numerous time with Quicken. The limit on number of prices of a security locked me up several times and Quicken would abort. Quicken's pointers appear to get messed up big time at least once a year and when really bad the easiest solution is to unload the DB, if possible, and create a new DB file. This take valuable time. iBank has been playing nice with me from the start. I make independent backups of both programs data several times a week.

I am continuing the parallel entries as I just do not feel completely comfortable with iBank. I feel I have more variability doing reports in Quicken. I know I may be considered a dinosaur. Change is sometimes an anguish.

Charles from CA posted over 5 years ago:

I expect some critique of my previous Date Field comments.

iBank does not accept "cash" as a entity in a brokerage account thus it is eliminated from many iBank reports. The reason stated is that cash is normally swept into a default cash fund, so identify the fund. True, but that is a passive event that moves dollars back and forth in and out of the cash fund automatically without human intervention or thinking. I do not need to track that cash fund. It becomes monstrous busy work. Just call it cash (without a security symbol). Quicken does this oh so neat! iBank not!

Cal from PA posted over 5 years ago:

So I tried iBank, first download had major problems with blank fields and missing files, second download much better and now matched my OS version but I was now halfway through the free trial period. iBank is still a work in progress; works fine for basic checking and credit card accounts but trying to manage downloaded investment account information is still hit and miss. If it works with your brokerage, lucky you. I've been running Quicken in a virtual PC enviroment for years and I'm sick of it. At this point, I'm working on Quicken's orphaned mac version which is still more competent than current mac products. There are still Quicken problems but I can tweak the mac version and still listen to Pandora and still monitor Mail. Running Quicken in virtual machine just sucks up all your resources - not worth the effort.

Ken Peterson from TX posted over 5 years ago:


Raymond Johnson from TX posted over 5 years ago:

When I was setting up iBank, I contacted JP Morgan and they said it was not possible to download checking information using iBank. I haven't tried since then. I just enter my transactions manually.

I tried to use Quicken 2007, but I gave up. The new way it handles investments was a pain.

L Perna from IL posted over 5 years ago:

Downloaded iBank4 for test driving. I am a multiple decade Quicken user so it is important to me that I be able to import all that financial data. The iBank import was accomplished as described. However, the a major problem immediately apparant was that the transaction dates were not all correct. In fact, probably only 10% of them were accurate. This is unacceptable. I am a heavy user of the "split transaction" feature and I suspect this may be a reason for the mis dates. Visually, it appeared that 90% of the transaction dates were the date I imported the Quicken QIF file.
I also decided to test AceMoney-would not import. Also, MoneyDance that looks like a winner!

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