Mobile Finance: Tracking Money on the Go

By James A. Martin | Posted February 11, 2008

If you’re like many small business owners, it’s a challenge to keep track of your money and budgets. Especially when you’re on the road—wooing clients, visiting supply partners or attending trade shows.

One way to track money on the go is with smart phone software. Low-cost applications let you use your Treo, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry or iPhone to enter new expenditures, view current account balances, generate spending reports and more. Many programs synchronize your desktop financial applications, such as Quicken or QuickBooks, with your handheld financial software.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many handheld software programs for multi-employee small businesses with robust accounting requirements. For example: No handheld equivalent of Peachtree Accounting software currently exists, according to a spokesperson for Sage Research, though the company is considering the possibility.

In fact, the majority of handheld financial software is geared toward consumers. But if you’re a sole proprietor or if you own a business with just a few employees, you do have some options.

For Quicken and QuickBooks Customers
In early January, Intuit announced Quicken Online, a $2.99 per month Web-based personal finance/accounting software service. You can access the service using the Web browser on any laptop or desktop computer. In addition, Quicken Online has been optimized to run smoothly on Apple iPhones. As of this writing, however, the service hasn’t been optimized for mobile Web browsers on Treos, BlackBerries and other handhelds. While you should be able to use the service on those devices, you may experience frustrating delays due to slow page downloads and other problems typical with sites that are not optimized for mobile browsers.

Quicken Online lets you access your checking, savings and credit card accounts from multiple financial institutions. The service provides suggestions for how to categorize your transactions, displays upcoming bills and lets you store up to five years of transactions online. Quicken Online employs multi-factor authentication for added security, according to Intuit.

Though Quicken Online is designed for personal finance, one-person small businesses can use it as well, an Intuit spokesperson said. Because Quicken Online integrates with Intuit’s TurboTax software, small businesses can use Quicken Online to track business expenses for tax purposes, she added.

Pocket Quicken ($39.95; free trial) syncs your accounting data from Quicken 2005- 2008 editions on your PC with your Palm operating system (OS) or Windows Mobile device. Expenditures entered into Pocket Quicken on the go, such as taxicab fare, will be added to your desktop Quicken account ledger when you synchronize your handheld with your PC. You can protect your handheld’s financial data with a PIN, generate spending reports and enter transactions using foreign currencies.

PocketBooks is a $149.95 (free trial) Palm OS application that syncs with QuickBooks Pro, Premier, and Enterprise Editions for 2004-2007. PocketBooks lets you take care of many QuickBooks transactions, such as entering bills paid, checks written, credit card purchases and returns, track your time, and generate invoices and purchase orders. You can also manage your QuickBooks contact information on your handheld.

For Microsoft Money Customers
Ultrasoft’s Money application ($39.95; free trial) is a stripped down version of Money for your Palm OS handheld. You can sync Ultrasoft’s program with Money 2002-2007 editions or with Microsoft Money Plus, which is designed for individuals and small businesses.

For Money or Quicken Customers
With Spb Finance ($24.95; 30-day return policy), Pocket PC and Windows Mobile device owners can record financial transactions on their handhelds and sync them with either Money or Quicken on their PCs. As of this writing, however, the most current Spb Finance, version 2.8.0, only syncs with Money 2002-2007 or Quicken 2003-2006 editions.

MobiSystems Money 6 ($29.99; free trial), a Palm OS financial application, lets you track expenditures; generate reports, budgets and more. The program can sync financial transactions with Money, Quicken or Excel.

For Miscellaneous Others
SplashMoney ($29.95; free trial) for Palm OS devices doesn’t directly sync with Quicken or Money. Instead, you must export your data and then import it into Quicken or Money. However, SplashMoney syncs with its own Mac and Windows desktop counterpart application, which is included in the purchase price. And you can wirelessly download transactions from your financial institution directly into SplashMoney on your Palm handheld.

Ascendo Money ($29.95; free trial) is one of the few personal finance programs for BlackBerry users. The software includes a desktop program as well as BlackBerry component for balancing your checking accounts, managing expense accounts, and tracking investments. As with SplashMoney, Ascendo Money doesn’t sync with Quicken or Money; you must export your data first, then import it into one of those programs.

Resources for Handheld Software
You can browse and download financial and other types of handheld device software at these sites:

 PDAStreet.com.

Handango.com.

PDATopSoft.com.

PocketGear.com.

HandMark.

James A. Martin has years of experience covering technology, and he's also the author of Traveler 2.0, a blog that provides technology news and views for travelers.

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