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On June 15, 2020, Arjun Tomar, product marketing manager for Microsoft 365, announced the availability of a new free template called Money in Excel. This new template will help users track their personal finances by electronically connecting their financial accounts (checking, investments, money markets, etc.) directly to Microsoft Excel.

For those of us old enough to be active PC users in the 1990s, the time-saving concepts suggested by Money in Excel are familiar. Microsoft Money (1991-2009) had the same functionality and was relied on by many people until the application was unceremoniously discontinued in 2009.

Getting a functional and free personal financial planning application sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, Money in Excel availability is limited to specific Microsoft 365 subscriptions. This article describes how Money in Excel works, who is eligible, and how to get it.

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Money in Excel for Microsoft 365

Before you can use Money in Excel, you must first establish online accounts with your banks, payment services, and financial institutions. Essentially, Money in Excel will electronically login to your accounts, download the appropriate transaction history, and then load that transaction history into the Excel template. This process can be done manually now, but Money in Excel will automate those steps.

Once loaded into the template, users can check transactions, reconcile bank accounts, graph expenses, and create other activity reports. In theory, Money in Excel will simplify personal financial organization, planning, and reporting. The template is customizable, so you can modify it to suit your particular needs.

Microsoft uses Plaid as a data-retrieval partner. Plaid is a third-party fintech vendor specializing in secure data retrieval from financial institutions. Microsoft stores your data using Azure cloud services, while Plaid also retains a copy of your data as part of its services.

While both companies emphasize encryption and privacy, it is important to realize that you are sharing some sensitive personal information with both companies when you use Money in Excel. If you would like to review Plaid’s security policies, check out its website.

Example Monthly Snapshot

Image: Microsoft Corp.

Who is eligible, and how do you get Money in Excel?

Money in Excel is only available to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers in the United States. Microsoft does not explain why the availability is so limited, but there are likely regulatory complications with financial institutions and users operating and living outside the US.

There is also no ready explanation of why Money in Excel is not available to business subscribers of Microsoft 365. It is possible that Microsoft has plans for a business version of Money in Excel. Or perhaps even another more advanced application specifically designed for businesses is in the works. Only time will tell.

If you have an eligible Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscription, you can download the free Money in Excel template from the Microsoft website. However, a word of warning: The quick cancellation of Microsoft Money services in 2009 left many individuals in a bind, leaving them to scramble for alternative solutions. Dependency on automated systems for personal financial planning can be efficient and almost addictive, but it does have some major drawbacks.