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How do I make zero dollar transactions enter as a charge instead of a payment?

Been using Quicken Deluxe since 2001. First time posting a question. Background, I'm a retired software engineer.

I've been tracking rebates & rewards, e.g., cash back from credit card used for new purchase, use of gift cards I got for free, etc., using a category I created called Rebates-Rewards Inc. When entering a credit card transaction for an Amazon purchase, if the gift card (or cash back) covers the total purchase, it appears to be incorrectly entering it as a zero dollar payment instead of a zero dollar charge. This makes the use of the gift card look like an outflow in reports. When the gift card does not cover the total purchase, the transaction is entered correctly as a charge and the gift card usage shows as an inflow in reports. I'm using a split transaction to log the gift card usage, e.g., line 1 cat:household, memo: widget bought, $10; line 2 cat:Rebate-Rewards Inc, memo:gift card usage, -$10; total transaction $0. This incorrectly shows as $10 outflow for Rebate-Rewards Inc (in a report). However, if line 2 was -$9 and thus total transaction appears as $1 charge, this correctly shows $9 inflow for Rebate-Rewards Inc (in a report). Entering these zero dollar transactions in this split format mirrors the receipt I receive from Amazon.com and allows me to track my purchases so I can answer the question "When did I last purchase a widget?"

A work around would be to reverse the sign on the line1 and line2 items for zero dollar transactions, but remembering to do this for ONLY zero dollar transactions is a PITA.

Would be nice if there was a option or setting (maybe per account, maybe for all accounts) that would allow zero dollar transactions to be entered as charges instead of payments. Maybe there is one I don't know about. Any ideas? Thanks for any help!

Answers

  • Tom Young
    Tom Young SuperUser ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2020
    The straight-forward way of handling this would be to account for the rebates and rewards on your balance sheet as a form of "asset", and then pay for your purchases using these rebates and rewards as a draw down against the related asset.  That way the purchase shows up as a Charge and the rebate and reward usage shows up as a Payment. 
    There really are no "zero dollar purchases" or "zero dollar charges"; you really bought something and you really paid for it. 
    It's up to you as to how you want to get the asset on your balance sheet.  The offset could be against either an "income" or "contra-expense" Category; do whatever makes more sense to you in the situation.
    Background: I'm a retired accountant.
  • DrDave
    DrDave Member
    I understand what you're saying and I've done this in the past for gift cards I've purchased, but never had zero dollar transactions in these cases. I'm not sure why there can be no "zero dollar purchases" but there can be "zero dollar payments", at least in Quicken. I was hoping for a solution that didn't require creating additional transactions for the cash back/gift cards received for free (or at least sort of for free) in an asset account. Ideally it would have been nice to track the actual category for which the cash back/gift card was received for free, e.g., stay at hotel, get $5 gift card, cat:lodging, do some wellness activities, get $25 gift card, cat:health insurance. Those are easy, but tracking the cash back from credit cards against the purchase categories that generated the reward points gets tedious to say the least, but I digress.

    Thank you for your advice, absent any software updates by Quicken, I suspect your solution is the best available. My implementation would be to replace the Rebate-Reward Inc line items with transfers from a rebate-rewards account and then occasionally add deposits to that account categorized as Rebate-Reward Inc. However, I suspect since the credit card transaction will still show a zero total transaction amount, the sign of the amounts will still need to be reversed which is the PITA I was hoping to avoid. Hence the need for a software update. I'll play around and see if I can make this work. Thanks again for your advice! Cheers!
  • Rich_M
    Rich_M SuperUser ✭✭✭✭✭
    @DrDave I do something very similar to what you're doing to track these rewards programs that cover all or part of a purchase.

    I had one purchase this year that netted to zero, however the expense item still shows up in the outflow section of the report and the reward category in the inflow section.

    One odd thing to note, is when I open the split for this transaction the signs of my original entries have been reversed by the program, which is precisely what you're talking about doing manually to overcome this problem.

    I don't recall noting this when I originally entered the transaction, but I see it now, and can reproduce that with a test entry.

    Note that I am still using an older version of Quicken, leading me to believe that the program used to handle this situation by programmatically reversing the signs and now it does not.

    I record all Cash and Gift Cards in a Cash account under Gifts Received and apply the balance to purchases I make.  The original receipt of the gifts appears in the inflow section and the purchase as an expense in the outflow, the transaction reduces my cash balance by the amount I applied to it.

    In this scenario there is no issue with a transaction that nets to zero.

    The difference between my two scenarios, just to be clear, is I use an income category for balance rewards programs and a cash account for gifts that are cash equivalents.
    Quicken 2017 Premier - Windows 10 Pro
  • Tom Young
    Tom Young SuperUser ✭✭✭✭✭

    Rich_M said:
    I record all Cash and Gift Cards in a Cash account under Gifts Received and apply the balance to purchases I make. 

    The bolded section of @Rich_M 's statement covers the recording in the asset Account and the section of his statement in italics is the payment for the purchase; this is exactly the method I'd recommended in my post. 
    In the situation where "points" accumulate that you can use as cash, you could either record the points in some sort of asset Account and use them that way, as above, or let the credit card company keep track of the balance and record the points used for purchases into a contra expense Category of some sort, like"Credit Card Rebates - AMEX."
    The latter method is what I use for my one "points" credit card.
  • Rich_M
    Rich_M SuperUser ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2020
    @Tom Young Yup, I agree, but Quicken's behavior has changed with newer versions of the program, my version works the way I expect, except for the flipping of signs in a split transaction that nets to zero, where I am using a cash account.

    Also, I don't remember what the situation was, but there was a transaction with a certain type of split where I got a message that asked me whether I wanted to record it as a charge or payment, of course it netted to zero, but I didn't know what the correct response would be.
    Quicken 2017 Premier - Windows 10 Pro
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