4 formats to import transactions into Quickbooks

Quickbooks Desktop and Quickbooks Online are both great tools for accounting and bookkeeping. When some banks provide direct access to your transactions to be importable into Quickbooks, some do not provide access at all or limit to the last 90 days only. And if you are working for a client, you may not get account access at all — just PDF or CSV files client provides to you.

For cases when a direct download is not available, Quickbooks Desktop and Quickbooks Online allow importing transactions as special format files. Some banks allow exporting in these formats. The import formats that Quickbooks supports cover details about transactions differently.

Quickbooks Desktop imports transactions in three formats:

  • QBO (Web Connect) — import bank and credit card transactions
  • IIF (Intuit Interchange Format) — import bank, credit card, and other accounts transactions
  • QBJ (General Journal Entry file format) — import the general journal entry files into Quickbooks

Quickbooks Online imports transactions in three formats:

  • QBO/OFX/QFX (Web Connect) — import bank and credit card transactions
  • CSV — import bank and credit card transactions

The QBO (Web Connect) format is the most frequently used format as the majority of bookkeeping is bank and credit card related activities. Many banks allow downloading QBO files from the online banking. Some banks only provide last 90 days for QBO files, and CSV or PDF files for months past 90 days. Transactions are imported as “statements” into the Bank Feeds Center in Quickbooks, where you match “downloaded as” payee names or transaction descriptions to vendor records and assign expense/income accounts (“categorize”) before adding the transactions to the register. Quickbooks learns your matches and uses them for next QBO import or direct bank download.

The IIF format is a good option when your Quickbooks is older than three years and no longer imports QBO files. If you cannot upgrade to the latest Quickbooks version and need to import transactions, the IIF format is feature rich transaction interface. As IIF is considered a “system-level” format where data are imported directly into Quickbooks company file, you should backup the company file before importing any IIF file (the same applies to other formats and any bulk operations — do a backup before you import).

The QBJ format if the relatively new format, but it is a great option to import transactions from the General Journal Entry files. You will get full audit records for each General Journal Entry. The only challenge is to enter such entries as Quickbooks interface is not as fast as Excel. Compared to QBO format, QBJ format is much more advanced — you create multiple debit and credit lines, assign accounts, classes, and there is no limit to just bank and credit card accounts as with QBO files. You do not have to match vendor records and assign accounts as QBJ format carries all this already.

The CSV format supported by Quickbooks Online is a great choice if you have your transactions entered into a spreadsheet or downloaded from your bank as a CSV file. Unlike QBO, IIF, QBJ formats that are defined format where data elements can be interpreted only one way, CSV format is a “freeform” format. You may have two date columns, columns not relevant to details that Quickbooks Online can import, date format could be different, amount format could use different decimal or thousands separator, you may have transactions taking one line or multiple lines, a CSV file may have the first line as the column header, or the first few lines are not transactions, but statement details. In these cases, you may have to reformat the CSV file (open in a spreadsheet software, edit, and then save as a new CSV file) before importing into Quickbooks.

If you already have transactions in some format (QBO, QFX, OFX, CSV, QIF, PDF), you may consider checking third-party tools to convert your files to a format that Quickbooks Desktop or Quickbooks online will import.