In the world of online personal financial software and services, the list of choices is pretty thin. Intuit's Quicken is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but a rival that has grown more important since it was acquired by the same software giant Intuit competes with it under the name of Mint. Mint has its advantages and disadvantages to Quicken, with the added advantage that it is free to use and does not require you to install any local software. This means that Mint gives us the ability to log on and interface with it from literally any web browser, iPad, iPhone, or other similar mobile device.
Mint touts itself as an efficient way to look at all of your transactions and account balances in one place. To do this, it gathers up all of the pieces of your financial accounts and data automatically into a single location to help you examine the big and complete picture. You have the advantage of only adding the bank and investment accounts, credit cards, and bills that you wish to in order to track and better understand your assets, obligations, spending habits, and cash flow.
Mint Intro and Background
Mint has enormous bragging rights with its user base of more than 15 million people. It is hard for us to argue with the success represented by those kinds of numbers. The appeal to their online personal financial service may stem from the fact that it is easy to utilize and web-based. Another reason that it remains enduringly popular has to do with the signup and startup process. Signing up for Mint does not cost you a dime. Adding accounts is simple and only requires a few seconds of your time too. We searched for what types of personal accounts they would let us add and learned that there are a mixture of supported types of bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and investment accounts supported. The claim that most any U.S. based financial institution properly synchronizes up is true. When we completed the initial setup process, Mint.com had no problem effortlessly and flawlessly downloading the financial information.
The beauty of their simplistic setup is that it still does some fairly impressive tasks without even having to be asked. Whenever you log on to the site, your pages undergo an automatic financial data update. Your financial empire is well-rendered in the eye-catching and simple to work with web browser interface. It even comes with beautiful graphics to help you feel warm and positive about the whole Mint experience.
This is not to say that Mint is the most wonderful service ever invented. It is fair to claim that its interface is all about glamour and curb appeal rather than deep and important usability. Yet you can still count on Mint.com to assist you with some big job tasks like designing fincancial goals, budgeting, and combining as many of your financial accounts as you want into a single and seamless place. Once you have done this properly, you can rely on Mint and its handy dashboard to provide you with an efficient and useful one glance summary of all your individual finances.
Mint Tools and Features
Mint does not offer every feature under the sun as with some programs like Personal Capital, but it does provide some interesting and a few fairly unique tools. It helps you with:
Setting Up and Following Up With Goals – Mint is really big into setting up, tracking, and editing financial goals. We found the ability to set up a new goal to save up money for buying a home or to pay down a credit card bill easy to do. It then incorporates the goal right into your personal monthly budget.
Keeping An Eye On Your Credit Scores – Mint's new option for free credit score tracking is a revolutionary breakthrough for the service. Upon logging in to your personal Mint page, all that you have to do is to select the show details button and you are instantly presented with your credit accounts ages, payment history, credit score, and other useful information. There is also a premium for pay version that you can upgrade to and utilize.
Tracking Your Various Expenses and Budget – Let's face it; Mint is really good at its primary goal of being a budgeting and expense tracking program. This is where they excel too. We had no difficulty at all setting up budgets. They even help with automatically categorizing these once you synchronize and download your various transactions. Granted the categories are mostly pre-set, but you are also able to set up your own sub-categories, even though you may not modify the primary categories. Mint also permits you to affect changes to any downloaded transactions. You may have to adjust the line items as they come in, since the automatic categorization is imperfect. A good thing about the engine though is that it features a smart interface that does remember any transactions you have that repeat so that they can be sorted to the right category the next time.
Connecting Via Their Apps – One of Mint's best features revolves around its mobile apps. Their apps are specially tailored for Google's Android, Apple's iPad, and iPhone. Mint.com has added an iOS Touch ID sensor which will scan and verify your fingerprint so that your phone becomes unlocked autotmatically. For the Apple diehard fans who use the OS X system, QuickView is their answer. This Mint QuickView installs directly out of the Apple App Store and displays a top of toolbar green leaf to remind you the app is always on, though in the background. When your finances change, it sends you a badge notifications alert.
Alerting You to Any Changes in Your Finances – Mint is the nanny babysitting your money so you can live your life. We love that you can sign up to receive alerts either on your smartphone or to your email inbox. Alerts come for a variety of notifications such as:
- Bill reminder
- Late fees
- Changes to rates
- Over category budget
- Large and suspicious purchases
Mint Interface Screenshots
The freemium model refers to services like Mint.com that are both free for you to utilize and without any slick hidden fees. Their back end comes in the form of premium upgrade services as with the credit tracking service upgrade to receive your credit report, or with referral fees that they receive when you sign up for a financial service which they are promoting on their website. Besides this, Mint is now displaying banner ads throughout the website in order to help monetize their traffic.
One of their other best sources of revenue that they gain theoretically from your participation is the ability to sell the collective financial information to a variety of data providers. They are not selling your personal information per se, just the combined information on average balance of credit cards, typical consumer spending patterns, numbers of retirement accounts that users possess, etc. While this sounds like a questionable practice at best, in Mint's defense, the information is gathered anonymously and can not be traced back to your or anyone else's use.
Mint Safety and Security
Mint keeps all of your personal data, bank and credit card accounts information, debts, cash flow, investment holdings and accounts, and more on cloud based servers. This has been called the future of this industry, yet the perception of how secure this type of data holding is remains divided. We hear from computer experts that your own computer desktop can be far less secure a place to keep your sensitive and stealable identification and financial data than are these heavily defended cloud based data storages. The weak point in this type of security arrangement is that Mint is not responsible for the sanctity of your sensitive data anymore, but instead a third party cloud data storage site and company is. We all know the risks of leaving your personal security in the hands of a third party.
Mint Ratings & Complaints
Intuit is the owner of Mint.com. The corporation Intuit has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. This is despite having received and successfully closed out over 1,824 complaints over the last three years, of which 563 were closed in the last 12 months. Per the BBB, this number of complaints registered for a company this size is statistically insignificant.
Final Words on Mint
Mint is a useful, if incomplete, tool for managing your finances. This is not a fault that we found with just Mint.com either, as Quicken and the few other similar rival software or service prodcuts all have the same incompleteness to them. Still Quicken possess a great range of features, tools, and functions that Mint abbreviates or does not address whatsoever.
In Mint's defense, maybe it is not trying to be all things to all people all at once, even though they do try to provide a service that is useful to millions of people. The service is extremely practical and powerful where tracking expenses and budgets are concerned. For investments and retirement account management especially though, it loses its luster. If you are mostly looking for a service to help you make, manage, and track a budget or financial goal, then Mint could be right for you. If tracking your credit score and managing your credit card payments, interest rates, and balances is your priority, then sign up for Mint straight away.
If you are a serious investor who wants to become more involved in numerous complex investment opportunities and who is looking for automated or advisory help with this goal, then pass on Mint and head on over to a personal finance managing service like Personal Capital instead. Mint all but admits that its investment areas are weak by not even detailing this on their website as a main reason to utilize the service. Still, the service is free, and that by itself is a great deal these days.
Pros of Mint
- Email or text alerts – receive alerts on bill to be paid and means of savings for transaction fees
- Weekly email summaries – explore your financial results of the week
- Support for mobile apps – Free apps that permit you to check up on your finances while on the run. Support exists for OSX, iPad, iPhone, and Android.
- Easy budgeting and setting of goals – a graphical presentation demonstrates where your money is going.
- Tracking of your credit score – allows you to monitor and look at your credit score, payment history, account usage, and errors with a quick glance.
Cons of Mint
- Problems with synchronization – syncing with banks can break down and take forever to get it restored.
- Weakness in investments – to say the investing portion is alright is generous.
- Poor customer support – Email support is available buy painfully slow to receive a response on, plus forums are there. No phone support given for this free product.
- No report generator – you can manage to do your own report by exporting the CSV file out to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
- Security concerns – hackers have to be tempted by the centralization of all of your financial and identification information in one easy place. .
- Insufficient backups – Mint backs up its own data when and as they feel like it. We have heard of users complaining about losing transactions to failure that were not sufficiently backed up by the company.
- Automatic categorizing – the smart system gets it wrong with the expense and income assignments to improver categories sometimes. This leave you having to manually change them when they are not correct.
Mint Review Summary
Where budgeting and expense and income tracking is concerned, Mint really shines. For a financial investment or retirement manager, it loses its luster. Since the service is free, there is nothing to lose in trying it out buy your time.