Mint is a FREE online personal finance (web 2.0) service similar to Quicken. Mint was recently acquired by Inuit for a… mint. I decided to review Mint.com financial software to see what the buzz is about. For over two years now, I’ve taken mint.com for a test spin with my personal finances. With Mint you have no local software to install, and it is a service you can access with any web browser or mobile device.
For the non-geeks out there, I do this because Intuit’s Macintosh version isn’t worth using. Let me be clear about this, Quicken for OS X has always been the bastard child. I won’t even consider it an option for managing my finances, for the many reasons mentioned by commentators on Amazon’s site.
Mint was a breeze to initially sign up and add accounts. I picked 10 accounts, a mixture of banking, credit cards, loans, and investing. All accounts seamlessly downloaded my online data. Every time I revisit their web site my financial data gets updated automatically.
Using Mint on Mobile Devices
Mint offers access to your financial data via their web site and by your favorite mobile device. They have mobile apps for Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and recently added iPad support. This allow for quick and easy access to your finances on the go. You’ll need to sign up for an account on mint.com first, before you can use the app.
How Does Mint.com Make Money?
The service is free to use, and there are no hidden fees. You might be asking, “How does Mint make money from this free service?” Mint makes their money by offering ways to help save or make you money by recommending various financial services.
Mint.com’s service seems to be more focused on catering to the masses. It appears very strong with budgeting and tracking expenses, but its investing area seems somewhat simplistic. Like most of Mint, it is much simpler than Quicken and lacks many features.
With the acquisition of Mint by Intuit, it’s obvious this is the future of the Quicken product line. Intuit’s current online version of Quicken was not much of a success, and I assume it’s the reason why they purchased Mint. In addition, Microsoft discontinued Money so there aren’t many other games in town.
Get Alerts From Mint
Mint keeps an eye on your money, so you don’t have to. They can go to an Email address or directly to your smart phone. Get alerts for:
- Late Fees
- Over budget on a category
- Bill reminders
- Rate changes
- Large purchases
Great Features in Mint
- Weekly summaries via Email
- Alerts via Email or SMS page. Mint will alert on pending bills and ways to save money on transaction fees
- Mobile access via the FREE iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad version. It provides you with a great snapshot of your finances
- Automatic download of account transactions
Issues with Mint
- Lack of advanced features (though they are catering more to lower end users). Their investing section is OK at best. Personal Capital is a possible alternative that offers more advanced investing features.
- Security. I understand their security setup. What concerns me is the centralization of so much data by itself. This can be very useful for a hacker. You can’t write checks or purchase stock, but that’s not the issue I’m concerned about. It’s the disclosure of financial information in one central location.
- Backups. With many web 2.0 services, you are relying on them to perform proper backups. While in this case no critical data can be lost (account data is stored with the bank), the setup of categories and alerts are stored with Mint.
- Assignments to income/expense categories are not always correct, and sometimes manual intervention is needed.
Is Mint Secure?
I think locally installed applications like Quicken are going the way of the Dodo bird. I know, call me old fashion, but I like having all of my data locally within Quicken. I do think a hybrid of local and remote application (cloud based) like Mint.com is the future of this industry.
Since I’m in the technology industry and deal with security all the time, I know the risks of leaving security to a third party. Mind you, I’m not saying Mint is insecure. In many cases an individual’s desktop computer is much less secure. Of course, for Mint the perception of security is their biggest adoption road block.
While I use Quicken as our primary method to manage our finances, I have also outgrown Quicken. Recently, I’ve been creating Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for managing parts of my portfolio. Specifically I manage our precious metals, and security bucket (which is primarily fixed income) outside of Quicken. Quicken, or any other application for that matter, does not seem to have tools to help manage these areas of your finance. To manage these assets, I wind up transferring the total amount into a Quicken account.
Mint is great for creating, and tracking, your budget. It’s great you can get alerts via E-mail to ensure timely bill payments. It’s unfortunate that Mint’s investing area is very weak for all but the basic investors. Mint, unfortunately, does not have investment and asset allocation features like Personal Capital (see Personal Capital review). If you have over $100,000 in investments, Personal Capital might be a better fit.
Another option is to use Morningstar tools to create a balanced portfolio. While Morningstar’s service is great (I use the service myself), it charges a yearly subscription fee.
For me, I’ll continue to use Mint for its basic budgeting features. Since Mint.com does not cost anything to use, you might as well signup and give it a spin.