Which finance software should you use, Mint or Personal Capital? This question is one that’s asked often because both are very popular online tools. At a casual glance they might seem the same — both are personal finance apps, allow you to sync your financial accounts in one location, and are completely free to use. But there are distinct features that make each one different too.
How does Personal Capital compare to Mint? Which is better and why?
First, let’s get into a little history with both services.
The Mint app (see our review) was started in 2006 and was acquired by Intuit in 2009. Since Intuit’s announcement about the selling of Quicken, Mint has become their sole focus for personal finance management.
Unlike Quicken, there is no local software to install and you can access the service with any web browser or mobile device. And like Personal Capital, the site is very user-friendly.
The platform incorporates all of your financial accounts, including bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards and other loans. It also provides you with a big-picture view of your entire financial situation on one website.
About Personal Capital
Personal Capital (see our review) has a lot of similarities to Mint but focuses primarily on investing. They are really two services combined into one: the free personal finance app and their paid financial advisor service.
Their target market is investors with portfolios ranging from $100,000 up to $2 million, a range in which many investors fall. Personal Capital’s combination of technology and pricing make it well suited for investors in this range. The platform currently has more than 500,000 users managing over $100 billion in assets.
The company’s co-founder and CEO, Bill Harris, was formerly the CEO at both PayPal and Intuit (makers of Mint, Quicken, Quickbooks and TurboTax).
Personal Capital uses baskets of individual securities and exchange traded funds (ETFs), rather than index funds, to create its model portfolios. The company position is that index funds, with their high annual fees, decrease investment performance.
Investing in individual securities is also more tax efficient since tax harvesting can be used to minimize taxes. The platform also offers “Personal Funds” that target specific investment objectives, and those also are comprised of individual investments, rather than mutual funds.
The Comparison of Mint vs. Personal Capital
We break down the comparison into these categories: Budgeting, Synchronization, Customer Service, Investment Analysis, Security, Mobile Access and Retirement Planning.
Unlike Personal Capital, Mint.com is a budgeting platform, not an investment platform. It primarily focuses on Millennials and managing debt and budgeting, while the investment section of Mint seems like an afterthought.
Mint has a full-featured budgeting section where you can get a breakdown of spending per category. From there you can put limits on your spending per category and see an overview of where your financial situation is. This functionality is available via the website and app.
Personal Capital recently launched their spending tool whereby you can monitor spending habits. You get access to a details list of expenses per category and can set an overall monthly spending goal but cannot break it down per category. Currently this feature is available only via their mobile app.
Mint is the clear winner in the budgeting category. It has a full-featured budgeting functionality that you can access from your mobile or desktop.
Personal Capital, on the other hand, does not offer a full-function budgeting tool. You can monitor cash flow but cannot set specific spending targets. However, in my personal opinion, budgeting functionality is overblown.
WINNER — Mint.com
As I’m sure you can guess, Mint.com uses Intuit’s internal synchronization process. When Mint was originally created, it used Yodlee to aggregate financial data. Intuit switched over to their own internal systems that are also used with Quicken — assumedly to save costs. This caused all sorts of issues reported by users on Inuit’s forums, and our personal testing confirms these problems.
Personal Capital, however, uses Yodlee to sync up financial services and has had much fewer reports of synchronization issues.
Mint uses their own in-house system to sync with financial institutions, which means that Mint has been very unreliable to the point where synchronization stops working. Personal Capital uses Yodlee to perform the syncing, which has been a much more stable service, from our testing.
While I don’t have specific numbers, both can sync up with a similar amount of financial services.
Synchronization is not as reliable with Mint compared to Personal Capital. In addition, if you do have issues, Personal Capital is more attentive to fix the issue than Mint.
WINNER — Personal Capital
This has been a sticking point with many Mint users — there’s no customer service. But every time I’ve contacted Personal Capital, I’ve gotten a quick response (less than 24 hours) to my questions. It’s been reported by many users of Mint that if you run into any problems (e.g., synchronization) support is pretty much useless. Personal Capital users have not reported any issues reaching customer service or resolving issues.
WINNER — Personal Capital
For the most part, Mint doesn’t really offer any tools to manage your investments. While they do show portfolio values over time, there are no tools available to aid with retirement planning or analyzing asset allocation or fund expenses.
Personal Capital shines in this area. You get access to projected portfolio values, retirement forecasting, possible variables that may affect your retirement goals, and a personal evaluation to see if you’re on track.
Mint, on the other hand, has no similar functionality.
WINNER — Personal Capital
Neither Mint nor Personal Capital have true two-factor authentication. Personal Capital and Mint do have a poor-man’s version which requires you to register your computer before using. But you cannot log in unless the computer is registered via a PIN sent to you in a phone call or email.
Both services are read-only, you cannot perform transactions (i.e transfer cash out of your checking account) via the service and the data they download does not include any account numbers or other identifiable information should your account get compromised.
Personal Capital and Mint’s app allows for fingerprint login on iOS devices that support it.
Mobile App Access
Both of the personal finance software have apps for Apple iOS and Google Android. For each service, some features are exclusive to the mobile app or the website. And you’ll be able to process most functions on the go.
This fact makes Mint and Personal Capital especially great for Millennials who use their mobile phone as their primary, and in some cases only, device.
Mint.com does not offer a retirement planning overview, projected portfolio value or any other investment-related features.
With their latest Retirement Planning feature, Personal Capital will help you determine how much you need to save for retirement within just a few seconds. And the best part is, this feature is completely free.
WINNER — Personal Capital
And The Overall Winner Is…Personal Capital
In fact, we’ve named Personal Capital as one of the best investment tools. Though Personal Capital isn’t as good in budgeting where Mint excels in this functionality.
But overall Personal Capital is more reliable, has great customer service, and retirement planning and investing features second to none.
In truth, Personal Capital and Mint.com are not competing financial platforms. Personal Capital is an investment platform with limited budgeting capacity while Mint.com is a budgeting platform with little investment support.
You can therefore use Mint.com as your budgeting tool and handle all of your investments through Personal Capital. Since both are cloud-based and read-only services, nothing prevents you from using both simultaneously.
Readers: Do you think we missed a comparison between the two? Please let us know in the comments and we’ll add it to the list.