Mint vs. YNAB – Which Budgeting App Is Better?

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Before choosing the best budgeting and personal finance app for your needs, check out this comparison of two of the most popular. YNAB, which stands for “You Need a Budget,” and Intuit’s Mint have grown to become two of the most popular online budgeting apps available.

So how do YNAB and Mint compare? Which is better and why?

HighlightsYNABMint.com
Rating8.5/108.5/10
Budgeting
Investment Monitoring
Retirement Planning
Bill Payment
Manual Entries
Bill Management

About Mint

MintMint (see our review) is a free online personal finance service similar to Quicken, but without any software to install. As such, it’s accessible with any browser or mobile device. The Mint app was started in 2006 and was acquired by Intuit in 2009. While Quicken used to be Intuit’s lead product, Mint has become their sole focus since announcing the sale of Quicken.

The platform incorporates all of your financial accounts — bank, investment, credit cards, and loans — into one place and provides a big-picture view of your entire financial situation. At initial setup, you can add all your accounts in a pretty seamless download process. After downloading and syncing your transactions, Mint’s software automatically separates them into predefined categories.

While you can’t modify the top-level categories, you can create and add your own subcategories. Once set up, Mint will remember repeating transactions so it will automatically match the same category in the future.

With Mint, every time you visit the site, your financial data gets updated automatically. The software presents your financial information in a slick, easy-to-use web interface, with information and pretty graphs on a user-friendly dashboard.

Mint keeps an eye on your money so you don’t have to. It’s easy to sign up for alerts to be sent via email or directly to your smartphone for:

  • Late fees
  • Over budget on a category
  • Bill reminders
  • Rate changes
  • Large purchases

About YNAB

YNABYNAB (see our review) is an app that provides both the mechanics of monitoring your income and expenses and instructional support to help you deal with the root causes of financial distress.

YNAB’s last version was YNAB 4, which was a desktop-based application. With the latest edition, YNAB has been rebuilt from the ground up. In the old YNAB, you'd log in to your bank account, download your transaction file, go back to YNAB, initiate the import, locate your downloaded transaction file, preview the import, make sure it was going to land in the right account, and then click the import button. And then you'd repeat that process for all of your accounts.

Now, with the new YNAB, you no longer need to manually enter your transactions to make sure you've captured all of them in YNAB. Instead, you click the “Import” button at the top of your account. YNAB safely and securely connects to your bank through a third-party provider and instantly imports all your transactions.

YNAB’s budgeting strategy is built on three rules designed to help you live within your means, get out of debt, save money and stop living paycheck to paycheck:

  • Rule #1: Give every dollar a job — Every dollar in your budget should be allocated to a certain purpose.
  • Rule #2: Embrace your true expenses — Smooth out your budget and reduce stress by continually allocating money each month to all your expenses, including insurance premiums, birthday expenses, and vacations.
  • Rule #3: Roll with the punches — Anticipate and adjust for overspending in certain categories in some months and stay on track with your long-term goals.

Screenshots

    Screenshots


      Features Both YNAB and Mint Offer

      Both apps have a lot of similarities. Let's talk about what's common with the online budgeting services.

      Budgeting Both provide a program that lets you know exactly where you are spending money in an easy-to-understand graphical format.
      Online Synchronization Both software platforms allow you to link your accounts (bank, credit cards, loans, etc.) and import transactions automatically, synchronizing your entire financial picture in one place.
      Device Compatibility Changes made to your account on any device (smartphone, desktop, tablet, laptop) automatically carry over to other devices you’re using.
      Mobile App Both YNAB and Mint offer smartphone support via iOS and Android.

      Where Mint and YNAB Differ

       

      • MintWeekly Email Summaries — Find out what’s happened in the past week with your finances.
      • Alerts via email or SMS — Mint will alert you about pending bills and fees that hit your accounts and will suggest ways to save money on transaction fees.
      • Credit Score Tracking — View and monitor your credit score, account usage, payment history and errors at a glance.
      • Investment Tracking — Mint offers investment tracking, although it’s okay at best. If you’re more of a buy-and-hold than active investor, the investing section offered by Mint may be all you need. Personal Capital is a possible alternative that offers better investment tools.
      • Net Worth Report — Mint calculates your net worth and displays that figure prominently at the top of your account.
      • Apple Watch — Mint is accessible via an Apple Watch.
      • YNABYNAB is all about budgeting — period — Have you ever heard the term “jack of all trades, master of none”? That usually applies to people, but the same can be said about services. Some try to do too many things and end up doing none of them well. YNAB is only about budgeting and they do it extremely well.
      • YNAB continues to evolve — YNAB is not a static web platform. They’ve already released versions 1 through 4. This is a promising path, indicating responsiveness to customer suggestions and concerns, with better things to come.
      • Category codes — YNAB uses color codes to help you see when a category is underfunded (yellow) or when overspending has occurred (red). It helps you quickly visualize potential trouble spots in your budget.
      • The Inspector — This feature allows you to see summary information about your budget, as well as provide quick options. It will let you know, for example, if you’ve budgeted enough for an upcoming expense or not.

      The Comparison of Mint and YNAB

      We break down the comparison into these categories: Budgeting, Account Synchronization, Cost, Customer Service and Education, Security, and Mobile Access.


      Budgeting

      Both apps are stellar at budgeting.

      You know where your money is going and can manage your finances well with either one. Both services are versatile enough for any budgeter to stop over-drafting, set up a systematic way to pay off credit card debt, set up savings, and manage spending.

      Budgeting is all YNAB does, and that focused mission shows in the platform’s user-friendliness and ease. Mint’s budgeting software is also easy to use and visually appealing.

      Both have been around long enough that they’re viable options to choose between for basic budgeting. Both, in fact, are excellent budgeting apps and comparable to each other in most ways.

      Mint does offer more features than just budgeting if you like bells and whistles.

      TIE — Mint and YNAB are both good choices for budgeting.

      Synchronization

      Both platforms provide automatic synchronization of your bank, credit card and loan accounts with many financial institutions.

      While Mint supports a larger number of banks and financial services than YNAB, it also seems to have a lot more technical problems with synchronization. This is an ongoing complaint among users; you can feel their frustration when you read their comments on synchronization on Mint’s forums. Not only does Mint seem to have a lot of disruptive issues, they seem to have a bad reputation for not fixing the synchronization issues in a timely fashion.

      Synchronization is an area where YNAB excels over Mint.

      Winner — YNAB

      Cost

      YNAB charges $11.99 per month or $84 per year, with the first 34 days free so you can test it out.

      Mint is free to use, and there are no hidden fees. You might be wondering how they make money. There are several ways:

      • Mint offers “ways to save” by recommending various financial services from which they get a referral fee
      • You’ll also find banner ads in various parts of the website, which provide revenue
      • You can sign up for premium access to your credit report for a small fee
      • Mint also sells the aggregate (not your individual) financial data to various providers. Things like: consumer spending, the average credit card balance, how many retirement accounts a user might have, etc. The data is collected anonymously and does not reference back to any individual user.
      Winner — Mint

      Customer Service and Education

      Neither Mint nor YNAB offers customer service support via phone.

      When you click on the support button on Mint’s website, there is a list of common questions and issues you can scroll through to help yourself. If you can’t find the answer to your question, you can either email the team or hit the chat button for online help. Response to my specific inquiry from Mint was slow. Spotty customer service seems to be a recurring experience of users who post on their website forum.

      YNAB offers email support with the promise that you’ll receive a reply from a real person within 24 hours of sending your question or concern. My question was answered in less than three hours, and I was provided a link to their “get started” class, which is a tutorial that helps you prioritize your financial obligations and goals. You don’t have to be a paying customer — or even signed up for the free trial — to take the class.

      Additionally, everybody can benefit from the help and support that comes from regular interaction with others in similar circumstances. You’ll find that help in the user forums on both Mint and YNAB. Each also publishes a blog, MintLife and The YNAB Blog, with educational articles to help you improve your money management skills.

      Both YNAB and Mint offer online training videos and tutorials that make learning quick and easy. YNAB’s training is more comprehensive, and their customer service seems more responsive. Of course better customer service might be expected from a paid service than a free one.

      Winner — YNAB

      Security

      Security is an important issue to anyone using an online budgeting app since your entire financial life could be exposed.

      YNAB’s infrastructure is built on Heroku, which is the same technology used by the CIA. Key site security measures include:

      • Staff members do not have access to customer data unless requested by the customer or required by law.
      • Passwords are one-way salted and hashed, using multiple iterations of a key derivative function for passwords, making it nearly impossible for a hacker to determine the exact sequence.
      • Data is encrypted, so it can’t be read even if the hard drives were stolen.
      • When you terminate your account, your data is wiped clean from the database.

      Mint also is concerned about the security of your personal and stored information. Key site security measures include:

      • Two-factor authentication: In addition to password protection, Mint won’t let you access your account until you validate the device you’re using either via the email address you used when you signed up or by a SMS text message to your cellphone.
      • Touch ID sensor for iOS: This quickly reads your fingerprint and unlocks your phone, allowing you quick access to the Mint.com app.

      We believe two-factor authentication is more secure than a password alone and would choose Mint over YNAB when considering security protection.

      Winner — Mint

      Mobile Access

      Both apps are very user-friendly when you’re on the go. While there are differences in the display of your information, it really comes down to personal preference as to which one appeals more to you as a user. Mint and YNAB are the best.

      TIE — Mint and YNAB are both good choices for mobile access.

      Summary

      HighlightsYNABMint.com
      Cost8/1010/10
      Customer Service 8.5/106/10
      Ease of Use 9/109/10
      Synchronization9/107/10
      Accessibility9/108.5/10
      PromotionsFREE First Two Months
      Price$11.99, 11.99, month/month$0, 0, free/month
      Trial Period34 Days0 Days
      Refund Policy
      Budgeting
      Bill Payment
      Bill Management
      Investment Tracking
      Retirement Planning
      Tax Reporting
      Reconcile Transactions
      Credit Score Monitoring
      Zillow Tracking
      Custom Categories
      Manual Entries
      Import QFX, QIF Files
      Currency SupportMultipleUS/Canada
      Access9/108.5/10
      Two-Factor Authentication
      Customer ServiceEmailEmail
      YNABMint.com

      Which Is Better?

      Both Mint and YNAB are designed to show you how and where you spend your money. Both provide a user-friendly tool to improve your money management skills — and financial future — by helping you budget effectively. Both are now online services and compatible across all the devices you might choose to use.

      YNAB has done a great job of moving all its functionality online without bugs or disruptions to existing users. The lack of online functionality prior to 2016 was one of the reasons we recommended Mint over YNAB in the past. But we have recently decided to recommend YNAB, because Mint has had many synchronization issues and poor customer support issues over the years.

      Our research indicates that users seem to really like YNAB’s budgeting features and really hate the synchronization problems with Mint that have persisted over the years without being fixed. So, even though Mint is free, YNAB’s $11.99 a month fee may very well be worth it for glitch-free synchronization and responsive customer support.

       

      Ruth Lyons

      Trading three decades of financial publishing experience in the corporate world for a life of personal and financial freedom as a freelancer in 2012, Ruth is passionate about helping others take control of their personal finances and to become aware and educated on their options as self-reliant individuals. Disenfranchised with the high cost and lackluster performance of her IRA, college savings and other retirement accounts handled by a full-service broker, Ruth moved her retirement money to a self-directed IRA in 2015. Ruth holds an MS in Finance from Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business (1991) and a Business Management degree from University of Maryland (1984). You can follow Ruth on: Twitter

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      16 Comments

      1. I use YNAB daily and occasionally Mint. YNAB is definitely my choice. I’ve tried several others, but most have additional fees associated with downloading your account information, as well as either monthly or annual fees. I feel you get a lot of bang for your buck with YNAB, and their customer support is outstanding.

      2. I also choose YNAB. It has problems and it’s the best product out there. I have tried Mint, and several others with not help with my budget as most budgeting software tracks spending at best. YNAB enabled me to see the day to day choices I was making and it opened my eyes. Two years later my credit card debts are gone and I have $20K in the bank. Can’t beat that.

      3. I’m a long-time user of Mint, but now that I’m using the YNAB trial, I would prefer to switch to YNAB, if it weren’t for a couple of deal-breakers.

        YNAB advertises that all transactions in a checking, savings, or credit card account will be available for import within 12 hours. This is simply not true. Yesterday, between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. I made four separate transactions with my credit card. When I just now imported into YNAB, none of these transactions appeared. Also, I made four other transactions with this credit card the day before yesterday and these still have not imported, though they all have with Mint. And why can’t YNAB just automatically import transactions without the need for me to click on “Import” when I see a number in parentheses? This occurs in Mint and several other YNAB competitor products.

        I understand that YNAB doesn’t import anything other than my beginning balance with my Fidelity Investments account. But for me this is a huge deal-breaker since the amount of money in that account changes a lot each day. I find it odd this feature works with several YNAB competitors (including Mint), yet YNAB appears to be a much nicer product than Mint, at least the user interface is a lot better.

        Lastly, while it doesn’t apply to me as I don’t have loans associated with YNAB, this review states that loans are synched. Even YNAB itself states that loans and investment accounts are not automatically synched and must be manually updated.

      4. Error in the differences listed above. YNAB does prominently show a user’s net worth. It’s in the accounts section.

        I also don’t understand your description of the Mint iOS fingerprint feature. My entire iPhone is fingerprint protected, so no matter what app I install on it (Mint or YNAB), I can unlock the phone via fingerprint. So why are you saying Mint has Touch ID Sensor security for iOS but YNAB does not?

        1. YNAB doesn’t include all assets unlike Mint.com does. Is is what we mean about differences in displaying a user’s net worth. YNAB isn’t showing you the whole pic if you have other assets than bank accounts.

          The app itself is protected and requires your fingerprint (again) to use the app and logs you into the service (instead of entering your username/password which is stored locally as a hash).

          1. What sort of assets are you referring to? I use YNAB and I have “tracking” accounts for my mortgage, IRAs for myself and my husband, our vehicles, and our retirement accounts. I do have to manually update the balances for some of them but those associated with my bank can import automatically.

          2. This may have changed since your response, YNAB has allowed me to link student and auto loans, and credit cards. I am not sure about investment accounts though.

      5. We use mint. I am looking at last year’s expenditures to make sure our 2018 budget is more accurate, because some budgets have changed significantly from last year. I am finding significant errors in expenditures by category, and their chat support could do nothing to help. For example, a category of entertainment says we spent $200 for the year (I knew that was wrong!), when I click for more detail, it says 15 transactions amounted to $1.5K, and when I added them up myself they added up to $2K! I found more categories to also be in error. Have you ever noticed anything like this? I also made sure nothing was ‘hidden.’

      6. We used mint for years, and recently stopped. It’s inaccurate on my mobile devise and displays a double version of all transactions. It also doesn’t remember a category. For example , when you set the category for mortgage on your mortgage payment, the next month it recategorized it again to something else. So each month I found myself changing the categories around. It’s basic function as a budget app doesn’t even function.

      7. YNAB account linking it terrible. The service team when troubleshooting simply copies and pastes standard answers they have no clue what they are even sending. It’s not even an IM Chat, it’s an email! There is not number to call for “technical” assistance. If you can ever get your bank and credit cards to link, Mint makes this super easy, then there is no place to manage them. The accounts are displayed anonymously(citicards 1/2 linked). That’s all the info they show you. For a paid service I’d expect better service. The mobile and online versions, once the transactions are flowing into them, are easy to manage. But why am I going to commit to this service when I know at some point a service question will arise, and I will have to email – they promise to respond in 24 hours – really?! This site is definitely not better than Mint.

      8. I tried YNAB briefly for the 34-day trial period. It has a very steep learning curve and when it did not work properly for me and did not meet my expectations of how a budgeting platform should operate, I was immediately jumped on, hounded, and insulted by YNAB’s fanatical fanbase. I will never in a million years touch that software again! Mint, on the other hand, is nice enough, but it really doesn’t provide much more information than Bank of America’s website “My Portfolio” functionality. Mint doesn’t even link to as many sites as BoA’s does. I guess it’s okay for getting an overall view of your money, if you don’t have a BoA account.

      9. I use YNAB. Helped me pay off all student loans last year and always know what my money is doing for me. No software has ever improved my life more than YNAB. Worth every penny.

      10. I have been using YNAB since 2016. There is a learning curve but they have plenty of training videos to help around. I had to use support maybe twice and had no issues. In my opinion, the web interface is much easier to use that the app. I have no regrets with YNAB and would highly recommend it to anyone serious about improving their financial situation.

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