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Mint.com Review: Beautiful Money Management Tool

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Mint - Free Online Money Management ToolOverall, I was very impressed with both the feature set and beauty of Mint.com. While aesthetics isn’t the reason why you use a tool like Mint, having a smooth interface certain improves the user experience and I, for one, appreciated how responsive the site was. It makes heavy use of AJAX, which allows you to navigate the site while the back-end does its information gathering.

Security

I’m going to hit this topic first, before all others, because this was the main reason why I waited so long before opening an account at Mint. I’m usually the first to sign up for these things but the thought of having all of my account information in one place scared me.

The biggest reason why you don’t have to worry about fraud or identity theft is that they don’t ask for or store any of that information. You never provide your name, address, date of birth, social security number or other personal information. So how do they get your data to aggregate? They encrypt it and send it along to Yodlee, who stores it on their servers. As data moves around, it’s 128-bit SSL encrypted.

Here’s more about Mint’s security protocols.

Sign Up & Account Setup

The initial sign up process literally takes only a few seconds (that first screen asking for an email, zip code, and password is all there is) but the setup process takes a little while longer. The setup process is the process of entering all the account information for Mint to aggregate. It’s where you let Mint know which credit card, banks, loan and investment accounts are yours.

The Setup Process:
After entering your email, zip code and password, you are presented with this screen:
Mint: Add New Accounts Main Screen

Click one of the new account boxes and you’ll be presented with this popup to select your financial institution:
Mint: Add New Account Popup

Next you’ll be presented with a form requesting login credentials (in this example, I chose Citi Credit Cards):
Mint: Add Citi Credit Card Popup

Once you enter in the information, it tries to authenticate and download the most recent data:
Mint: Authenticating & Downloading Account Information

Once it’s complete, you’ll see the account sitting there nicely with all its downloaded data:
Mint: Add Acount Screen After Citi Added

As you can see, I have three Citi cards but I use only one of them, my Citi mtvU card and it has a balance of a little under $900.

Overview

You can start playing around with Mint even if you’ve only added one active credit card account. Here’s a shot of my overview screen:
Mint: Overview Screen

There is a ton of information on that screen. In the upper left, there is a summary of all your linked accounts. Right now it’s bare because it only has my Citi credit cards listed (and only the ones linked to that one login, though I don’t have any other login) but you can enter you checking accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts, mortgage and student loans. After all that, they add it all up and give you a Net Worth figure that you can track.

Below the summary list is a cash flow tracker. If you link up a checking account, Mint can recognize direct deposits as income (with some help) so that the cash flow won’t look as red as it does on mine. It’s a good way to figure out if you’re spending more than you’re taking in. In this particular case, since I have no income (no linked bank accounts), the cashflow is negative.

If you return to the top of the screen and look at the fatter column on the right, you’ll see a “Your Alerts” section. That’s where Mint takes a look at your historical data, your own settings, and alerts you of abnormal behavior. Right now the alert says “This month, you spent $22 on Gas / Fuel. This exceeds your budget of $10 by $12.” That’s because Mint saw $22 in charges on my mtvU card under Gas / Fuel and my default budget for that is only $10.

Below that you can see your budget and how faithfully you’ve stuck with it. If you’ve exceeded it, it’ll appear as an alert and the bar will be really far on the meter. You can adjust your budget, adding and removing categories, with the Add Budget and Spending TRends buttons.

Mint: Ways to SaveFinally, below all that is a “Ways to Save” section. This is where Mint makes its money, by finding offers that can save you money. Since I’ve only entered in a credit card, the only offer available to me is in the credit card group. They also have checking and savings offers, comparing your bank’s listed APY versus their affiliates. There currently is no support for investment accounts but I can’t imagine that’s too far away. If I click on the credit card group, a pop up appears asking me for my credit worthiness (pick from Excellent, Good, Medium/Some Problems, Poor, and Limited/None plus two credit score service offers – one from FreeCreditReport.com and one from myFICO). I say I’m Excellent and they offer me the Chase Freedom card based on its cashback offer which could save me $161 over the next twelve months.

Trends

Mint: Trend DataWhile the power of Mint is in its ability to aggregate all of your data and give you a pretty dashboard to view it all in, the second coolest feature is the trending data it can provide. Not only will it tell you about how your current spending compares against your history, it can also compare it with spenders in a select group of cities, states, or the whole of the United States. The shot to the right is a thumbnail of my own spending, with the large section listed as No Category.

When you first start using Mint, there’s a transaction register associated with everything. Each line item from my credit card is tagged with a category and in the beginning Mint will attempt to guess the correct category. If it can’t guess, it just marks it as No Category and moves on. As you change them, you can tell Mint that transactions of a certain name or from a certain vendor should always be a certain category.

Reminders

One feature that I’ve seen but never used was notifications. You can get email summaries weekly (every Friday) or monthly (1st of each month) of all your account activity. You can also get text message (SMS) summaries every Friday. All of these are managed in your profile. (You can also change those alerts you see on your Overview through the Alerts section)

Summary

In Summary, I think Mint is a pretty slick tool (after looking at the screenshots, I think you have to agree with me there). Can you live without it? Of course you can. Will you likely learn more about your spending if you use it? Definitely. Is it worth the security risk? That depends on your level of risk aversion and how well you trust the securities measures they’ve taken with your data. I personally don’t see it as a risk (I’m currently using it so I’ve already bought into it) but I’ve also been lucky with regards to both my identity and financial data, so to each their own. But you do have to admit, it sure is pretty for something that’s free (Quicken isn’t free!).

{ 29 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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29 Responses to “Mint.com Review: Beautiful Money Management Tool”

  1. CUMarketer says:

    I just signed up at Mint.com after reading this but it won’t upload my credit union accounts. And it didn’t import my mortgage accounts through the same FI as my checking. Maybe I just need to play around some more. Any suggestions?

    • Florence says:

      Is it not finding your bank or saying that there is a problem. I had both when setting up. For my credit union, I had to enter the banks full name, not the website and that worked. For another bank I had to enter the web address, but not full one when I log in, just the first part (www.mybank.org). If it’s having problems accessing your accounts, then it may be the security questions, I answered ones I was familiar with, but after going to the bank/credit card website, I realized I hadn’t set up all 10 possible ones, it wouldn’t connect until I did and they all matched. Good luck!!

  2. Connie says:

    Thanks for putting the screenshots up. I have been reading about Mint for a while now, so it’s nice to see what it looks like.

    Personally I use YNAB, and I like it. I do feel more secure having my information on my own computer, and it was a one time fee, so I don’t pay monthly.

    For a free tool, Mint looks good. It does more than I thought it would, that’s for sure.

  3. MoneyLint says:

    I love Mint but there are some limitations that hopefully new rollouts will address. The main problem I’ve faced is simialr to CUMarketer’s problem. I have numerous funds that are not supported by their auto update feature and there isn’t currently a manual load feature that would allow updates for these accounts. Overall it is a useful bare-bones tool that is free and painless to use.

  4. Meg says:

    I love Mint and have been using it for over a year. My mortgage company isn’t load-able onto Mint, but I don’t really care because I use it to track spending. They only recently added the ability to track loans and investments, but that is mainly fluff so your “net worth” tracker shows up accurately. Mine doesnt, due to mortgage and outside investments that aren’t personal, but I track that on NetWorth IQ anyway.

    Mint is GREAT for seeing exactly what you are spending and in which categories. I am a pretty careful budgetor in Excel, but Mint revealed patterns I didn’t even realize especially when it comes to infrequent purchases like travel or (for me) shopping. Those two items actually make up a huge part of my annual budget, though I wasn’t even accounting for them in my monthly budget.

    Anyway, I highly recommend it. Also, I have to highlight Mint’s ability to send you email or text reminders when your account balances get low, when you exceed a set limit in a budget category, or when a deposit or debit of a certain size clears. I don’t use those notifications, but they’re pretty great if you like that.

  5. Swamproot says:

    I really like Mint. I started using Wasabe, but there was just too much maintenance involved getting data from my various accounts. The only thing I liked better on Wasabe was that they could integrate with my small local banks that had online access, which Mint cannot or is not willing to do. I also can’t get my auto loan from UMB to show up on Mint, but hopefully I won’t have that much longer.

    Their categories could be less restrictive or customizable. I’ve been putting all of my beer store purchases under “Entertainment”, I’m not sure where it should be. :-)

    • Florence says:

      under food they have a alcohol/bar selection and if you select “edit details” under any beer store purchase, you can change the category and then make a “rule” that applies it every time that transaction shows up

  6. MoneyLint says:

    @ Swamproot – I have the same problem. I’ve been putting my beer/bar expenditures under Entertainment > Amusement and then tagging it with “Beer/Bars” so I can differentiate those expenses from non-alcoholic forms of entertainment. ;-)

  7. jim says:

    Beer is definitely entertainment and not food. :)

  8. sterling says:

    I tried Mint but found it confusing and hard to use. Your review seems good makes me want to try it again though. I didn’t like the way it pre-categorized everything, it made my finances seem even more overwhelming than they already were. I’ll stick with excel.

  9. EN says:

    I wanted to sign up too but I realize I already do the same thing with BoA’s portfolio tracker. Maybe some time in the future. Thanks for the write up.

  10. Jon says:

    I disagree, beer is food.

  11. poscogrubb says:

    I’ve read about Mint.com before, and it’s definitely beautiful. But I’m still risk-averse when it comes to financial data. It’s a good point that Mint does not request or store personally identifying data. But there’s still the risk of Internet down-time, whether it’s their servers or your ISP.

    I’ve been (occasionally) paying for Microsoft Money, and I’m looking into using GnuCash (free and open source).

  12. CUMarketer says:

    I just checked out Wesabe but I hate the manual download of information. Can anyone suggest another site, like Mint, that does auto-downloads but will support local banks and credit unions?

    • Florence says:

      i just got it to take both my credit unions, but i had to enter one with the full bank name (only way it worked) then the other with the web address but just the beginning (www.mybank.org)

  13. Nick says:

    so finally decided to give it a go almost what? a year and a half after I demonstrated it to the team? :-)
    glad you are enjoying it!

  14. Slinky says:

    I hate how Mint’s “security policy” is so misleading. They say they don’t store any personal information. True enough. But another company, Yodlee, DOES store your user id, password, and whatever other credentials are needed to login.

    I’ll accept the risk of online banking. It’s just one account. But having checking, saving, credit card, loans, mortgages, and investment account information all stored on someone else’s servers makes me very nervous. And not only your name, but password as well. It would be very easy to clean you out of every cent you can access in minutes if someone did get into Yodlee.

    And Hackers usually come in through the back door, not the front.

  15. stevelindberg says:

    Signed up for Mint. I have accounts with Fidelity and Vanguard, hardly obscure. The Mint setup process was unable to download my information, therefore making it USELESS.

  16. Mariana says:

    I’ve been “Minting” for three months, and find the site easy to navigate and very helpful.

    I do have a question for those of you longer time users regarding the budget section.

    When I originally plugged in my budget numbers, they were very rough. Ninety days later, real numbers are becomming clear and I would like to adjust the budget to reflect reality.

    Can anyone help me with how I would go about changing the budget numbers that I originally input?

    I have searched the site thoroughly and could find nothing.

    Either it isn’t there, or I missed it.

    • Nick says:

      Mariana, glad you are enjoying using it!
      Mint has helped me hone my budget more effectively too.
      To change it in Mint: Go to the overview page. Then just click directly on the $ amount for the category you want to change. This will pop-up a window allowing you to re-set your budget.

  17. Brian says:

    I agree that Mint is a really slick idea and has huge potential, but the site is extremely buggy.

    Mint is unable to maintain a connection to my credit union accounts for longer than a day. When it loses connection (daily), I need to delete and re-add the account. This is not an acceptable workaround. Their Support has been no help with this issue, and it has been reported repeatedly for over two weeks.

    Please be aware of this if you attempt to use Mint. I’m on the verge of abandoning it, if they can’t get their site working.

  18. dave says:

    Mint is absolutely phenomenal, and I love it enough for me to change banks. It works for every single account I have except my credit union which I run everything through. I guess I’ll need to find a new credit union.

  19. Frank says:

    the email/text alerts are useless, because they don’t fire unless you log in, which completely defeats their purpose.

  20. Stacy lorsan says:

    While reviewing some online money management software,i came across manageme7 and found the features to be very useful to handle our day to day financial transactions wisely.


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