Mint.com is a real-time personal money management tool that gives you a helpful snapshot of where you are and where you’re headed, financially speaking. Mint offers budgeting, goal setting, trend-watching, investment analysis and money-saving tools, most of which are fully customizable.
How It Works
The user must enter login details (usernames, passwords, security question answers, PINs, etc.) for any financial account he or she wants to include. To get the most out of Mint, it’s best to enter details for every financial account, as well as real estate and other assets. Then Mint downloads transaction details and attempts to categorize each transaction in order to develop a monthly budget and trends analysis.
Displays all balances, including checking, savings and credit card accounts, mortgage and other loan balances, investment account current market values and the values of any other assets such as home and car. Home values are provided by Zillow and auto values are provided by Kelley Blue Book.
Simple Graphs And Charts
On the homepage compare assets to liabilities and very clearly show the user’s net worth and six months’ net income. Total cash is green and total credit card debt is red, virtually jumping off the screen as a stark reminder of just how much of an obstacle credit card debt can be to the user’s financial health.
On the home page let the user know of upcoming payment due date, issues requiring attention such as high utilization on a credit card or uncategorized transactions, and suggestions for saving money. The money-saving tips are generally loans and credit cards with interest rates that are lower than the user’s current accounts, or with advantageous introductory rates. Money-savers are listed again in the Ways to Save section farther down.
The Budget Section
Defaults to amounts in each category that are based on the user’s spending history, and each category displays a running total of how much the user has spent so far this month. All budget categories are fully customizable.
Ways To Save
Shows credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts and home loans that pay more or charge less than what the user currently pays. The top options are usually sponsored links from partner companies, but the recommendations are not completely biased. Mint analyzes the user’s real finances and makes solid suggestions that are based on the reality of the user’s current accounts.
Also in Ways to Save, Mint presents numerous links to paid services and sponsors. Users can obtain a credit score by signing up for a free 14-day trial of the Mint Credit Monitor ($16.99 per month after the trial ends). The brokerage, 401k rollover, IRA, auto insurance and life insurance tabs lead to various partner companies and their best offers.
The other areas of the website are dedicated to customizing the monthly budget, setting financial goals, and analyzing trends. These sections are Mint’s meat and where the user’s effort really pays off. The more attention paid to transaction categories, the more meaningful the trends analyses are. Progress is just a click away and very easy to see.
The Best Things About Mint
- The focus is on the big picture: investments, credit, net worth, future planning.
- Mint is exceedingly clear and simple, designed for users with any level of financial mastery.
- Mint reminds users of the importance of credit score monitoring.
- The goal-setting tool is easy to use and useful for setting long term goals and tracking progress. The Goals page guides the user through common goals and links to the relevant accounts to track progress.
- Users can see true real-time balances by manually adding pending credit card transactions and checks not yet cleared. If the correct check number is recorded, Mint will automatically reconcile the manually added transaction to the actual one that shows up on the account when the check clears. Mint attempts to do the same with pending credit card transactions and is usually successful when the date and amount match up.
- Customizable alerts, warnings and notifications help the user stay on top of finances on a daily basis, which is great for identity theft monitoring in addition to overall financial well being.
- Budgeting tools are extremely easy to use, including customizable limits in every category.
- Advertisers are relevant and reputable. Sponsor links are clearly labeled as such.
- Mint provides ample opportunities for the user to pursue a more advantageous credit card, bank, mortgage or other account.
- The mobile app, although simpler in features, displays most of the same data as the website.
- The Mint Widget is available in four different versions. Two display the user’s real-time total cash and total credit card debt, which could be very useful for impulsive spenders or people tracking their debt payoff. A tap takes the user to the mobile app and all of the account details.
Room For Improvement
The Mobile App Is Scaled Down
The app lacks some of the bells and whistles of the full website version. But after much user feedback, Mint has addressed most of the common complaints. For example, net income for the past few months is now available on the app, as are customizable budgets. Trends, however, are limited on the app. Six months of spending and net income are there, but assets, debt and net worth can be viewed only on the web version.
The Investments Section Is Quirky
First, Mint considers certain accounts to be assets, which some users may find questionable. A term life insurance policy is an asset in Mint and calculated as part of net worth. However, term life insurance goes away at the end of the term. If the user is still alive when the term ends, the value will be zero. So this policy may or may not be a true asset.
Furthermore, the investment comparison tool can be difficult to manipulate. Mint offers the option to compare stock performance, for example, to the performance of the S&P500, NASDAQ or Dow Jones. But error messages sometimes appear (“We couldn’t find market data for this holding. Perhaps it’s not a standard stock on an American stock exchange?”) and considerable clicking around is necessary to figure out how to get the desired information.
Mint Does Not Have A Bill Pay Feature
It would be nice to see a bill reminder on the mobile widget, tap it, and either authorize payment or click through to the creditor website. However, all users get from Mint is notification that the bill is due and the option to click through to view the account.
Mint Cannot Track All Accounts
Mint does not connect with utility companies, phone service providers, Netflix, Groupon or others. It connects with financial institutions only. Adding all accounts – even frequent flyer and other rewards accounts – would turn Mint into an indispensable financial dashboard.
Mint Can Help You Stay On Track
Mint is an extremely reliable and reputable financial management tool. Instead of categorizing purchases on separate bank accounts and credit cards online, Mint allows the user to capture all financial behavior in one place for a true, real-time snapshot of financial health and progress toward financial goals.
Mint Requires User Input
The most important thing to note is that Mint cannot succeed passively. Some user effort is required. Mint can’t correctly guess the spending category for each transaction, and correct categories might simply need to be changed sometimes (a purchase at a grocery store might actually be an office supply expense, for example).
Only the user truly knows how the money is being spent, and the budgets and reports generated by Mint have the greatest value when they accurately reflect the user’s true spending behaviors. All financial tools work best with constant attention. As long as the user doesn’t have unrealistic expectations that Mint will be an independent bookkeeper or financial advisor, Mint’s tools can really help a consumer identify ways to save more and effectively manage money. The best results will come to those who are willing to update details once or twice a week, or even daily.