Mint.com is a website which allows users to bring all of your financial accounts together into one single dashboard. Mint.com is able to create this single view of financial information by using login credentials provided by users and logging in to your financial institution’s website on your behalf. Mint captures the transaction history in your accounts, automatically categorizes the transactions, and lets you set budgets designed to achieve your savings goals.
Mint.com, which describes itself as “the best free way to manage money,” has been operating since late 2007. Two years later, the site was acquired by Intuit, makers of popular accounting software Quicken, Quickbooks and TurboTax. Intuit already had established relationships with thousands of financial institutions to facilitate their popular software. Mint’s success relies on the same feature: connecting to user’s bank accounts and credit cards. In that way, the acquisition made a lot of sense and has served Mint.com very well.
I had signed up for Mint.com a few years ago but didn’t use it because they did not support a connection with my bank at the time. This was also prior to the acquisition by Intuit, when security concerns were much more serious and the features weren’t as robust. I recently went back to Mint.com and signed up for an account to see what it has to offer and, I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised. Mint actively addresses security concerns on their website by placing numerous links on each page to provide an explanation of the bank-level security measures implemented to secure login credential information.
Signing Up for Mint.com
Once I created my account, Mint prompted me with an easy three step process to start building my profile. The first step was to enter the name of my bank or credit card company. I have an ING Direct savings account that has been laying around since I transferred most of the money a couple of years ago. I decided to add this account just to see how the Mint sign-up process works.
I entered “ing” into the search field and Mint suggested I was probably looking for “ING Direct” (good!) and also included the results of other ING institutions that others might be looking for: ING Funds, ING Annuities, ING Direct Canada, etc. (also good!)
After clicking on my bank, ING Direct, Mint prompted me to enter my login credentials for my ING Direct bank account. As you can see in the screenshot from my registration experience (shown below), Mint does a great job of addressing common questions that users are asking. Questions such as:
- Why do I need to enter my bank username and password? Mint uses this information to establish a secure connection with your bank, credit union or credit card company.
- Does Mint store my bank login information? Mint claims to store bank login credentials securely in a separate database using multi-layered hardware and software encryption. Mint stores the login information to save users the trouble of updating, syncing or uploading financial information manually. Click here to read more about the security methods of Mint.
- Should I trust Mint? This is up to you to decide! Mint obviously says “yes, you should.” If you already use online banking and trust your banking institution, you might as well use Mint too.
Add an Account on Mint.com
After entering my login credentials for ING Direct, I clicked the “Add it!” button and Mint.com went to work. I was shown the following screen as Mint established a secure connection with ING Direct and imported my transaction history. The transaction import process was very quick; the processing animation appeared on my screen for only a few seconds.
After importing the data from my ING Direct account, the balance of $114.09 was shown on the bottom of the screen. I was also presented with options to add many more accounts such as checking, investments, credit cards, and loans.
Mint.com Account Overview Page
Since I did not want to provide any more account information at this point, I clicked the close button. I was taken to the overview page which is essentially a big dashboard covering all accounts, net worth, trends, budgets and taxes. Since I only added one small account, there isn’t much to show on my dashboard. However, it’s apparent that with information about multiple accounts, the dashboard view could be very useful. I like that the advice section of the overview page immediately suggests that I need to setup an emergency fund. This is an important step in everyone’s finances and it’s great that Mint.com is helping to teach those lessons.
Mint.com Transactions Page
I noticed the tabs across the top and clicked on the first one, Transactions, to get a closer look. The transaction tab showed all activity on my ING Direct savings account, which only includes interest paid because the account is mostly inactive. Mint’s interface provides a quick way to update the details of any account transactions including the date, descriptions and category – i.e. “Interest Income.”
Mint.com Goals Page
The goals tab offers a variety of common goals to choose from. Once you select a goal, Mint.com will help you select an amount of money to put towards that goal each month based on your income. This is a fantastic way to manage progress towards a goal.
Mint.com Trends Page
Based on everything else I’ve read, Mint.com is known for its slick interface and charts. Since I don’t have much in the way of transactions in my account, Mint didn’t have any data to generate graphs and charts when I clicked on the “Trends” tab. However, I included the tab just to show that Mint is capable of showing trends in a variety of categories once you link multiple accounts: spending, income, net income, assets, debts and net worth. These categories can also be broken down in various ways. For example, spending can be shown over a certain time period, by category, by merchant or by custom tag which you can assign to expenses.
Mint.com Investments Page
Despite having only $114.09 in my account, Mint.com encouraged me to start investing with a discount brokerage firm today. On the “Investments” tab, I was presented with a number of sponsored investment links along with a message that I can start investing with as little as $500. Mint should put more thought into presenting these options to a user such as myself, since my overall account balance is so low. A message to reconsider investing before I have created an emergency fund would be more appropriate.
Mint.com Ways to Save Page
Next, I clicked on the “Ways to Save” tab. As you can see by the navigation, it provides a variety of offers for various financial products: checking accounts, savings accounts, brokerage accounts, certificates of deposit, credit cards, loans and insurance. I clicked on the credit card link and was presented with some of the best cash back credit cards for individuals with great credit scores: Chase Freedom Visa, Escape by Discover and American Express Blue Cash card. Similar to my reaction to the “Investment” tab, I wondered why these options are being made readily available to a person with only $114.09 in a savings account? For all Mint knows, I am an 18 year-old who is just starting to generate my own income. If that were the case, I would not be interested in a CD or refinancing my house. Despite this design issue, the services suggested by Mint appear to be high quality and very cost conscious. They are certainly valid financial products to categorize as “ways to save.”
Conclusion on Mint.com
Mint.com certainly proves its worthiness among the top financial management websites. One glaring issue is the unnecessary offers for financial products, which give the appearance that Mint.com is placing revenue over the interests of the consumer. However, these financial products are only offered on specific screens and don’t interfere with the overall usability of the site. It’s also important to note that the financial product offerings are genuinely good deals from reputable companies. Mint.com is not suggesting that users sign up for risky products or deal with unreputable companies.
As long as you are comfortable with online banking and follow basic online security guidance, I would recommend using Mint.com to manage your finances. Always remember to use safe online banking security practices such as strong passwords, different passwords for all websites, and never write your passwords down anywhere. In addition to the Mint security practices (posted above) the site uses a secure SSL connection during sessions (a good security measure) and automatically logs the user out after 10 minutes of inactivity (another good security measure).
Thanks for reading my review of Mint! Please share your Mint.com experience or questions in the comment section.
Disclaimer: As much as I would prefer to use Mint to manage my own personal finances, I will continue using my Excel spreadsheet for the immediate future. I can’t switch to Mint because I use various credit cards for both personal and business expenses. The reimbursements for these expenses also vary – sometimes they’re not 100% reimbursable. The random business expenses would throw off the accuracy of spending data and the random reimbursements would do the same for income.
Now iPad users can download a version of Mint optimized for the iPad and its larger display. The new app is built with iOS 5 users in mind, and allows you to organize your accounts, track your spending, and review your finances and bills anywhere you have a data connection.
The Mint iPad app brings all of the features you may be used to in the iPhone and Android versions. You can add and track cash spending while you’re out and about, get account alerts and bill reminders in the notifications pane, and see in-depth charts and analysis of your finances, the same way you can on website. The app can also be secured with a passcode, so even if someone has your Mint.com password, they’d still need the code to open the app. It’s free, and available now in the iTunes App Store.