Mint.com has been around for a few years, but I often find friends who are not aware of it, and as a fan, I like to spread the word. Mint is a web-based service which allows you to collect and track all of your personal financial data in one place. For me it has been a life-saver and allowed me to really get a picture of where my money is spent, and how to plan savings.
When you first log into Mint, you enter your various online accounts, along with passwords. Mint has every bank account, credit card, loan, mortgage and investment that I use, and from the listings, I imagine they will cover just about everyone. Mint securely contacts each of your accounts and aggregates the data, creating charts and reports of your combined finances. It also has features which allow you to set budgets and goals. Budgets are useful to track your spending during a given month on certain categories of spending, while goals allow you to set longer-term targets for savings, such as retirement.
Mint provides alerts by e-mail or notifications on the portable app which let you know any time you are charged a fee, receive a large deposit, or have a high withdrawal. It also sends a weekly summary report of your finances. The charts and tracking for investments are very simple to use, but powerful in that the bring all of your investments with different accounts together in one place.
Mint does not allow for any actions to be taken on your finances – it is “Read Only”, collecting your data in one place. It does use 128-bit encryption and should be at least as secure as the respective web sites of your banks and investment companies. The alert feature will quickly alert you to large transactions or fees, which I find to be an excellent security feature, to back up the financial institution’s internal security.
In 2009, Mint was acquired by Intuit (the makers of Quicken, Quickbooks and TurboTax), which had struggled for years to establish a web presence. The Mint community was afraid this would signal the end of the useful web site they had grown to love, but so far it seems that Intuit has allowed Mint to continue in its development with added resources, and the integration with TurboTax for tax preparation seems like a good move, but not one that forces any changes on Mint users who are not interested. It seems that Intuit believed so strongly in Mint that they put Mint’s founder, Aaron Patzer, in charge of their personal finance services!
Mint.com is free for users – they make money by offering financial services. For example, you may get a message that your savings account rate is below that being offered by Acme Bank, or that you could lower your credit card payments by transferring your balance to Card X. You can easily dismiss these, and once in a while you may even want to take a look and shop around a little.
I highly recommend Mint.com for anyone who would like to get a good handle on their personal finances. If you use online bill payment, you will feel right at home with the format and services. If you can manage to meet your savings goals, you’ll find it very satisfying to get a little congratulatory alert to that effect. I find the most powerful function for me is being able to focus on spending areas where I can cut back and setting budgets to make sure I do. Here’s a quick intro video if you want more information: