Ben Todd | Apr 16, 2017 | 3
Mint Review: The Best Online Money Manager for Most People
Using Mint will allow you to view and manage your bank and money accounts. It gives you a one-stop place to manage your accounts without having to sign into one and then another. It also has investing tools, and is especially good for people that are trying to stick to a budget and therefore need to regularly check their accounts.
A Free App To Manage Your Personal Finances
There is no software to install if you do not wish, you are easily able to access your accounts with a web browser if you desire. It is web-based and signing up is relatively easy.
You may manage bank accounts, loans, brokerage accounts and credit cards with Mint. Once you have signed up and given your account access to your financial accounts, it will download your information and put it in one place for you to see. You may also create graphs and charts, which give you a quick overview of your financial status, and they will help you manage your money if you are trying to stick to a budget. They are also handy if you have a plan in place to improve your credit rating and you want to see how well you are doing.
Are There Security Issues?
Yes, if you are giving an app your online banking information and access to your personal information, then there is always a security risk. The risk comes from both the app and the way the service is administered, and from your own phone being hacked and/or people gaining access to your phone.
One of the most reassuring facts is that over 15 million people have accounts with Mint and there have not yet been any public incidents about data breaches. In October 2016, there were denial of services problems that were caused by large Chinese groups hacking and causing problems, but the same problems occurred for a large number of websites and companies, which implies it was not a targeted attack for Mint exclusively.
A Web Based System And An App
If you wish to access your account through a web browser, then you may, or you may download and install their iOS or Android app. The Mint service allows you to create budget and synchronize your accounts online. You cannot pay bills, but there may be ways you are able to invest with Mint featured investments and then view your investments as they grow or shrink.
The app is particularly easy to use as you can always track your spending at a glance right after making a purchase (and who doesn’t always have their phone on them these days?).
Tracking Your Expenses And Budgeting
One of the reasons why many people opt for Mint is because it is popular, and popularity often allows people to more easily trust the system and app(s). Another reason so many people use Mint is because it allows you to track your expenses in a way that allows you to keep to your budget.
Mint is good for budgeting because you can set your budgets and track your progress. Usually, if you create your own budget, you are also responsible for tracking how well you are doing; which usually means signing into many accounts and taking notes. With the Mint system, all the signing in and tracking is done for you. In just a few minutes, you are able to see if you have stuck to your budget this week.
The real benefit here is that Mint makes tracking your spending a breeze with easy to understand graphs and tables. At a glance, you know exactly what’s going on with how much you’ve spent. The spending is broken down into categories as well such as food, dining, shopping, and more. You can break down your spending by week, bi-weekly, monthly, and even compare it to the same period last year.
Budgeting Is Very Easy
The tracking function helps people make and keep to their budget with Mint, and the Mint budgeting features make it even easier to stick within a budget. If you use the app or online account, your transactions are automatically categorized for you, which makes creating a budget significantly easier.
You cannot alter the top-level categories, which is a shame, but on the plus side, if you cannot change the top-level categories, then you cannot accidentally ignore an account or expense. You are able to alter and customize the lower-level subcategories. You are also able to change your transactions after the Mint system has downloaded them.
For example, if one transaction was moved to a personal/home category when it is actually a job related expense, then you can move it to another category and the Mint system will remember for next time so that you do not have to keep changing where your transactions are categorized.
It Has Useful Features
While Mint is all about tracking your spending, there are some extra features that particularly stand out for the average user.
Free Credit Score
While it’s not very difficult to get a free credit score these days (hello Credit Karma), Mint gives all users free credit score. And since it’s free and easily visible when you log in, this is a great feature. Even better, Mint makes your credit report far easier to understand than your typical credit report. I’d rather use Mint’s version than the other credit reports I’ve seen.
You also get alerts (you can set up for exactly what). For example, spending too much over your set budget, being hit with too many ATM fees, and more.
Automatically Syncs ALL Financial Data
Once you set up Mint and link it to your banking/credit cards, it will sync all your banking, credit card, investment performances, home value, credit scores, and more. It can even keep track of your bills, if you’ve added them to your bank account.
Manage Your Goals
Part of setting a budget means setting goals. Most people do not set a budget because things are going well. If you have a goal in mind, such as to pay off a debt or purchase something, then you may add that goal into your budget. You may also monitor your credit score without having to pay.
On your account there is a tab/button called “Show Details.” You may click the tab/button to see your payment history, the age of your credit accounts, and your credit score.
You may use their website to access and manage your goals, or you may use their apps. There is a Google Android app and an Apple iOS app. The iOS also has a touch ID sensor, which allows you to access your account by simply touching the fingerprint reader.
What Don’t People Like About Mint?
There is a temptation to write a pros and cons for Mint, but the downsides to Mint are so subjective that it seems unfair to call them cons. For example, one problem people have with Mint is that there is not an investing option, just an investing section, but that is only a downside if you start using Mint because you want to invest. It is like saying a car has a downside if it doesn’t have a sunroof, despite the fact you were never looking for a car with a sunroof.
The premium features require payment, and some people do not like that they only get 2/3rds of a service without paying for it. They are not charging a massive amount, so if you are aching for the premium features, then buy them.
You cannot gain access to your history before you started using Mint.com, but that is for security reasons more than anything. For example, if some underhanded person wished to expose your assets, he or she couldn’t see your history by signing up for Mint with your details.
Two of the most genuine downsides to Mint.com include their customer support and the bugs in the app and website. Their customer service department is pretty poor and not very responsive. The app and website have their fair share of bugs, many of which seem to be due to poorly optimized servers, which would certainly explain their synchronizing issues.
What Do People Like About Mint.com?
The mobile app is probably one of the biggest selling points because you can check your current financial situation very quickly without having to sign in to different accounts and do the math yourself. It gives you a quick overview of your financial situation from your phone, and that sort of service is tough to find. There are other apps that offer similar things, but none of them have a brand name as strong as Mint.com, nor do they have a 20-million strong following, which (kind of) eases any security fears.
The alerts are another big selling point for Mint. If you have a good bank on your side, they may send you a text when you have overdrawn or there is unusual account activity, but Mint can inform you of much more. For example, you can have it remind you when a bill is due, or if you have gone over your ATM fees budget, or if there is irregular activity on your account, or if you have overdrawn on one of your accounts.
The fact you may monitor your credit score for free is not new, since the company Noddle was the first to start offering free credit score tracking without the need for purchase and/or subscription. However, the fact that Mint.com has also started allowing free credit score tracking is fantastic in keeping with its financial monitoring and managing principle, especially since some people start using the app specifically to help them improve their credit rating.
The trends mechanic allows you to see what you spend, how often you spend it, and what you spend it on. It is automated, so it is not as sophisticated as systems where you enter your own numbers, but it does offer a (sometimes) surprising insight into just how much you spend. Quite often, the amount people spend on food is rather shocking to them.
And let’s not forget. Mint is FREE, though at the cost of being spammed non stop with ads.
Conclusion: Is Mint Worth It or Not?
The biggest reason why some people choose not to use Mint is because you have to link your accounts to one single account, which means a lot of information and control needs to be transferred to one account, which makes it a target for hackers.
On the other hand, the company is aware of this, they are a brand name, and they take the same precautions a bank takes, so it is really up to you.
If you are a fan of automation, and you yearn for the ability to see a snapshot of your finances, then Mint.com is just for you. There are other alternatives out there, but few of them are free, and none of them are as popular.
The bottom line is that Mint, when used correctly, can simplify the process of tracking ALL your spending. For those trying to track every cent — as long as you use the software (and your bank to pay for each transaction, via debit or credit card) — you can easily see what you’ve spent each month.
This makes it VERY easy to budget. For thoses who are not used to tracking expenses, Mint is a great tool to have which will help you better manage your finances.
The only issue is the actual security risks — Mint has access to all your data and your banking information. If Mint is hacked or there is a security flaw, you are at risk (someone could potentially steal your money). And because Mint is a third party linked to your bank account, your bank won’t cover any such theft.
Still, even with this risk, Mint.com is worth it, for most people. For those with serious assets to protect, the risk is probably not worth it (and you can likely afford a proper accountant to manage things). But for the average person, Mint is worth using.
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Even better, Mint is FREE — so it’s hard to argue with that. So for most people, yes, Mint is a highly recommended and very useful program.