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Mint.com and Money Management: Is This Free Service Worth the Effort? | A Newbie’s Review

Mint.com, a personal financial management service, generated a significant amount of buzz this year even though it’s been around since 2007. It sounds wonderful in theory, but is Mint worth the effort? Does it actually help with personal finance?

I set out to test Mint.com and answer my own questions. Not only did I want to find out if this service was worth the fuss, but I also wanted to see if it was as convenient as everyone claimed.

Ready, set, go!

Mint.com Homepage

First Impressions of Mint:

It’s visually-pleasing. The website is clean, colorful (without making me feel like I’m at a carnival), and organized for dummies like me. I clicked the “How It Works” tab first, naturally, since it was oh-so convenient to find from the second I landed on their homepage. So far, so good! Mint.com has a professional design, it comes highly recommended from a variety of trusted outlets, and the “https://” in the URL boosted my confidence in its security.

It’s packed with tutorials and reassurance. Once I took a few minutes to read about the benefits of Mint.com, I was as good as sold. What do you mean I can see all of my accounts in one place instead of going insane trying to recall three thousand different login and password combinations? And I can receive personalized recommendations that could cut down on unnecessary fees and save me money? Where do I sign?

Check out Mint’s short overview video and see for yourself:

See what I mean? Mint is one of those sites that seems too good to be true. Our inner skeptics wonder how such a service can get away with not charging people every month. Disregard those red flags, though, because it doesn’t cost you anything to sign up.

Mint.com Charts

What I Like Most About Mint:

It’s easy. A first-timer tutorial popped up the second I created my account and guided me through the setup process. Even though the video above claims it takes 5 minutes to set up, it’ll take longer than that if you have more than just a couple of basic accounts. So, you’ll have to enter each of your checking and savings accounts, each of your credit cards, each of your investments, and each of your loans (including mortgage, home equity, personal, etc) separately. This is pretty much a no-brainer if you have access to either your print or online statements already, because you’ll have the required information directly in front of you.

Please note: You’ll have to provide Mint with your online account logins and passwords for each company you have an account with in order for it to work properly. For example, if I had multiple checking accounts with Chase under the same online banking login, then it would pick up all of them when I provided that login information. If I had more than one student loan with the same lender (and under the same account name), then it would pick up all of them when I provided that login information. On the other hand, if I had several logins for a single provider, then I would’ve had to enter them separately in order for Mint to pick up all of the accounts. If I didn’t have an account set up for one of the accounts, then I’d have to set it up on their site first before entering it into Mint. This can be frustrating, but it’s by far the worst part of the process. It’s a cinch after you grin and bear that, I promise.

It’s detailed. I was amazed at what Mint was able to pull from the information I provided! Within minutes, I was looking at a thorough analysis of my assets and debts. It knew upcoming bill due dates, interest rates, pending transactions, and even my approximate net worth.

It’s secure. Even if someone got a hold of my Mint account, they wouldn’t be able to do much with it. Only the last few characters of account numbers are stored after you enter them, and there’s no way to transfer money between accounts using this service — not even for me. If there’s no way for me to move money when I’m signed in legitimately, then there’s no way for a con artist to do it, either.

Mint.com Goals

What I Don’t Like About Mint:

It’s intimidating. It can be overwhelming to see your financial life in a nutshell. For that reason, Mint is scary for people with less-than-desirable circumstances. Be warned; if you cringe every time a bill arrives in the mail or if you put off reading your bank statements because you know you’re in trouble, then Mint will probably freak you out at first. But don’t let that deter you, because you have to face those crises if you want to get back on track!

It’s brutally honest. Okay, you’re right; this is definitely a pro instead of a con. But I have to warn you that Mint has no qualms about getting all up in your business and then telling you what you’re doing wrong, and that can be hard to deal with at first. It’s smart enough to analyze your individual debit and credit card purchases and automatically put them into a categorized pie chart each month, so it’ll sometimes warn you that you spend too much on X, Y, or Z. It’ll inform you if you fell short on your budgeting goals. It’ll suggest ways you can cut down on expenses whether you ask for that or not. And even if you’re doing great in every aspect, it’s still involved in your business. A sparkling credit score and zero credit card debt doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on Easy Street, because there may be something you could improve. Mint is kind of like a parent who’s never fully satisfied with accomplishments and always pushes their kids toward excellence.

The Verdict: Mint.com is more than worth the effort it takes to set up an account! We could all use a helping hand to get our spending back on track, but many of us can’t afford to pay for a one-on-one service that eases our burdens. Mint is FREE, so there’s absolutely no reason not to sign up if you’re interested. My review? It’s worth the hype.

If you could use a push with your finances, then I’d highly recommend signing up for an account on Mint. Even the New York Times did a write-up on the site’s trust factor, so don’t be afraid.

What do you think of Mint.com? Would you give it a whirl? Is there anything you’d add to my review?

Image credit to Mint.com. All images are low-res screenshots.


Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. Jill writes for the QLP blog and assists with the company’s social media accounts. You can connect with Jill on Google+.

Comments

  1. Jenna Markowski

    I had never heard of this site before you mentioned it, but it sounds extremely helpful. This sounds like an awesome tool to help me keep track of all the things that suck about being an adult. It makes me a little nervous to enter all of my private information into one place like that, because like you, I’m thinking, “What’s the catch?” I also think I might get frustrated/overwhelmed with a website telling me to stop spending all my money on T-shirts and to save it instead — I already get enough of that from my parents! However, I could use an extra push in that direction, so maybe this is worth looking into.

    I do have a question: since this is all free, how does the site make money? Do they sell ad space? In which case, does that mean they are mining all of your very private financial data to market to advertisers?

    • Jill Tooley

      It’s awesome! Like I said, it’s a bit jarring to have an app tell you you could do better with your finances, but that’s kind of what I need. Tough love!

      And to answer your question — Mint makes money when they refer users to other services. They provide unbiased recommendations, but they receive a referral fee if a Mint user applies for one of those services. For example, if I logged in to my account and asked Mint to suggest better credit cards for me, it would provide dozens of possibilities based on my credit score and my financials. If I signed up for one of them through the links, then Mint would earn commission. But there’s really no pressure to do that…it’s all voluntary.

      As far as financial data goes, Mint claims they do NOT sell financial data or information. They’re very adamant about protecting customer information. The CEO has been very vocal about this in the past, too.

      Thanks for commenting, Jenna! :)

  2. Jana Quinn

    I’ve waffled back and forth on this. When I first heard about it, I thought users input their balances on credit cards, loans, bank accounts, etc. so they could look at it all at once. I shied away when it came to giving them all of my login and password information. That’s some highly desirable information that scammers are going to want to pursue hardcore.

    That said, life is full of calculated risks. How likely is it that your financial information is going to be compromised? How much easier is going to make your financial planning? Does Mint’s tough love help you meet your financial goals or make you feel bad and want to shop so you feel good? All things worth taking into consideration.

    Your endorsement has made me feel a bit better about giving it a try, but I’m going to be all paranoid for a bit longer. :) Great review!

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I signed up for Mint a long time ago either when I was in college or right after I graduated. It felt like there were too many things to predict (Set a restaurant budget? But what if I feel a little more social than usual this month??), and a lot of upkeep, and I quickly abandoned it.

    Now that my income and expenses have changed drastically, it sends me angry emails all the time. Maybe I should get back into it. It would be nice to start chipping away at student loan debt a little faster. Excellent review, Jill!

  4. Amy Swanson

    My favorite line from your post: “Mint is kind of like a parent who’s never fully satisfied with accomplishments and always pushes their kids toward excellence.” Hahaha, love this! I need someone (in regards to my finances) to be this person.

    I’ve heard about Mint.com and a lot of financial consultants recommend it, but I haven’t had a chance to fiddle around with it. After reading your post though, I want to give it a try. While still living at home has its perks, it would be nice to be able to move out sometime before I’m 35. As of now, my budgeting plan is to just not spend money. It’s great when I’m too busy to go to the mall, but when I revert to my old shopping habits, I revert BIG time :(

    Thanks so much for this great blog, Jill! I think it’ll help a lot of people :)

  5. Rachel

    I signed up for Mint once, then changed my mind when it asked for my bank passwords, haha. So, I did use Mint for about 5 seconds! :) One of my friends swears by it, though. That New York Times article you linked to is very interesting; I do think that, as that article points out, it comes down to a personal choice as to whether the potential risk of providing Mint your bank passwords (however low that risk may be, given their security setup) outweighs the benefits.

    And the benefits appear to be numerous, as you’ve shown here. I continue to be intrigued by this website, and you’re doing a pretty good job here of convincing me it’s worth looking into again. We’ll see. Thanks for the info, Jill, and I hope it helps you manage your finances! :)

  6. Eric

    What with all the security breaches and leaks these days, I’d never give out account information to some third party, no matter how secure or not it is. I’m not keeping my savings tucked under my mattress, but there is a certain degree of distrust with extremely sensitive information like that.

  7. Nancy

    I love mint – but you cannot PRINT ANYTHING from it!! I was forced to grab screen prints and chop them into small pieces in order to read them when printed. I tried exporting transactions using .csv and it was only one column in excel with all the information. That said, I love mint, I trust mint, I rely on mint, and in 5 years I have only had to actually print something TWICE.

  8. Marlow

    I have used Mint for a couple of months and have found it to be very useful. I love the app for my phone and the convenience of being able to have my budget at my fingertips everywhere I go. The big show stopper is the inability to print any reports. I like to keep hard copy records and this seems to be something that is obviously needed. I anticipated being able to construct and print useful graphs and summaries, but I can’t even print out the web page. Another problem is the inability to go back to prior months and make corrections. Once the month is over there is no going back. I am struggling to find workarounds for these problems.

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  10. Steve D

    The question will always be, if it’s free, why should they held accountable to the users? What incentive is there to safeguard the users privacy and other rights? Will they favor of their patrons over the users?

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  12. Kristin

    I love almost everything about Mint. My only problem with it is that you can not print anything. I started Mint to help me organize myself for my taxes and would pay $100 a year if I could save a page as a pdf or print. Please tell mint we need a print option.

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