Miscellaneous

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.

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