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Summary:

Mint.com turned out to be a near perfect solution for my financial needs. To understand why, I’m going to give a little background. I used to obsessively enter every single receipt into my financial software of choice and track all my expenses. I knew exactly how […]

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Mint.com turned out to be a near perfect solution for my financial needs. To understand why, I’m going to give a little background.

I used to obsessively enter every single receipt into my financial software of choice and track all my expenses. I knew exactly how much money I had in my account at any given moment.

A few years ago, I decided I was tired of this slavish devotion to my computerized checkbook, the annual upgrade costs were getting tiresome, and my bank’s online services were improving to the point where I felt comfortable using those every day (being able to pull images of cleared checks still makes me stop and think how cool the internet is). I just wasn’t feeling it anymore, and I let go.

A few $34 fees for overdrafts this year, and I realized that I needed to keep a little closer tabs on things. Enter Mint.com.

Mint.com’s Award Winning Online Service

Mint was born out of Aaron Patzer’s personal frustration with existing money management software that required too much effort to categorize and organize transactions to get a good view of his own spending. The engineer in Aaron took over and he decided to build some software that would make the whole process easier.

Mint.com moved into public beta in September 2007 after nearly two years of development and won a prize at TechCrunch 40 last year as the best new web application. After getting a private beta invite in 2007 (Thanks, Mike!) I fell in love with the service almost immediately. The Mint.com service is completely free and is supported by the ability to recommend alternate financial services (low-interest credit cards, etc.) that might offer some benefit to the user. The goal is to support Mint by helping users save money.

Mint.com tries to eliminate all the configuration and manual tedium of managing your money. It does this by sucking in transactions from your accounts and credit cards (Mint has multiple security audits and certifications to help you trust them with your login information).

Once the transactions are loaded the real beauty of Mint is realized. Mint uses their software to automatically figure out what category the expense should be assigned and builds your reports automatically. You can get current balances for all your accounts, transaction reports, and nice pie chart graphs that highlight your spending. Mint isn’t a direct replacement for Quicken because it doesn’t have features to look forward to upcoming expenses and export tax information for income tax preparation. It does recognize patterns in past spending though and help remind you of upcoming regular bills and manage budgets based on spending in different categories.

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Their patent-pending categorization technology and the ability to match users with financial services that will help them save money has led to a few awards from major publications and several glowing reviews.

Because the Mint.com web site is flash-based, all this goodness hasn’t been available on the iPhone. At least until now.

Mint.com, on the iPhone

The Mint iPhone app (FREE) was released a few weeks ago in the app store and it gives you access to many of the features of the web site. You can get an overview of your accounts, check your balances, and see the transaction history for each account.

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You can see how you’re doing against the budgets you’ve set for different categories.

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You can also see your cash flow reports that show where you are spending money for the current month.

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Unfortunately, the reporting on the iPhone is still very limited compared to what is available on the web site (which, again, uses Flash to present all the pie-chart eye candy).

One big omission is the lack of reports for investment accounts, which would be really useful to check during the day from your iPhone. The other major shortcoming of the iPhone app is that you cannot assign categories or edit merchant names in transactions as you can through the web site.

Limitations Aside…

Still, despite these limitations, the iPhone app is a very useful companion to the Mint.com website. I prefer the native iPhone app to a web app because the power of Mint really comes from being able to navigate quickly — check spending by category, check budgets, check cash flow, get a quick glance at transactions. I am able to get a quick feel for what’s happening with my accounts. I also really appreciate the various alerts that Mint generates to let me know when unusual transactions appear in my accounts.

If you’re an obsessive Quicken user, then Mint.com might not be the right fit for you. But for everyone else, I highly recommend that you check out this free service and use it to get a better handle on your financial life. Once you have your accounts connected to Mint.com, head to the app store and download the free iPhone companion app so you can keep tabs wherever you are.

  1. Interesting read. I’ll check this out because my story is similar to yours. I used to enter every expense in quicken for many years. Although tedious, I highly recommend this exercise to everyone. It gives you a real understanding of where your money is going and what you value the most.

    At some point, Quicken became an evil blood leach and I created my own system in FileMaker Pro. Later on, I decided that I did not need to track every penny but I still track of certain categories and all money in and out. For example, I track cash out for all personal cash purchases by simply recording all my ATM withdrawals. I no longer keep the details of where it went though. That’s good enough for me at this stage in life because my spending habits have become pretty predictable.

    I agree that online banking and bill paying has changed everything. It’s much easier to get up to the minute information now. Add in a measure of overdraft protection and you’re good to go.

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  2. PS. I am old school. I’d think long and hard before I turned over so much personal and financial information to a third party.

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  3. I have been looking for personal finance management software for a very long time. My only concern is, how safe is it to upload all your personal financial information onto a website? Where does this information stay? who else can look at it?

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  4. Check out Mint’s Privacy / Security Page

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  5. Does anybody know of a service similar to this that works with Uk banks specifically Barclays?

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  6. been using mint for a few weeks now, and i like it a lot.

    unfortunately, my bank (bank of america) tends to keep a lot of transactions as ‘pending’ for 4-5 days, which means it takes a while for mint to update. i wish there was a way to include these ‘pending’ transactions in mint’s, as they don’t show up at all on the iphone app.

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  7. Looks interesting, is there a list of supported banks?

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  8. @PB – From what you’ve said, I think you’ll love Mint. As for security, everything is “read-only” so there’s little danger from using Mint. There is a possibility of someone hacking the service to grab usernames and passwords, but I trust their security more than my own. Also, Mint helps you a bit by monitoring for unusual activity and sending you email or SMS alerts. In that sense, it actually improves your financial safety.

    @Romal – check my reply to PB and read the link that Benson provides.

    @Benson – thank you!

    @DeanDMX – sorry, but I’ll ask one of our UK writers to check and comment here if he finds anything.

    @Daisy – I have the same issue, but only for a day, maybe two. It’s part of letting go of the need to “manage” everything and just use the service for the trend reporting, budgets and alerts to unusual activity.

    @ninom – the only info I could find was a reference to 7500+ financial institutions. Bottom line is this – if the online login system requires captchas, dynamic questions, etc. then it will foil Mint’s attempts to login. My bank rotates a series of 6 personal questions to verify, but Mint knows enough to ask for the answers to all of these when I set up the account. Also, if you’re bank isn’t listed, you can request they add it through their service.

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  9. @Weldon Dodd: I was enticed but I read quite a few comments/reviews that said mint was days (sometimes week) late in updating bank balances. If that is the case, I think it would degrade the functionality of the service substantially. Any thoughts?

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  10. I haven’t experienced long delays myself. The bank I use posts debit card transactions immediately to the web site, where they are immediately picked up by Mint as “pending” transactions. Usually they clear the next day and are assigned categories, etc. Mint doesn’t assign categories and include them in totals until they clear out of “pending.” It works beautifully for me.

    That said, Mint is not the right solution to figure out what the balance *will* be five days from now. It’s just a look at past transactions to give you a read on where your money is going and to alert you to changes in your patterns. For example, Mint is all up in my grill about how our “shopping” and “gift” spending is unusual for December. :)

    Groceries too. It’s nice that it figures out where the anomalies are and brings them to your attention (even if you probably anticipated the change, seeing the magnitude is important).

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