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Why Buying Mint Makes Sense For Intuit

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mintlogoIntuit said today it’s spending $170 million to acquire, a site that helps people manage their personal finances through budgeting and spending trackers, among other features. Mint has around a million users and has amassed a treasure trove of data on their historical spending and financial habits — data which is worth a fortune in the right hands, and which Mint has thus far stored but ignored.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based startup raised $32 million in three rounds, including a $14 million Series C last month. Mint, which also took home the $50,000 grand prize at the first TechCrunch40 event in 2007, has been gaining users at a prodigious clip, clocking 1.2 million monthly uniques as of August, more than double that of the 482,000 in August 2008, according to Mint allows users to set up links to their personal banking, credit card, investment and mortgage accounts to assist with budgeting and spending, and to gain a picture of their overall financial health — all through a pleasant-looking, easy-to-use site (and iPhone app, natch).

As a result, Mint has a massive cache of data on its users’ spending habits that it would have no trouble selling to third parties. Indeed, a report from earlier this year suggested the company was looking into the possibility, much to the dismay of some commentators who were concerned about privacy. Of course, companies like MasterCard have been aggregating and releasing such data for years.

Mint generates revenue mainly by recommending beneficial financial services to its users, like savings accounts or credit cards with better interest rates, then getting paid by financial service providers for successful sign-ups. Even with the economic implosion, banks are still aggressively looking to acquire new customers — especially those fiscally responsible enough to use an online personal finance site. Since Mint is private, we don’t have details as to its finances or profitability, but given the impressive rate of growth and the sector it’s in, it appears to be in an excellent position to bring in a lot of cash — especially with the deep and trustworthy pockets of Intuit behind them.

Intuit was one of the early movers in online software — I can remember doing my taxes online with TurboTax 10 years ago. On the business side, Intuit has been pushing a developer platform and an online database product called QuickBase. Last year, the company launched an online version of its venerable Quicken consumer-level personal finance software as a direct competitor to Quicken Online doesn’t have the feature set to match its offline sibling, but is more focused on basic financial behavior like budgeting and tracking spending — places where is strongest, and has many more users. It’s unclear if Intuit will keep Quicken Online as is, or — more likely, I think — use Mint as its free, entry-level consumer offering and turn Quicken Online into feature-rich port of the more in-depth Quicken desktop application, and price it accordingly.

26 Responses to “Why Buying Mint Makes Sense For Intuit”

  1. Looks like the “free” online model of businesses who generate their revenues by other means such as by advertising and through partners is still highly valued or Intuit would not have made this purchase.

  2. I think it’s good news for both Mint and Intuit products’ users. Since Intuit products are widely used (Quicken, QuickBooks, QuickTax, etc.), they will probably make Mint fully interact with all these tools.

    However, I tend to agree with Patrick. Getting rid of Quicken would be unfortunate for Quicken users. This is likely to happen. Let’s hope it won’t, in the foreseeable future. Quicken is a great product too.

  3. My wife and I are big fans of … it’s very simple to use and provides great home budgeting tools. And it’s FREE.

    I just feel that the product is far superior on its own over Intuit’s Quicken software … and I’m scared that Intuit will attempt to integrate with Quicken and not quite pull it off — which would eventually lead to the demise of any product resembling the version.

  4. Unrelated to the acquisition – the Paytrust model is anachronistic when most bill presenters already offer direct deposit ( ACH Debit/Credit or Credit Card ) services or otherwise make it easier to make online payments by sending you email reminders. The aggregation ability is of marginal value so I figure Intuit just cut their losses.

    • the paytrust feature is unique, as Derek says, and therefore huge value. But its been a shame that its not integrated with Intuit’s other offerings nor updated–although apparently smartbalance was returned–but it doesn’t work with all banks. it works with WellsFargo, but not HSBC or Chase, which honestly is why I still use WellsFargo–simply to work with my Paytrust site. If smartbalance went away, I’d close my Wells account and consolidate on Chase. Odd, eh?

      To Jackie–there are tons of little bills which go straight to paytrust–student loans, local utilities, etc, and its far easier to have all bills presented online and its a service i pay for. try it and you’d love it

      • Joshua and Derek are right. I’ve used Paytrust for 8 years and it is one of the few bills in my life that I gladly pay. Paytrust has helped me move from constantly paying bills late and never knowing how much I owe to anybody to having most of my debts paid off and knowing exactly where my money is going.

        A few features that I love are the ability to create payment rules (if cable bill is < $50 then autopay, etc), having all of my bills (paper or electronic) consolidated in one place and having my bill history available online. Oh, and receiving all of my bills for me is wonderful! I never lose a bill anymore. When I'm on a month long trip, my wife doesn't have to worry about the bills because they're all online and I can manage them from anywhere

        All that being said, Intuit has let Paytrust go stale and haven't made a significant addition for years. I just hope they don't do the same to Mint.

      • I have also been a long term customer of PayTrust, which gobbled up ages ago. Although there has been no significant update since Intuit aquired the business, it has continued to be a vital part of my life. I am actually scared that this service will fold, because I am so dependent on it.

        Yes, there are online bill pay services out there. And, there are even mail management services. And, of course, and prove that there are aggregator services to keep track of your current bank balances (amongst many other things). What makes the PayTrust service so unique is that it does everything. It’s a full bill management service. You NEVER lose track of bills with this service. And, until recently, they supported the SmartBalance feature that would synch with your bank account. Some banks still work, but once the update software breaks, PayTrust has promised that we are on our own. Hopefully this feature can use the engine used by Mint or Quicken Online, because both services have no issues connecting to most banks.

        The morale of the story is what started this thread. PayTrust has been a great service, but has gone stale since it was acquired by Intuit. Hopefully that will not happen with Mint. Ideally, the Mint team can shake some things up within Intuit and take the best features from their wide range of online personal finance products and offer them as an ultimate service. I’m hopeful, but not holding my breath.

  5. Derek Fields

    I am not a user of, though I have recommended it to my college-age children. However, I have been a long time customer of, which Intuit bought about 5 years ago. When was founded, it was an innovative bill-presentment and payment service. While there are many online payment services, is the only service that I am aware of where you can have your billers send their bill to the service. Paytrust then scans the paper bill and makes the image available online, associates the bill with a payee that you have set up and, based on rules, pays the bill automatically. Before Paytrust, I was a terrible procrastinator about paying my bills and my credit score reflected it. With Paytrust, my credit score has gone up to the uppermost levels.

    I mention this because since Intuit bought Paytrust, it seems to have become frozen in time. There has not been a significant change or enhancement to the service in over 5 years. The most frustrating part is that Paytrust doesn’t even use the Quicken online services, so you can’t directly download your Paytrust transactions into Quicken. Instead, you have to do an export/import process, which isn’t worth the hassle.

    If Intuit pays as little attention to as they did to Paytrust, then is doomed. A web site thrives on innovation. Intuit seems to thrive on recurring upgrade revenue and little else. Hopefully, someone else will come along with an equally innovative service that will take up where is likely to leave off after Intuit drains it of creativity.

    • Here is an article with more background about the PayTrust acquisition. It sounded very bright and rosy at the time, but absolutely nothing has happened since the acquisition. Intuit has done nothing to grow the service or even align it with its current product offering. Actually, it doesn’t even promote the service. Try searching for “paytrust” on any Intuit site and you’ll come up with blanks.

    • Exactly! Paytrust hasn’t been updated since ’05 (actually late in ’07 they finally updated the footer!!!) and if they do updates it’s only mission critical fixes. Take a look at the footer it still reads 2007 it read 2005 for years.

      Intuit doesn’t like the competition Mint was giving… so they buy it essentially killing the competition and stopping the innovation. Long time Paytrust user. Sad to see Intuit buying Paytrust.

      • henderpa

        Coincidentally (not that I believe in coincidence), Paytrust updated the look of their pages this week. None of the functionality has changed but I’m hoping this is an indication that Intuit will be making other changes as well. I’ve got my fingers crossed…