September 18, 2018

Mint Review: Is It Good?

Read more about YNAB vs Quicken

Are you tired of wondering where your cash went each month? Does budgeting scare you because of the time it takes? Mint claims to help automate budgeting and make it easy even for the novice user.

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Do they live up to their promise? Keep reading to find out.

To date, Mint has helped more than 15 million people learn to budget. The web-based program is free of charge and is automated, for the most part. Their platform is user-friendly and easy on the eyes. Even those who are scared of graphs find the visuals useful and easy to use.

With real-time updates from your bank accounts, investments, and credit card accounts, Mint helps you see where you stand with one program.

How Does It Work?

Once you sign up for Mint, you connect your financial accounts. This includes checking, savings, investments, credit cards, mortgages, and personal loans. Mint pulls the information in from each account that you connect. In fact, they pull in several months of data to give you a birds-eye view of where you stand financially.

Mint then auto-categorizes your transactions for you. If you don't like the category or want to add a sub-category, you can do so after importing your transactions. You must use the predefined top categories, though.

Once you are set up, you can create your budget. You tell Mint how much money you want budgeted for each category. Mint then tracks your spending in those categories and gives you color-coded graphs to let you see how you are doing. Green means under budget and red means over budget. It also gives you a numerical value so you can see how much you have left to spend or how much you went over budget.

It's normal for it to take 4 - 6 months to truly get a feel for the categories that need spending adjustments or where you could save more.

Is Mint Safe? Mint claims to take security very seriously. They encrypt your data with 256-bit encryption. They also use VeriSign to increase the security of the data you transfer from your financial institutions. They also use multi-factor authentication to prevent fraudulent use of your account.

What Are the Fees?

Unlike many other financial software programs, Mint is free for everyone. There are no "premium options" for you to choose. In other words, every user has the same features without spending a dime for the software.

How does Mint make money? You don't pay anything to use Mint. But they do offer partner offers when they offer you "advice." For example, if you don't have any credit cards and it's hurting your credit score, Mint may suggest that you open a credit card or two. They may even suggest specific credit cards. If you happen to open those cards, Mint gets a cut from the credit card company for the referral.

The referrals aren't just for credit cards, though. Mint partners with banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, and lenders.

Reasons We Like Mint

  • You don't need a subscription. Because you don't need a subscription, you'll always have access to your financial data. If you decide to take a break, you can come back and still see your data updated in real-time.

  • Mint links with thousands of financial institutions. Mint claims to link with any financial institution that has internet connection. Some users were even able to upload their financial data from a small, rural credit union.

  • You can change a transaction's category once it's downloaded. While you have to use Mint's predetermined categories, you are free to move the transactions around. If you don't agree with a category that Mint assigned a transaction, you can move it to a more appropriate spot. Mint will then place future similar transactions in your chosen category.

  • You can split transactions. Let's say you did your grocery shopping, gift shopping, and clothing shopping in one transaction. If you put that entire amount in the grocery category, you could instantly go over budget. Mint lets you split up the transaction as necessary so that you see a true reflection of the categories in which you spent money.

  • You can track your bills. Keeping track of your bills is just as important as tracking your spending. Mint allows you to add bills, track the amount and date due, and mark them as paid. This helps to keep much of your financial information all in one place.

  • You can receive alerts when necessary. If there's something going on with your finances, Mint can let you know. A big one is fees. Many people unknowingly pay unnecessary fees. Mint can alert you of these occurrences so that you can make the necessary changes. You can also set up alerts for suspicious activity or going over budget.

  • Mint automatically updates your accounts. Once you link your financial accounts, whether assets or liabilities, Mint does the rest. They automatically update your accounts when transactions occur. They also crunch the numbers for you so you see where you stand in real-time.

  • You can get access to your credit score free of charge. After you verify your identity, Mint provides you with your credit report summary within minutes. You can also activate credit monitoring alerts and receive tips on how to improve your credit score.

  • You can track your investments. Mint believes that the more accounts that you track, the better financial decisions you will make. Uploading your investment portfolio information helps you compare your investments to the market, get advice on investments, and learn ways to minimize fees.

  • You can access your finances on the go. You can download the Mint app on your Apple or Android device and have a mirror image of the program on your mobile device. This may help you stay on track with your finances by helping you see when you can and can't spend money while out and about.

Contacting Mint Customer Support: The only way to contact Mint customer support is via the online chat. Support representatives are available 5 AM - 9 PM every day.

Reasons You May Want to Look Elsewhere

  • You can't pay your bills through Mint. As of June 30, 2018, the bill pay service will no longer be available. Mint claims not enough users used the service. This means you'll have to access your bill pay service through your bank or through the biller itself.

  • You set your budget based on "projected income." Unless you get paid a standard salary, this can be a risky way to set up your budget. You set up a budget on money you "think" you will make.

  • You budget categories separately. Rather than looking at the "big picture," you get alerts when you go over budget in an individual category. It's not easily obvious where you stand given your total monthly income, though.

How It Compares

Credit Karma: Credit Karma offers free access to your credit score, similar to Mint. They do not offer budgeting software, though. Credit Karma updates your credit score from two credit bureaus weekly. Mint updates your credit score monthly and only pulls from one credit bureau. Credit Karma does let you track spending, but it's amateur at best.

Quicken: You'll pay an annual subscription fee to use Quicken, whereas Mint is free. Quicken also downloads to your computer to work as a desktop application. Mint operates in the cloud and updates in real-time on any device. Both Quicken and Mint are good at budgeting and providing synchronization. Quicken does offer bill payment and retirement planning, but may be less user-friendly than Mint.

EveryDollar: EveryDollar is also free, but only if you want to manually enter your transactions. To be on the same playing field as Mint, you'll have to pay for the premium service, which has a monthly subscription fee. EveryDollar is more of a barebones budgeting tool that is simple, but lacks robust reporting options.

Bottom Line

If you want a free resource to help you budget, Mint offers a great service. If you are a heavy investor, though, you may find more robust options with other services.

Mint offers a good basis for those who don't have a budget or don't have time to enter their transactions manually. If nothing else, it's better than not budgeting at all. As you get used to it and get your savings and investments on track, you may find that you want the more robust features of other programs.

More from CreditDonkey:


Personal Capital Review


How to Invest $100


How to Save Money

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