Manage Your Accounts and Budgets With the Mint App
With over 10 million users, Mint.com is a very popular free online personal finance app that offers a good mix of money management tools and is very easy to use. Using financial reports and finding information in Mint is a breeze. The absence of account reconciliation features or running account balances make Mint unusable for some, but excellent personal finance tools make it ideal for many people. New, useful features periodically show up, such as the credit score feature that was recently added.
The online app is complemented by mobile apps for iPad, iPhone, Android and Windows mobile devices.
Strengths of the Mint App
- Features are easy to use, yet fast and powerful.
- Flexible budgeting tool allows for experimenting with different scenarios.
- Sends financial summaries and alerts via email or text message.
- Tax tools integrated with TurboTax.
- Free credit score, powered by Equifax (you don't supply a credit card number to get a score - it is completely free).
- Email or SMS cell alerts for unusual account activity, when a bill is due, or an account has a low balance.
- Bank-level data security policies for account aggregation.
- Financial reports are easily customized and provide information in easy-to-read pie charts and bar graphs for fast analysis.
- Can create spending and income categories on the fly, without leaving the feature you're using.
- Automatically downloads transactions from just about any financial institution in the U.S.
- Mint handles automatically categorizing downloaded transactions very well.
- Easy to find, very useful help resources. Systems alerts let you know if updates are being held up.
- Add the value of home, car or other assets for accurate net worth.
Parts of the App That Need Improvement
- Does not reconcile accounts.
- No running account balances in account registers.
- Does not support multiple currencies.
- Can't assign multiple savings goals to one account.
The first time you set up accounts in Mint.com, transactions take a few minutes to download, but future updates run much faster. An Overview page shows account balances for all accounts, activity alerts and financial reminders, budget spending details, financial goals and investment accounts. Budget expense categories are automatically assigned to transactions--accurately, for the most part. Transactions are easily edited and splitting a transaction among categories is easy as well. Optional tags can be assigned to transactions for more detailed financial reporting or a very detailed budget.
Mint.com is easy to navigate, with top tabs for sections of the app: Overview, Transactions, Budgets, Goals, Trends (reports), Investments and Ways to Save.
Budgeting With Mint
Budget for as many categories as you like, and use the "everything else" category if you don't pay for miscellaneous items. A budget in Mint is not one plan. Each category is called a budget. To set up a budget, go to the budget section and click on "create a budget," choose a category and an amount to budget for every month, every few months or once. If you choose every few months, another option opens so you can enter the number months and when the expense will start. The Budgets page also shows you budgeted income, spending and spending goals with how much money is left over.
If you choose every month, you can check a box to have any unspent or over-spent funds for the month rolled forward to the next month. It is great for working with variable expenses.
Set Your Financial Goals
The Goals page is for setting up short-term to long-term savings goals, such as establishing an emergency fund or reducing debt. Goals are attached to one of your accounts for tracking. But, you can only have one savings goals per account, so if you save for multiple goals in one savings account, the Goals feature is not useful.
Personal Finance Reports
A variety of simple yet customizable reports is available on the Trends page. View your spending by the current month or select another time period, and you can filter the report data category, tag or merchant (payee). Report types are Spending, Income, Net Income, Assets, Debts and Net Worth. There's also a Graphs to Try module, which is a nice feature that lets you create reports that answer a question such as, "How is my net worth changing over time?".
Investments and Ways to Save
Mint's graphical investment reports are uncomplicated yet detailed enough to keep most people in touch with their portfolio. Reports for performance, value, asset allocation and comparison to market indices have many selectable timeframes ranging from one day to one year, to the day you started tracking investments.
The Ways to Save section shows a number of deals from financial companies, like credit cards, brokerages, checking accounts, mortgages and insurance, so you can visit this section to find offers that are specific to your financial needs.
Mint.com will work for people of all ages and in just about any stage of life with enough features to be truly useful without overwhelming the user. The online and mobile apps are all easy to use.
Remember, when on a public computer, do not to use Mint.com or any online personal finance app.
This review was prepared by setting up a free Mint.com account.