Although the apps are similar, Mint is free and better for those who want automated budgeting options, whereas YNAB works best for users who want to take a more active role in their finances and are willing to pay for the service.
We reviewed both based on budgeting features, costs, reporting features, device compatibility, and extra features.
If you’re looking to analyze your accounts so you can create some savings or budgeting goals, Mint will probably be sufficient for your needs. If you want to stay on the same page with your partner and make big changes to your everyday spending habits, you may want to spring for YNAB. You can offset the price with how much you save: The average new YNAB budgeter saves more than $6,000 in their first year.
Both apps synchronize with your bank accounts to track your transactions, but Mint is more about keeping tabs on your finances whereas YNAB is dedicated to changing your spending and saving behavior. Mint is also a bit more intuitive to use, while YNAB requires some learning. Mint provides access to your credit score for monitoring, while YNAB does not.
The biggest difference is the price: Mint is free, while YNAB costs $84 per year when billed annually. However, YNAB offers a 34-day free trial and a money-back guarantee.
Mint vs. YNAB At a Glance
YNAB vs. Mint: Budgeting Features
YNAB draws from the concepts of envelope and zero-based budgeting. It guides you to assign every dollar you earn to various expense categories, including non-monthly expenses you may incur down the road. If there’s money left over, you can put it toward savings goals. You can also plan ahead and budget as far into the future as you like. YNAB uses color-coding to show you when you’re ahead or behind on certain categories.
Mint aims to do some of the work for you. It automatically suggests an envelope budget based on your past spending habits. The problem with following this automatic budget is that if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it won’t help you get control over your finances. To make a change in your spending, you’ll need to look for areas to trim your budget and make manual adjustments to divert more money toward your savings. You can budget for expenses that occur once, every few months, or monthly and receive alerts if you overspend. You can also opt into having unused money roll over into next month’s budget for that category.
Both Mint and YNAB allow you to collaborate with a partner by adding all of your joint and separate accounts. If you keep some of your money separate, you can still collaborate by creating multiple budgets with both services.
YNAB vs. Mint: Account Setup and Synchronization
Both YNAB and Mint allow you to connect a variety of accounts, such as bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments. Mint connects with more financial institutions than YNAB.
Users of both services have had complaints about synchronization, but both Mint and YNAB have accessible customer service for troubleshooting. The difference is that Mint offers an online chat in addition to a customer service line, while YNAB only has an online form.
YNAB vs. Mint: Reporting Options
You can access reports on Mint.com (they’re not available on the app) to look at data options like spending, income, and debts. You can customize your reports according to the date, merchant, and more. But in terms of the variety of options for reporting and personalization, YNAB is the clear winner.
YNAB offers a pie chart that shows where your money is going and allows you to view trends over several months, evaluate your spending by category or date, track your net worth or the growth of a specific account, view your income vs. expenses, and more. However, YNAB doesn’t offer free access to your credit score like Mint does. If you want to regularly keep tabs on your credit score in the same place where you manage your money, Mint is the better choice.
YNAB vs. Mint: Mobile App
Both YNAB and Mint have apps for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Android in addition to web access. The YNAB app allows you to view reports, check your budget, and manually add transactions.
The Mint app doesn’t allow you to access your financial reports; you’ll need to visit the website for that. But it does show you an updated picture of your finances whenever you open the app. The Mint app will also alert you when you’re getting close to your budget ceiling, and you can get access to your free credit score directly from your smartphone.
Users of both apps have had complaints of sluggish or buggy performance.
YNAB vs. Mint: Security
Both YNAB and Mint use bank-level encryption and undergo regular third-party security audits. The Mint app is protected with a four-digit code and features multi-factor authentication. You can also enable two-step verification in your YNAB account settings.
YNAB vs. Mint: Cost
Here’s the biggest difference between the two apps: Mint is free, while YNAB costs $11.99 per month or $84 when billed annually. YNAB offers a 34-day free trial that doesn’t require a credit card to set up, so it’s worth checking out. There’s also a money-back guarantee if at any point you decide the software isn’t helping you budget.
And while Mint is free to use, the company makes money through its affiliate partnerships with companies offering financial products. This means that Mint will periodically suggest products to you, such as a loan to pay off your debt or an investment account to help you build wealth. Since these offers are tailored to your financial situation, they may be welcome or they may be distracting as you try to manage your money.
What Are YNAB and Mint?
YNAB and Mint are both budgeting platforms with mobile apps from which you can manage your budget. A budget is a plan for how you’re going to spend and save your money. There are many budgeting strategies a person can use to manage their money.
Both YNAB and Mint draw from the envelope budgeting strategy. The concept requires you to assign your income to different spending and savings categories. Traditionally, this strategy uses cash in actual envelopes. Once the money is gone from the envelope, the budgeter will need to stop spending in that category or borrow from another envelope. Digital budgeting often uses the same concept but requires a bit more self-discipline to stick to spending and saving goals.
How Do YNAB and Mint Work?
YNAB and Mint allow you to set up digital envelopes or spending goals for each category in which you typically spend money. These can include planned bills like rent or a mortgage in addition to variable costs like groceries and health care expenses, which you’ll need to estimate.
Mint develops spending goals for you based on your spending history, which you can adjust to your liking. YNAB goes a step further by coaching you through the process of setting realistic spending goals that will help you save. Both services provide you with reports so you can track your progress.
Who Should Use YNAB or Mint?
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, are overwhelmed by debt, or want to make big changes to your finances to help you save more, YNAB is going to provide you with more guidance and a bigger overhaul to your budgeting strategy than Mint will. If you just want to keep track of where your money’s going, make small adjustments to your spending habits to reach your savings goals, and have access to your credit score, Mint should do the job.
Since YNAB has a free trial and a money-back guarantee, don’t weigh the price difference too heavily when making your decision. If you think Mint will work better for you, go ahead and download it since it’s free. And if you think YNAB will work better for you, give it a try. If after 34 days you feel like you could accomplish the same thing on your own with a free app like Mint, then cancel. But if you find it to be a game-changer, remember that you can absorb the cost with how much you save.
How We Evaluated YNAB and Mint
We compared the various budgeting features and reporting options each software provides, checked out the mobile app, and looked at the value provided for the cost. We found that security and device compatibility was comprehensive with both, and the experience of setting up each account was similar.
However, there were key differences in how each software works to shape your spending and saving habits, as well as how users can access reports, and that led us to recommend Mint for hands-off budgeters while suggesting YNAB for people who are willing to put in the time to learn and use new budgeting strategies.