I’ve had a Mint account now for 1 1/2 years. I heard about it on a podcast and checked it out. I was impressed with the UI (user interface), of this free financial software, because of the cool green ‘minty’ feel of the site. The graphics are easy to understand and make it easy to move around the site.
After you’ve set up your account and have been verified, then you can start the task of entering in your financial data. Have all your bank account numbers, routing numbers, credit card numbers, investment account numbers and logins handy as you’ll be entering in a lot of data. I was very concerned about security and privacy. Mint assures us they use bank-level encryption to keep our information safe. While on the site, you will see the comforting lock icon in the lower right-hand corner. After 10 minutes of inactivity, you’ll be logged off.
It does take a bit of time to get everything entered in, but I think it’s worth it because I then have a complete snapshot of my balances all in one place, on one page and totaled by cash, credit cards, investments, real estate and other. Whenever I log into Mint, it automatically ‘freshens’ the data for me…usually takes just a minute or two. Quicken doesn’t do that for me. I have to log into each account and do an update (or use the password vault). I really like having a quick look at account
balances to make sure things are about where they should be.
There is a tab for ‘transactions’. Click on that and you’ll see all your banking and credit card transactions in date order. Mint does a pretty good job in categorizing the transactions, but for me, there’s a lot to correct. For example, there’s a gas station called, “Express’, and it categorized all those as ‘shopping’. I’ve tried to figure out how to do a mass edit, but I’ve not figured that out! For a work-around, I’ll have Mint find all the ‘express’ transactions and I’ll quickly go 1-by-1 and re-categorize them. I don’t take the time to re-categorize everything – that is an advantage of Quicken—it’s trained to know how to categorize.
Mint gives you the option to set up a budget and you can set up notifications if you go over your budget. Also very handy are Mint’s expansive list of alerts you can set up. If you want to know if a transaction has cleared for a certain amount, a withdrawal over a certain amount, etc. AND you can get them via email or your mobile phone. There’s even an iPhone apps available. You can also add Mint to your Yahoo page if you so choose.
‘Trends’ is a tab that gives you a pie chart that shows where you money went during a certain period of time. A neat feature at the bottom of the page is a bar chart that shows a category (food & dining). You can then choose to compare your spending with the spending of your fellow Oklahomans to see how you compare. This is interesting, but take it with a grain of salt as others may not have taken the time to sort out their transactions either!
Have I mentioned all the above is free. How do they do that, you say. They tell us they make their money by folks clicking on and following suggestions on the ‘ways to save’ tab. Here, they have assembled for you, based on the information you’ve given them, bank accounts, credit card suggestions, mortgage companies that you can switch over to, saving money for you and collecting fees from the companies for them.
I’ve joined Mint’s facebook page. It’s updated regularly and has links to some good articles and has some good discussions.
I told my daughter about Mint and she uses it to easily monitor her bank account and with the transaction listings, she can see where her money is going. She’s signed up for the weekly updates, so it’s very convenient for her. She does use Quicken to balance her account, but prefers Mint since it’s ‘in the cloud’. This is a great tool for young people. It’s a quick and easy way to monitor your accounts. Parents could find it handy as well if they need to keep tabs on their high school or college age kids bank and credit card balances.